In these challenging times….

Everyone is affected by social distancing, quarantines, job losses and school shut-downs. The list goes on and on.  It seems like most counselors are offering teletherapy these days, and I do too! Don’t let the social distancing keep you from getting the help you need! While taking every precaution, I am also open for in office sessions.

We are social creatures. I don’t know about you, but I am extravert enough that this distancing is difficult! What can we do? It is vitally important for all of us to stay in touch with friends and family members via FaceTime, Skype or other media. I miss my grandchildren a lot these days, but it does help to at least see them and talk to them via FaceTime.  Remember, we are social creatures, and we need connection to stay emotionally healthy. Get some help if you struggle with fear and anxiety; these actually make people more susceptible to disease and these are not fun to deal with!

Here are some preventive measures to take to avoid getting the COVID-19 virus:

Some doctors I follow who have successfully treated viruses for 30 years including the Coronavirus say the following: Take magnesium chloride (I get it in lotion form from the health store), selenium, iodine, and vitamins including D3. Additionally, the good old baking soda is fabulous! Baking soda is actually a heavy weight horse when it comes to healing many sicknesses and diseases. It is used in emergency rooms and saves lives every day! (Do a search on it and see for yourself. I highly recommend Dr. Sircus’ articles.) Dosage recommendation is 1/4 teaspoon in water every day as preventive use. It also helps to heal a person already infected. Another factor is to ensure proper oxygen to the cells, which has to do with making sure we breathe deeply.  Since many people breathe in shallow ways (just from the chest), doctors recommend spending 10-15 minutes every day belly-breathing. This can lower blood pressure, ease anxiety, and also provide enough oxygen to the cells. I also take Cordycept capsules daily, which are an amazing anti-viral, anti-bacterial agent. Many recommend colloidal silver or structured silver. The latter can also be bought in gel form as an amazing hand sanitizer that has no alcohol and doesn’t dry out your hands.

The rest you know: frequent hand washing, avoid touching your face, disinfect and sanitize surfaces, door handles etc. Social distancing is recommended during this time. Keep your diet nutritious, make sure you get enough sleep, and engage in some daily exercise!

As a believer, I look to God and his Word during this time. Psalm 91 is wonderful to declare over yourself and your loved ones. God’s love casts out fear (1 John 4:18) and in his love is a good place to be!

 

 

Why Does Deep Breathing Alleviate Anxiety?

Question: Why do deep breathing exercises help anxiety?

Answer: Anxiety often is accompanied by shallow, fast breathing, which in turn activates the sympathetic nervous system and makes anxiety worse. The body sends “danger signals” to the amygdala, which I like to refer to as the part of the brain that pushes the fire alarm button. When the alarm goes off, the brain enters into the fight, flight, or freeze mode. This survival mode helps us when we are in danger, but is not helpful when we are not!
Deep breathing, on the other hand, sends messages to the brain that stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, the part of the nervous system that takes over when the body is at rest. Anxiety often “sits in the body,” (just notice your churning stomach or tight chest!), and breathing is a body function we actually have some control over. As we slow down our breathing, messages are sent to the amygdala, and the fire alarm is turned off. Breathing signals to parts of the brain that affect our behavior, thought, and emotion.
To ensure deep breathing, place a hand over your stomach. You may pretend there is a balloon in your stomach inflating and deflating as you breathe in and out. Breathe in through your nose, and breathe slowly out through your mouth. Try to notice the sensation in your stomach as you breathe. Many enjoy the 4-7-8 method: breathe in on four counts, hold for seven, and breathe out for eight. This is repeated four times, twice a day, and consistent use can help to reset the nervous system.
As a counselor, I believe it is important to become curious about the underlying issues of anxiety. A good therapist can help!

Cecilie Croissant, MA, LPC, is owner and therapist at Path of Hope Counseling in Owasso, (pathofhopecounseling.com) and helps people overcome anxiety through EMDR and other modalities.

God’s Design Laws Part 2

What are design laws?

Design laws are principles that God, our Creator, wove into the very fabric of reality. God created – and “it was good.”  He designed everything to operate according to laws promoting healing, growth, fulfillment and peace. God is love, and nature is a beautiful reflection of his extravagance. God is a Giver, and when nature operates according to God’s design, it flourishes through giving. The water cycle is a good example. The ocean “gives” water through evaporation producing clouds, and the clouds give water that create rivers, which again pour water into the ocean. On the other hand, viruses is a biological form of selfishness. It doesn’t give anything and only takes for itself. White blood cells, on the other hand, operate on the principle of love by sacrificing themselves in order to save us.

