Category Archives: Anxiety

Do you Labour under a False Projection of God

Never good enough, always feeling guilty, labouring without end. Does this describe your relationship with God?

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Dwight Edwards relates the perceptions about God of such a person.

God’s demands of me were so high and His opinion of me was so low, there was no way for me to live except under His frown … All day long He nagged me: “Why don’t you pray more? Why don’t you witness more? When will you ever learn self-discipline? How can you allow yourself to indulge in such wicked thoughts? Do this. Don’t do that. Yield, confess, work harder.” God was always using His love against me. He’d show His nail-pierced hands, and then he would look glaringly and say “Well, why aren’t you a better Christian? Get busy and live the way you ought to.”

Most of all, I had a God who down underneath considered me to be less than dirt. Oh, He made a great ado about loving me, but I believed that the day-to-day love and acceptance I longed for could only be mine if I let Him crush everything that was really me. When I came down to it, there was scarcely a word or a feeling or a thought or a decision of mine that God really liked. 

Dwight Edwards – Revolution Within

For some God is like a terrible task master, always demanding more. 

Do you labour under this projected perception of God? 

I enjoy going to the movies. I sit for a couple of hours and look at a huge screen and a story unfolds it self to me. Up behind me is a projection box and light beams out from it casting the story onto the white screen.

Whatever is projected, I take into myself and becomes my reality for a short period of time. Whether I am being transported around the universe on Starship Enterprise, or walking fields with Hobbit’s, I am totally absorbed in a projected view. 

Escapism from reality is ok, for a while, but eventually the movie comes to an end and I shuffle out of the theatre and back to living with bills to pay and dirty dishes to wash

What projected view of God do you languish, labour, or love under? 

It is vitally important to your Spiritual Formation to have a wide and holistic view of what God is really like and being open to change. 

For some the movie of God is black and white, harsh and hard. There is little colour and life that would be considered attractive. 

Perhaps a visit to a different movie might help?

People gathered around Jesus and he talked to them.

“Are you tired?
Worn out?
Burned out on religion?
Come to me.
Get away with me and you’ll recover your life.
I’ll show you how to take a real rest.
Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it.
Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.

I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.
Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
Matthew 11:28-30

Some quotes to consider

  • Moralism and its stepchild, legalism, reduce the love story of God for his people to the observance of burdensome duties and oppressive laws. Brennan Manning A Glimpse of Jesus
  • The Christian world, which incessantly projects its own god fashioned after its own image, pays a heavy price in anxiety, a scrupulosity that sees sin where there is no sin, and a vague sense of existential guilt. A Glimpse of Jesus
  • I hope it is clear that feelings of guilt, accompanied by anxiety, fear and restlessness, arise from deep within ourselves and are not an accurate gauge of the state of our souls before God. We cannot assume that he feels about us the way we feel about ourselves, unless we love ourselves intensely and freely. Bernard Bush 

Questions to consider and leave a comment.

  • What projections of God have you laboured under?
  • What picture of God does Jesus reveal in Matthew 11:28-30
  • How does someone change the projected view of God that they have adopted as reality?
Barry Pearman

Listening for the Whisper Amidst the Noise

It is a noisy world.
Subway noise
Photo Credit: michale via Compfight cc 

So many sensory inputs.  

Text messages to read, social networks to follow, email, radio, T.V., movies, blogs, podcasts, books, eBooks, audio books. 

The list can go on and on.

So much noise!

Does all this noise add to your life or could it be a distraction from life? 

Is it just a glutinous consumption of more information? 

The writer of Proverbs says this

A leech has twin daughters named “Gimme” and “Gimme more.” Proverbs 30:15 (The Message)

I read this the other day on my twitter feed.

@kimgarst: Face your problems…DO NOT Facebook your problems 。◕‿◕。 #youcandosocial

Do we face our problems, or Facebook them? 

Do we tweet out our misery into the land of noise hoping for some sympathy or a magic information wand to suddenly appear.

I think of the Bible character Elisha. Here was a guy burnt out, exhausted, depressed, and suicidal. He runs in panic to the desert, finds a cave to hide, seeks God, and experiences noise.

A hurricane wind ripped through the mountains and shattered the rocks before God, but God wasn’t to be found in the wind; after the wind an earthquake, but God wasn’t in the earthquake; and after the earthquake fire, but God wasn’t in the fire; and after the fire a gentle and quiet whisper.

When Elijah heard the quiet voice, he muffled his face with his great cloak, went to the mouth of the cave, and stood there. A quiet voice asked, “So Elijah, now tell me, what are you doing here?” 1 Kings 19:12, 13

Elisha’s story is not unlike many of ours.

Elisha is being pounded by noise

The internal noise between the ears. 

His fears, anxieties, the thoughts of people wanting to kill him. So he runs to try and escape. 

