I’m pro-therapy/counseling, of course, and I’m very adamant about making sure people understand what counseling is really about, especially in religious circles. One of the major goals of counseling is challenging the way you think, which will ultimately change the way you behave and live. This is accomplished through what is called “processing”—talking it out; walking through it.
Me, processing with an 11 year old…
HIM: She acts like a baby. She got the cake she wanted for her birthday and I couldn’t eat it because I don’t eat that kind of cake.
ME: That doesn’t make her a baby. That makes it her birthday. When it’s your birthday, you can get the kind of cake that you like.
HIM: They never (hmmm) get me what I want. I asked for an ice cream cake last year and they didn’t get it.
ME: Do you think they did that intentionally, just to be mean to you?
HIM: Yes. The other kids got what they wanted. John got a cookie cake and Jane got a ice cream cake. On my birthday, I didn’t get what I wanted.
ME: Well, what kind of cake did you get?
HIM: I got an ice cream cake.
HIM: Mr. Josh, I got a ice cream cake, but it wasn’t a chocolate ice cream cake. It was a vanilla ice cream cake.
ME: Ok, so you DID get an ice cream cake?
ME: So, do you think they intentionally didn’t get you a chocolate cake just to be mean to you?
HIM: No, they just misunderstood me.
ME: ahhhh!!! Say that again…..
HIM: *huge grin* [‘aha moment’ for him…]
As simple as this sounds, there’s a lesson here, not only for the child I was counseling, but for the adults reading this. My life lesson to him: Sometimes, people aren’t trying to be mean to you or be against you, they just misunderstand what you’re trying to communicate. We then find ourselves blaming people (defense mechanisms) for misunderstanding what we tried to communicate or blaming others for the conclusions we’ve jumped to. His mind had him convinced that he NEVER gets what he wants (that’s a pretty big jump!), and let him tell it, he didn’t even get an ice cream cake, which was proven to be untrue.
We often carry this type of thinking into adulthood [which means we carry it into relationships, friendships, marriages, workplaces, etc] and we have to constantly check ourselves. Sometimes we have so many misconceptions and distortions (e.g., thinking people are out to get you or are against you) built up in our heads that are all based on misunderstandings. It causes you to be extreme in your thinking [“All-or-Nothing Thinking”], which leads to crazy statements. It’s the way you think; that’s why you have to constantly challenge the way you think. You’re thinking crazy!
You want to be emotionally healthy and stable? Take your thoughts out your head, put them on the table and challenge them. Ask yourself; does this really make sense?? A few minutes of processing out loud either with yourself or somebody else [someone who is good at analyzing thoughts] can divert years of unnecessary pain, resentment, bitterness and separation from people you love based on an “ice cream cake”.
Be like children, who are much easier to process with than adults sometimes. [Pride often keeps us from processing and then admitting that we went WAY TOO FAR with our crazy thinking]. After some good processing, you may discover that you had your ice cream cake and got to eat it too.
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