When people act in selfish ways and become demanding takers, they will eventually tear down relationships. When we prefer one another in love, relationships grow and blossom. This is how God designed things to work!  

Design laws are part of a universal reality, just like the law of gravity. Whether I believe in the law of gravity or not, it will work for me! Defying design laws will eventually result in destructive consequences. God’s design laws have predictable results: when we conform to them and respect them, they lead to life and success; when we defy them, we tear our world down with our own hands. As a reflection of God’s nature, design laws reveal God’s incredibly loving intention for us. As we gain understanding of these principles, embrace them and learn to yield to them, our lives will prosper.

In part 1 we discussed the Law of Love and the Law of Liberty. Here are two more:

The Law of Worship

We are created to worship. Everyone will worship something. One writer says it this way: “A person’s deity is that which actually dominates that person’s life, giving it unity, direction, and inspiration, whether the person realizes it or not” (Creel, 1977). What do you worship? What gives your life its main direction and inspiration? What really makes us tick? Whatever we worship will form and shape our lives. Our minds will adapt themselves to the things we idealize. What we keep admiring we become like. This is exactly what Paul says in 2 Cor.3:18 – “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed in the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.”

Why does God ask us to worship Him? He does so because He is the only one we can worship that will not cause our mind and character to degenerate. As humans, we are the highest created beings on our planet. There is nothing here in this world that is worthy of our worship, and giving our affection and admiration to anything else but God will lower our existence to its own level. When people worship cruel and harsh gods, they create oppressive systems. We see this exemplified in cults, or in major religions. One sect of Hinduism worships the rat. Their temples are infested with rats, and people consider it an honor to be bitten by a rat. They want to be reincarnated as a rat. Here are human beings created in God’s image to have authority in the earth, and now their highest goal is to become a rat!

Neuro-scientifically, we become like what we admire or worship. Whatever we idealize, whether it be a person, God, idea, or idol, we are changed into what we give our attention and affection to. The brain will actually rewire itself according to our thoughts and what we give our attention to. Our choices as well as our behavior, what we worship and admire, have profound effect on the development of our neural pathways and networks. This eventually changes our character. Here is a simple illustration: As a Norwegian, English was a second language for me. It took several years in school to get a good grasp on the English language. Then, as a 23 year old, I came to the United States. It took me a year or two to continue learning all the nuances in the language, colloquialisms, humor etc. I have lived in the United States for many years now, and my “English” neural networks have grown to where I actually struggle a little when I visit Norway and switch to speaking Norwegian. The brain constantly changes to adapt. We actually change the hardwiring in our brains through what we think about. This works both negatively and positively. The choice of whom or what we worship greatly influences the development of our mental faculties. Healthy worship creates noble and strong reasoning faculties, while unhealthy forms of worship shrinks and weakens them.  

As human beings, we can choose to yield to God’s truth, which is reality, or we can choose to set up something else as our god. One way or another, we will worship something, and thereby be conformed into the image of the object we worship. When you as a believer set your heart on God’s truth, over time your neural circuitry will change, and old neural networks that correspond to negative behavior will degrade, while neural networks that respond to the truth will develop and grow.

 

The Law of Responsibility

God made us to think for ourselves, reason, evaluate, plan, and make choices. This is part of the Law of Liberty. When we seek to control others are not operating within God’s laws of love and liberty. Sometimes people’s attempts to control others are subtle. Here is a scenario: You can’t stand the anxiety you feel when your spouse gets into one of their moods, so you do whatever you can to please them to keep them happy. You may even agree to do something that you really don’t want to do. So instead of setting proper boundaries with your spouse and take responsibility for your own anxiety, you allow boundaries to be crossed in your own life and you are actually attempting to control your spouse. This behavior never yields positive results! Having healthy boundaries means that we take responsibility for our own feelings as well as set proper boundaries with other people. It is not your job to make other people happy at all cost in order to feel less anxious in the moment. You will have to do that one again and again…… and again. This will only increase anxiety, create resentment on both sides, while nothing is really dealt with and healed. Seek help from a good counselor, do what you need to do to manage your anxiety, and learn how to have proper boundaries with others.

Do you have a tendency to be dependent? Can you make your own decisions? Can you have an opinion when someone asks you? Are you aware of what your values and priorities are? Do you have a sense of autonomy if you are married or in a romantic relationship?

