Science, Health, Faith - Conflict or Harmony?

Conflict or Harmony?

For the first time in recent history, we are experiencing a reverse in life expectancy even while medical science is advancing at a furious pace.

According to the latest report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, the overall life expectancy in the U.S. was 78.6 years, down .1 from the previous year. Men can expect to live 76.1 years, down from 76.3. Women held steady at 81.1 years.

But the real question is what is the cause of this downturn? According to Dr. Caroline Leaf, noted research Psychologist, there are two main causes for this reversal in American life expectancy. The first is the American diet which consists of highly processed and nutritionally inadequate foods which simply do not supply the nutrients that are needed to maintain the body’s health. The second reason is the mental state of our nation. We have become a nation of relationships without intimacy, information without wisdom and activity without purpose which has left us more depressed, anxious and stressed. These mental/emotional disorders have been proven to be contributors to a number of serious health problems including, high blood pressure, stroke, and cancer.

Dr. Leaf’s conclusions are supported by recent studies of the general state of unhappiness in our society. During the last decade, the state of happiness in the USA has been steadily declining.

Happiness Index.jpg
“I really do believe that people are increasingly hopeless …”
— Dr. William Dietz, a disease prevention expert at George Washington University

One more correlation is significant here – that is the state of interpersonal relationships.

The symptoms of hopelessness are drug abuse, suicide and a host of stress-induced diseases that our medical advances can not treat for what we are experiencing is a sickness of the soul. However, this has not stopped medicine from making an attempt.

The current response to these ailments has prompted an increase in psychoactive drugs, both legal and illegal, in an attempt to alleviate this suffering. This has led to a 446 billion dollar psychopharmaceutical industry which is clearly not addressing the core issues of the problem.

Finding novel treatments for mental illness has become so discouraging that several pharmaceutical companies have shut down or reduced neuroscience research.
— Edmund S. Higgins in his January 1, 2017 article in Scientific American

Mental health experts must make major changes in their strategies to address this crisis. Simply applying the same ineffective remedies to this current crisis will not curb the downturn in mental health or produce greater well being. There must be a commitment to using every healthy and empirically proven tool to bring wholeness to those who need help. That quest leads us to the crossroads of science and faith. Merely seeing the body as a predetermined biological mechanism that is genetically predisposed to mental and emotional illness is not the answer. Clearly, there is another dimension to humans that reside in our thoughts and beliefs and this area has profound consequences upon our mental, emotional and even physical wellness. Study after study has affirmed that when the spiritual aspect of humanity is attended to it increases the overall health of individuals. It may indeed seem strange to some that scientific studies have validated the spiritual dimension of humanity. But we are seeing with ever-increasing clarity that it is a false dichotomy that makes science and faith opponents.

The argument between faith and science

For centuries a competition has existed between science and religion for the hearts and minds of the people. There has been a long-standing feud over who will wear the mantle of the prophet to our society. Some atheistic scientists have contempt for faith write it off as mere fantasies of undisciplined minds, while at the same time many religious leaders find the devil in every new scientific discovery and are deeply suspicious of any who advocates a science-based approach to mental health.

Physicist Stephen Hawking famously pronounced himself an atheist in 2014 and went on to describe his rationale.

Before we understood science, it was natural to believe that God created the universe, but now science offers a more convincing explanation.
— Stephen Hawking

Does it need to be this way? Or did Augustine speak correctly when he said: “all truth is God’s truth”. We can also turn this phrase around to say – All truth is a revelation of God. To this end, We need to lay to rest this false dichotomy and find incredible synergy when we both acknowledge God as the source of all truth and purpose to pursue this truth in every area of our experience.

An example of how faith and science coexist is a foundation for all scientific inquiry. Understanding the cohesiveness of the universe allows scientists to connect each piece of research to the other so as to form a unified whole. In order for this to happen, there must be a basic ontological belief that the universe has a logical order and consistent regularity. In other words, the laws of science are always in effect unless superseded by another law. For example, this principle is the basis for airplane travel – where the law of gravity is superseded by the law of aerodynamics. This metaphysical foundation for science creates the framework for all scientific discovery.

Likewise, the foundation for theology is that God has certain unaltering attributes that never change. It is this fundamental belief in the immutability of God that allows us to trust in his promises and rely upon his goodness.

I the Lord do not change
— Malachi 3:6

Another area where God’s immutable character is seen is in the area of his desire to communicate. God is love and the true definition of love is to seek the best for the object of that love. No greater good can come to a creature than to meet and experience its creator and that is exactly what God has offered us. These are the words of Jesus in the prayer to his Heavenly Father.

I have made you known to them and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.
— John 17:26

Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health, believes that scientific inquiry and faith in the personal God of the Scriptures are mutually compatible and in fact can produce the same awe-inspiring connection.

The God of the Bible is also the God of the genome, God can be found in the cathedral or in the laboratory … science can be a means of worship.
— Francis Collins

As W. Mark Richardson of the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences says, "Science may not serve as an eyewitness of God the creator, but it can serve as a character witness."

Marian Westley in her Newsweek article entitled “Science Finds God” said;

Once, science and religion were viewed as two fundamentally different, even antagonistic, ways of pursuing that quest, and science stood accused of smothering faith and killing God. Now, it may strengthen belief. And although it cannot prove God’s existence, science might whisper to believers where to seek the divine.
— Marian Westley

What is God’s truth and what is scientific truth?

