Struggling with the deepest of heart-doubts..A long exchange....


[Last mods: Sep 4/06]

A long-time Tankfriend and I had a deep and very personal exchange, about his experience with depression, anguish, and the inability of the church to help him... there are many who face this, i bet, so maybe something in here will be of comfort or encourage to someone...

Glenn,
I would like you to help me with the following problem:
Having gone through ages of psychological suffering, I have become fed up with the Evangelical gospel of "pray and read your Bible" handed down as an answer to any problem one might encounter.

I wish I had met with more understanding on the part of Christian leaders. Most of the time I got pat-answers or the general advice that I should not think so much about myself, when that precisely was the biggest problem I was struggling with. Excellent diagnosis, but where did the cure lie?

And so, I really wish you wrote to me. 
 
 Just because I might be losing my faith for want of finding a way out of these psychological problems. And there are times when I think that my faith - if there is such a thing - is in the way of my recovery. Please help
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So--without adequate training for something this heavy--I nonetheless launched...

[Note: the reader will note that I use a lot of UPPERCASE LETTERS in this, and some folks will no doubt interpret that as 'shouting' or 'anger' or some such. But that is not the case: these emails were done in plain text, without the ablility to do color, bold, italic, underlining. So, for emphasis, I used UPPERCASE. When I edited it for THIS (smile) piece, I was able to add some html-markup, but it would have taken too long to retype all the UPPERCASE words here.]

"Whatever "Christian leaders" are telling you that "pray and read your bible" is the answer to YOUR deep problems, dont understand the scriptures very well. There are specific ministries (i.e. Christian COUNSELORS and CHRISTIAN Therapists) needed for your case. They are mentioned in the spiritual gifts sections in various places (e.g. 'gift of mercy' in Romans 12.8; "serving" in Romans 12.7; "healing" in 1 Cor 11.9; "helps" in 1 Cor 12.28).
 
Only THEY are gifted by God to dig into such anti-peace problems people like us have. I have spent probably 50,000 USD on therapists for me and my kids over the decades. Most were Christian therapists, but not all. But God used ALL these specialized resources, to work on our specialized problems.  Many 'normal' problems CAN be dealt with 'pray and read your bible'--but problems out at the edges/fringes require these special, God-directed ministers. Most Christian leaders are simply not equipped to deal with such complex problems, just like they are not equipped to deal with the complex intellectual problems I have to deal with on the Tank--they are simply called to a different set of problems. But there are always specialists whom God can use to bring peace to us--you just have to pray and search for them.
 
 I am sure you have read MY 'toned-down' story on the Tank, about MY battles with depression and fear:
 http://www.christian-thinktank.com/howimadeit.html
 
but what I did NOT say there was that when I went to my first therapist back in 1979, he told me my test scores indicated that I had the highest propensity/pressure to suicide that he had seen in over 15 years of counseling. And i struggled with it (quietly, privately) for another ten years--AS I GOT HELP from THERAPY, and AS I GOT BETTER thereby. I personally was trying the 'pray and read the bible' (i was trained to be a Christian leader, after all--chuckle), but learned from that experience that God had provided a REAL WAY to help instead of just 'holding on and wishing'. My 'praying and reading the bible' KEEP ME ALIVE during those years (as per the story in that article), but it could never HEAL ME. It was not SUPPOSED to heal me. It was supposed to give me enough operating-strength to FIND concrete help.
 
Faith was NOT SUPPOSED to be the answer ITSELF--it was supposed to give me some 'hope' that I would FIND SOME REAL HELP, under the providence of God. Your faith is only supposed to be the trust in the good-heartedness and resourcefulness of the God who loves you. Faith/trust doesnt 'heal anything' itself, except our reluctance to approach God for 'help in times of need'.
 
But just as faith doesnt do any major healing, I dont see why it should be a hindrance either--UNLESS your faith is in faith ITSELF.  The people AROUND YOU might be a hindrance, with their simple answers, but a quiet confidence in the God of Love-for-You should provide SOME low-level encouragement and peace BY ITSELF. But just enough to get you to prayerfully seek out Christian therapists (or even just "Theistic" counselors).
 
I personally cannot help you, obviously, because I am NOT a therapist at all--i still need one MYSELF. I am past the suicide stuff, but I am still so wounded and afraid of people, that it is debilitating in many ways. I am --on a good day--just a researcher and semi-apologist. But I DO KNOW that your answers will NOT come from traditional Christian leaders or traditional Christian practices. They may be able to help you grow, learn, know God closer, serve others better--but actual healing (or at least 'adequate progress' like I got) will come from those specialists.
 
So, I dont have any other ideas than that--but i DO KNOW that this approach 'works'. It helped my kids (each of which have had serious challenges) and it helped me [although i didnt get to 'finish' all the way]. But Christian self-help books will NOT be the answer--you will need professional, degreed, experienced specialists, like we did.
 
I am sorry i dont have any better/easier answers, but maybe this will be of use to you. I would, if i were you, be a little encouraged. God has these specialists out there somewhere, and His love for you wants you to find them--but you must start knocking on doors, and being patient with the process.
 
And--for personal peace--why dont you listen to my 'Lessons I have learned" audio sessions, which I taught years ago (laugh). You may find some daily comfort and delight in what you find there, friend!
http://www.christian-thinktank.com/lessonsaudio.html
 
So, keep me posted on your progress--and dont seek help from those not qualified for people with our level of special needs. Both  you AND they will get discouraged.
 
Warmly, and thankful for our conversations over the years, friend--
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He wrote back, sent his story to me,  and asked me to respond ANYWAY, and to pray about doing so... I started praying and he tried to 'urge me faster' (smile)...

Please write soon......after reading my mails.