You may have grown up with parents who seemed to make all the choices for you, even when you were old enough to make your own. This may have sent the message: “you cannot trust yourself” or “you are not capable.” If this was the case, you may find yourself always looking to others for decision making in your behalf. It is time to break out and courageously start the journey of discovering your own priorities, values and preferences. Some who grew up as “Mom’s golden boy” or “Daddy’s little princess” were made to believe that they could do no wrong, so they end up becoming annoyingly self-centered. Lacking self-awareness, they tend to expect special treatment and blame others for everything that goes wrong in their lives.

Taking responsibility for your life is one of the most empowering things you can do. It puts the power back where it should be: in your hands! Regardless of your background and past failures, you can take one step at a time towards a better future. Choose to believe that you can get that degree, start over in a new, healthier relationship, trust God to work in you to move forward. He will, because he always operates within his own wisdom.

 

Cecilie Croissant is licensed professional counselor and a certified EMDR therapist in private practice in Owasso, Oklahoma. She is speaker in conferences around the world and was awarded an honorary doctorate for her many years of teaching and music ministry in over 30 nations.

 

God’s Design Laws Part 1

What are design laws?

Design laws are principles that God, our Creator, wove into the very fabric of reality. God created – and “it was good.”  He designed everything to operate according to laws promoting healing, growth, fulfillment and peace. God is love, and nature is a beautiful reflection of his extravagance. When nature operates according to God’s design, it flourishes through giving. The water cycle is a good example. The ocean “gives” water through evaporation producing clouds, and the clouds give water that create rivers, which again pour water into the ocean. On the other hand, viruses is a biological form of selfishness. It doesn’t give anything and only takes for itself. White blood cells, on the other hand, operate on the principle of love by sacrificing themselves in order to save us.

When people act in selfish ways and become demanding takers, they will tend to destroy relationships. When we serve one another in love, relationships grow and blossom. This is how God designed things to work!  

God’s sovereignty is not that he decides everything that happens on this earth. That would violate his own law of liberty (described below). Rather, he is sovereign by putting laws in place that promote life, success, and fulfillment. Design laws are part of a universal reality, just like the law of gravity. Whether I believe in the law of gravity or not, it will work for me! Defying design laws will eventually result in destructive consequences. God’s design laws have predictable results: when we conform to them and respect them, they lead to life and success; when we defy them, we tear our world down with our own hands. As a reflection of God’s nature, design laws reveal God’s incredibly loving intention for us. As we gain understanding of these principles, embrace them and learn to yield to them, our lives will prosper.

 

The Law of Love

God always operates in healing, uplifting, and selfless ways. Love means to do what is good regardless of how one feels. When we give to others we prosper. When we stop loving and giving, we deteriorate. The pool of water that stops flowing soon stagnates, while a flowing river breeds life.

Are negative things that happen in our lives the result of God’s punishment? Absolutely not! This belief goes against every evidence in nature, science, history, and Biblical truth. God’s love is pure and free from any form of agenda or force.  

When negative things happen in our lives, we may feel grief, anxiety, depression, or a low sense of worth. These feelings are not evidence of God’s punishment or a sign that he has left us. They may be a result of how we or others have operated contrary to his design laws. But even in the middle of tragedies, God’s desire is to restore. The reason Jesus died for us was to deliver us out of a life of destruction and fear and restore us to love and dignity. Then, he gave us the Holy Spirit to live inside of us and his word to show us how to live in his purpose and design.  

Love has counterfeits. Some people believe they love when they control others. A young woman sought counseling services whose boyfriend had threatened to kill himself if she left him. The boyfriend showed clear signs of unhealthy dependency and lowered himself to try to control instead of owning his own deep insecurities. Dependency happens when someone looks to another as the source of inner peace, security, well-being, or self-worth. God did not create us to be for another person that which he alone can be for us. A dependent person will have strong feelings for another, but he will often be erratic and unstable. Dependent individuals may sulk and act in very immature ways, which obviously destroys relationships. Because we were never created to be dominated by another person, this behavior will only result in resistance and a desire to leave. Love will die. This will often make the dependent person even more desperate to control. This kind of relationship goes south very fast! The dependent person’s need for further external validation is now even greater. I compare a person like this with a leaking bucket. No amount of validation and assurance will ever be enough. They take and take and continue to demand, but no attempt to assure them will fill the void.