R.C. Sproul said: “you will not find the circulatory system in the Bible”, but neither will you find the incarnation of Christ in Science.” Science can help us explain how God made the universe but science will never lead to the why. And it is the “why” that is causing such an existential crisis in our culture. We were created for a purpose and when we lose that purpose we no longer can put in context the experiences we have nor can we find healing for our trauma. Our health (emotional and physical) is directly tied to our spiritual beliefs. We are like meaning-making machines and when we no longer can make meaning out of our circumstances we break down and cease to function properly. In other words, when we lose our purpose we also lose our happiness. In our practice, we have seen many examples of those who have what the world would consider a great life (ie. money, possessions, family, health etc.) only to be in an existential crisis because they have found that none of those things can provide them with the meaning they desire.

Why is this? Simply because we were not meant to live outside the purposes and plan of our God. This means that our physical, social and emotional lives function best when they are in harmony with God’s truth. Likewise, when we learn how our body functions at its optimal level (scientific truth) we are able to integrate these truths into our daily lives. Therefore, the study of nutrition, the brain, and behavioral science are all able to help us develop healing strategies that can bring about total wellness.

Practical ways of deepening your spiritual vitality and improving your overall wellbeing

Toxic, fear-based thoughts are at the center of producing negative effects upon health. Therefore the most effective way to being growing spiritually is to replace these thoughts with those that will promote wellbeing. The brain has neuroplasticity which allows us to shape it with the very thoughts we think. Therefore, carefully monitoring our what we are ruminating on is essential to developing sound health. Is it no wonder that Scripture specifically address our thoughts as a means of growing spiritually?

… Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things
— Philippians 4:8

Our thoughts is where the battle is found. When we are able to grow in our ability to set our thoughts upon what will build healthy structures in our brain we will increase all the beneficial properties a healthy brain can produce. This is not easy, for some of us we have spent many years teaching our brains to focus on negative, unhealthy thoughts. Trauma, broken relationships and other events in our lives have produced default neuro networks that lead to anxiety, depression and fear. But the good news is that we can create new networks that produce peace, joy, hope and joy. Dr. Leaf has outlined this process in her book “Switch on Your Brain” which I encourage you to read for those who desire to see real and lasting change.

We at Total Wellness Resource Center are committed to offering the very best empirically proven science-based methods that are informed by our commitment to our true purpose found in God’s revelation of truth through the Bible. We will not compromise either for in them both we find a successful strategy for providing healing and hope for our clients that touches every area of their lives and produces the discovery of true success.

If we can be a resource for you on your journey please don’t hesitate to reach out.

The Total Wellness Team

Where Exactly Do Healthy Relationships Start?

In Your Brain, Not Your Heart

I am not here to throw cold water on the glorious feeling of being “in love”, but there is fallacy concerning our emotions that needs to be reexamined – this fallacy has caused intense pain and relational strife with millions of individuals just like you. Over the ages we have been handed down false depictions of love from poets, songwriters and is currently propagated by much of our present-day entertainment world.

Does this sound familiar?

“I can’t help feeling this way anymore than I can control the rotation of the earth or halt the movement of the planets.”

And when it comes to the feeling of “love” this is what most people believe, whether they feel “in love” or “out of love” they think this emotion is heart based and is out of their control

In counseling it is common to hear reasoning behind their state of emotions, such as;

  • “He isn’t good for me but I can’t help but love him”

  • “I know I am “in love” with her because I can’t control the need to hear from her every hour”

or when we think we are falling “our of love”

  • “I can’t help it we just out grew each other””

  • “They didn’t make me feel loved”

All the above statements are based on a feeling, one that can come and go based the the actions of the other.

Is true love really that fickle? Can we be in love one day and not in love the next? Can anyone stay in love for a lifetime?

The Science of Emotions

Our emotions are caused by the way our brain develops responses to the events we experience. In short, our brains are always attempting to predict the outcome of present situations and uses past experiences to help us understand and bring meaning to our current situation. Some of these predictions are known to us (our conscious thoughts) but most of these predictions (and the accompanying emotions) are unconscious. Psychologists call these triggers. (i.e. they trigger an emotional response that is a part of a memory that was built from a past experience.)

Psychologist and Neuroscientist Dr. Lisa Feldman Barrett has studied emotions for over twenty-five years and has come to this conclusion.

The brain is not pre-wired with an emotional circuit … emotions are not built into your brain at birth, they are just built
— Dr. Lisa Feldman Barrett

This is not to say that emotions are not real, they are very powerful and influential. Emotions are the primary means for most of our decision making. As any good salesperson will tell you people make buying decisions primarily based on feelings, not facts. How we feel about something is far more predictive of our behavior than our rational processing of information. In other words, we buy the sizzle, not the steak.

So, if our brains were not prewired to experience emotions where do these emotions come from? Our minds use past experiences to predict what is happening now and what will happen in the future. These experiences are held in the amygdala which acts like a reference library to help us interpret information that is being received through our five senses. Emotions are connected to these past experiences and then filter our perception of our present circumstance.

For example, have you ever had a bad experience with a certain food? Let’s say you got food poising from a serving of Kung Pao Pork and as a result, you had an all-nighter hugging the porcelain throne. Now let’s say several weeks later you walk into a restaurant and yes, there is a serving of the vile pork on the table next to you. What are the chances that you would be ordering Kung Pao Pork at that restaurant? Zero! Why? Because your memory of that experience has attached to it the traumatic feelings associated with your recent experience. Because that memory was fresh it was probably no problem connecting the dots between the sick feeling you had in your stomach and the food poisoning incident but what of other traumatic events that happen in our life that we don’t remember?

According to cognitive neuroscientists, we are conscious of only about 5 percent of our cognitive activity, so most of our decisions, actions, emotions, and behavior depends on the 95 percent of brain activity that goes beyond our conscious awareness.