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I wrote back:

you told me to PRAY first BEFORE responding, friend-- it will take me a couple of DAYS to pray enough for this--remember, i am NOT a counselor, XYZ--you are asking me about matters God has NOT gifted me in... so, i HAVE to go slowly here, to know what/if/how to say something useful...
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He understood and was appreciative:

that's really okay...
I am equally grateful about the fact that you think it useful to take your time. Many others would have rushed into answering any old how.
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I have to do this in parts--it was very intense for me, personally--so here was the first part.  His story is in BOLD, mine in RED:



First of all I wish to say that I'm very grateful you should take the time to write to me even though you usually are so busy.

I am currently being seen by a Christian psychiatrist whom I go and see every two weeks or so, but I wasn't able to see him this week because, as I set foot in the train station, I heard a message stating there was a suspicious piece of luggage on the train. I was a bit late already and this meant I had to call the doc on my mobile and cancel the appointment.

I have just taken two tranquillizers because, although I am not really depressed, I am feeling so tense.

You wrote in the Tank (about Jesus):

 he always accepted me and never laughed at me and never made fun of my social-stupidity and never teased me and never put me down, I knew I had my first really safe friend...

Fact is, I went through most of school being laughed at, ridiculed and made fun of, not just for my social stupidity (to use your expression) but also for my clothes - my mother never knew that at least decent clothes were a must - or my bad looks - and as I am such a sentimental person, the prospect of never being loved by a woman wasn't exactly fun.

I was ridiculed because of my stature then too—I was very, very short, small, cowardly, and weakly;  and easily picked on. We were also somewhat struggling so during the early years I only got 1 or 2 new sets of clothes each year, and I always got to pick them out. I always made bad fashion choices and so became too embarrassed to even wear them sometimes! So they sat in the closet and I wore the previous year’s old –but plain and not likely to get ‘noticed for ridicule’—clothes.]

 

Whenever I needed some sympathy from people,

It only took me ONCE time to learn not to try this—I confided to my college roommate about a recurring dream of insecurity and he just laughed at me… never spoke of it to anyone else but Jesus for 30+ years… Most people are just not gifted at listening—it’s a waste of time to seek sympathy from ‘normal’ folks… It’s like asking a policemen to bake a wedding cake, or asking an artist to redo your plumbing—they are just not equipped for the job, and so you should EXPECT them to deliver a disaster!

when I later spoke of the nightmare I'd been through, they always replied: oh but you were laughed at because of your clothes, or of this, or of that, as though explaining the reason why I was ill-treated meant I could be freed from the bitterness, resent and hatred in me. And as though people, you know, were always nice, unless somebody bad like me showed up and then they turned nasty. What I was looking was for understanding, not being told that those who had hurt my feelings for so long were, after all, right. But most of the time, the "explanation" I was given was that I should bear the blame myself. A lot of good that does when you don't know what to do with the guilt.

 

[Several points here (all of which I learned—I think—from MY therapist years ago):

1. When they laughed at you for your clothes, you SHOULD HAVE BEEN ANGRY—both at them and (partially) at your mom. There WAS guilt involved in such an act, but it would not have been yours for wearing the clothes. They were guilty of harsh, unloving, abusive behavior—and moral outrage is legitimate in such cases. Your mom was guilty of not being sensitive to your needs as a social being and for inattention to this. Her lack of help in this is undoubtedly LESS evil than THEIRS (perhaps due to lack of skills HERSELF--see the following Note), but that does NOT exonerate her of guilt. My therapist made me list all the painful things I remember my parents saying to me growing up (since they never did anything hurtful to me, it was only the words which would have affected me) and MADE ME 'get mad' at them--as a means of healing-through-truth. I did not want to (I love my folks, and we have a wonderful relationship, especially now), but I had to be honest with where the guilt for some specific things REALLY WAS, he told me. [Of course, I didn't have to somehow make them into villians, meanies, abusive, negligent, etc--LOL--it wasn't about denying all the good they did and all the support they gave me. It was only about the few things that went askew--but which still hurt pretty bad.] The process helped tremendously. I have tried to get my kids to do that about me and their mom, too--everybody makes mistakes in parenting and everybody needs some healing-help.

[Note: It is all too easy to blame parents, caregivers, and friends for wrongs, and this can in itself be a form of 'blame shifting'. But therapists (healers-of-hearts) know this to be a deep and serious reality. The intense bond between parents/elders and kids is meant to be powerful--for good--and so the occasional mistake (often in the middle of an angry argument) can likewise have powerful effects. But the guilt here is a graded one, and not just good-versus-horrible. Guilt (i.e., culpability--not 'psychological shame') IS a bi-polar deal ("Criminal conviction or NOT"), but it is also graded by seriousness in our world (e.g., Misdemeanor versus Felony, non-capital versus capital crimes). When applied to individual agents, it can range from malice (very serious, planning to hurt some one), willful negligence (knowingly not putting a guard rail up on a roof as a safeguard), incompetence (making a vow that you cannot fulfill, because you never really had the authority, means, or 'projections' to be able to fulfill it), and simple ignorance ("I didnt know I wasnt allowed to do that, officer?"). But, as our societies have told us repeatedly 'ignorance of the law is no excuse', and damage is done ANYWAY--and it is not 'just an accident' when an underage driver, unaware they they need to be licensed to drive, kill someone on a road. They are ignorant (and not incompetent, negligent, or malicious), but someone is still dead because of them. So, when I speak here about culpability of parents and abusive co-students, there may be a world of difference between simply not-knowing-the-fashion and ridiculing someone because they dont wear the fashion...]

