Author Archives: Allison Peet

How Surrender Can Help You Heal

Life is fraught with difficult experiences and situations beyond our control. Unforeseen events may short-circuit our best efforts. We can see our letdown as failure which fosters resignation or view our circumstance with curiosity which helps us learn from the situation. Resignation is a state of disappointment that highlights our feelings of failure. Surrender is an active, conscious choice, a decision rooted in our awareness that life is an unpredictable, uncontrollable journey.

Resignation takes away our ability to see options or to act in our own best interest. Unsure what to do next, or how to tend to our broken heart, we freeze. Hopelessness and helplessness color the lens through which we view our situation. We become discouraged, frustrated, confused, resentful. Faith in ourselves and our endeavors wanes. We do not take an active role in our life; we stop caring for ourselves. Our sense of self-worth diminishes. The disappointment may be the latest in several painful experiences. Any effort seems futile, so why bother?

Surrender is a difficult topic for me. By default, intense emotional pain gives way to resignation. My modus operandi is to give my heart to my vision. I forget the need for detachment, the need to cultivate hope and faith without forming a vice grip on the outcome. When I attempt to control or predict a specific outcome, I am wrong one hundred percent of the time. “This time will be different.”

I want the experiences in my life to go well. The problem arises when my emotional investment clouds my ability to see my dream with practicality. I am filled with the energy of excitement. I give little thought to what could go wrong. When reality falls short of my vision, I fall into rumination on past experiences. I worry about the future. Deep depression and anxiety follow. Resignation creeps in. I cannot see options, new opportunities, or the lessons in the experience. I am caught up in my feelings as I wander around in darkness. I journal about my angst. I see my counselor. In recent years, each experience granted me new insight and wisdom.

We often view surrender as a negative, admission of defeat. We feel forced into an experience we do not want. Surrender does not mean giving up or giving in. Nor does it mean we allow abuse or exploitation. The gift of surrender involves recognition that we have done all we can, we cannot control the outcome. There is freedom in letting go of our need to control the situation or fix the problem. We invite the possibility of more desirable options and outcomes. We find a sense of serenity as we see a broader picture.

The path of surrender is difficult. We must go through a process of grief, courage, hope, faith, wisdom, and trust. As we surrender, we acknowledge the strengths and limitations of ourselves and our situation. The options available to us may be less than desirable, but we invite peace to enter our life. We surrender many times. Surrender varies in degree of difficulty, sometimes easier than others. Many factors may influence our ability to reach acceptance, and surrender to reality—the freshness, intensity, and gravity of the experience; previous experiences; the people involved; and, the grief process which varies with each person and each situation. Our setback may result in a far more favorable outcome than we could imagine. Sometimes, it does not.

To nudge ourselves away from the pain of disappointment toward acceptance and surrender, we approach our situation with mindfulness. We

  1. treat ourselves with compassion and gentleness;
  2. pay attention to self-talk; what we say, and how we say those words, have meaning. They are strong indicators of whether we are in despair and on our way to resignation or in acceptance and on our way to surrender.
  3. look at the reality of our circumstances, what happened or is happening with awareness rather than judgment;
  4. embrace our feelings and express them in safe ways;
  5. look for our strengths and use them to move forward;
  6. get help—others may point out options we did not see. Asking for help may come in the form of counseling (schedule an appointment with Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center here), spiritual direction, a close friend, someone professional or experienced, or even classes. Sometimes, realizing our dream and reaching our definition of success takes time to unfold. We may have to plant a lot of seeds before our vision can blossom;
  7. know we will be okay, that we are neither controlled by nor defined by the experience;
  8. approach disappointment with curiosity, seek out the message or lesson.

The difficulties of life happen to all of us. Our approach to withstanding those difficulties contributes to our peace of mind, our sense of self, our overall outlook. Life offers opportunities in forms we do not expect. The gift of surrender invites freedom of choice. Renewed strength emerges from a sense of empowerment. Letting go of the need to control and fix sets us on the path of healing and hope as we prepare for the next development in our journey.

Much peace and joy to you.

