Saturday, August 22, 2015

Joel. Michawn. {Part 43 - Counseling Done Right, 1}

I cannot tell you what a night and day experience it was between the counseling we got last week and all of the counseling we had before.  Night and day, people!!  Night and day.  I seriously cannot get over it.

Partly because it makes me soooo sad.  So very very sad.  It has become very evident that it is so very rare to be able to find a really, really good counselor.  A just and super knowledgeable counselor.  One who truly seeks to know you and understand you.  One who is so mature and so wise and so discerning that they can see each person for who they are...that they can look deeper and listen and learn.  That they don't even think about doing things like projecting their own experiences or feelings onto someone else's situation.  Or assuming things or twisting words.  And they don't even entertain surface issues, but go straight for the root causes.  Someone who is so very empathetic and kind...and at the same time very straightforward and truth-telling.  

In short...very, very led by God and so very God-like.  

This is extremely rare.

But, praise God, it does exist.  And we found it.  Finally.  

I can't tell you how much damage and harm has come to our marriage by seeing the 8 (!!) counselors before this (4 lay, 4 licensed).  Incredible damage.  Why?  Because none of those 8 people could do what this one man did in just a few short hours.  Because these people are not like this man...they don't have the qualities and characteristics mentioned above.  Even the 4 who have undergone extensive training and should be able to do what he does...they can not, and they do not.  

It's an extremely rare find.

Which is just extremely gut-wrenching to me.  If there were more actually good counselors, there would be many less divorces and hurting people around...I'm convinced.  Because many of these people want help...but they just can't find it.  

I don't know if I can convey to you with words here just how extremely grateful I am that we were able to see this counselor (and will continue).  He is the only counselor I will ever go to from now on.  He is the only counselor I will ever recommend to others.  

And he is worth the travel to get to him and the money spent.

Just a little ditty here that might mean something to some of you to show just how awesome he involves some name-dropping (which he himself never does, but I just know these things about him) and adds to his 'credentials':  He was on staff at the Vineyard in Anaheim and worked closely with John Wimber.  He also, now, is the counselor for John Eldridge and all of his team.  Yes...he's amazing.

Here is the account of the first few days with our wonderful God-sent counselor. 

Day 1

Given our history with counselors, I was sooo sick to my stomach and nervous and scared that I couldn't eat a thing.  It was horrible.

We got there at 10am and he was very nice.  I had listened before (last year) to some teachings he's done, so I knew his voice.  His voice is a great, soothing, wonderful mix of Kevin Costner and Jeff Bridges.  I love it was inviting to me.

As the 4 hour session went on, I also knew that he was listening to me and believing me and respected me.  That is HUGE.  And, he was kind and caring...sympathetic and empathetic...really understanding when and why something upset me.  "It's ok, dear...take your time."  So sweet.

He started out by asking us what we wanted from the week.  I said that I just wanted to get to the root issues...the real root issues here.  If we could take care of the root issues, then in time, most often the symptoms fall away on their own.  He agreed.  And assured me that that is his philosophy too.

Joel said that he just wanted to find out for sure what was going on too.  And that he still really wanted our marriage to be healed.

We talked a good deal about just some background stuff.  A little background on each of us, some things in our marriage that brought us to this point.

There were a couple of times where I could see that he was getting me.  Ahhhh, finally.  He was looking to the bottom line, to the root issues.  He was seeing.  He wasn't blinded.

At one point he even asked Joel point blank, 'In the things that you've agreed that you've done, can you see why Michawn doesn't trust you?'

I was floored.  Unbelievable that this had never happened in our counseling before.  That's a very basic, no-brainer tragic that nobody had ever talked to Joel like that in all of these years.

After a couple of hours, he said that he knew a couple of bottom line things.  He explained to us that, when faced with challenging things as a child, people respond to that in one of three ways.  They either become moving toward people, they start moving against people, or they start moving away from people.

The people who move toward people are your compliant people...they are your 'people-pleasers.'  They generally are 'needy' and seek approval.

People who move against people are your more competitive people.  They want control, they want to be the best, they want to be the most, and they will fight against anyone who might stop them from doing that.

People who move away from people are your detached people.  They are strong and independent.  They need emotional distance.  They draw a magic circle around themselves and prefer to be alone.