2. If your clothes REALLY WERE BAD (a TOTALLY relative thing, I am sure you know), then there is nothing wrong with others ‘disapproving’ of those clothes. All that means is that THEY think they are ‘bad’, just as others would think THEIR clothes were ‘bad’, ‘pompous’, ‘overpriced’, ‘gaudy’, ‘ostentatious’, etc. Their evaluation of your clothes is not ‘evil’ in itself, but their RIDICULING YOU (anyone) about such matters is SINFUL and a legitimate target for moral outrage. Your ‘anger/bitterness’ etc is PERFECTLY LEGITIMATE toward them (in those acts)—they have acted immorally in how they treated you. [Remember, I am not saying they had to agree with your clothes, but that their decision/action in RIDICULING YOU was inappropriate.]

3. I assume you also know that when someone ridicules another in such a manner, that it is a sign of INSECURITY, WEAKNESS, and NEED in THEIR OWN lives. The Bully is insecure INSIDE and spends ALL his/her life trying to prove TO THEMSELVES(!) that they are ‘significant’. It is the RIDICULOUR (spelling?) who lives in constant fear of being ridiculed THEMSELVES, by those same ‘peers’ with whom they ridiculed you! Because their lives are so shallow they HAVE TO FOCUS on petty, external, conventional things—clothes, fashion, appearances, social attributes—since they are uncomfortable with REAL feelings, depths, values.

4. In fact, a great deal of the time it is just an “act” on their part. They are not really deep enough to really MEAN/FEEL real such distaste. They are simply going along with some ‘ringleader’, and don’t really care that much ABOUT the issue. They are just slaves to the group, and will even hurt others (often AGAINST THEIR OWN conscience—I have learned later) in their HUGE FEAR of not fitting in.

5. But this fear is NOT ADEQUATE moral grounds to hurt others! And the abuse they give to others like you and me is CULPABLE—they are wrong, they are abusive, THEY ARE GUILTY. I may have been physically short but that is not ‘evil’. They ridiculed me for something ‘morally irrelevant’ and so THEY are EVIL (in that specific action, of course)

6. God “built” the human psyche to be sensitive to the feedback of others. We are supposed to be ENCOURAGED to good works and higher performance, when we receive the PRAISE of others. It is a beautiful system—one that is designed to maximize goodness and beauty and contribution. Similarly, when we do destructive (to self or community) actions and/or attitudes, our peers are supposed to give us negative feedback—censure, disapproval, etc. This is designed to teach us what is destructive, and to give us social incentive to correct destructive behavior. When we are praised for our legitimate contributions (all of us having SOMETHING to contribute to the good), our emotional being is built to feel PRIDE  (the good kind—NOT arrogance) and ELATION and SIGNIFICANCE. When we are censured or corrected for our TRULY destructive behaviors, our emotional being is built to feel SHAME or psychological GUILT. If we did NOT feel good-pride when ‘approved’, and did NOT feel shame when ‘disapproved’, then we are NOT HEALTHY! Our emotional life is working CORRECTLY when our feelings of SHAME are ‘directly proportional’ to the amount of DISAPPROVAL the social system is feeding back to us.

7. This means that the SHAME you feel/felt ‘at their hands’ is a SIGN OF HEALTH, friend. Never forget that. It is a sign that “the plumbing is working”. Just as your feeling of elation at doing praiseworthy things (to the extent you fear an ‘inflated ego’) is a SIGN OF HEALTH, so too is your sense of SHAME at all this disapproval you have received.

8. But unfortunately, all the SHAME is actually REFLECTIVE OF is the amount of censure/disapproval you have received and NOT of the ‘accuracy’ of that disapproval!!!!! In other words, constructive criticism produces (roughly) the same degree of shame as does the same amount of FALSE, destructive criticism! Your emotional feedback mechanism cannot tell the difference between 'accurate' feedback and 'inaccurate' feedback. So, the fact that you are still overwhelmed with shame is actually only a sign of emotional ‘health’—the system works.

9. BUT this means that FALSE CRITICISM is evil. The fact that SHAME is experienced as unpleasant (!), means that those who IMPROPERLY produce such pain, through the administration of ridicule and false censure, are VIOLENT and ASSAULTIVE. Your feelings of shame are (in much of the case, I suspect) a MEASURE OF THE (moral) GUILT OF OTHERS! You think about this, and you will KNOW I am right here, JJ…

10. If you were a REAL criminal, their censure would be (morally) GOOD—and your Shame would be hopefully an incentive for your reformation. But when you are morally good (or innocent), for others to abuse the God-given social feedback system is evil. Creating undeserved feelings of guilt IN YOU, should produce DESERVED feelings of guilt in THEM [and sometimes it does, you know—there was ONE GUY shorter than me, and guess what I did?!—right, I RIDICULED HIM (remember, those who ridicule others are insecure themselves)—and I am STILL haunted in my heart by that memory TODAY.]

11. Ok, I’ve spent enough on this, but it applies to much below. The appropriate response on your part to those who inappropriately produced shame in you is MORAL OUTRAGE and JUDGMENT. Regardless of any good they ALSO did to you (its like our well-meaning parents, remember), and regardless of their motives-of-fear-of-peers, you are SUPPOSED to be (morally) angry with them. You cannot take the next step in healing until you learn this TRUTH.

12. Once you understand this, then two changes can occur: (A) the SHAME you feel about HAVING SHAME will go away! You will then see that your feelings of shame are simply a reflection of health on your part (you should also note that the New Testament points out that people can become so calloused through scarring that they LOSE the ability to feel this shame, and therefore LOSE the ability to be corrected for good by the society). You can then simply accept your shame as a positive sign that you are not ‘psychologically/socially’ unresponsive; (B) the ANGER you feel toward those who have abused you will now become ‘pure’, and become a sign of MORAL trueness. If you are SUPPOSED to feel anger when an innocent is victimized by others, then you should feel it when YOU ARE THE VICTIM TOO. And when you work through this, you will no longer feel any SHAME over your ANGER! Your anger will become ‘justified’ and then you can start work on softening your anger—but you cannot get rid of the anger until you RECOGNIZE the ‘truth’ of its ‘message’: it is a moral-emotional response to malice, abuse, and moral guilt. If you were NOT angry over such abuse (toward YOU or toward OTHERS), THEN something is “WRONG’, and THEN the “moral plumbing is not working”. See what I mean?