NOTE: The information offered above is not a substitute for professional intervention for mental health, grief, medical, or legal issues. I offer you my deepest empathy. I hope for your healing.

Billie Wade, writer

To read more about Billie and her articles, click HERE.

 

Reflection, Introspection, and Moving On

The year 2020 brings us a new year and a new decade. The closing year, 2019, and the 2010 decade brought triumphs, challenges, reasons to celebrate, and experiences of emotional upheaval. We may be glad to see 2019 go, or we may wish it could last a few more months. Either way, we all have our own perspective and feelings about the inevitable passing of a year and the opening of a new one.

A tradition of greeting the new year involves writing resolutions about what we want our future to look like. Too often, resolutions fizzle out in a short period. Resolutions tend to be rigid and confining, so we beat ourselves up when we do not reach our goal or measure up to our ambition. We feel guilty for having been unsuccessful, often after repeated attempts. After all, we announced our resolutions with determination and conviction. My experience with resolutions for the new year involved looking at my life and making lofty declarations for improvement. I spent little time looking at what I really needed and wanted or ways to bring my desires to fruition.

I propose reframing resolutions as hopes and intentions. This approach calls for the thoughtfulness of reflection and the honesty of introspection.

Hope is a deep sense that our dreams, desires, and wishes might come to fruition. Hope is born of a yearning of a desired outcome, often with a spiritual basis. The end result is vivid in our mind. We have a visceral response to thinking about our goal.

Intentions require thoughtfulness born of reflection and introspection. We take a realistic view of our intention. We think about its importance. We consider our time, ability, equipment, fortitude, stick-to-itiveness, resources, and support. We see the importance of a plan. Intentions differ from resolutions in that they well up from deep within us and offer us flexibility. Intentions afford us the freedom to modify our course if necessary.

Reflection reviews where we have been and assesses the way the events of our life unfolded. Look into your heart and find the denied or neglected places, the tender places, the desperate places, the raw places. Think of balm to heal those. See my article in last month’s newsletter, “2019 Holiday Survival Guide” for ideas to soothe the jangles and set you on the path of healing. I journal daily and see my counselor regularly. We can use our reflection time to re-celebrate the joys and triumphs of 2019. We can revisit the challenges and painful experiences with fresh eyes. We may need to reach out for help. Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center has clinicians and spiritual directors to support you. Get started here.

Introspection is a deep search within to harvest the golden nuggets of strength, courage, resilience, and wisdom.

The passing of years offers a natural way of moving on to the next season of our life. We expand our introspection to determine where we want to go from here. We appraise options and possibilities. We look for ways to enrich our lives and empower ourselves. We set intentions and develop plans to attain them. We look to the new year with expectancy and gratitude for having traversed another year of life. We may have no clear answers to our deep, passionate questions. Offer gratitude for what did and did not happen in 2019.

Moving on requires us to let go of elements in our life that no longer serve us so we can live with more joy and meaning and peace. We may need to discard no-longer-useful items in our closet. Or, we may need to cut ties with people or situations that do not support us. This is a good time to review habits and behaviors that hinder us. We look for people who can help us with guidance, feedback, support, and encouragement.

Here are some steps for realizing hope and healing in 2020:

  • Review your life in 2019 and find out what brought you joy and peace, what brought you emotional pain, what went undone. Write a list.
  • Look within to see what you want to expand, reduce, or continue and what you want to bring into your life. List them.
  • Make a list of your intentions for 2020. Take an honest look at what you need to accomplish each one.
  • Choose 1-3 intentions and develop a timeline or strategy for approaching each one; be specific and detailed; write them on a calendar.
  • Put your list where you have easy access.
  • Do one small activity related to your intentions as often as possible.
  • Create checkpoints for reviewing your progress and direction.

My intentions for 2020 include:

  • Share my sacred gifts with as many people as possible.
  • Approach all of life as a great learning opportunity, in curiosity, wonder, awe, and respect.
  • Receive life’s lessons in joy and appreciation and expand my practice of gratitude.
  • Learn to surrender in joyful anticipation and expectancy.
  • Release in joy and peace those elements of my life that cause me uncertainty and hurt.