A little more about these three 'trends':
All three trends are available to us and healthy persons are able to move in any of these directions when needed. What usually happens, though, is that we become comfortable and used to one of the trends and so the other two become less accessible.  
We can exaggerate a good thing or miss the mark. At the core of each trend is a healthy striving to cooperate with others, to assertively set boundaries, and to step back to be with ourselves in solitude or step away from/break ties with a harmful person. When we overdo these maneuvers, or when they become defensive and reactive instead of proactive, we become compliant (people-pleasers), aggressive (people who move against/are competitive & controlling), and detached (people who move away). There is a healthy to distorted continuum with these three trends.
Our counselor, after the 1st day's session, said that he thought Joel moves toward people and I move away.  And that was the bottomest of bottom lines for us.  The root issue.  Everything else sprung out of that.

I was encouraged by our time together.  I felt like he really *got* it.  I felt like I could probably trust this man (although I was still very cautious; time would tell).  And I was looking forward to more insights.

He gave us homework...

We both read our handout on our 'bottom lines'...mine the 'moving away' handout, and Joel's the 'moving toward' handout.  We underlined the things that most resonated with us about our bottom line.  And then we switched and anything that I thought was true of Joel that he didn't underline, I underlined with a different color ink.  He did the same.

We also read a handout called "On Being Ordinary" (an article he wrote some years ago).  Very interesting.  It was all about how everyone still has sin.  When God comes and saves us, He "removes sin from the soul, the spirit, and heart.  But, He does not remove sin from the body and the brain.  So the believer is both a person who has sin removed from him and has sin abiding in him.  He is a 'duality of purity and impurity.'  In other words, the inner man is cleansed.  The outer man continues to contain sin.  The body and brain, or outer man, isn't sinful just because it contains sin...but rather, it is the 'home on earth' of sin."  So, the battle of sin is not within the heart, it is a battle between the heart (inner man) and body/brain (outer man).

Day 2

I have to admit...I woke up and was already kind of irritated.  Just tired and irritated that we are going through all of this.  And irritated with Joel that...of course he just still doesn't get it.

We got to the counseling session and he wanted to teach us a tool...the one tool he was going to teach us this week.  He got us to turn our chairs to face each other.  It's a tool that is supposed to foster connection.  So, you each spend 3 minutes talking about certain things...6 different time slots of 3 minutes alternating between each other, so 18 minutes total.  Joel went first and the first thing he was supposed to talk about for 3 minutes was just what he was sensing with his 5 senses.  He did that and then also went into how he saw me and talked about how he liked my glasses and my outfit, yada yada yada...and how he still just had a heavy heart about all that had happened and where we were and how much it might take to fix it.

Then it was my turn.  I had no desire to connect with Joel.  I just couldn't do it.  So, I said that all I could see was the man who destroyed my life in every possible way.  And that I felt no good feelings toward him.  And then I said nothing else for the rest of my 3 minutes.

The counselor quickly decided that we wouldn't be able to do that exercise quite yet...just not time.  What was different about this counselor in this instance?  He didn't think that I was being difficult.  He wasn't upset.  He completely understood...and said like it was no big deal "That's's just not time yet."  Again...very unlike other counselors and people in our lives the past few years.  That is a sad and scary reality, folks.  :(

So, we put our chairs back and started talking about the handouts.  Joel went over his first...he agreed that it fit well with him.  He isn't 'needy' as is typical of that type of person, but he does seek and depend on approval from others (not all others, but some).  And he is compliant and a people-pleaser, no doubt.

Mine, turns out, wasn't so cut and dry.  While I underlined several things that I see in me that was listed in the 'Moving Away From People' handout, the things that are apparently key in being a 'moving away from people' person is not true of me...specifically "What is crucial is their inner need to put emotional distance between themselves and others."  While I have the ability to detach from people (which Joel and 'moving toward people' people do not really possess), I only truly detach from people who have been given many chances to connect with me (and/or many chances to not mistreat me), but refuse.  It is only toxic, damaging people from whom I detach...and I give lots and lots of chances before I do that.  In fact, what I wrote on my handout specifically was, "While I am independent and strong (listed characteristics of people who fall into this group), I only truly detach from certain people...people who have been given many chances to connect with me, but refuse."