A desert and a cave
             A storm, and a fire and then 
                                                                                a whisper. 

From chaotic ‘out of control’ panic to a ‘gentle and quiet whisper’.

It takes effort to listen for the whisper.

A focus and a stilling of the self.

Opening the self to God in its totality involves meeting God in mind and heart, the senses and imagination, stillness and action, meditation and contemplation. David G. Benner.

Perhaps a method of hearing the whisper’s is Lectio Divina.

David Benner in Opening to God: Lectio Divina and Life as Prayer describes a six part process to listening.

1. Place. Pick a place that you will use for regular times of lectio divina. Make this somewhere quiet that will support attentive openness to God.

2. Time. Be realistic as you think about when and for how long you will try to practice this prayer, but also plan on being regular. 

3. A short reading. Take a small morsel of Scripture and expect God to give you a word or phrase from it that will nourish your soul and meet your present spiritual needs.

4. Listen for a word from God. In this context, a “word” does not necessarily mean a single word; it could be a phrase or even a short sentence. It means a meaningful message summed up in a few words. Notice the gentle touch that draws your attention, makes you stop and think, or stimulates a memory or a body sensation. Trust that this is God’s word for you.

5. Respond. Thank God for the gift you have been given and for God’s personal word to you. And then allow your heart and head to lead you in a response.

6. Be with God in stillness. Finally, as your worded prayer comes to an end, simply be with God in stillness. Sit in silence in God’s presence. Soak in the goodness of God’s grace.

We have so much noise in our lives. 

Is it too much?

Spend some time today in quiet, just listening to the whispers of God. 

Questions to consider and leave a comment

  • What sources of ‘Noise’ dominate your world?
  • Follow David Benner’s 6 steps and leave a comment about what whisper you heard.
Barry Pearman

How to Develop a Compass for the Brain

I am lost and need a sense of true North. A focal point, a direction, a ‘something’ to aid my progress out of the fog. 

Mental Illness is one of the worst fog generating experiences you can have.

Your brain can play tricks on you.

Your perceptions can change, some times quite dramatically, to being vastly different to everyone else’s.

I well remember someone pointing out to me the ‘Little spacemen in the tree’. Psychosis was fogging his thinking, he was unwell, but in his mind he was perfectly well.

Perhaps though the more subtle and less overt effects of mental illness can be more damaging. The thinking habits nurtured over many years in a watery soup of unawareness.

When the stress becomes too much for the fragile brain, we become disoriented, confused, and truly lost.

The fog has closed in and it’s black.

Mental illness often fog’s out a true perception of life. The perspective you have gets fogged by the interpretations you have made about events.

Event + Response = Outcome (E+R=O).

When the Response is effected by an illness then the Outcome can be disastrous.

When the stress loading becomes too much it is very easy to lose your way.

What we need is some sort of Thinking Compass. 

Something that we can refer back to time and time again, and that will always point towards true North. Always to healthy thinking and hope.

We don’t need some huge massive compass, too big to carry, too heavy to bear, and too incomprehensible to take in. When you are unwell you don’t want to be overloaded with information and unrealistic expectations.

Even previous learning experiences can hinder your uptake of new information.

It’s not so much that the client is unable to grasp the info, as he or she is easily discouraged, based on a fund of previous negative experiences in school. C. Scott McMillin

Do you have a compass for the brain? 

I have a handy-dandy little notebook (apologies to Blues Clues fans). It is small enough to fit in my back pocket and easy enough to pull out when I need a sense of direction.

I have a little notebook that is my Thinking Compass. I use a physical book, not an electronic recording device. I just think something quite tangible happens in the brain when you put the pen to paper.

Into this compass goes all sorts of material for me to keep training and coaching my brain.

  • Quotes. These maybe quotes I have gleaned out of books, podcasts, social media etc. Short and pithy, powerful and true.
  • Empowering and Challenging questions. Questions that stop you and make you think and consider some tough choices. e.g. Am I truly taking responsibility for my own life, today? In what ways am I going to help someone else today?
  • Scripture verses. The Bible is full of verses that speak truth in the innermost being. Read it and glean goodness.
  • Counselling insights. If you are getting counselling perhaps your counsellor can write down some the keys insights they want you to think and consider.
The criteria for material getting into my Thinking Compass is that there has to have some sort of ‘ah hah’ moment attached to it. There has to be a ‘light bulb turning on experience’ when I read it.
Basically my brain needs some sort of new learning experience for it to make a new pathway.
Making new pathways in our thinking is hard work, much like building a rope bridge over a chasm. Many repeated journeys back and forth in the brain will make a new thinking bridge strong and secure.
Going back to the Thinking Compass time and time again is needed.
The thicker the fog, the more times you will have to refer to the compass.
Question to Consider and leave a Comment.
  • Do you have some favourite verses or quotes that are like a compass to you? Why them and would you like to share them in the comments section?
  • Have you had an experience of a Mental Illness being like a fog around you, disorienting you, affecting your judgements? What helped you? 
  • Can you have too much information? How can you discern what is most helpful and disregard the rest?
Barry Pearman
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Never Borrow Sorrow from Tomorrow

diary notebook calendar list
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Never Borrow Sorrow from Tomorrow