Whether you are facing 2020 with excitement or with trepidation, may every day in the new decade offer you joy for the wonder of life, light for your visions, support for your healing journey, and strength for your challenging times. I appreciate the opportunity to share in your journey.

With Much Gratitude.
– Billie

Billie Wade, writer

To read more about Billie and her articles, click HERE.

On the Brink: A Group for Religious Professionals Transitioning into Retirement

 PROGRAM

 

Retiring from active religious and spiritual leadership evokes many emotions–dread, joy, fear, anxiety, excitement…Questions arise: “How will I find meaning and purpose?” “What is my call now?”  “How do I adapt to all of the changes that aging brings?”  “How do I share my spiritual gifts while maintaining healthy boundaries?”

Utilizing Parker Palmer’s book, “On the Brink of Everything:  Grace, Gravity and Getting Old”, clergy approaching retirement, or recently retired, will gather four times to support one another by exploring the existential challenges retirement brings.

AUDIENCE  Religious professionals including rabbis, pastors, priests, imams and others who are considering their next stage of life
DATE / TIME  Tuesdays from 1:00-3:30PM

  • February 25th
  • March 24th
  • April 28th
  • May 26th
COST  $200 for the full series of four sessions
LOCATION  Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center Conference Room

Click image for a printer friendly flyer

FACILITATORS

Diane McClanahan, M.Div., B.S.N.

Diane McClanahan, Director of Leadership and Spiritual Life at the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center, holds a bachelor of science degree in nursing from Duke University and a master of divinity degree from Yale Divinity School. An ordained elder in the United Methodist Church, she has served congregations in Connecticut and Iowa. Diane is a spiritual director, clergy coach, church consultant and conflict mediator. Her interest is in providing spiritual and educational programs and consultation to assist spiritual leaders and their congregations to meet the needs of their communities.

Mark Minear, Ph.D.

Mark MinearMark Minear is a licensed psychologist. He is also a recorded minister with the Religious Society of Friends (Quaker). He received his B.A. in Religion and English from William Penn College, an M.A. in Church History from the Earlham School of Religion, and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from Ball State University.  Mark works with adults on a wide variety of issues: depression, anxiety including trauma, loss and grief, transitions and adjustments, and spiritual concerns. Theoretical approaches include logotherapy (meaning-making), cognitive-behavioral, family systems, and mindfulness therapies.  He also has background in working with a variety of churches, denominations, and faith traditions, as well as with individual clergy in need of support.

EMDR Certification with Susan Arland, LMHC

 

CERTIFICATION

 

 

The EMDRIA Certification process allows for a clinician to develop a more in-depth understanding of EMDR, case conceptualization, treatment planning and the Adaptive Information Processing (AIP) Model. Through an additional 10 hours of Group Consultation and 10 hours of Individual Consultation, the clinician masters the 8 phases of EMDR treatment and the standard protocol. In a supportive environment, cases are presented, leading to rich dialogue and learning of this often complex therapy. Adaptations for children, Interweaves and clinical choice points will be addressed. The clinician has the opportunity to integrate this approach with their already existing fund of knowledge and to develop a sense of smoothness in their work. For the treatment of specific problem areas, additional protocols and resources will be shared.

 

AUDIENCE

 

Clinicians who have completed EMDR basic training
DATE / TIME

 

2nd Tuesday of the Month, 11:30am-1:30pm,  1/14, 2/11, 3/10, 4/14, 5/12, 6/9, 7/7
COST

 

Group Sessions: $25/hour / Individual Sessions: $100/hour
LOCATION

 

Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center / 8553 Urbandale Ave, Urbandale, IA
REGISTRATION

 

Pre-registration is required. Register by calling Susan Arland at 515-251-6656 or email: sarland@dmpcc.org. Consultation is offered face-to-face, through conference call or Zoom.
EMDRIA APPROVED
CONSULTANT
 
Susan Arland, LMHC, completed her EMDR basic training with Dr. Francine Shapiro in 1998. She became an Approved Consultant with EMDRIA in 2008 and has served as a consultant for EMDR basic trainings with the EMDR Institute, and now with Trauma Recovery/Humanitarian Assistance Program and EMDR Consulting, Inc. She uses this approach in her full-time practice with anxiety, depression, life transitions, relationships,addictions, grief and loss, attachment and abuse issues. . Additionally, she uses EMDR for performance enhancement. Susan works with first responders, dispatchers, police and firefighters, providing EMDR treatment to heal the multiple traumas they have endured.She has found EMDR to integrate well with other approaches to therapy.

