Pain Insulators

...……..Many of us try in vain to insulate ourselves from the suffering that surrounds us. We tend to live in a fantasy world presenting ourselves as happy, well-adjusted individuals. In so doing, we set ourselves outside of our own reality and defeat the purpose of pain Yin our lives. Pain is a symptom of "dis-ease", a sign that something is wrong. One of its purposes is to help us see our lives as they really are and accept the need for recovery.

Billions of dollars are spent annually to assist this cover-up, as we legally and illegally medicate our pain with mood-altering substances and addictive behaviors. We pursue creature comforts, toys and an kinds of buffers to further insulate us from reality. We often define success by the number of "things" we possess.

To perpetuate the influence of these pain insulators, we may extend our belief in their "magic" and relax our standards of behavior. We indulge in the fantasy that these insulators make our world a better and less painful place in which to live. The truth is, it only works for a short while-in our individual lives and in our society.

As a people, we have allowed ourselves to be part of the great "American dream," which passes on the pain insulators from one generation to the next. However, the American dream has turned into a nightmare for many families. This nightmare leads us, through our denial, to place false value on money, power and other things of this world. Success is defined in these terms instead of in terms of wholeness and health. Further, the American dream supports the fantasy that the truly successful are not in pain.

We’ve all watched the great American dream, with its negative influen­ces, affect the lives of many people. The model of a healthy, Christ-centered family is in danger of being totally consumed by the lustful, ravenous appetites that are part of our society. As we pass this condition to each successive generation, e move further out of touch with reality.

An essential step in breaking through this destructive illusion is to redefine success. We look to the Bible to reveal Jesus’ ideas about success and see that his definition of it is very different from ours. For example, when asked what was the greatest commandment in the law, "Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord  our God with all your Heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself’" MATTHEW 22:37-39 (NIV).

Jesus places the highest priority oil loving God, ourselves and other people instead of loving things and using people, as we often do in our society. As we live out his message and reflect God’s love in our own lives we achieve a different kind of success-the success of being loving, functioning individuals who face our pain and work through it. Only by; our strong example, not by our talk, can we expose the dangers of the American dream.

Too often, lack of proper preparation for adulthood is a direct result of our fathers and mothers believing this myth. Parents who are at home infrequently have little time for training their children for adult life. Many parents are turning more of that responsibility over to day care centers, schools, the media and their children’s peers ,

These parents are out in the marketplace, bringing home money and material things. This material "bacon" is not necessarily what we need or want; it can clog the veins of our heart which depletes our family’s vitality. It can weigh us down with the fat of things, leaving us lethargic and unresponsive to one another.

This desire for material success can give rise to the diseases and behaviors attacking American family life and perpetuating genera­tions of pain and dysfunction. Among these diseases and behaviors are addiction to drugs or alcohol, sexual abuse, violence, eating disorders and unhealthy relationships. The list keeps growing.

Most children do not need more bacon. They need parents who reflect Christ’s priorities of loving God and extending that love to themselves and others. Recovery doesn’t mean knowing how to bring home bigger and better bacon; it means being prepared and mature enough to reflect God’s love in a healthy way and to relate to others who are also motivated by that love. When we are able to do this, we can interact with others without needing to control or manipulate them. We learn to love people and use things as Jesus taught us.

In our efforts to insulate ourselves from pain, many of us lose our true or private selves. Therapists often say that our true identities have become swallowed up by our public selves. It is not hard to imagine how a public image, created in an effort to fulfill the American dream, emerges as a facade. Many of us believe wearing this mask is essential for our acceptance      and approval.                                                      ,

Frequently, we present ourselves to others in the image of models in advertisements rather than in the image of God. The demand for these public persona can lead to the devaluation of our true selves. We may end up not knowing, loving, or even liking who we truly are. The creation of our divergent selves is tragic. We have fabricated a warped likeness of ourselves, and we model that behavior to our youth. Through it all, we lose sight of Jesus, whose image we were created to reflect.  Jesus is the representation in human form of God’s loving nature.

During his life on earth, he gave us messages that provide a model of what GUT true character can be. Christ shows us what God values and what we should value. His image represents the standard of morality that we are , I dreaded to reflect and the guide for relating-to each other. Without that , image, we could not know how to lovingly communicate or achieve 8i1Urity in recovery;  many therapists tell us there are no absolutes or norms with which to pare ourselves in our pain-filled society. Christ can fill this gap if we change our focus from the "things" of this world and begin to follow his example of healthy, loving behavior. He knew that our greatest rewards would come from our relationship with God, ourselves and others.

Our pain-filled society also suffers because many Christians mis­represent God and hide his image. Sometimes the church focuses on the judgment and wrath of God and forgets about the love and forgiveness given by him through Christ. Another misrepresentation of God is a lack of distinction between woundedness and sin. The wounds we sustained while growing up in a dysfunctional home were beyond our control and not a direct result of our own actions, but we often felt guilty anyway. On the other hand, sin is a willful act for which one is accountable and for which it is appropriate to feel guilty. Understanding the difference be­tween woundedness and sin is extremely important for adult children because of the severe wounds inflicted upon us.

The church has often mistakenly presented all problems as sin and been self-righteous" and judgmental about sinners. Consideration is not always given to woundedness as a reason for our problems. The church has often portrayed God as vengeful and angry, wanting to punish us rather than show us the love and forgiveness that are ours because Christ died on the cross for our sins.