Deal only with the present —
never step into tomorrow,
For God asks us just to trust Him
and to never borrow sorrow,
For the future is not ours to know,
and it may never be,
So let us live and give our best
and give it lavishly. . .
For to meet tomorrow’s troubles
before they are even ours
Is to anticipate the Savior
and to doubt His all-wise powers,
So let us be content to solve
our problems one by one,
Asking nothing of tomorrow
except “Thy will be done.”

Helen Steiner Rice

Poems & Prayers of Helen Steiner Rice, compiled by Virginia J. Ruehlmann; published by Fleming H. Revell, Grand Rapids, MI, c2003.

Slaying the Fear Giant

As a kid I imagined he was as tall as a skyscraper, now I realise that he was only 3 ft 9′ taller than I am. 

Giant small fear anxiety panic worry man

Photo Credit: JLM Photography. via Compfight cc 

Have you ever returned to some place that you knew really well as a child and discovered that it isn’t that big as you had remembered. 

It might be your old bedroom, a playing field, a school yard. 

You thought they were so big yet now with adult eyes you see them as no bigger than anything else. 

There is a story in the Bible about a child killing a tall man. Goliath was 9ft 9″ high, but the way it was portrayed to me, as a child, he was a GIANT. 

David and the Goliath was read alongside Jack and the Beanstalk where the hero was up against super tall mountainous men and women. Now that grabs a child’s attention as they place themselves in the same situation. 

The problem with these stories is that huge cloud hugging giants don’t exist. 

It’s true I tell, they don’t exist!

When read in a story with creative emotional embellishment the child believes them totally. Well in my mind I did. 

Carry this subtle thinking pathway over into adulthood and those fear giants can still exist big and ugly as ever. 

How do you cut them down? 
        How do you slay those fears? 

We need to reprogram the subconscious through cognitive reassessments. 

David’s giant was actually only 3ft taller than I am. David was ten years old so perhaps his Giant was only double his size and not the ‘hugging treetops’ kind. 

In reality David’s giant was actually quite manageable, with God’s help. 

When I get hard nosed facts, when I break my fears down into doable portions it gives my brain more information to process, reassess, and retrain the childlike brain’s first response. 

My feelings are not a reliable guide to my future and feeling it doesn’t make it so

It’s time to reassess the assessments, but this time as an adult. 

When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 1 Corinthians 13: 11

Questions to consider and leave a comment.

  • What fears do you have that needed reassessing?
  • How much do you rely on feelings to guide you?
Barry Pearman

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Part 1. How to set Goals when you’re in the Middle of Minefield

Ever set goals for yourself and not achieved them?

Have you been wounded in a minefield of failure?

Often for the Depressive it totally compounds the thoughts of being useless etc.I’ve set many goals over the years and often failed at them.

In my book ‘Out of the Darkness’ I talk about this being a feature of people with Depression.

We set expectations too high, we fail at them, we believe the negative self press, we stop believing in ourselves, and we go back to bed, or hit the bottle!

The big question is

Who sets your expectation goals? 

Here are some suggestions

1. Society – the ambient societal message around you says that you need to be this weight, drive this car, have this cell phone, wear these clothes, etc…

2. Family, friends – to please the expectations of others we try and reach their expectations of us, or the perceived expectations we think they have of us. ‘Mum would always serve a three course meal every night, I should too’

3. Those #@%^& Mental Health Support workers. I used to be a support worker and I would always be asked by my boss ‘Has your client (eek), consumer (double EEK) set some goals for the year’. You see when the file is reviewed by the government funding agency they will be wanting to see goals. Pressure is on. So you ask your ‘client’ (eeek) what they want to achieve. ‘I want to become an astronaut’ they boldly say. You tick a box! They go back to bed! How many times have I seen people set themselves goals that that are too over the top, but because there are so many expectations milling around them they dream and decide to train to become a nurse, or a doctor whilst they are totally unaware of their own personal hygiene problems. SMELLY!

4. The Church. Now here is a bundle of subtle and not so subtle expectation messages. To be part of this church you need to

  1. Dress like we do
  2. Give money like we do
  3. Read your Bible like we do
  4. Believe these beliefs like we do
  5. Be able to sit still during the service like we do
  6. Smile, sing, pray, raise hands, even fart like we do!

To be in, you have to have NO SIN. Or at least hide it really well like everyone else. (Like that? Tweet it)

Writing goals is like looking at a minefield full of potential failure explosives. TOO HARD.