Click image for a printer-friendly flyer

 

2019 Holiday Survival Guide

The Big Holidays—Thanksgiving; Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa; and New Year’s Eve—come with a bag packed full of emotions and feelings. Seasonal expectations can make us feel confused, frustrated, vulnerable, and exhausted. Our feelings during this super-charged time may bounce around like pinballs. How we take care of ourselves can make a big difference in getting through this five-week mega-holiday with as little stress as possible.
The holidays can fill us with dread or joy. Relationship dynamics, individual personalities, or past experiences can impact and intensify our mental health symptoms. Leaving a volatile situation may not be possible. Or, we may be faced with isolation and loneliness. Loss of loved ones and friends who have passed away can increase our symptoms. Our families may be fragmented and scattered. Friends may have moved away or otherwise become inaccessible. Communication may be difficult in strained relationships. The excitement and pressure of preparing for the holidays may overwhelm us.
This time of year brings me bittersweet memories of loss and thankfulness. In recent years, the holidays have been emotional as I simultaneously grieve my sister (2015), my mother (2016), and my partner (2016), even as I feel joy for the time I had with them. The fear and anxiety of receiving a cancer diagnosis (2017) has given way to deep gratitude.

Getting through this emotionally-charged time with minimum distress can feel overpowering as we try to make our way through the flurry of activity and maintain our emotional stability. Here are 37 tips to help during this time.

1. Be kind and gentle with yourself. Self-compassion for your feelings, rhythms, and circumstances help put the situation in perspective.
2. Pamper yourself. Get a massage, manicure, or pedicure. Take a bubble bath and include candles and your favorite music. Stay in your pajamas all day.
3. Dress up in your favorite outfit and prepare your favorite meal. If possible, invite others to join you.
4. “No,” is a complete sentence and a right. Allow yourself, as much as possible, to establish and adhere to realistic expectations. Set firm boundaries. Try not to get caught up in the expectations of others.
5. Take time for quiet celebration, with or without others. Light candles. Play soothing or uplifting music. Do a favorite ritual or try a new one. Start new holiday traditions, rituals, and practices that nurture your spirit.
6. Read my post of October 2019, The Opportunity of Loneliness, for ways to deal with loneliness and isolation.
7. Plan a budget for how you will spend your time and money. Balance time with others with solitude. Stick to it as much as possible.
8. Buy yourself a holiday present or a gift card you can use later.
9. Call someone and have a casual conversation.
10. Read an uplifting, inspiring, or comforting book or that stack of magazines you have saved.
11. Write your thoughts and feelings in a notebook, journal, or diary.
12. Read a sacred text or other inspirational material and reflect on what the passages mean to you.
13. Practice compassion and forgiveness, if only for a short while, as you interact with others.
14. Spend time in religious or spiritual activities that soothe and uplift you. Pray or meditate.
15. Review the closing year. Look for the lessons. Marvel at the wisdom you gained.
16. Make gentle and empowering plans for the new year without locking into resolutions. Try to approach the new year with joyful anticipation and expectancy.
17. Call a trusted friend or family member and let the person know how you are feeling.
18. See a counselor, minister, rabbi, priest, or spiritual director. The Center has counselors who work with grief. To schedule an appointment, click here.
19. Volunteer at an organization you are fond of or one you want to know more about.
20. Engage in activities that inspire awe and wonder in you. Gaze at a clear night sky. Watch a toddler at play.
21. Go for a walk or exercise. Practice yoga or stretching exercises; or, try Tai Chi or Qi Gong.
22. Find reasons to smile and laugh. Watch funny or nurturing movies.
23. Let off steam safely. Try Tae Kwon Do, kickboxing, or screaming.
24. Create something. Paint, color, draw. Or, sculpt, weave, or knit. Write an essay, blog post, or short story. Try a new recipe.
25. Bundle up and head outdoors to blow bubbles. Watch them freeze in mid-air.
26. Decorate your living or work space with décor of the season. The dollar stores have some good options.
27. Spend time with caring, supportive family members or friends, especially sharing a meal, if possible.
28. Honor the rhythms of your body. Eat, sleep, rest, and exercise as your body requires.
29. Write a letter of gratitude, grief, anger, thank you, thinking of you, forgiveness, or apology regardless of whether you intend to send it.
30. Address a holiday card to yourself, write a note inside that inspires and uplifts you, and mail it.
31. Send holiday cards to friends and family members. One of the dollar stores carries an impressive line for $.50 each.
32. Make hot cocoa or cider or buy egg nog.
33. Limit alcohol consumption.
34. Do a craft such as make ornaments, a homemade gift, or a wreath for your door.
35. Perform a random act of kindness.
36. Dress up and have your photo taken by a professional.
37. Participate in seasonal activities at work, school, house of worship, the people in your apartment building or neighborhood, holiday festivals, etc.