Okay…that’s a foundation… let’s go on to the next set of comments…


When I turned 17 I had a school psychologist who was so terrible. I was once told I would make a brilliant counselor, I am not surprised. I learnt from her mistakes. You see, whenever I told her about a conflict I'd had with someone, not necessarily so that she would declare me innocent and those I'd had the conflict with guilty, but just to know whether somebody understanding was listening, she automatically explained to me I was in the wrong, and the people I was opposed to were right. There were no shades of gray, the idea of shared responsibility never occurred to her. She always had an explanation or justification for the people who hadn't been nice to me, whereas she always rejected what I could say in my own defense (well, believe it or not even though that was 17 years ago I still think of this woman daily).

These people have SUCH power to scar us—I have several similar stories myself. Scenes you play over and over in your head—and I just now lift them up to Jesus as I am re-enacting the scene and comment on how inappropriate, misguided, or sad such behavior toward me was… I am looking forward to losing those memories in heaven, with the new body.

 

By now I must have had you yawning, shall I continue with my story?

For my greatest sorrow I fell madly in love with a girl who, to me, was the embodiment of femininity - she had beauty, both in her looks and in her ability to create it - she could draw quite well, something which I'd never been able to do. When she thought highly or poorly of a work of art, she could argue her point and I revered her ability to judge and express her opinion (I had a feeling that the world or notion of beauty was, in fact, alien to me, being ugly as I was). Fact was, she very often teased me, put me down and made fun of me. I know she would never agree of it but she delighted in using her power over me by giving me wisecracks it sometimes took me months or even years to recover from. And I thought of her as a highly moral person, which made things worse because I refused to see she was doing me harm.

I must complement you on your bravery, friend. I would NEVER have interacted with such a person, knowing the POWER TO HURT me. These people sought me out, because I was smart—and they could ‘use’ that brainpower for their ends—but I knew better than to trust them, or even daydream about being in their ‘social circles’…

Although I DID find out decades later that SOME of the teasing, ridicule, etc was actually FRIENDLY and not DERISIVE to the extent I originally thought. I  noticed that my precious younger brothers and I are CONSTANTLY ribbing one another when we are together—and yet it is obviously a SIGN OF AFFECTION. I do not ‘tease’ people I am not close to, I have noticed. Granted, our/my teasing is not very ‘harsh’, but it was enough to make me wonder how much of what I perceived as malicious in school might have been non-malicious and just good-natured after all. I wished I had that insight back THEN, for then I could have looked at how many people ridiculed me BUT DID NOT EXCLUDE me from groups. There were social groups who would walk away as I approached, but there were some who let me join them—with some mild joke shot at me. This latter kind of group (I later realized) shot a joke (about appearance, clothes, lateness, whatever) at just about EVERYONE who approached, so I wonder now how much of that ‘ridicule’ was just ‘protocol’ and not as reflective of what they REALLY thought of all the people who joined!]


One thing she told me was that I thought of everybody else as stupid, which encouraged me in turn to think of MYSELF as stupid.

I think this is standard among the (intellectually?) gifted. I know it was for some of my kids and certainly for me, but the logic is VERY destructive. The way the argument goes is like this:

a. From a practical, truthful standpoint, I/we probably ARE smarter than those around us (that is just a sociometric, IQ-test fact). So that is no big deal or surprise.

b. However, since we feel ‘inferior’ SOCIALLY to those ‘well-adjusted, popular, socially successful, and well-dressed people’ (!), then this fact MUST IMPLY that our INTELLECTUAL smartness is IRRELEVANT and UNIMPORTANT, relative to their ‘social smartness’.

c. This leads us to conclude that our MENTAL smartness DOESN’T COUNT as far as TRUE SUCCESS and TRUE SMARTNESS goes. And that, therefore, the only stupidity that COUNTS is ‘social stupidity’—of which we seem to have PLENTY!

d. So mental smarts are demeaned/denigrated/trivialized (no source of pride there, I guess, since intellectual achievement merely MOCKS US!—“you are a failure at being accepted by people, so your intellectual achievement in quantum physics or literature only PROVES that you have to ‘run away’ from social reality because of failure…loser!”), and we assume that the ONLY IMPORTANT MEASURE of ‘smarts’ is HOW WELL WE FIT IN WITH THOSE WHO RIDICULE OTHERS INAPPROPRIATELY (!!!!!!).]


I also had a major problem: from the age of thirteen on I developed the evil tendency of feeling like exposing myself; which I actually did. I lived on the second floor of my building and, just to get a kick out of it, I once exposed myself from my window sill, thinking I wasn't seen. I was. In fact, I heard people comment on it many times. You might think I hallucinated this, but I didn't. Some people jokingly referred to it in my very presence when I was at school.

At one stage during my studies I was offered the opportunity to  study abroad. I signed up for the exchange program, as I wished to escape from the evil reputation my deed and my strange behaviours had given me. Then things went worse. I still wasn't rid of my tendency, which I was all the more ashamed of as I had already given my life over to Christ. I was trying hard not to lose my virginity, and when I consider that I had "unlawful" sex several times in my life afterwards, because I was in such sexual misery, I think I should have fornicated only once to realize that sex wasn't the mountain I made of it. Once what happened was that I masturbated too close to my window in my student residence in Berlin and I know I was seen doing that, because several days afterwards I could see four students laughingly imitating my gestures and my expression of deep grief and shame.

