I’m sorry to be getting back to you so late.
A lot of people think God is twisted and/or drunk. But as I mentioned in my last post, knowing that there’s something wrong proves that something can be wrong. If the alternative to a good God ruling the universe were true, we couldn’t/wouldn’t care about good or bad, right or wrong. The alternative to a good God ruling the universe is that everything is happening by chance. Things bonk into one another and poof! stuff is or isn’t or is different. There’s nothing good or bad about it. It just is. Complaining makes no sense.
On the other hand, if God exists and things are bad, there must be some other explanation than that God is messing with us.
I agree with you that your life is a train wreck. I don’t dispute anything you’ve written. I also agree with you that you write well. These notes of yours are well constructed, clear, logical and they are pleasant to read (other than the sad content). But not being good at everything, or things others are good at, does not make a person a failure. I would love to be able to write like you write. But the fact that I can’t, doesn’t diminish who God has made me to be. I know I’m average at everything, and though it was a pretty substantial blow to my psyche when I finally realized it, I needed to joyfully accept that that’s the way God made me.
Has it ever occurred to you that your understanding of life in general and your life in particular is flawed? Seriously flawed? The opinion of everyone in the world is that we are the center of the universe and everything revolves around us. The problem is that the world can’t revolve around everyone individually. We are always bonking into one another. And how we bonk impacts everyone we bonk against.
Your most obvious bonkedness comes from your “mental illnesses.” I say most obvious because it, and its attendant complications, are such a large part of your life. The world is wrong about the center and it is wrong about everything else, including mental illness.
Scientists are working like crazy to prove that mental illness is really some kind of disease or illness. But so far they have fallen short. I believe they never will prove it. This is because mental illness is not an illness, but a spiritual/physical reaction to the events of life. When things go bad, we react to that bad thing. If enough bad things happen in a short enough time or is a large enough way we, or our bodies, react to those events.
I don’t have a degree in psychology or psychiatry, but I have been observing people for a long time and I’ve done a fair amount of reading in the area of helping people. Everyone agrees on a few things: we all think, we all choose, we are genetically related to those who have gone before us, we are trained by others, we develop habits, we are in some sense dependent on many of those habits, etc.
Where Biblical counselors differ from psychologists is in how these things all operate in the lives of those we are all trying to help. There are psychologists who disagree with the majority, but they are either ignored or shouted down. Part of the reason is because secular psychologists, while they know that things like love is efficacious, don’t have powerful enough love to make lasting change in people and so their results aren’t as consistent or far reaching as they would like. On the other hand, Biblical counselors do see consistent and far-reaching results when the counselees are walking with God (who is love).
Let me give you an illustration. There is a book, Soteria, that discusses to different ways people who have been diagnosed with schizophrenia are treated. One group is enrolled in a house called Soteria House, the other went the normal Psych ward route. In the Soteria House the residents were treated like real people who were simply having difficulties with living. They were respected, loved, talked with, given chores, expected to do what they were asked to do, they received some kind of consistent discipline when they don’t do what is expected, and they were worked with at the level they could work. If they were pretty much catatonic, someone would simply sit with them or talk quietly with them. They weren’t pushed, but they were encouraged to join in. The other group did the normal inpatient thing with meds and psychotherapy.
The project ran out of money before it was finished, but the results, they were able to see, were spectacular. The people who were sent to the psych ward, did pretty much as psych patients do, not much. The Soteria House folks, on the other hand, had something like an 80% recovery rate. What they meant by recovery was that they got jobs outside the house, moved out and made normal lives for themselves, and didn’t need to come back. Of course, because they ran out of funding, they weren’t able to follow the folks for as long as they really needed to.
My guess is that because the love and respect wasn’t of an eternal nature (ie. Jesus), the recidivism rate was pretty high. The point, however, is that treating people with love and respect, changed them, at least temporarily. Another book that discusses this same sort of thing is Models Of Madness, edited by Read, Moshe, and Bentall. They come to the same conclusions about treatment.
With few exceptions, all of the secular literature I’ve read and heard about attributes mental illness to either genetics or chemicals. Neither of which is proven in any sense at all. At the same time, when describing the lives of particular patients, the literature, reveals the same kind of upbringing and home life. Everyone seems to grow up in families that do not love the Lord, parents are very selfish, they respond to one another and to the children in ways that are harmful to everyone. Sometimes psychologists label the whole mix as dysfunctional, sometimes as psychotic, sometimes as codependent, but it is always the same—a huge mess.