Our brains have been taught to attach emotions to certain situations and when our brain recognizes this situation as similar (whether it is or not) the accompanying emotions are felt. We teach ourselves to think and feel in certain ways that create these patterns of behavior which can be detrimental to experiencing life and finding success. In short, we get stuck in these patterns and often don’t even know it. How many times have we told ourselves that we aren’t good at something because we had one bad experience with it? We then go on to accept that negative belief as truth which then subsequently reinforces that belief and then produces new negative experiences. The opposite can also be true. research has shown that when we enter into a new experience with a positive, optimistic attitude we are far more likely to experience a successful outcome.

We are not biological automatons doomed to experience our negative emotions over and over again. We have the power to change, even if it doesn’t feel that way.

When you recognize how powerful your thoughts are and how much control you have over them you activate the most significant human process for transforming your life.

And that is where we come to building loving relationships.

Building a Love that Lasts

I’m going to share some basic truths that may bust your bubble regarding intimate relationships (that is unless you are in one then this is not new information)

  • All intimate relationships are hard

  • All intimate relationships experience conflict

  • All intimate relationships become stagnate

  • All intimate relationships cause emotional wounds

  • All intimate relationships need renewal

  • All intimate relationships occasionally drive you crazy

Intimate relationships can cause the greatest pleasure and the greatest pain … that’s because they are INTIMATE. In other words, you allow another human being close enough to bless and/or curse you and sometimes at the same time! However, you are in control as to how you are going to allow your brain to interpret your experiences. If you harbor anger, unforgiveness, fear, resentment and a host of other toxic beliefs about the relationship then you will experience a cascading effect of these beliefs which will produce all the accompanying conditions – depression, anxiety, hostility etc. On the other hand, if you are able to process any trauma that occurred and create a positive memory and perspective about the experience you will not be burdened by years of conscious and unconscious emotional “tagging” of future events. You will be free from the emotional scarring that comes from ruminating on the pain and free to experience your present situation without all that harmful baggage.

Recently I was meeting with a client who had a very painful break up with his former girlfriend. He told me he ruminated on this break up about 6 hours a day and it was causing him a lot of pain. I then asked him to tell me three things that were positive areas of growth from this “failed” relationship. He sat for a while and couldn’t come up with one. This is because he had trained his mind to think only negatively about the relationship and was blind to any positives. Finally, I told him I’d give him the first one – “he was no longer in this toxic relationship and it didn’t take him years of pain to get out” This seemed to open the floodgate as he then found many positives about the relationship. “So”, I said, “now your goal is to stubbornly think of these positives whenever you are tempted to ruminate on the negatives of that relationship.”

Instead of his thoughts tearing him down and demotivating him from going forward in his life he now can take the same experience and make more positive, healthy and empowering structures in his brain. And that is one of the great mysteries and miracles of the human brain. Our very thoughts create structures in the neuron cells of our brain. These structures are called dendrites and they hold the key to producing health and happiness. When our thoughts are loving and positive they create cell structures that tell our endocrine system to produce the hormones that will cause us to have euphoric feelings of emotional well-being - and yes even love.

This is how you stay in love, you steadfastly refuse to allow the tough parts of a relationship to kill your commitment to the other person. This is not to say that there aren’t certain aspects of any relationship that need work. Areas like:

  • Learning how to enter into non-toxic conflict

  • Developing “rituals of connection”

  • Creating the ability to compromise

  • Finding a deeper appreciation for the inner life of your partner

These are critical to growing and deepening your relationship. But that will never happen unless and until you are able to control the flow of negative thoughts that come out of you.

So here are some key ways to change your brain concerning relationships and how to maintain positive, healthy emotions toward your partner … and yes even deepen love!

  • Find something to be thankful for in the other person every day

  • Forgive the inevitable emotional wounds (unilaterally if need be)

  • Replace critical, demanding and unaccepting thoughts about your partner with thoughts of appreciation

  • Become increasingly present to your unconscious triggers and find reconciliation and healing for them

  • Refuse to allow hurtful, corrosive, demeaning words from your mouth. (these types of words are products of our thoughts and those thoughts should not be reinforced!)

  • Practice monitoring the garden of your thoughts like you were a master gardener and don’t allow the ugly and destructive weeds and thorns to choke out the flowers

So, it is your brain and the way you choose to think, that remains the starting and finishing point to all healthy relationships.

We at Total Wellness Resource Center are committed to helping you become the best version of yourself through our commitment to empirically based truth shared in a loving, spiritually attuned atmosphere. If we can help you along your life’s journey don’t hesitate to reach out to us.

Sincerely;

The Total Wellness Team

THE TRUE ALTERNATIVE TO FEAR

I am getting to that age when one is tempted to look back more than to look forward, to get lost in our memories more than to endeavor to create new memories. In short, it is easier to just float downstream carried along by the current of habits and predispositions rather than forge ahead and find undiscovered lands and challenge sedentary tendencies. I feel like Ulysses hearing the siren calls to cease the quest and find comfort and rest. But like Ulysses, I know that there is a greater mission within me and my journey is not yet accomplished.

But as I reflect back upon my life I now realize I have always had a tendency to “shelter in place” from the threat of change making it difficult to move forward. My impediment to growth has not been any external obstacle or internal deficiency but simply I have allowed fear to limit my progress. The product of fear is stagnation leading to death and it has usually taken experiencing a trauma or disaster in my life to give me the impetus to move forward.

I don’t believe I am alone in this predisposition. There is an axiom in the counseling world that goes like this: “We don’t change unless the pain of remaining the same is greater than the pain of change.” I see it all the time in my practice.

  • A man has lost the job that he hated and is now forced to consider another profession more suitable to his abilities

  • A couple’s relationship is falling apart and now must seek counseling to find new, healthier ways of relating to each other

  • A woman has lived with debilitating depression and only when her world is falling apart is now willing to look at her beliefs about herself to escape the pain

This is fear-based motivation and it is grounded in escaping or avoiding pain and we use it all the time.