 

I don’t know much about the ‘psychology of exhibitionism’, but my first reaction to this is that is was a relatively low-harm attempt on your part to assert yourself. Given what you have told me about the past—and given what my similar experiences produced in me, attitude-wise—it makes perfect sense to me that you MUST HAVE HAD to find SOME way to ‘hit back’ at the world. Since exposure is apparently considered ‘morally/legally evil’ (you can be arrested for it) and ‘violent’ (forcing yourself upon the world, when it does NOT want to see your private parts), I can see how exposing yourself and getting away with it would be an act of self-assertion, an act that tries to say “I am NOT powerless and insignificant”—“I can do something with power over those/that which overpowers me”. Something like that. I personally knew a person in a neighboring high school who felt very powerless against the teachers, whom he had to ‘please’ to keep out of trouble. He got all his approval from the teachers, because none of students liked him (according to him), so he was always trying to manipulate the teachers for approval for his self-image needs. One particular teacher was apparently abusive (verbally), and he could only barely keep out of trouble with her. He sneaked into the high school one weekend and urinated in her desk, over all her pens/pencils. The urine dried over the weekend, but the student had a secret, morbid delight and sense of power-strike-back whenever he saw her pickup the pens/pencils which had HIS urine on them! It's a little like the troubled/ignored adolescent who 'makes trouble' JUST TO get the attention of her parents.

So, I can at least see ONE interpretation of the exposure behavior—although a counselor would no doubt see it better than I.]


When I mentioned this to doctors years afterwards, or when I told my pastor one year after it took place (I'd been living in shock so I wasn't able to open my mouth about it for one year), they all agreed that my guilt had made me see these things,

That looks like evasion on their part—if they really believed that, then they should have started working on the “WHY”—what caused you to hallucinate, etc.? If your current shrink believes that, then he should be digging deep into the causes of such delirium, and not just ‘documenting it’ like that!]


but I really wonder how I could have hallucinated all those things. There were elements which were just too precise. In fact, I'm still planning to go back to Germany because I am so sure I didn't imagine all that I saw and I am confident some people will remember me. To make things even worse I had other strange behaviours, such as picking my nose all the time to cite only one and I could see people mimicking my habits to one another and laughing about it. And of course, I had visited a Pentecostal church in America the year before and the pastor had given me one of his books in which he advocated saying Hallelujah whenever you felt oppressed and so I did - and I couldn't go into a bar without hearing people ridiculing this - now Hallelujah is the same word in my language, of course.

I am not sure what to think about their diagnosis of this as being hallucinatory. I would assume that your sensitive memory might have ‘embellished’ or ‘heightened the drama’ a little (mine does), but I agree with you that a COMPLETE fabrication might be going too far. I WOULD EXPECT however—having closely known people with Paranoid Delusional tendencies for decades—that you would have over-interpreted SOME of the data. But this wouldn’t make the WHOLE event(s) illusion/delusions.

But the nose-picking thing reminds me: often the only mannerisms which get picked up for mimicking are repetitive behaviors, flowing from Obsessive/Compulsive behaviors. But since I have a background with OCD, and KNOW FIRSTHAND of its relationship to insecurity, this would make sense if it were present in your case.

Almost ALL the exceptionally gifted (mentally) individuals I know are wounded. They developed their intelligence for ‘defense’ and for ‘survival’. They had to be able to predict where the next ‘attack’ or ‘hit’ or ‘barb’ was coming from. So we developed great mental abilities to forecast, to scan the environment (my hyper-vigilance, for example), to engineer risk out, to create ‘safe spaces’ where we could NOT BE SURPRISED by ‘Incoming!’, to have control over everything within a 10m radius (smile).  But this was created from insecurity—the lack of safety in our lives, our constant sense of ‘threat’ from others/world/authorities.

I remember in graduate school/seminary, our Psychology and Counseling professor went through the characteristics of the basic personality types, one of which is Obsessive/Compulsive—which most of the men in that class of 200 were! One of the more amazing characteristics was that WE ACTUALLY LIKE TO FEEL GUILTY—THAT WE HAVE DONE SOMETHING VERY WRONG or that we have MESSED SOMETHING UP VERY BADLY. He (Dr. Minirth, of Minirth-Meyer clinics, book with characteristics is “Love is a Choice”, I believe) pointed out that, for the OCD who feels INSIGNIFICANT and that therefore nothing they do REALLY MATTERS, the feeling/belief that they HAVE DONE SOMETHING wrong, MEANS that they ARE SIGNIFICANT and that they DO MAKE A DIFFERENCE (in a sick way!). As he put it, “Anybody that can do THAT much damage MUST be important!” … Now, I do not believe that explains ALL of our guilt feelings, but I began to wonder about that over the next twenty years—and I believe much of it was true. I DO feel ‘significant’ when I feel that I have “REALLY IMPACTED something negatively”, whereas I might NOT “feel” significant when I do something GOOD. (Since I can sometimes ‘explain away’ the good, by pointing out that its “just something mental”, and NOT something “socially approved” –chuckle)

 But this is a digression of OCD, which is NOT the topic of discussion. Although, the whole self-esteem and insecurity thing is CENTRAL to OCD, so that is probably something you should be working on with your counselor.

