A Deeper Look – Turning Inward – Part 4 of 6

A Deeper Look – Turning Inward – Part 4 of 6

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Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon him, for He cares for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered awhile, perfect, establish and strengthen you. 1 Peter 5:6-10

Continuing our self-examination during Great Lent, we find gaps between what we think we value and believe and what we are actually doing. We love God, but do we pray often enough?  We love our family, but do we nurture those relations enough?  We love peace, but are we solving problems instead of fighting? We want to live a long life, but are we exercising?

Research says we manage change in stages. First, there is precontemplation. We are unaware or don’t believe we have to change. Next, if we become aware and think maybe we should change, we move to contemplation, the longest stage. We weigh our options and think about advantages and disadvantages of making that change compared to the advantages and disadvantages of not making each change. Uncontrolled thoughts and feelings in our internal and external “Force Field” are a spiritual battlefield between positive and negative, good and evil, light and dark. What temptations make you wait undecided, or run toward them? How do you want to change and take up your cross in the struggle? Reflect in your Lenten Journal.

Screen Shot 2015-03-17 at 2.31.26 PMTool #4:  WHAT MOTIVATES ME TO CHANGE A BEHAVIOR?

  • List both + and – in your “FORCE FIELD”
    • What pushes against the change?
    • What pushes for the change?
    • Steps: thoughts to feelings to actions
  • What makes me WILLING or UNWILLING?
  • What makes me ABLE or UNABLE?
  • Rate each on the list: 1=low, 10=high
  • What can I do to address OBSTACLES?                            
  • What am I doing to CHANGE now? 

Tips: Keeping this list and updating it during Lent can help you fight the good fight and win the spiritual battle to change.

Advantages push for DOING the change. Disadvantages push against DOING it. BUT you also have Advantages that push for NOT DOING too. AND you have Disadvantages that push against DOING it. How do you make sense of the dialogues you have in your head and with others to find out why you want the change and also why you resist? If you are not changing, there are always reasons you resist. What is in it for you to keep doing what you are doing instead of changing? Notice the “shoulds”, “buts”, “can’ts”, “don’t wanna’s” that keep circling in your thoughts. What we think becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

F.E.A.R. can play a major factor! “False Evidence Appearing Real” is one way Satan tempts us to deny, avoid, or run from facing obstacles and taking action to make important and even urgent changes. Inventory your thoughts to see how you are affecting how you feel, the choices you make and actions you take or do not take. Notice too when you ignore your positive and adaptive rational thoughts, act impulsively by giving in and regret it later.

Check out the power of these examples of common dialogues of spiritual battles we are waging in our running stream of consciousness. You can analyze each of the thoughts, and feelings, facts and information using the tool and notice motivations, challenges of each change, and temptations not to change:

  • REST vs KEEP GOING: “I am so tired. I have to get more rest to keep going, but I still have so much stuff to do for work. I don’t know how I can get it all done, so why try? I should just give up, but I can’t miss work. My arm hurts where I fell last week. I don’t know where I can get help at this hour of the night – it is 10:30 on Sunday night! I shouldn’t have watched all that TV this weekend! I will just have to do my best. Maybe it won’t be enough. Maybe I will get fired. I deserve a quart of ice cream, or maybe I need a drink…but prayer is a better idea…”    
  • MAKE PEACE vs FIGHT:  “I am so mad right now. I know I shouldn’t yell at my spouse, but I am at my wits end! The kids were acting out all day, and then he always expects a fasting dinner on the table early, so we can get to church. Why doesn’t he help? It shouldn’t just be my responsibility to figure out how to get us to church on time. I try, but he won’t stop criticizing. I work too. We fought all the way to church. Why should I be the one to stop? This is Lent. What am I doing?! I am going to look at solving the real problems starting with myself and ask him to work on solving them when we are both calmer.” 
  • SERVE OTHERS vs DO SELF CARE: “I should really do that for my mother (friend, child, spouse, etc.). Does this really need to be done? Well, I might as well just do it. No one else will help her. No one else cares like I do, and they can’t do it as well anyhow. Well, she makes sure of it too! I will hear about it if I don’t show up. God knows my sister won’t. She never has, and I refuse to ask her to do this now.  I will have to skip my doctor appointment. Maybe I can just be late. He will still charge me. God forgive me for being so selfish! No wait a minute, am I being selfish? I feel so trapped because everybody expects me to be the one to take care of things. It’s my job, I am the oldest…HALT. I am going to take this a step at a time. 1. Pray for guidance. 2. Ask what is urgent vs. important. 3. Do the next right thing.”  
  • CONFESS and ACCEPT HIS FORGIVENESS vs HIDE IN OUR SINS: “I don’t know where to start. I am so ashamed. How can I tell the priest? If I don’t, I can’t get help. I won’t be forgiven. Maybe I can get the courage if I go to the monastery instead of to my local priest. I don’t know where to go. Maybe I can look online. I don’t want to ask anyone. I know God forgave me before, but I can’t stop thinking about what I did. I can’t forgive myself, and I shouldn’t. What if I can’t “go forth and sin no more?” I wish I could feel better. I will pray and reach out for spiritual counseling. I will not give up.       