  • I go on a diet because I don’t want to be fat

  • I exercise because I am humiliated by the way I look in a bathing suit

  • I work hard at my job because I’m afraid of being fired

  • I go back to school because I’m afraid of not finding a good job and ending up homeless

Does fear-based motivation work? Yes, of course, it works but the problem with fear-based motivation is that it is not sustainable and it doesn’t go away. When we reach a place of stasis in our life and we no longer have a reason to fear we also don’t have a reason to grow. If fear is our primary motivation then we will need to make up a reason to fear (irrational fear) or we will lose motivation for growth and enter into stagnation. What is even more important, fear is toxic to the body and spirit. Living in a continual state of fear will produce stress and stress is one of the leading causes of physical and psychological ailments.

I want to propose another, healthier and more positive motivation for change. This motivation can be summed up in one word.

Love

  • Love Heals

  • Love connects

  • Love inspires

  • Love’s motivation is applicable in all situations

  • Love is unending, unceasing and unconquerable

We live in a world where there is so much spoken about love but very little on its practical application. What we need is to somehow learn to apply love to the nitty-gritty of life. In many of us, fear is our default and even the thought of making love our primary motivation in our life is inconceivable. So here are some practical ways to transform fear-motivation to love-motivation.

Focus on those you love

When faced with a task or a job that is something that you would rather not do think past it to something that is an object of your love. A perfect example of this might be of times when we experience a difficult work environment. We all encounter times when we’re slogging through an arduous schedule or are involved in tasks that we have no desire to do. At times like these stop and ask this question, “can I dedicate this job to someone or something I love?” If you are working to provide for your family then think of them and consider your work as a way of providing them with food, shelter, and a future. Many a man and woman leave their home early in the morning and return late at night for the love of their family. I believe there is no more noble motivation than sacrificing for those we love.

Find something you love within the difficult work

Every job, no matter how it perfectly fits our personality, has elements that we find tedious. If we focus on these negative elements, we diminish our passion for the work and reduce our overall career enjoyment. So take a few moments and fill your heart with what you are passionate about and stop obsessing on those few things that you don’t enjoy. When you do you will find that the difficult parts of your job will cease to be so discouraging.

Focus on being grateful

Gratitude is a close relative of love and when it is regularity expressed it increases our capacity to experience joy and reduce anxiety.

What are you afraid of? What gnaws at your heart and keeps you up at night? Instead of allowing those fearsome future scenarios to dominate your thinking try to finding something

When faced with fear, chose the loving alternative.

When I look back on all these worries, I remember the story of the old man who said on his deathbed that he had had a lot of trouble in his life, most of which had never happened.
— Winston Churchill

Here are some loving alternatives to fear:

  • Choose to believe in your resilience and ingenuity

  • Choose to trust in an all-powerful and loving God

  • Choose to develop and execute a strategy

  • Choose to not catastrophize – reflect on times when you persevered through similar or even worse situations

  • Choose to reach out to loving family and friends for help

  • Choose to get up and do something creative, productive, kind and compassionate for someone who needs to be loved. Because love flourishes in us when we choose to give it to others.

What do you love? Make that the cornerstone of all you do, say and think. Tie this passion to your work and you will find extraordinary energy in your career. Tie it to your relationships and they will grow deeper and more satisfying. Refuse to do anything that is not somehow intrinsically tied to love and you will never run out of motivation for living.

If this seems impossible then challenge your internal programming, because someone, somewhere fed you a lie that life was not meant to be lived in love. It can be done, I know because I get up every morning with the desperate need to renew my commitment to love and every morning love is renewed.

If you want to discuss this or have any questions or concerns where we can help you don’t hesitate to reach out to us. Because our love-inspired motivation is to see true transformation happen in your life.

Do You Dreeam of A Better Relationship?

Key Steps to Help Make Your Dreams Come True

Dream.jpg

Many couples come to me with a belief that if they can just get their mate to change then their marriage problems will be solved. Oh, I know they will rarely come out and say that, they usually couch that belief in phrases like; “I know that I’m part of the problem but he …” or “I’m not perfect but she …”

It seems to be a human trait to make someone or something the “reason” for our not being happy. We immediately look outside ourselves to find the source for our misery. As a result, we may change our circumstance but we rarely achieve our objective.

Am I saying that our environment does not affect us? No. We can greatly benefit by creating healthy environments but our internal beliefs will always be a more powerful influence on us than our external situations. In fact, we will invariably mold our external world to conform to our internal reality. We then point to what we have created as the cause of our problem. This is a bit like digging a deep pit, jumping in, and then cursing the pit.

This attitude is demonstrated by words such as, always, never, can’t won’t and other self-limiting declarations.

“He will always …”

“She will never …”

“We can’t …”

“This won’t …”

When I hear these statements I ask a question (in my most understanding tone of voice), “Are you omniscient?” In which (if they understand the term) they reply

“No?”

So I press on with my questions.

“So you can’t see into the future, right?”

No” they respond in their confusion.

So why are you so willing to shut out the possibility that something good can happen in this case”

As long as we make certain negative outcomes our reality, we will refuse to see anything that may remotely contradict them or any possibility that change can occur. This negative filter will block what does not conform to our belief and so we create a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The opposite is also is true. If we tenaciously hold on to a positive belief then we are almost certain to see it come true.

In 1962 President John F. Kennedy said, “we choose to go to the moon”.

It was a fanciful idea at the time. We had neither the technology nor the experience to accomplish such an ambitious goal. Those who were sitting in the audience, who would be tasked with fulfilling this declaration, must have experienced a range of emotions from exhilaration to terror as they assessed the challenge of fulfilling this “dream”. To date, the sum of their accomplishments was to put a single astronaut into an orbit three times around the earth. But the seed was planted, the commander and chief gave an order. Send Americans to land on the moon and successfully return and do this within eight years.