=========== [I have to stop here… I have been working on this 4 hours and need to take a break… you should have a LOT to think, pray, meditate over in the above, friend…I will try to finish the rest of this early next week—I hope it helps some, dear friend—but remember, “I AM NOT A COUNSELOR!”============
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We had some interaction about a point or 2 from this first set of comments:

He wrote: What you write makes a lot of sense, and even though, as you have reminded me, you are no counselor, you certainly did a better job at answering me than would many counselors would have.
There is just one passage I find it hard to understand:

d. So mental smarts are demeaned/denigrated/trivialized (no source of pride their, I guess, since intellectual achievement merely MOCKS US!—"you are a failure at being accepted by people, so your intellectual achievement in quantum physics or literature only PROVES that you have to ‘run away’ from social reality because of failure…"), and we assume that the ONLY IMPORTANT MEASURE of ‘smarts’ is HOW WELL WE FIT IN WITH THOSE WHO RIDICULE OTHERS INAPPROPRIATELY (!!!!!!).]

As yet I don't understand why intellectual achievement should prove that you have to run away.
Anyhow, it was just great reading your message, all the rest was very meaningful to me and I'm so very thankful you spent so much time working on this.
Yours in Him,

............................................

I tried to explain that point:

In TRUTH, such achievement is in NO WAY related to "having to run away"!
 
That statement was in double-quotes to indicate it was the lying voice of our mocking selves. My oldself uses that argument on me CONSTANTLY:

"Glenn, the only reason you achieve so much in the cognitive areas of your life is because you are a failure in the NON-COGNITIVE, social, personable, human areas. Because you are a failure in those areas--and you know it, glenn--you spend ALL YOUR TIME and ENERGY away from people. ANYBODY could be successful in your cognitive areas, if they were FORCED to spend ALL THEIR life in the narrow confines of intellectual pursuits! Therefore, the greater your achievements, the more of your life you HAD TO SPEND away from "REAL LIFE"--because you are a failure at 'real, social life'. So, your intellectually successful life is not REAL life--it is merely a twisted, sterile, pain-free, people-free FAKE LIFE--your self-created 'mimicry' of success and life"
 
See the mocking in the argument? (I hope this is clearer).
 
And, as I mentioned at first, it is actually UNTRUE. There is no correlation between the two at all (at least not in the areas YOU and I personally are involved in). I dont know what you consider your area of achievement, but if it is in communication-related  arts like mine is, these areas require a MASSIVELY SUPERIOR knowledge of how 'real' people think! Our experiences of pain at their 'normal' hands have created in us insight into how they think, their attitudes, their values, faults, shortcomings etc. One could PERHAPS make advances in Quantum Physics without much 'social knowledge' (but team skills are often required and customary for such research--and there is NOTHING more fun and 'social' than a team of geeks working  on a project! I have been on those before and they are MUCH MORE fun/real/interpersonal than the "fashion-based" or "mutual insecurity-based" social cliches which tormented us so!), but anything dealing with language, teaching, literature, social services requires SUPERIOR 'social' skills and knowledge for achievement.
 
I hope this clears this up -- I was only arguing (devils-advocate like) the achievement-proves-failure point from the false point-of-view of the mocking, self-abusing, wounded self.
 
warmly, glenn
................................................................

I finally found time/energy to finish the write up (part two):

 

"The nightmare lasted several months. By then, I had lost whatever self-esteem I had.

Please read on.

There were several stages to my self-esteem going down the drains.

I don’t understand—WHEN did you EVER have self-esteem (to lose it)??? Your descriptions of your early days (e.g., with the clothes, etc) were not days of ‘self-esteem’? I NEVER had any days of ‘self-esteem’ to come ‘down from’. I just moved to more self-ridicule as the extent of my dysfunction became more and more apparent (often it was revealed to me by our Lord, to actually protect me from over-extending myself into areas that were good, but which would have been bad FOR ME. I assumed that, since ‘healthy people (of which there are NONE, I have subsequently discovered) did X and Y and Z, that God wanted His redeemed child (me) to do X and Y and Z… And so I tried and failed, and ‘normalcy’ eventually became a ‘false god’ to me. Instead of celebrating who I was and instead of delighting in and exploiting my KNOWN gifts and talents, I lusted after the mediocrity of those ‘normal, healthy’ people around me. And He was NOT PLEASED with my wastage of such gifting! He wanted me to be an Olympic-class specialist, soaring above the waves of normalcy, ‘playing my drum for Him’ in the way ONLY I COULD—and there I was, trying to ‘fit in’, ‘be social’, do ‘team activities’. He wanted ME in the ivory tower, researching, reading, answering obscure-but-torturous questions for peace-seeking minds. He didn’t want me at church-socials,  doing hospital visitation, or being a deacon… He made me (and YOU) for some special fine-grained task, jj, and when you find that ONE THING, your heart will soar… give up on ‘fitting in’, set your heart on ‘better things’—on serving Him with your unique gifts, with your experiences in this pain-filled journey of yours, with your God-given love for your field!

I have low-esteem, but only when I think about it! And I am SO BUSY doing my calling, this ‘fun and TOTALLY absorbing’ ministry that I don’t have any TIME to think about how pathetic I am as a ‘normal’ person! (chuckle)

Some say “to get your mind off yourself, put it on others”, but its actually slightly different: “to get your mind off yourself, put it on applying your gift for the benefit of others”… the focus is on the TASK, the MINISTRY, the TALENTS USED…but all aimed at the benefit of others, and not the ‘glorification of the self’.

Believe me, I am ALWAYS conscious when God blesses my writing of a Tank article of HOW GOOD I WILL LOOK to the reader-world. Makes me sick, actually. The world will think it is ME GLENN who is so ‘gifted’, but God and I both know that my gifting is so USELESS without His fire in me, without His goal-in-front-of-me. I am ‘wasted genius’ without my walk with Him, and without Him ‘energizing me’ to focus and train my gifts upon the writing. Ok, but I digress…

 

For once I was unable to master German quickly, which really put me down because prior to this I had always thought of myself as someone rather gifted for languages - I had mastered a lot of French in just one school year on top of my English studies, and the lecturer couldn't believe I had picked the accent so well.