Did any of this feel familiar? You are not alone! Emotions like guilt, shame, anger are powerful. We have to sort out how we got to those feelings. Most of us are unaware just how often we discourage ourselves. When we identify the obstacles in our FORCE FIELD, we know what problems we need to solve so we can find help and build hope and commitment to change.

  1. Identify the forces.
  2. Where do they fit – pushing for or against change?
  3. How strong is each of the forces? Rate each on the list: 1=low, 10=high. Notice how much influence it has and how it keeps you stuck or helps you move forward.
  4. How WILLING or UNWILLING are you to change based on how it all adds up?
  5. What skills/resources do you have that make you ABLE or UNABLE to change?
  6. What can you do to address any OBSTACLES?
  7. What are you doing to CHANGE now?

Remember, you need a plan to win your spiritual battles. The Lord will give you strength and help you change your thoughts. He can make a way through the desert when it seems there is none. He offers hope and miracles when we stay in faith as the stories in the Bible and the Saints’ lives show us.

Record the current state of your Force Field for specific changes so you know what you are up against and look at what you are doing about your state of faith. You may have lost battles in the past, but now you are arming yourself in a different way. You are arming yourself for success through His grace and your efforts.

Write in your Lenten Journal what you are noticing about your increasing readiness for change. Refer to Parts 1 to 3 of this blog series if you have just started reading.

Tool #5:  NOTICING SIGNS OF INCREASING READINESS FOR CHANGE

  1. Decreased resistance and more acceptance of the need to change
  2. Decreased discussion of the problems and more waiting for the next steps
  3. Resolve increases and there may be feelings of loss, tearfulness, or resignation
  4. More reflection about the disadvantages of the status quo and advantages of change, optimism about change and/or intention to change
  5. Questions about  how others have accomplished  the change you want to make
  6. Envisioning how life would be after the change
  7. Experimenting with possible change actions

Keep turning to prayer and the life of the church including 40 day Liturgies for Health and Well-Being of the Living to gain strength at this stage as you struggle to change on your journey:

Prayer in Time of Temptation

O Lord the storm of distress has risen above me and the water is already up to my soul, but I have placed all my hope in you. You know the cause of the evil things which torment me; even the hairs on my head are numbered by you; therefore I flee to you and beseech you to drive off every evil thing which seeks to destroy my soul, and help me to overcome every temptation which assails me. For you are my strength, my refuge and my deliverer, O Christ God, and we offer glory to you: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Amen.  The Orthodox Prayer Book   

Good Lent!

Resources:

The Orthodox Prayer Book

The Orthodox Study Bible

40 Day Liturgies for Health and Well-Being of the Living – For mercy, life, peace, health, salvation, forgiveness, and the remission of the sins of the servants of God.

Next Week: Moving toward Synergy – Part 5 of 6 series: 

  1. Getting Started on a Healthy Self-Care Journey
  2. Simple Tools for a Time of Stillness and Striving  
  3. What We Are Up Against Now and What Are We Doing? 
  4. A Deeper Look – Turning Inward
  5. Moving to Synergy
  6. Celebrating our New Life in Christ

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Anastasia Kruse

Anastasia is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor and a National Certified Counselor. She works with individual adults, couples and families to offer hope, healing and practical solutions in dealing with problems that may be creating depression, anxiety and spiritual crises in life transitions. Her specialty is working together to develop strong relationships between clients and their significant others. Divorce prevention or post-divorce recovery, low self-esteem, stress and anger management are frequent areas of treatment in her practice is at Sanders and Associates. Previously she worked with Leyden DuPage Counseling Service and Family Shelter Services. She treats victims of domestic violence and is trained in EMDR to deal with trauma and PTSD. Anastasia holds an M.A. in Professional Counseling from Argosy University, Illinois School of Professional Psychology, now the American School of Profession Psychology (ASPP) at Argosy University. Prior to her career as a professional counselor, Anastasia was a human resources executive, organizational development consultant and trainer. She has extensive coaching background in career counseling, employee relations, conflict resolution, and performance challenges for job and college related problems. Anastasia converted to Orthodoxy 12 years ago and integrates the foundations of faith into her work with clients and in providing premarital counseling seminars at her parish. She has led couples groups and family workshops at local parishes, presented at the International Orthodox Psychotherapy Conference, and was a guest speaker on “Come Receive the Light” radio program on the Orthodox Christian Network.