Notice that these descriptions have nothing to do with genes or chemicals. They describe people doing what they do because they want what they want. They want what they want it the way they want it and they are willing to do whatever they must to get what they want. As I mentioned before, while doing what they want, everyone is bonking into one another, so everyone justifies their bonks because they are at the center of the universe and “what else can I do?” or it’s just too bad, I’m so sorry. Often, in the case of parents bonking their own children, they don’t even notice that they have destroyed them by bonking the way they have.
I believe that what we call mental illness is the reactions our minds and bodies have when we have been bonked by life. It is different for each person, because each person is different. But when, for example, a father yells at his son because he is not just like the father, and the mother hides in the background, something happens in the son. Some sons rise to the challenge and become more like the father. Some sons cower in the dark and are drawn to any male who will love them. Some turn inward and their minds change and a whole new world develops inside. Everyone is different. This is what I refer to as the balloon squish.
Years later, when a psychologist visits with this son, he might ask the boy to describe what is happening inside him. He will observe the family relationships and dynamic, and he will see what others in the family have done. He will also observe all these things through his prior understanding about chemicals, brain functioning, genetics, etc. He will catalog the reports that the son has made regarding his recent feelings, thinking, and behaviors. The psychologist will then organize all the behaviors, now called symptoms, on a chart, compare it to the DSM-V, and viola, a diagnosis is presented. Then, because everything having to do with the brain is a chemical reaction, the psychologist will arrange for the boy to be given medications that are supposed to help with those chemical functions.
What no one seems to notice is that nothing really changes. The patient still hears the voices, still wants to tear off his head, still wants to cut himself, is still afraid to go outside, etc. The medications slow these things down, or they may numb the pain, or flatten the mood, but they don’t do anything about the cause of these thoughts and behaviors. The symptoms are waved at, sometimes lessened in intensity, but nothing is done about the root problem. This is partly because they don’t understand that a description is the not the same thing as an explanation. To clump the symptoms into a group and then give the group a name is not the same thing as telling the boy or his parents what is going on.
If I have a runny nose, a cough, and a fever, telling me I have the flu is not enough if you then only treat me for the runny nose and/or the cough. Having the flu means a lot more than that I have certain symptoms. But in the mental health industry, that’s all it means. The flu is an explanation that the symptoms exhibit. Schizophrenia is the description of a bunch of symptoms. It is not an explanation.
What I’ve always wondered is, if we know from listening to a person’s story, that what has happened to him comes in a particular context, why we think it is a chemical or biological problem and not a reaction to the situation problem. If my brother, sneaks in and whacks me in the head with a stick, over and over again for years and years, and I finally have “it up to here” and take his stick from him and kill him with it, the problem is not that my chemicals changed, but that I chose to do something about his whacking me. There were a number of different things I might have done instead of killing my brother and these might be related to genetics, training, physical abilities, etc. And, when I did what I did, I might not have, in one sense chosen to do what I did, I was only six years old and had no idea what I was doing. But even if I didn’t know that poking him in the eye with the stick would kill him, I still chose to poke him. Chemicals may have been firing away like crazy, but I still chose to poke him. My father before me, may have been a murderer, even a fratricidal murderer, but I still chose to poke my brother. The current mental health industry automatically leaves the context out of the equation in treating problems in living.
There’s more. Suppose a young man is a teenager and all of a sudden, living in a home where everyone is bonking into one another, something seems to snap in his brain. Suppose all of a sudden he hears voices that are telling him to kill himself. Or suppose he goes manic and begins to drink heavily or have sex with everyone in sight, or to cut himself. What’s going on there? I believe that sometimes, our bodies/brains react to things happening around us without our choosing. It’s like a self-defense mechanism that kicks in when nothing else seems to be working. The problem is that in all these cases the defense mechanism only makes things worse. Pain and suffering causes things to snap and causes more pain and suffering. No one chooses to hear voices in their heads, or chooses to go manic or psychotic. I think our bodies react to circumstances and these reactions sometimes result in more pain than was there originally.
There is another category we need to mention: sometimes these two are combined –choices and physical reactions. Take the example of my brother whacking me with the stick. Suppose I misunderstood what was happening to me and I was wrong in what was going on. The event happened, I made a judgment, a decision, a choice about what was going on, and because of that wrong choice, over time, instead of killing him, I began hearing voices in my head. In this case, I have two things happening. I made a choice about what was going on and my body/brain reacted to the result of that choice. In this case, both are happening.