Actually, you are smart enough to know this is probably a timing issue. I can master ANY conceptual subject matter, except those that God says ‘not yet’ on! I actually use the difficulty (to me) of a task as an indication of if God wants me to do it AT THAT TIME. He might want it later, and so I don’t give up on it—I just file it under the ‘not yet’. It’s like Paul in Acts, when he tried to go into a couple of different places, and the Spirit would not let him go. Instead of Paul ‘taking it personally as failure’ AS YOU AND I MIGHT/WOULD, he just interpreted it as a ‘not yet’ and went on to the next task, until God DID bless it.

Of course, when we are depressed, we LIKE to interpret failure as ‘personal’, since it reinforces our brilliant diagnosis of our pathetic-ness! (smile). We feel ‘cognitively comfortable’ when we feel we have failed, and so it’s sort of like a ‘comfort zone’ for us. It is joy that makes us ‘nervous’ and ‘fun’ that ‘scares us’ and ‘peace’ that makes us fear we have overlooked some unseen disaster right under our feet, about to explode (embarrassing us before the WHOLE WORLD!).


Then there were key areas for me such as music in which I received put downs from various people.

When my ex-wife - which whom I enjoy a nice relationship now - went away with my child, I ended up in a psychiatric hospital and then was dubbed a persecutive delirious person. They judged that I had just imagined all that I had seen, and that it was my guilt that made me see people laughing at me, imitating my gestures and so on. I am so sure that this was not the case that I am planning to go back to Berlin because I am so sure some people will remember me. There were times when people I didn't know called me by my first name, or by my last name. But the psychiatrists, just as my pastor, thought it was all delirium and refused to consider what truth there might have been. On top of that, they didn't realize that a) being told it was just hallucinations after all made things worse for me - how could I trust my senses then - and b) even someone who had "thought" those things and believed they were true, whether they were or not, had been shattered inside. They gave me high doses of neuroleptics to cure me from visions I'd never had. I never got rid of the devastation.

 I have already commented on my interpretation of their ‘diagnosis’ and their failure to explain (in their theory) WHY you ‘made it up’. Granted, I don’t know the content of the sessions, nor would I be likely to understand their technical analysis, but if I were you I would ask them to help find the ROOT CAUSE of the “delusions”, instead of merely trying to suppress the symptoms with drugs…

 

On top of that, I read "Christian" literature stating that self-esteem was bad - but what if you feel continually under attack of ideas such as "you're a moron", "you're crap", "you'll never amount to much"? Is it spiritual to constantly accuse yourself of being a non-entity? I would be pretty interested to know where you're standing in the area of Christian self-esteem, because, while thinking you're the greatest might not be realistic, then again you've got to admit that attacking yourself constantly and calling you names can't be very spiritual either.

Actually, it is neither. You are supposed to be committed to TRUTH, not to a LIE in either direction (pride or abasement). Paul told us: ‘ For through the grace given to me I say to every man among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment” (Rom 12.3). So, I can be honest and know that I am gifted in several areas, and known that I am worse-than-useless in many/all others! And I realize that that statement/assessment APPLIES TO EVERYONE. Everybody is good (at various levels of ‘good’) at some things, and horrible at others. Just because the things I am good at are not SOCIAL/PEOPLE things (narrowly defined), and that other people are maybe BAD at my ‘good things’ DOES NOT make me better/worse than others. I personally LIKE MY GOOD things (they are FUN) more than I DISLIKE my bad things. This is the key to happiness/contentment, maybe, for you. You should consider/pray about your learning to LOVE and VALUE your ‘good’ MORE THAN you HATE/Despise your ‘worse’ things.

Remember, everybody—even those ‘pretty’ and ‘popular’ people—have the ‘mix problem’ too… They complain (often in secret, or to their most honest friends) that they are too dumb, too plain, too dependent on the crowd, too weak-willed, too conformist, too shallow, etc… and they are ALL unhappy because they have not discovered their true gifts-from-God.

 

You might answer me that the main thing is that Jesus accepts me such as I am, yes but something in me doesn't accept me and it looks as if it's my super-ego that drags me in the mud.

Most super-egos are deluded anyway (smile). They pretend to be ‘righteous’ and ‘superior’ but they are nothing more than ‘guesses’ as to what the society wants! They are as insecure as the bullies in the school yard. You do need to mediate on Christ’s acceptance of you, but you should MAKE SURE you think about WHAT THAT means. It does NOT mean that He ‘tolerates your pathetic self’(!), but rather that He looks at you as one brimming with potential. According to scripture, He looks at us through the eyes/perspective of a Bridegroom looking at a Bride! I have looked at a bride through those eyes myself, in my past, and I know exactly what that means: warmth, a huge belief in what that person can become and can produce in fruit in the future, and yet a perfect understanding of their limitations. That is the way Jesus looks at us, friend. He delights in us, He knows our ‘flies’ and ‘weaknesses’, He knows our limitations, but He also knows the potential we have—given our ‘installed talents’—for the future, in a life lived in ‘marriage to Him’. Think about this image of the Bridegroom and Bride—there is no dishonesty in His assessment, but there is no pessimism either! He is optimistic about us, friend! And, since I KNOW that He knows me better than I know myself (and certainly better than my counselors and pastors of the past have known me!), I think I can trust His judgment about my potential (in fellowship with him of course ‘apart from Me you can do nothing’—John 15.5). It is okay to be honest with you/Him about your failures, faults, weaknesses, etc—that is just being honest—but DON’T BE DISHONEST about your gifts, potential, past successes (however small they seem now), and DON’T BE DISHONEST about the relative ‘weights’ of each of these. You weaknesses should keep you from pride over your strengths; your strengths should keep you from despair/pessimism over your failures. Only the truth (of the balance, the mix, the good AND bad) will ‘set you free’.