So, it was back to the drawing board for me.  He gave me the handout to read about the "Moving Against People" to see if that rang more true for me.  I asked him what happens if it doesn't.  And I'm clearly not a compliant people-pleaser.  He said that we would have to figure me out if this didn't ring true for me.

I read it.  It didn't ring true.

The 'Moving Away From People' was the closest thing to me, but without that crucial need to distance myself from people across the didn't really apply to me either.  So...we had to figure it out the next day.

I read an article he wrote called "Journey Out of Religiosity."  So good.

"The deep issues of religiosity lie in the heart.  The religious heart as compared with a kingdom heart is a concealed, hidden heart.  It is a blind heart filled with denial.  It is a stubborn, hard heart resting on the shaky foundation of needing to be right.  It grows directly from the heart of a child who has certain factors being 'religiosity in parents.'"  Very interesting read...and I could see where religiosity has played a big part in where we find ourselves.  I've actually been saying that for years...but this handout just really confirmed it in a clear way.

The counselor finally received and read the timeline that day.  Joel continued to say that he couldn't see how it could possibly be that all of our problems (or sometimes he says 'all of her problems') stem from anything he's done.  The counselor immediately went into a story...and he told this story to Joel...a personal story of how he, in the early 90s, had some decisions to make.  His family was hurting and with problems.  They were saying that he was the problem.  He wasn't connecting with them.  He was unavailable.  He just could not see it.  The counselor finally, after a whole hour of hearing him defend himself, told his wife and children that when the optic nerve doesn't work, the eye is blind.  It's not that it's blindfolded...the sight just will not work no matter how you try to see and no matter how much you believe you can see.  There was really nothing that he could do...he couldn't make anyone see.  Their husband/father, our counselor, was just blind.

Our counselor said that he was extremely taken aback by what his family's counselor had said...that he was just blind.  So, they went home and our counselor prayed.  He prayed and prayed.  And on the 14th day of praying, it was like a light shone straight down on him and within that light was all understanding of what he was doing and he was no longer blind to the situation all around him...and his wrongdoing.  It was like a flip was switched.

"This is what has got to happen in our marriage," I wrote on Day 2.  "Joel has to see it.  Otherwise, our marriage will not work."

I also wrote:  "Praying for the blinders to be removed.  Only God can do that.  Only He can reveal that to Joel.  There is such a religious, blinded, concealed spirit.  Even if someone else were to tell him, that alone wouldn't be enough.  Because walking that out in will power...that wouldn't work.  It has to be revealed to Joel personally...God has to reveal that answer to him.  Praying."

Day 3

We met with our counselor separately...each for two hours (although mine turned into three hours...ha).

Day 1 had been so good.  Day 2 was good...but it was just more vague and kind of left me with questions again.  So...Day 3 first thing, I had questions.

I needed to know where we stood.  I needed to see where our counselor was with it all and see what he was thinking.

He started out reassuring me that he believed in a partnership marriage.  He said that that is what God intended when he made Adam and Eve...and then the fall happened, and then when people start focusing on the New Testament is where they get all messed up and it is damaging to marriages (Egalitarians know exactly where he is coming from with that last statement).

He said that he knows what man has done to women.  He knows what churches do to women.  He said that he knows the wife/women are blamed...that all the blame falls on her 99.9% of the time.

In short, he reassured me.  He could see me.  And he wasn't there to tell me that I need to do better or be a better wife or be a better Christian and if I did those things our marriage would get better.  That wasn't the problem.  He saw that.  He knew that.  Joel was blind to the things he had done and continued to do, he said.  And that is what had to happen...Joel had to be UNblinded.

Ahhhh...I felt relieved.  Praise God.  Someone could see it.  Someone was getting to the root.