Some say I must see then I will believe, I say believe and only then will you see

“Okay, James thanks for the history lesson, but how does this apply to my life and my relationships?”

This is how.

If you are ever to have something better than you have now, if you are ever going to achieve a life that is beyond what you are currently experiencing you must make that dream a reality in your head and heart before it will become one in your experience.

We are who we believe we are
— C.S.Lewis

When it comes to our own identity and our relationships this means you must hold out hope that it can be better before it ever will become better. Experiencing an intimate, loving, mutually nurturing relationship is absolutely dependent on whether you believe it is possible. If you don’t believe it is possible then you will simply reproduce the same failures and experience the same results.

It starts with creating the dream just like President Kennedy did for those men and women of NASA. You can recruit an army of resources that will begin working for you but first, you must be open to the new possibility that something beautiful and extraordinary can happen.

Self-limiting beliefs are like cancer of the spirit, if left untreated they metastasize and kill. What they kill is our dreams, ambition, hope, love, and faith. They camouflage themselves as being “reality” or “rational thinking” but when you strip away the mask they are lies fueled by fear. We fear loss, failure, being exposed as a phony, or the loss of being able to justifying our own misery. We also fear losing the dysfunctional comfort we derive from not challenging our self-limiting beliefs because it would require painful self-examination and necessitate difficult fundamental life-change. For some, this is too much and so we slip into our tepid pool of dissatisfaction and entertain ourselves with all manner of toys. But for a few, the passion for a higher calling lies deep within their soul and will not be satisfied with a mundane and feckless life. For these, the calling is to the road less traveled, the mountains beyond the furthest peak.

If that is you then obey this internal calling and begin shedding all that would hinder your upward climb. For the air is sweet at the top and few are those who are willing to experience it. Are you?

Here are some beginning steps:

  • Make a list of all the limiting beliefs that you can bring to mind. This may take a while for they are often so much a part of us that we can’t extract them from our souls. Focus on your true dreams, not merely what you want but who you want to be. This is where you will find your most powerful self-limiting beliefs.

  • Begin to create a list of affirmations that will produce “cogitative dissonance”. I have attached a worksheet on how to create Smart Affirmations that will help you.

  • Reach out to friends, relatives and/or counselors to help you. Ask them what they see and be open to their perspective.

  • If you are spiritual then ask God to reveal areas of your life that are hidden to you. This is a verse that has been very meaningful to me over the years.

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
— Psalm 139:23,24 NIV

If we can ever be of help to you please don’t hesitate to reach out to us.

Making Sense Out of Your Partners Nonsense

Learn to Decode Your Partner's "Reality"
 

Ever had this happen – Your partner gets upset about something that seems to you like a trifle. So you downplay it or ignore it and then all hell breaks loose. When you pick yourself up off the floor you are left scratching your head wondering, “What just happened here? All I did was …” Your partner wasn’t logical, reasonable or even slightly made a bit of sense so how do you respond? If you’re like most of us you do one of the following.

  • Close your eyes to the illogic and move on
  • Try to engage in a rational, reasonable manner
  • Put your foot down and assert your right to common sense

But none of these options really work, do they? Because –

  • If you close your eyes to it you end up bumping into it over and over again
  • If you try to engage, you end up going down the black hole and lose your way
  • When you put your foot down it just makes the gap between you larger by filling it with resentment.

So what are you to do when there seems like there are no viable options?

When you encounter the irrational remember this – It’s rational in that person’s world, you just need to better understand their world.

Yes, you heard me right. You are dealing with someone who has a different reality than yours so there will be times when their rationale will also be different. If you ever want to communicate – much less have an intimate relationship, you will need to be able to understand their reality.

But you say, “I didn’t sign up to be a part of someone else’s reality!” You did when you entered into the relationship, for every time we enter into a relationship we are choosing to interact with another person’s reality. Think of it like traveling abroad. When you step off the plane you are now entering into a country with a different set of laws and customs. Yes, there will be a lot of similarities to home but there will be a lot of things you don’t understand and may seem illogical.

Okay, now I’m going to throw you a curveball – sometimes your partner won’t even understand their own reality! Yes, that’s right, we all do things, feel things and say things and we are clueless why. That’s because we humans are great at ignoring our emotions and not tending to our hearts. We think we can just push through childhood trauma or ignore our emotional wounds. But they end up coming back to bite us through our feelings and thoughts that often sabotage our lives. We experience “irrational” fears when we attempt to move forward in our career or feelings of shame when we try to engage in close relationships.

“Okay, now I’m really confused. You’re telling me to try to understand the reality behind my partner’s irrational actions and now you’re telling me they may not even know why they are feeling the way they’re feeling? I give up!”

Real relationships are not for wimps! We all need to roll up our sleeves and try to understand our partner’s world as well as help them try to understand their own world. Believe me, there is logic in there somewhere. Here are a couple of examples of illogical logic.

  • A person who continually blows up every relationship that gets too deep even those they desperately desire to intimacy? Irrational right? Wrong! In their world, if you get too close you will find out who they truly are and reject them. They are protecting themselves from that pain.
  • A person who never accepts the promotion at work even though it would mean more money, more opportunity, and much more satisfying work. Irrational right? Wrong! In their world, they are certain that they are incompetent and the promotion would only reveal that fact.

How do you live with illogical logic?

You say to yourself, “This makes sense in their universe, I just need to understand it and maybe help them understand it”

You slow down the conversation and begin to ask clarification questions. For example:

  • “So what is your greatest fear about this?”
  • “Have you felt this way before about other situations?”
  • “What was it like in your family when this happened?”
  • “Help me understand what you need?”