I hope these suggestions spark new ideas for you. Allow yourself to experiment until you find what feels right. Try a different idea every day or pick one and use it for a week or the whole season. You may want to do several on the same day. The most important point is to be a friend to yourself.

Thank you to Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center for their generous support and encouragement for my writing these monthly articles. I appreciate all of you who read my column each month and hope I have enriched your life in some way. It is an honor and a privilege to serve the community of the Center. The Holidays offer the promise of beauty, wonder, and grace. Enjoy this festive, exciting season. May you find peace, comforting, and joy in the coming weeks and all of 2020.

Billie Wade, writer

All Saints

James E. Hayes, D. Min., M. Div., Executive Director, Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center

I recently encountered this All Saints prayer:

O God, before whom the generations rise and pass away:

            We rejoice today in the Communion of Saints,

            In the remembrance of friends and loved ones who once walked with us in mutual love.

We are thankful for every precious memory of their goodness,

            And sustained by contributions each made to our common life.

In the Christian tradition, the feast of All Saints normally lands at the beginning of November. For us inhabitants of the northern hemisphere, it makes sense that the seasons of nature influence the human imagination. As we witness leaves falling and the vibrant colors of summer surrendering to ambers and browns, it seems normal for us to ponder questions of mortality and those who have gone before us.

All of this was on my mind as I reached for the door that led me into the church hosting the funeral for Herb Schulte. Herb was a board president for the Center among his many other accomplishments in a rich life of 93 years. He was a decades-long spouse, father, neighbor, and successful in a career as a Meredith executive and journalism professor. He also gave back generously as a community volunteer—not just at the Center. The funeral ritual captured a spirit of kindness and generosity. All this I surmised as someone who didn’t know Herb personally.

I attended the funeral because I wanted to thank the family for all that Herb and his family did to support the Center over the years. They were even so kind as to make us the beneficiaries of memorial contributions made in Herb’s honor. Thank you! Clearly the work of the Center mattered to the Schultes. I sensed privilege in my opportunity to be present—and inspired.

Inspired in the sense that I felt surrounded and comforted by the spirits of the many folks who have gone before us to make the Center possible. Inspired also to consider my and our role to carry on this important work. Could we even call this work holy in the sense that we are working to stitch lives back together in such a way that people once again experience wholeness? It’s right there in our mission: that we walk with people through counseling and education to find hope and healing, and live a fulfilling life.

We work pretty hard around here to meet people where they are, especially when it comes to their spiritual tapestry. I recognize the throwing around terms like prayer, ritual, holy and saints tends toward confessional language. The problem with language is that it can never capture ultimate mystery. Language has limits.