He had started taking a family history the day before in the remaining minutes of our session.  He finished that with me...and then we just prayed.  Lots and lots of prayer.  Lots and lots of exercises mixed with prayer.  Exercises that involved me praying that God would bring to mind a defining memory that needed to be healed.  Then the counselor, in prayer still, would walk me through that memory and have me describe it in detail, I would 'go into' that memory (at the age I am now) and be with 'little girl Michawn' or 'younger Michawn' and talk with her, we would invite Jesus in, etc.  The counselor would take me through this memory very slowly, healing every part that needed to still be healed, guiding me through talking to each person that was a part of that memory, etc.  It was very, very interesting the things that came out of those memories that we walked through in prayer.  (Joel did the same thing with his time in his session...maybe he will write about it someday)

One of the things that came out for me personally was that, in each of these memories, 1) when I invited Jesus in in each memory, it was soooo powerful because it wasn't like I was inviting Him in or He was coming in for the first time...He had been there the whole entire time, from the beginning, completely protecting me from what was going on around me.  They were hard things and hard situations, but I went through those things, in real life, having learned from them, grown from them, and having the ability to be aware of what was going on around me without feeling like any of it was my fault or like I was to blame...or having any real lasting damage.  Even from as early an age as 3-4 years old.  And, I believe that is possible only because He was always there.  He protected me.  And, 2) I had already forgiven the people who were parts of these memories...who did harm to me.  I had never lived with unforgiveness toward them.  Which just confirmed something about me, that I knew, that was really great to see and hear...forgiveness is easy for me.  That is where I live.  It never occurs  to me to not forgive someone.  That's just not a part of my life.

Again, something I felt like shouting, "I told you so" from the rooftops after that session given the constant accusations the past few years that I am 'unforgiving.'  So...people who have said that about me...just shut up.

Another thing that came up was...he was trying to still figure out what the deal was with me since I wasn't fitting into one of the three categories...people who move toward people, people who move against people, or people who move away from people.  I had taken home the information about 'people who move against'...but that didn't fit me at all.  He had asked me about it at the beginning of the session...I had told him that it didn't fit.  So, at the end of the session...

I said, "Given the fact that moving away from people doesn't quite fit me and the other two options don't fit me either, do you think that it is possible that...?" 
Counselor:  "I do, dear." 
Me:  "Wait...what do you think?  You know what I was going to ask?" 
Counselor:  "I think that you probably move toward the people when it is right to do so, you move against them and challenge them and set boundaries when it is right to do so, and you move away from people when they have consistently shown that they aren't safe.  It's very rare, dear, but I think you are able to do this."  

By the end of the session, after having gone through all of those memories and seeing what was shown as a result of walking through those memories and seeing how I dealt with it all and how I felt about the people in those memories, it helped to solve the mystery.

Ahhhh.  Unbelievable that he saw me.  That he understood and knew me.  After all this time...someone could see me.  And knew me!  Just HUGE.  And they weren't afraid to say..."she's actually a very healthy person."  All this time I have been accused of all of these things...and if the accusers (including counselors) couldn't find something solid to accuse me of, they would make up stuff, even going so far as to making up that I have a mental illness.  I mean...being a healthy person wasn't an option for anyone.  How sad is that!  Being able to just healthily move between these three trends for instance, being able to forgive because the problem wasn't that I wasn't forgiving it was that the behavior I kept forgiving wasn't stopping, being able to walk away from people who were consistently harmful in my life...these are healthy things, people!  The people accusing me of being unhealthy and 'crazy' either didn't see these things as healthy (particularly distancing oneself from harmful people...they saw that as unforgiving instead of a healthy thing), or maybe it's so rare to see someone actually being able to move within these trends healthily, they didn't believe that to be true of me.

Whatever the thoughts of everyone in my life these past 3 ½ years, the bottom line is that they missed me completely.  They either 1) chose not to listen to me.  Or they listened, but then 2) chose not to believe me.  These are the only two things that I have experienced for the past few years by the people who were supposed to love me and by the people who I trusted to help me.  (How very sad and scary is that?!?)

And the whole time I've been telling the truth...and not being unhealthy while doing so.  I'm the one who could move between these three things in a healthy way.  Me!  I'm the one who forgave.  I'm the one who could see the root issues.  I'm the healthy one here!!

I'm not saying all of this here to be braggy, believe me.  But...after all the attacks from so many sources the past few years (and they just keep rolling in), I say this all to stick up for myself, yet again.  To defend myself.  And to say to the people who are still attacking and accusing...step the hades back!  You don't even know what you are talking about!  So stop wasting your breath with your accusations that are, still (and always have been), false.

:)  Hmmm...that felt good.  Hahaha.

To my very few friends that I have left in my life, in internet land and in real life, who have always known me and backed me 100%...thank you!!  You were right!  Haha.

I'll tell you about Days 4 & 5 and more next time.

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