Believe me, I am not saying this is easy. But if you are willing to choose to discover rather than judge there are great rewards for those who want to enter into this level of real relationships.

  

As always, if you are needing any help or I can be of any service just reach out via email at connect@totalwellnesscenter.net.

Want to Change the World? Change This First

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I remember singing the old spiritual “Dem Bones” as a kid and especially liked the part where all the bones are listed as “connected” to each other. It was fun naming all the connecting pieces, and if it had been a bit more anatomically correct, it could have helped me in my physiology class. 

The reason I mention it is sometimes we forget we are connected both externally and internally. For the past several decades our society has awakened to the fact that how we treat our environment will affect everyone else on the planet.  For example, drop a plastic bag in the ocean, and it could eventually turn up on a shore in the Philippines. 

The internal connection is just as valid - we can't neglect any area of our inner life without harming another. 

  • Our thoughts are connected to our relationships
  • Our relationships are connected to our health
  • Our health is connected to our careers
  • Our careers are connected to our finances
  • Our finances are connected to our thoughts

In short, our lives are made up of a lot of moving pieces – neglect one, and it will ultimately affect the others.  We can’t afford to focus on one dimension. 

 
Want to change the world? Change yourself first!


We at Total Wellness Resource Center are committed to precisely doing what our name implies – becoming your resource for total wellness. That means we are committed to giving you the best information so you can live your fullest life possible. Only then can you employ your gifts and talents toward helping others and begin making the beautiful connection between your internal and external world. 

The problem is it’s hard to change. We want a better life, but we don’t want to go through the process to get there. This dilemma has given rise to the instant gratification culture - 

  • Five weeks to a perfect body
  • Seven days to an all new you
  • Three steps to ultimate success 

We’re not going to promise instant transformation but incremental progress. You and I are on a journey, and by definition, we will encounter ups and downs, the ins and outs, successes and failures, heartaches and laughter. That is what it means to be human. What we must do each day is to rise with the sun and commit to making this day count toward living our fullest life possible. We can’t get there by one leap, and even if we could, we would miss all the wonder and wisdom that comes from the daily slog. 
Here are some examples for you my fellow traveler.

  • Ponder one noble thought today
  • Reach out to someone with a word of encouragement, praise or kindness
  • Do something healthy
  • Take a few minutes and be thankful
  • Open your mind to unexplored possibilities

We sincerely hope that you will allow us to travel with you. It is our greatest desire to be an instrument in God’s hands to help you experience all that you were created to be. 

Below is a way we can walk together on this wonderful adventure called life. Sign up for our weekly updates, so you don't miss out on any of our insights.  And if you have anything to share with us we'd love to hear it! 

Let's be a community committed to lifting each other up.

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12 Declarations for Becoming More Assertive

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Many of our clients struggle with low self-esteem which leads to troubled relationships, career problems, depression and high levels of stress. They usually come to us complaining of one or more of these symptoms but it is soon discovered that at the root of their problem is an unhealthy belief about their value, significance, and worth. The usual cause is that they have based their value, significance, and worth on someone else's standards. These standards are external to them and are contingent on the approval of others, their looks, performance and/or social status. In short, they have been working so hard to meet these standards they have lost their own true identity.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe it is healthy to set high standards for oneself. This is a necessary component of a successful and productive life. The problem occurs when these standards become the basis for  our worth. When this happens our worth rises and falls with the tide of our performance. So let me give you three foundational principles that lead to a healthy self-image and helps us achieve our highest performance and satisfaction.


The first and most important principle is that we ground our identity on a foundation of intrinsic worth. Our value cannot be contingent upon anything external to ourselves. This is fundamental to a good self-image because it gives us a platform for taking risks and overcoming life’s obstacles. It also makes us resilient when we do fail - because everyone fails!

So how do we hold on to this belief when seemingly everything and everyone places human value on something external to ourselves? The only logical way is to appeal to an authority that transcends our own limited judgments. We need to appeal to our Creator. The framers of our government knew this and that is why they made the fact that we were created by God a basis for all our human rights.

We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
— Declaration of Independence July 4, 1776

 

If we lose this understanding of the absolute worth of man then we are susceptible to choosing one standard over another and creating a hierarchy of value based upon; race, economic condition, attractiveness, intelligence, religion or a myriad of other factors. That doesn’t work for nations (consider Nazi Germany) and it doesn’t work for individuals.


Secondly, we need to accept the fact that we are not perfect. You may say, “I certainly know I’m not perfect”, but how do you deal with your imperfections? If you recoil from them and put up defenses everytime they are exposed then that is evidence that you are still basing your value, worth and significance on your ability to keep an external set of standards.

Please hear me on this, I am not saying you should somehow feel good about your failures. What I am saying is if your value, worth, and significance is given to you by your Creator then your identity is not diminished by your failures and you are free to make adjustments, grow and learn from them.


Lastly, you now have the ability to revel in your strengths and accomplish great things with your abilities without comparisons, pride or judgments. You can do this because you know that they don’t make you better or worse than anyone else it is just a part of who you are.

Those that struggle with low self-esteem usually also struggle with feeling they can be free to be who they truly are. This self-imposed limitation is often learned at a very early age and reinforced by countless interaction over the years. For many, just to speak up for themselves is a traumatic experience.

That is why I have written the Assertive Persons Declaration of Rights. The best way to use this is to review these rights every day (especially the ones that are most difficult to declare) Gradually your brain will adjust to this new way of thinking about yourself through a process called cognitive dissonance. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t see results right away. Remember you have probably held these false beliefs about yourself for decades so give yourself time to rewire your brain.