I resort to such terms because they are a part of my heritage and they help me to describe something I experienced through a ritual celebrating the life of a fellow pilgrim who worked hard to help the Center succeed. What makes a saintly life? A whole life? A life in full? I am convinced that a major part of the answer to these questions is rooted in service. How do we use our gifts to build community? To serve others? To make a difference? To contribute to our common life?

Each day I am inspired by so many who participate in our mission of healing wounds that require the expertise of a counselor. I am grateful for a talented and generous staff, for courageous clients who seek healing through our services, and for the community of donors and volunteers whose generosity makes it all possible.

If you think it’s easy being a board president, just ask someone who’s been in that role!  I’m grateful for Herb and all the saints who have gone before us and those still in our midst.

To read more of Jim’s blogs, CLICK HERE.

LGBTQAI+ Affirming Counseling Class for Clinicians and Clinical Students

This course is for clinicians and pastoral counselors who seek to more effectively assess the mental health treatment needs of and provide therapy and counseling to child, adolescent and adult clients who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, asexual, agender, intersex, and/or identify with other gender nonconforming and sexual minority identities (LGBTQAI+). It will help care providers better understand the critical concepts, current research, and key clinical issues with regard to this population. This course is offered in person at the Center (8553 Urbandale Ave, Urbandale, IA; in-person class size is limited to 20.) or online, via the Zoom platform.

This course is offered in person at the Center (8553 Urbandale Ave, Urbandale, IA. In-person class size is limited to 20.) or online, via the Zoom platform.

Objectives: Understanding key clinical issues and the most appropriate, effective assessment and counseling approaches with gender nonconforming and sexual minority clients, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, asexual, agender, and intersex (LGBTQAI+) clients.

Dates: Fridays, January 3 – March 27, 2020, twelve weeks, (No class on March 20-spring break)
Time: 8:15 – 9:45 AM
Cost: $300 ($150 for clinical students, enter discount code: STUDENT)
CEUs: 18 (Certificates of attendance provided)

Register online now  (deadline to register: January 2, 2020)

Participants in this in-depth, twelve-week, 18-hour course will:

  1. gain a better understanding of the research and evolving conceptualizations of gender identity, sexual orientation, and assigned sex to better ground their work with LGBTQAI+ populations.
  2. increase their awareness and understanding of the key factors for effective assessment and treatment planning.
  3. Learn to identify and begin to confront the common biases and assumptions that often limit understanding and effectiveness in this clinical work.
  4. learn how to create a more welcoming and safe therapeutic environment for these client populations.

Participants will also learn how to address the unique challenges LGBTQAI+ clients may be confronting, including:

  • heterosexist and cisgender bias, homphobia/transphobia, and internalized homophobia/transphobia
  • impact of minority stress and trauma
  • impact of spiritual violence
  • the coming out process
  • navigating and creating intimate relationships & supportive communities
  • risks and challenges faced at different life stages (e.g., youth, elders)
  • the integrative process of identity development for LGBTQ+ people, its challenges, and resolutions.

Click image to view a printer friendly flyer.

Facilitator:

Douglas Aupperle, Ph.D.

Doug Aupperle is a licensed psychologist. He received his B.A. in psychology from Creighton University in Omaha, and his M.A. and Ph.D. in clinical child psychology from DePaul University in Chicago.  Doug provides psychotherapy and psychological assessment/testing to children and adolescents. He has special interests in the areas of anxiety, attention disorders, Bowen Family Systems therapy, child sexual abuse, E.M.D.R. (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing), working with LGBT youth and parents, stress and coping in children, and trauma. He is a member of the EMDR International Association

Open House for Potential Trainees and Residents

The Training Program at the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center seeks to develop mental health clinicians who are uniquely prepared to serve the needs of the greater Des Moines area and the state of Iowa through expanding and deepening the clinical skills and knowledge base provided in their graduate programs. The Center’s focus on healing of mind, body and spirit and its dedication to lifelong learning provide rich learning opportunities for trainees and clinical staff alike.

Join us in the large conference room at the Center for an open house for the 2020-2021 academic year.  We will offer brief presentations about the training program and a tour of the facility. Light snacks and refreshments will be offered.