And don’t throw a ‘pity party’ for yourself (remember, this is a constant temptation of the Obsessive—remember, it makes us feel important), because you think your Weaknesses are SO MUCH MORE weaker, than your STRENGTHS are ‘strong’. You have NO WAY to judge such things, and the ‘relative weights’ can be easily changed through personal growth, spiritual development, and even practical training.

So, we are called to honesty, not to ‘false self-humility’ (“These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence” Col 2.23)

 

I have no right to access to my (medical) file and negative judgment reigns supreme in me. I tend to think that accepting gratefully that I have aptitudes is sinful, because it might lead to an inflated ego.

I think I just talked about honesty above, but one other point: the fact that you are ‘worried about’ getting an inflated ego, IS A SIGN OF HEALTH, and EVIDENCE that you would NOT! Your heart for humility is the best reason for believing that your honesty would NOT lead to arrogance. You—like me and everyone else, for that matter—WILL GET an inflated ego EVERY ONCE IN A WHILE. But, if you continue developing your relationship with Jesus, continue in reading as much of the NewTestament as you can daily, then you will find that the Spirit in our lives will make this a ‘self-correcting system’. Eventually, your heart will make you question your ‘ego’, and you will confess and respond in honest ‘self-dethroning’. You will feel guilt over this for a season, of course (shows the plumbing is working),but at some point you will have to be honest AGAIN, and recognize that Jesus saw all of that BUT STILL is telling you ‘to get back up, and let’s get back on the road again, together, friend’…

 

So here I am, with abilities that really exist and that have been praised over the years, but with the fear of not using them right, which made me lose my job in the educational system.

Hopefully some of the material above will help you distinguish between ‘honesty’ and ‘dishonesty’ on your gifts, and help you develop them under His transformation of your heart

 

Let's face it, professionally wise I am a failure, I am 34 already and my work history is next to nil.

By the time I was 34, I had run a small self-started business into the ground, and forced 6 people into joblessness!…smile]

 

I have said the most relevant things I could say. I was as sincere as could be.

I think I really need your help, prayers and advice.

Well, you have all the advice I sorta have to give, friend… but I will continue to pray for you…
.......................................................................

He wrote a quick, initial response:

Dear Glenn,

I have just read the second part of your writing for me and re-read the first one. Both parts are incredibly relevant, to the point, astoundingly well and thoroughly analyzed and, even though you might not be a counselor and know me only through my writings and what little contact we had over the years, I can only revere your ability to "debunk" (is that the word) the real issues.

I think there are other things I'd like to say, and others I'd like to say again in a different way. You may not need to respond by writing for hours this time, but I need to say these things because, as I have written, I haven't seen my own psychotherapist in a while and I believe I ought to write these things out of my system, temporarily at least. This message will probably NOT be written in a methodic way, I have a feeling I must write things as they come.

So it was that my main talents were academic and not social, when I was young, but then that girl I told you of, who must have been insecure because otherwise she wouldn't have delighted in harming me, gave me those wisecracks, putting me down with a pique whenever my intellectual potential had failed to deliver - and that was particularly painful, because I 'pinned' all of my self-respect on academic achievement, and I started to think that I was as bad as my latest failure. In fact, you are completely right in your diagnosis about my feeling of social stupidity. When I realized that this girl also had an intellectual potential, but was actually well-accepted by the "crowd", I wanted to "be" her, or become united with her so I could enjoy her popularity - and put an end to a world of misery.

When my depression first showed its ugly head, and I was unaware of this at the time - it was people who realized I always looked miserable - I started to feel like doing what John Lennon sang about in "Help", as in "opening up the doors", but what people did was scar me because they seemed to think, just as my school psychotherapist who was NEVER supportive, that it was always I who had done things wrong. People were fine, I wasn't. When my academic results began to go down - especially in scientific subjects - then I still held on because my results at literary matters were still very good, but a lot of time afterwards, a Spanish teacher completely shattered my self-esteem even for what regarded my linguistic abilities. In fact, he ridiculed me in front of the class by pointing out all the words I had pronounced wrong, and repeated on and on that I had a communication problem after I'd read my paper. He went on to say that, should I want to become an Spanish teacher, I would never pass the exam because my aptitudes for communication were so low. Imagine this: I had selected a course of studies that was supposed to lead to a job in Education, I had also made Spanish my speciality, and all of this was nullified in less than one hour. What made it worse was that I never excused myself for any mistake I'd made. So there I was, with nothing to say in my favour, unable to compensate my failures, including moral - cf. my exposing myself - by demonstrating I was worth something after all.

And to make things worse I had internalized all the bad things I had heard about myself.

Ok, will stop writing now, I'll send the rest of this message later.

Thank you ever so much again.

............................................................................................................

He wrote back later (to me and other prayer partners), having made some progress  and having gotten some encouraging feedback:

Hi,
This is to let you know that I have been feeling consistently great for the past few days after reading Glenn's long email and talking to two pastors of a local church. Most things that used to keep me in bondage are not even an issue any more, and I am beginning to grasp fully what "if the Son sets you free (...)", using one's God-given talents while remaining humble about them, grace and justification really mean (justification probably being one the greatest things, because I have come to the realization I'd always tried to justify my presence on Earth by my deeds/achievement or to make good for my past mistakes/sins and the ridicule linked to them. Not an issue any more, grace has justified me and freedom has come my way again.)

My (Christian) psychotherapist could hardly believe I'd changed so much in my approach to life in just one month.

So thank you to the four of you for praying and thank you Glenn for spending so much time typing away your message to me. I'm ever so grateful, all praise be to the Lord!


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