It is important to understand that our behavior is not the only basis

for our pain. The wounds we have suffered also cause pain and they must be healed in order for us to achieve wholeness. The lack of distinction between woundedness and sin has led many Christians to believe that "turning from sin" is the solution to recovery. This is simply not true, either from a therapeutic or from a biblical standpoint. We also need to heal our wounds and change our thinking about how to react to people and events.

Many of the injuries we suffered in dysfunctional childhood homes were caused by the actions of the adults in our lives. It is often in reaction to our wounds that we sin by drinking excessively or behaving violently. In turn, we pass on to our children the injuries inflicted upon us.

Our society is in need of loving, forgiving, fully present and responsible parents or caregivers who provide models for functional family life. The self-righteous, superficial, rigid and legalistic attitudes in our institution­alized religions often serve only to drive a deeper wedge between the painful world and Christ, who died for our salvation. There surely are as many painful homes inside of the institutional religious structure as there are outside of it.

Prior to the industrial revolution, the family had priority in every culture. The family worked together as a unit and played a major role in shaping society’s values. It was the place where skills for adult life were modeled and learned. It was where we developed God-given belief and value systems, moral standards, work ethics and relational skills. The healthy family system represented discipline and character development which enabled children to mature into healthy, functional adults.

The family unit seems to have lost its influence over the crucial issues in our society. It appears that each generation is degenerating to some degree. In many families, the home is no longer the place where skills for successful adult life are modeled and taught.

Along with the demise of the traditional family unit has come the decreasing influence of the church. It is very difficult for the church to have more impact on shaping lives than individuals and their families do. The local church is only as weak or as strong as her individual family units.  In our contemporary society, both the family and the church have a greatly reduced influence in shaping each generation.

In my own observation of working with wounded people, the examples of family and church are being greatly overshadowed by outside distrac­tions that are essentially destructive. Some of the predominant distractions that have a negative influence are: television, movies, newspapers, magazines and other media, drugs, alcohol, pornography, rock music and peer groups.

The list of negative’ influences in our society seems to be growing with the passing of time. If the grief we see is any evidence, ours is certainly a generation in pain. We seem to be hurting with more intensity as each generation passes the damage on to the next. Many of us thought that the decade of the sixties would be unparalleled in its pain. The difficulties over civil rights, Vietnam, hippies and drugs were intense.

However, it seems the struggles of the seventies and eighties are similar if not greater than the strife in the sixties. Life in the nineties is difficult ro contemplate. The future of the human family may even depend on our taking a closer look at the pain in our own lives and the ways in which we can be models of recovery.

Substance abuse and compulsive behavior are prevalent in our society. Alcoholism has contributed to untold loss of life and increased the pain and suffering of those involved in and affected by it. The birth of drug­ addicted children is alarming and can negatively affect their families and society as a whole. Crime, divorce, desertion, eating disorders, sexual molestation of children and physical abuse of women and children are all grave concerns. The effects of neglect, denial of feelings, work-aholism, rejection, fear of failure and living in a performance-oriented rather than people-oriented society are likewise damaging.

Our hope lies in recognizing that God, reflected in Christ, is the true model for how we are to behave as individuals and interact within our communities. W4en our priority is one of reflecting a loving, protecting and nurturing God in our lives, we have a chance to make a difference in succeeding generations.

Parents who are emotionally available to their children and can provide tangible, visible images of the character and ways of Christ are critically needed in our society. Otherwise, each generation is faced with having an increasingly difficult time learning how to live in love and, thus, in community. Our only hope is to restore the loving, compassionate and responsible model of parenthood that is revealed through Christ to the family, church and society.

All of these conditions contribute to the increasing numbers of adult children in our society today. It is through recognition of this condition, and a willingness to effect change, that we can provide hope for those who are suffering.

 

Recovery Tool: Humility

Humility is an important element in our recovery process. It keeps the door open to the grace of God, which gives us the power to achieve permanent change. "clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, be­cause, ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." 1 PETER 5:4-7 (NIV).

 

Three basic elements of humility that can aid us in recovery are:

 

Being willing to ask for and accept help

It is important to seek help from God and from other people and not rely only on our own strengths and resources. When we turn over all our cares to God, he manages our burdens far beyond our own capacity to do so. .

 

Being willing to learn.

We need to be willing to examine ourselves and gain the self-under­standing that is crucial to our being truthful with you, ourselves and others throughout our journey to recovery.

Being willing to see ourselves from God’s perspective.

It is important to recognize our significance to God and our unique place in creation, as well as our insignificance in the affairs of the world and our powerlessness to change by ourselves. When we keep our pride or our low self-esteem from interfering, we can see ourselves as God sees us.

 

Individual Exercise

 

§      List the ways in which you insulate yourself from pain. ___________________________________

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§      What factors do you think contribute to your success as a person?  _______________________

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§      What is the difference between your public self and your true self?  Explain.  _______________

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§      How has the American dream affected your life?. ________________________________________

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§      Describe your childhood relationship with your mother  _______________________________

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§      Describe your childhood relationship with your father  _________________________________

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Group Exercise

 

§      Why is humility necessary as part of your recovery? ___________________________________

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§      How do the wounds of your past affect your life today?  What are you willing to do to heal these wounds?  ________________________________________________________________

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§      What pain insulators do you use as a way to protect yourself from situations that are troublesome to you?.  ___________________________________________________________

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Group Exercise2

 

§      What standards of behavior do you believe Jesus modeled for us?____________________________

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§      Share a meaningful experience in using the journal as part of your recovery? ______________

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§      What is your prayer request for yourself or others?____________________________________

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Complete the following __________________________________is praying for me. 

I am praying for ______________________________and his/her request is: ________________________

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