Date: Thursday, December 5, 2019

Time: 4:30 – 6:30 PM

Location: Large Conference Room / The Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center / 8553 Urbandale Ave / Urbandale, IA

 

Hosted By:

Christine A. Dietz, Ph.D., L.I.S.W.

Christine Dietz is a licensed independent social worker, spiritual director and Reiki Master. She is the Center’s Director of Clinical Training. She received her M.S.W. from the University of Iowa and her Ph.D. in Sociology from the State University of New York at Buffalo. She is a graduate of the Lev Shomea Training Program for Spiritual Direction in the Jewish Tradition. Christine’s focus in counseling is on helping people reconnect to their innate wholeness and renew their sense of hope and possibility. She works with people experiencing anxiety, depression, OCD, trauma, life transitions, chronic illness, grief and loss, and relationship issues. She also offers individual and group spiritual direction to people from all faith traditions. She is a member of the National Association of Social Workers and Spiritual Directors International.

The Opportunity of Loneliness

Living alone can lead to feelings of freedom and independence or trigger feelings of isolation and loneliness. While aloneness and loneliness are often used interchangeably, and often travel together, they are very different.

Aloneness is a physical state in which we are on our own even if other people are present. Reading a book at the library is an example. We may have people with whom to interact and choose to not do so. The key is we recognize our choices and options. We may welcome and embrace the tranquility of being alone, using the opportunity to rest, relax, recharge, and rekindle.

Re-energized, our imagination and creativity flow. We welcome and embrace our time alone and befriend ourselves, allowing for time to explore our values and preferences, our needs and desires, our patterns and routines, our goals and dreams. Curiosity about our inner life leads to discovering with delight the surprise of who we are. Pampering and nurturing ourselves become priorities rather than indulgences. We find confidence in self-reliance. Solitude sustains us.

Loneliness is a mental state in which we feel disconnected from other people and, possibly, from our spiritual foundation. We have no one with whom to share thoughts and feelings even when we are with others. Loneliness can impact physical health as well as mental health, contributing to heart disease, a compromised immune system, depression (which itself may lead to loneliness), thoughts of suicide, and anxiety. We may experience stifled imagination and crushed creativity. Boredom and loss of interest often worsen the loneliness.

There are myriad life events that trigger loneliness, including genetics and grief, which encompasses changes in life circumstances such as moving away from friends and family; empty nest; going off to college; divorce; death of a loved one; a new job or losing a job; illness; relocation of close friends, and more. Depression, anxiety, other mental disorders, and strong emotions such as anger or even elation can bring on a bout of loneliness. We may believe no one else can relate to our feelings of isolation and emptiness, there is no one else to share our pain or our joy.

Feeling lonely and feeling alone happen to everyone. An important point to remember is to balance the two states. As an introvert, I enjoy the company of others for limited periods. I require solitude to re-energize and regroup. One of my friends relishes the company of others and rejuvenates when she is in a group where there is a lot of positive energy. Another friend enjoys concerts and gets lost in the music, oblivious to other people in the audience. This same friend enjoys spending informal time with others and is likely to call someone on the spur of the moment and invite them to meet for coffee or lunch.

Solitude offers me an opportunity to pause, introspect, reflect, and, often, rejoice. Daily thoughts of my sister, mother, and partner, whose deaths occurred in 2015 and 2016, emerge from the hole their absence left in my life. I feel a sense of loneliness for the loss of their presence. In solitude, my grief includes the joy each of those wonderful women brought me, leaving me with gratitude and hope and the realization that, in spirit, they are yet with me. They each left a unique legacy that helps guide my life.