Timothy Jennings says it this way: “Love heals, while dependency destroys. Love liberates, while dependency always seeks to control. Love gives, while dependency constantly takes. Love is fearless, while dependency is fear-ridden. Love is interested in another, while dependency focuses on self. Love is stable, while dependency wavers. Love is orderly and reliable, while dependency is chaotic and unreliable. Love is based on principle, while dependency is based on feelings. Love is consistent, while dependency is inconsistent. Love is honest and truthful, while dependency is dishonest and deceitful. Love is patient, while dependency is impulsive. Love is kind, while dependency is cruel. Love is forgiving, while dependency is resentful. Love protects, while dependency exploits. Love sacrifices self, while dependency sacrifices others. Love never ends, while dependency never lasts. And love never fails, while dependency never succeeds.” (2012)

 

The Law of Liberty

“Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Cor.3:17). God created us to be free and be able to respond to him out of a desire to know him. God never forces himself on us, and in order for our love for him to be authentic and real, it has to be free. He always works by bringing truth, love, and freedom. Then he gives us opportunity to evaluate and decide for ourselves if we want to trust him. Love requires freedom.

 

I speak with many who have lived with an abusive or controlling spouse. While under their spouse’s control, they were told what to wear, what they were allowed or not allowed to do. When someone is forced to respond, or repeatedly belittled and degraded, the result is disastrous. Spouses who are treated this way end up angry, resentful, and depressed. Human beings were never created to be dominated by each other, because not only does the violation of freedom destroy love, it leads to rebellion. If rebellion doesn’t restore freedom, individuality itself disappears and only empty shells of people remain. A person will lose the ability to think for herself, because all thoughts will be focused on trying to please the abuser and how to keep him from erupting. They are left in a perpetual state of fear, with no opinions, no choices, no opportunity to think for themselves. Often people believe that they are required by God or the church to stay in abusive marriages. But God never requires this! He always works to restore us and make us whole, therefore he wants us to separate from that which will destroy us. When staying in a marriage means being so controlled that it erases one’s individuality, then our responsibility is to get out! Some Christian men  wrongly believe that their wives are to submit to them no matter what. This is unbiblical, and will result in the destruction of what God meant for both husbands and wives to be. For a wife to separate herself from abuse is the only way she can to be restored herself, and the only chance her husband has to wake up to the error of his ways. God’s way in marriage is for husbands to build up the individuality of his wife and support her in pursuing God’s purpose for her life.

Sometimes the violation of the law of liberty is not as obvious. One parent creates fear in her family by her frequent outbursts of anger or rage,and the rest of the family “walks on eggshells” in order to avoid setting her off. Relationships don’t function well under fear and intimidation. Spouses may withdraw or bury themselves in work, and children may leave the home early to escape the unhealthy environment.

 

God never forces himself on anyone. He operates perfectly in the law of liberty, and created us as autonomous individuals who think and decide for ourselves. He does not want us to surrender our minds blindly to him. We are called to be thinkers, not reflectors of other people’s opinions. God made us reason for ourselves, and to be self-controlled individuals who recognize his wisdom and choose to operate within his ways and methods of love, liberty and service to others.

Five things you can do to deepen your marriage relationship

Many couples complain that they have lost the spark in their relationship. The mundane chores and busyness of work, getting kids to sports or music lessons seem to drown out the special times they used to have. One couple said, “We don’t seem to be able to touch each other as deeply as we used to. We don’t even know each other that well anymore.” With 30-60 percent of married people experiencing an affair at some point in their marriage, one begs to ask the question, how can a couple restore and even deepen fulfillment and meaning in their relationship?

Few things in life are as satisfying as having a great partner relationship. Having an abiding sense of deep friendship and  assurance of your special one always being there for you is invaluable.  Couples can weather lots of storms and handle the curb balls of life when each one knows they are not alone. There is the sense that, “someone is always there for me and has my back.” In a healthy relationship the trust goes deep.  Even in the healthiest of relationships, hurts and disappointments happen, but because of the strength of friendship and history of treasured shared experiences, couples are better equipped to weather the storms.  And, even if you don’t see your relationship falling in that category, the good news is, most couples can become healthier if they are willing to change and grow. Are you willing to become more intentional about growing and deepening your marriage?  Here are five things that research shows that you can do to strengthen and deepen your partner relationship:

  1.  Build your relationship on a foundation of noble and meaningful values. After decades of in depth research, Dr.s John and Julie Gottman discovered that having shared meaning was a crucial element in healthy couples. In other words, finding that special cause or the value that makes you tick is important. What are you both passionate about? What are some values and priorities you hold dear? And what is the story behind these values or dreams? Even traditions or rituals like Friday night dates, special holiday traditions or birthday rituals serve to create bonds between partners. These are things healthy couples consider important and spend time sharing with each other. As the different seasons of life change, priorities and dreams may change. Couples need regular updates of each other’s inner “maps” and where we want our journeys to take us. Sharing with each other and becoming involved together build strong bonds that are hard to break.
  2.  Be willing to grow and change. Most of us carry with us habits, expectations, idiosyncrasies and opinions that can cause problems for our partner relationship. Before I got married, there was one thing I asked my husband-to-be: Are you willing to change and grow as we walk through life together? I knew I was, and he said he was. Deal!  Through the years, we both have done a lot of growing up, healing, adjusting, forgiving, and tolerating, and I am happier now than ever, both with myself and with my husband. Marriage is such an incredible opportunity to develop self-awareness and build greater character. And this is crucial in life! In this process, becoming aware of my past hurts, destructive patterns, and being willing to process them was vital. Little by little, I learned to be more honest with myself, instead of missing out on growth opportunities by being defensive. 
  3. Learn to fight well. The Gottman’s found that couples who get ugly with each other will have a hard time making it. Attacking your partner through angry accusations of everything they do wrong has shown to be a tell-tale of disaster, especially if it becomes a habit. Is it OK to bring up concerns? Absolutely! But do it in a calm manner, explaining that what happened or keeps happening is difficult for you. It may sound something like this: “When you keep coming late without texting/calling,, it makes me feel unimportant,  and I wish that you would be more considerate, so I don’t have to worry.” To sum up this approach: “When xyz happens, I feel ______ , and I wish _______.”  Neither does it help to be defensive and refusing to take at least some of the responsibility. Defensiveness can be subtly expressed through body language, or by playing the victim, making excuses for yourself. The better response is something like, “I think I see what you mean.” Or, “you do have a point there.”  Learn to stop any disagreement before it becomes ugly. Either take a break when you get worked up (it takes the body about 25 minutes to calm down to where you can think straight again), or break the tension with humor or expression of genuine appreciation.  Talking about appreciation:
  4. Express much of it, along with generous, but sincere encouragement and fondness. Again, research shows that when this becomes second nature for couples, they are on a good path. Many couples tend to think the worst of each other instead of the best. If your partner comes home from work a little cranky and short, do you defensively think to yourself, “what did I do now?” or do you excuse your partner by assuming that he or she “probably had a stressful day at work?”  Couples who are in the habit of expressing appreciation and fondness will develop a strong friendship and will not have the tendency to jump to negative conclusions.  If you think your relationship could stand a higher dose of expressions of love and admiration, become more intentional about it. Get in the habit of exchanging affirming statements to each other at least twice a day. Text something during the day.  Don’t just think it, express it! It is amazing how something this simple can actually change the atmosphere in your home and the culture of your relationship.
  5. Show mutual respect. Unfortunately, a lot of hard-to-kill traditions and religious teaching have contributed to many lopsided relationships. Many studies show that when one person takes it upon themselves to become the dominant partner and main decision maker, resentment may develop over time. Because of culture and tradition, men have more of tendency to not be influenced by their wives than vice versa, however, it is also true that women can be domineering.  When issues come up, the domineering partner may start attacking the other, or they will clam up and stubbornly stand their ground.  These behaviors are clear signs that a partner is not willing to accept influence from the other. Questions to ask yourself about your relationship: Are both my partner and I interested in each other’s opinions? Does what my partner feels really count with me? Am I willing to listen respectfully even when I disagree? Do I insist on being the one to make major decisions in our relationship or family? Am I open to the strength and expertise of my spouse? Am I willing to compromise? Where there is lack of mutual respect, there will be resentment, and trust and true intimacy will erode. If you think you tend to want to be the one in charge, be willing to be curious why that is, and be willing to listen and learn from your partner. Your marriage may be at stake.

I believe that as humans, our innate yearning for belonging will push us towards growth and change. People who don’t want to change are not happy people! I work with many couples on a regular basis, and my experience is that most couples can make a turnaround and find restoration of trust and connection in their relationship.  Seeing changes and improvement in our lives will lead to heightened sense of self-esteem and self-confidence. And when this happens, we will tend to love and esteem others more, which again will boost our sense of self. This is a great cycle to be in!