12 Declaration of Rights For the Assertive Person

  1. I have the right to be wrong without experiencing shame, criticism or rejection.
  2. I have the right to my ideas, values, and dreams without criticism or judgment.
  3. I have the right to ask questions without being shamed.
  4. I have a right to say no without giving a reason that makes sense to other people.
  5. I have a right to my own feelings and not explain them to someone else’s satisfaction.
  6. I have a right to make decisions on my own time schedule.
  7. I have a right to feel good about my accomplishments.
  8. I have a right to make mistakes and not have these mistakes devalue me.
  9. I have a right not to be in a relationship if I believe it is wrong for me.
  10. I have a right to always be treated with respect.
  11. I have a right to respectfully disagree.
  12. I have a right to like what I like and not give a reason for it.  

If there is anything we can do for you please don’t hesitate to reach out.

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Is Gratitude the Cure for Anxiety?

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It is a fact that gratitude is a powerful way of reprograming our brains to enhance our emotions and improve our overall physical health. It is one of the keys to longevity and is creates powerful, life affirming relationships. When we are in a state of active gratitude we are less likely to be anxious, fearful, depressed or hopeless. We are also open to new perspectives and possibilities that are otherwise closed doors to us.

All this is a fact – proven over and over again through empirical studies. But still many of us find that gratitude eludes us. We struggle to remain positive in the face of so much that is negative in our world.

That is why I am here to say if you are waiting to be grateful until you “see” things to be grateful for then you will never experience the life altering effects of gratitude.

Gratitude is a discipline we must learn – it does not happen naturally. If you want the positive properties of gratitude you are going to need to work at it. And make no mistake, it is work because your brain is trained to focus upon whatever it perceives as danger – even when the danger is not even a remote possibility. That riot in the south, that shooting in New York, that famine in North Africa are all terrible events but they pose no danger to you – but a part of your brain doesn’t know that. So it directs you to those news stories because it is trying to protect you, and in the process, you are being filled with worry, fear, and anxiety.  In fact, anxiety becomes our cultural norm. And we wonder why our lives are so unsettled and we carry this a vague sense of apprehension wherever we go.

The first step to developing a life of gratitude is to turn off the flood of negativity that you expose yourself to everyday. This does not mean that you become uninformed or ignorant of the world around you, but that you recognize the effect this information is having on you. Put the news in perspective and don’t let it become your reality. Did you know that according to all governmental measurements incidences of violence is down over the past years? In fact, there has been less killing and mayhem in the world than in previous generations. But you would never know that  by watching the news. That is because mayhem sells advertising. Media producers know your brain is constantly scanning for anything that could be remotely dangerous and given the choice of watching a video of riots in the streets or puppies playing in the water, guess what the vast majority of viewers will watch?

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Be careful what you focus on for it is what you will become.

So limit your exposure to horrid, evil, vile and cruel information. You cannot change the situation but exposure to it will change you. If you must watch it then be aware of how it will affect you and determine to do something to engage in the situation in a positive way. In that way, you become active in bringing hope and healing to a situation rather than it bringing anxiety and fear into your life.   

Second Step: Learn to focus on what is good in your life and express thankfulness for it. This may be in the form of a gratitude list or just deciding periodically to find 10 things to be thankful for. Remember it is a discipline – it may be hard to turn your brain from the negative but you can do it if you want to. The benefits are amazing!

For the past couple of years, I have made it a habit of keeping a positive life-affirming journal. It has transformed my life and been part of the healing process from a lifelong tendency toward depression. I encourage you to try it. But even if journaling is not your thing find a way to make gratitude a daily discipline.

As always if there is anything we can do for you please don’t hesitate to reach out to us.

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Is Your "Hair" Hindering Your Happiness

Letting Go of Your Obsession

I am a cleaner … I like things clean. But compared to my wife I am a rank amateur! She cleans things like the top of door frames. (Who does that?) And when she’s done the house smells of bleach (Her cleaning weapon of choice) When house cleaning time comes my assignment is the bathrooms. Don’t know why this is but I seem to have a gravitational pull toward the toilet. In fact, in a former life, I received a mug award from Starbucks for my toilet cleaning prowess. And that would be fine with me but there is one thing, the bane of my cleaning existence, which I can’t seem to defeat. That one thing is hair!

My wife has an abundance of hair and we have a dog that never stops shedding. So I get the white porcelain spotless, I have floors gleaming and I step back to survey my handiwork. Bam! I spot it, strands of hair casually draping themselves on the toilet seat giving me that “you can’t get me” look! So I take out my rag prepare to do battle when I notice that my rag has hair clinging to the fibers. So I go to wash the rag in the “clean” sink and bam! The hair attaches its self to the sink. At this point, I choose the surgical approach and pluck one by one the individual strands and when I do they seem to magnetically attach themselves to my fingers. So I shake my fingers violently over the trash can only to have them fly off and land again on the toilet seat. It’s discouraging and demotivating, after all, if I can’t get it really clean what’s the use?

Have I told you how much I hate hair? I am seriously considering a Shandade O’Connor/ Yule Brenner look in our home! 

Why do a few strands of hair bother me so much? The bathroom is 99.99% clean – so what’s up with this obsession with 100%?

Then, I think about the “few strands of hair” in other areas of my life that I may obsess about.  The areas that aren’t perfect and will likely never be perfect. Some of these strands  are the people around me. These “strands of hair” mostly consist of my desire for others to be, think or act a certain way. 

But most of these “strands” consist of my internal focus on the way I think I “should” be. You know what I’m talking about. I should be more disciplined, focused, social, productive and on and on and on. I am constantly finding strands of hair on the white porcelain of my soul and I can’t seem to pluck them off. That’s because they are always going to be there. For just as I have hair messes in the bathroom because I am a living breathing imperfect being who lives with other living breathing imperfect beings who produce hair!  We are always going to have areas in our lives that are messy.