Changes in our attitude and approach to loneliness can go a long way in helping our life improve. Here are several tips for relieving loneliness, some of which involve a little risk (legal and ethical, I promise):

  • Journal your internal dialogue to help you sort through the maze of uncomfortable feelings.
  • Write a list of the advantages of being alone and use each one as a journaling prompt. This can help shift your mindset to one of acceptance of the situation and allow you to create ideas for using the time in positive ways.
  • Develop a mantra or set of affirmations that you can repeat until you feel relief.
  • Spend time alone with other people—dine out, join a gym, go to a park or other public place and observe people, or read a book or write.
  • Do something eccentric you love, such as prepare a favorite meal others find odd or unusual. I like fried chicken, collard greens, black-eyed peas, and homemade cornbread. Most of my friends say, “Ewww.”
  • Take a class or attend a seminar, workshop, art festival, play, or a concert or go to a museum. Striking up a conversation with strangers who share our interests can lead to lasting friendships.
  • Go for a stroll in nature.
  • Volunteer with an organization you want to know more about.
  • Call someone you would like to know better or someone you already know well just to chat.
  • Call a company and ask a question or offer a comment rather than doing so online. I do this sometimes to hear a human voice.
  • Limit social media as it can encourage social comparison. We may think we are connecting with others, but we may actually make our situation more intolerable as we compare our life to their seemingly happy lives.
  • Read inspirational or spiritual materials.
  • Engage in spiritual practices that strengthen you.
  • Brainstorm and make a list of activities you can enjoy. I have a Master List of Things to Do When I’m Bored. It spans several pages and has gotten me through some tough times.
  • Organize an activity such as a card game, Scrabble, book club, a knitting group, MeetUp group, or fan club.
  • Let your imagination boost your spirits. A good idea may change your life.
  • Reach out to someone you trust—mental health professional, religious leader, friend, family member, spiritual director.

These suggestions may be easier offered than done for you. Consider your situation, temperament, and tolerance for interaction. There may be a blurred line between welcoming solitude and perpetuating loneliness. If mobility or transportation are difficult, modifying some strategies can help. I encourage you to experiment to find what interests you.

Left unexplored and unattended, isolation and the resultant loneliness can damage physical as well as mental health. We can reduce our periods of isolation and loneliness in frequency, intensity, and duration by taking the opportunity to welcome and embrace them. With a conscious change in perception and mindset, loneliness can be turned into life-affirming solitude that promotes senses of self-empowerment, confidence, serenity, and well-being. Enjoy the discovery of powerful you.

Billie Wade, writer

To read more about Billie and her articles, click HERE.

Eastern Association United Church of Christ Boundary Training

The Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center is pleased to offer Ethical Boundary Training for Clergy. Clergy from all denominations are welcome to attend.

 

DATE  Thursday, March 19, 2020

TIME  9:00AM – 3:30PM (Registration begins at 8:30AM)

TUITION  $30 for Eastern Association members in good standing. $50 for all others.  Lunch is included.

LOCATION St John’s United Church of Christ in Clarence, Iowa (320 9th Ave, Clarence, IA 52216)

REGISTRATION  Pre-registration required by March 12, 2020. Click below.

register-now-button-white-on-turquoise

If  you have questions, contact Diane McClanahan at: dmcclanahan@dmpcc.org

Description of Training

What are healthy boundaries?  Why are they important?  What is the difference between boundary crossing and boundary violation?  Beginning with an understanding of the nature of ministry, this workshop will focus on the broad range of professional boundaries that include but consist of so much more than prevention of sexual misconduct.

Topics

  • Developing Self-Awareness
  • The Impact of Family Systems on Healthy Boundaries
  • The Nature of Power
  • Dual Relationships—My Pastor, My Friend
  • Financial Boundaries—Appropriate Gifts
  • Communications—Need to Know or Want to Know?
  • Internet and Social Networks
  • Issues of Resistance
  • Prevention Measures and Supports

Faciliator

Diane McClanahan, M.Div. is the Director of Leadership and Spiritual Life  at the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center.  She  holds a bachelor of science degree in nursing from Duke University and a master of divinity degree from Yale Divinity School. An ordained elder in the United Methodist Church, she has served congregations in Connecticut and Iowa. Diane is a spiritual director, clergy coach, church consultant and conflict transformation specialist.  She provides spiritual enrichment opportunities, professional development programs and consultation to assist faith community leaders and their congregations to meet the needs of their communities through the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center.

Contact

Diane McClanahan, Director, Leadership and Spiritual Life
Phone:  515-251-6667
Email: dmcclanahan@dmpcc.org