This explains why people describe their growing up years in completely different terms than their parents or siblings. It is as if everyone was living in different houses. Again, we all view ourselves as the center of the universe and in the process, we bonk into everyone else who thinks the same way. So, the parents are doing one thing, and the children are viewing things from their own perspectives and sometimes things in our heads go wrong.
On the other hand, I’ve never seen anyone who was suffering from some of the more debilitating “mental disorders” who had what I would call normal parents. The growing up years were always a train wreck with parents whose desires to rule, were totally selfish and even vicious toward the kids.
All of this is to say: first, much of what we call mental illness comes to us as the result of choices we have made. Second, not all of our problems with living are a result of our choices, at least not directly. And third, these are not brain/biological problems, they are mind/spiritual problems. This is because they are due to our belief system, our immediate beliefs and what we do with those beliefs in certain contexts.
This is important for healing. In the psychological/psychiatric world chemicals are key. However, there have been no tests that confirm this conclusion. There is no way to measure the chemicals in the brain during life. They can measure electrical impulses in the brain, but they don’t know whether the impulses cause things or are caused by things. They base most if not all of their treatments on nothing but loose theories. And the dismal results show this to be true.
If medical doctors exhibited the same abysmal track records for healing people, they would all be out of business. If you have thyroid problems and to go to any medical doctor in the country, they will run tests and tell you exactly what your problem is. In addition, you will have consistent treatment. If you take your psychiatric symptoms to several psychologists, you are likely to receive many different diagnosis, without a test in sight. And who knows how many different possible treatments.
Here’s the first point of this whole note: non-Christians are blind to how God made the world to run. They are only able to see what they can see, from their own vantage point, which is inside the world. Combine this with what I said before about everyone being in charge of their own lives, bonking into everyone around them, and we find what we see: a colossal mess. Not only are people bonking into one another, but they are also bonking into the world the way God made it.
The second, and much more important point, is that God did not leave us floundering in a messed up world. He told us, through his prophets, Son, and apostles, how the world works and why it works that way. He also told us how to get things straightened out so we can be at peace while living here. Not only that, but instead of just telling us how to get straightened out, he did what was required for us to be straightened out.
The key is not a set of rules or philosophies. It is a relationship. A relationship with God himself. The choices I’ve been alluding to throughout this paper are choices to do things according to our own lights, according to our desires, and according to the belief that we are at the center of the universe. These choices, attitudes, demeanor, and context are sinful. Sinful means not thinking, feeling, acting and believing that God is actually God. When God is not at the center, we get what we see around us and inside us.
When God is at the center, there is peace, wholeness, joy, enthusiasm in life and love, and sweetness and light.
The solution to all the problems of living, is submission to God. It includes acknowledging that we have thought and acted as if we were the center, but now we realize that we were wrong and that everything that has gone sideways in our lives is because of our choices, or our reactions to the choices of others. We have caused all our troubles, no one else. We need help. We need saving.
When we come to God, based on Jesus’ death and resurrection, God will change us. He will make us whole with regard to our guilt, our shame, and I believe he will restore our minds to us. If love will change someone who has been hearing voices in his head, who isn’t a Christian, what will God do for someone who is a Christian? I think the things that plague you now, can be taken away and you can have a new life. But even if he doesn’t change your context, he will give you joy in the midst of your suffering. Even if your life doesn’t change in terms of your need for medication and the effects of that medication, knowing and walking with God will be an eternal blessing. Instead of complaining about your situation, you will be able to rejoice and even exult in it. Check out 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 for a similar story.
If you think you will get your old life back, you haven’t been listening. God doesn’t want to give you your old life, it was damned, it brought you to where you are right now. Why would you want that yucky old thing back?
You need to be so fed up with your life that you throw yourself on the mercy of God and beg him to take you in. He loves you and wants you to be his. He sent Jesus to die for you so that he could have this relationship with him. He wants it more than you do.
You need to want him more than you want a normal life. You need to want him no matter what you get in return. You need to want him no matter want the consequences of your choice. You need to want him more than you don’t want to be called Ned Flanders. You need to want him more than you don’t want anything in your life. No matter what anyone else in the whole world thinks, you need to want Jesus.
The great thing is that he wants you even more than you do. He wants to bless you, to fill you, to transform you, to change you into the image of his son. God wants you to be more than you can even imagine. He wants to use you for his purposes. He wants to make you into someone you can’t even imagine.
So, come to him. Join in the adventure. Love God, love Jesus, love his people. Come to truth and life.