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t try to work on cleaning up the messes but when we fixate on the “strands of hair” in our lives we end up losing perspective and sacrificing our happiness because - perfection is impossible.

So I’m going to make a new resolution. I am going to celebrate the beautiful parts of my life and not fixate on the messy parts.  I am going to pluck the hairs when I see them but not obsess when they are not entirely eliminated. I am going to give myself grace and mercy and the confidence that life is a journey, not a destination.

Somehow, when I do this it gives me greater strength to deal with the messy parts and lifts the heavy load of expectations off my shoulders so I can truly enjoy the awesome beauty of this precious moment.

What “strands of hair” are you living with in your life? What things are you fixating on and making a condition for happiness? 

We would love to be a part of your journey toward Total Wellness. Let us know if we can help.

 

How to Live to 100 and Beyond!

There is real science behind longevity and it will be shared at the Journey of Significance Workshop on October 8th from 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM in beautiful Rancho Palos Verdes. 

The National Centenarian Awareness Project did a study of those who have made it to their 100th birthday and found there are ten key characteristics that distinguish those men and women. These characteristics will be explored in a fun and interactive workshop where you will move through the “game of life” stopping at key points along the way that correspond to the qualities that promote longevity and life satisfaction. You will learn vital truths that will not only help you live life longer but live it in a way that is more deeply satisfying and significant.

It’s not a coincidence that those who express deep satisfaction with their life live longer. But they are also people who create a lasting legacy in the world. In a world that seems caught up in the external fitness, internal wholeness is often overlooked. Journey of Significance Workshop will give you the tools you need to build a life that will be both healthy and meaningful.

Click on the button below to learn more

 

Is it Okay to Feel Bad?

I come from a certain Christian tradition that puts a premium on being joyful even when we didn’t feel especially joyful. It was a “fake it ‘till you make it” mentality. But we chose to call it walking by faith. Don’t get me wrong, I am all for faith. The bible says:

For we live by faith, not by sight.
— 2 Corinthians 5:7 NIV

So faith is an absolutely essential part of living the abundant life. But faith is not denying what you feel or the reality of the condition of your heart. Faith is looking beyond our present circumstances or feelings to an ultimate truth and then placing our trust in that truth. As believers we have chosen to believe what God says is true more than our experience, emotions or human logic. That is because we trust in a God who has made everything, knows everything and has our future already guaranteed. So when he declares truth we can be assured, in his eyes, it has already happened. But I can hear you saying; “that’s great James but I live in the here and now and, I am pretty darn anxious right now!”

So that’s why we often slip into the “fake it ‘till you make it” philosophy. In other words, we deny our feelings and try to look positive. But let me give you an alternative.

Transcend rather than deny

What is transcending our feelings? Let’s first look at what happens when we deny our feelings.

  • When we deny our feelings we are closed to our hearts cries and shut the door to God’s comfort. How can God comfort our hurting heart unless we admit that our hearts need comforting?
  • When we deny our feelings we often shame ourselves for not being stronger in faith. Faith is not a feeling. The most powerful demonstration of faith is in the presence of our doubt.
  • When we deny our feelings we isolate ourselves from others who God could use to encourage, comfort and give us wisdom. God has put every believer in his family and this family is the way he brings us resources.
  • When we deny our feelings we are attempting to be someone God has not chosen to make us. As Brennen Manning said, “God loves us for who we are not who we’re not”. When we deny the true state of our heart we are trying to be someone other than the person that God loves … perfectly!

Okay if denial is bad what does it mean to transcend our feelings?

  • Transcending means that we acknowledge what is going on in our hearts. We don’t hide our feelings from God or try to “sugar coat” them with platitudes. Our prayers are real and our pain is exposed fully to his glorious light.
  • Transcending means we agree with God concerning his promises and proclaim them truer than our emotions, acknowledging that he is able to do just what he has said he will do. Note: This requires that we become intimately familiar with the Scriptures. We will never escape the power our feelings have over us if we don’t know the greater power of God’s truth as proclaimed in the Bible.
  • Transcending means that we become real in the presence of other people. We acknowledge the present state of our hearts all the while confessing the truth of God’s Word. We invite other’s encouragement and prayers because we accept the maturing process of Holy Spirit in our lives and in humility receive all the resources he graciously provides. Denial is often an excuse for our pride. When we deny the true state of our hearts we are often saying that we are better than we are. But Scripture says; “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6)
  • Transcending is the only path to healing. Jesus said; “the truth will set you free” (John 8:32) and that is true of the emotional prison our feelings put us in. When we set our hearts on what is true we set in motion a process of transformation that will ultimately lift our emotions out of the pit and free us to experience true joy and peace that are our true inheritance and children of God.  

One last thought. I have found that sometimes I have enjoyed wallowing in my negative feelings and resisted the need to transcend them.  Don’t ask me why, it’s a mystery. Why would I find it strangely comfortable to be in emotional pain? The one thing that pulls me out of this emotional masochism is the effect I am having on the ones I love. When I allow myself the “luxury” of remaining in my pain I am in fact inflicting pain on those around me. Therefore transcending my feelings is a gift I give to others especially those who are close.

Here are five tips for transcending your feelings

  1. Write down on 3X5 cards Scripture verses that state a truth or a promise from God that is especially meaningful to you.
  2. Carry them with you constantly and refer to them regularly, especially when you are tempted to go negative in your emotions
  3. Talk to God honestly about how you feel but always acknowledge that you will ultimately put your hope in him despite your current feelings. (this is a faith statement)
  4. Be real with others, especially mature believers, about the state of your heart and ask them to pray for you right there and then.
  5. If you get stuck seek godly counsel to help root out the underling source of your emotional pain. We all need help sometimes.

As always if you have any comments, questions or prayer requests it is our privilege and delight to respond