After receiving so many wounds we give up. 

  • How do we set goals with a minefield all around us?
  • How do we help others when they face their minefield?

In the next post I will reveal all! Well not quite, but I do have a few ideas that might help.

Question to consider and leave a comment. 
What has your experience of setting goals been like?

Link to Part 2 of this series.

Barry Pearman
Image by Andrew Cheal Creative Commons Flickr

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When the Sleeping Dogs don’t Lie

It was all on. Tyler was going to rip them apart. Lycra thread by lycra thread.

Saturday morning on the deck. 

Coffee, journal, Kindle, thinking about the day ahead.

All is well with the world.

That’s until two cyclists stop at the top of our drive, one with a flat tyre.

Tyler, our large dog of unknown breeding, immediately has ears pricked up. A low grumble starts to come to the surface. I tell him it will be alright and to stay by my side. Grumbling moves to louder and more menacing tones. His hairs start to rise up on the back of his spine. He is starting to shake with fear. He is scared and wants to protect his turf.

I continue to reassure him and wish those lycra lads would hurry up and change the tyre.

Tyler presses his shivering frame into my leg and I just keep reassuring him that it will be ok. I don’t think he understands. 

Where is Dr. Doolittle when you need him most? 

Tyler came to us as a puppy from the SPCA. He has always had a dark side of fear to him. We have even had him on Prozac for a short period and it actually helped.

For most of the time he is the friendliest dog we have ever had. Playful, affectionate, and full of doggy character.

There is however this other aspect of timidity, aggression, panic and fear.

I am not a dog therapist but I think there must be something both in his pre-pearman days, and maybe in his genetic makeup that has caused this underlying behaviour to be there.

Perhaps if any of you understand Dog psychology you could leave a comment below it.

As I was watching this all unfold before my coffee cup, I was prompted to think about the other side to me. 

What is my dark side (Darth Vader breathing sound inserted here), what is my shadow, what is my backstage mess, what lurks below the waterline of my iceberg, what is in my subconscious that drives my conscious behaviours. What mess do I unknowingly carry into all of my relationships?

Sometimes I am like Tyler. Metaphorical hairs raised and troubled heart.

A real blessing at these times for me is to have someone come alongside and reassure me.

I have two hands resting on my shoulders and patting me.

The first is the presence of the Holy Spirit. Reassurance whispers into my soul that I am going to be ok, that nothing can separate me from Gods love, and that they – Father, Son, and Spirit – are going to be with me no matter what happens. I sense a fragrance of hope filling my soul.

The second ‘hand on my shoulder’ comes from those that want to be in my mess with me. Family, friends, and others that safely come along and speak truth and love into my soul. They love me and they can see a future for me beyond what I can see in the here and now.

They may not say anything verbally, their presence being enough.

Tyler is now asleep, curled up in his basket beside my desk. The grumbles have changed to quiet snoring and the occasional fart (dogs!).

The cyclists have moved on.

To consider and leave a comment

  • Life is full of situations which can trigger responses in us that reveal something unwanted. What triggers you? How do you respond to the trigger?
  • Who and/or what reassures you and brings peace to the panic?

Barry Pearman

Image by Ben Pearman (my son!) Creative Commons Flickr

4 Joys to Grasp when your ‘Hands are Tied’

It can be frustrating when your ‘hands are tied’.
Sorry, but my hands are tied

‘My hands are tied’ is an idiom that means that you are unable to act or behave in a certain way because something is constraining you.

There is no freedom.

‘I would love to raise your salary but my hands are tied’

Have you ever had your hands tied?

You are very limited in what you can and can’t do. You have been restrained by someone else. It is incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to bind your own hands. It is even more difficult though to release yourself from the ropes. The twin sisters of anxiety and depression can make their appearance.

What can you do when your hands are tied both figuratively and literally?

There are constraints on all of us all from doing what we would like to do.

Paul was a prisoner. His hands were literally tied. He was under house arrest, yet he longed to be with his closest friends who lived many miles away in a city called Philippi. He didn’t have the internet to have chats, or send emails, or to Skype. The best that he could do was to write letters.

Remember what letters were? You take a piece of paper, find a pen and write your thoughts down. Then into an envelope and post it via snail mail. Link’s provided just in case you didn’t know what these items were.

I think Paul might have felt like this.

‘I would love to be with you but my hands are tied’
‘I would love to help you on your faith journey but my hands are tied’
‘I know that you want me with you but my hands are tied’

Paul writes these words to his friends

What I’m getting at, friends, is that you should simply keep on doing what you’ve done from the beginning. When I was living among you, you lived in responsive obedience. Now that I’m separated from you, keep it up. Better yet, redouble your efforts. Be energetic in your life of salvation, reverent and sensitive before God. That energy is God’s energy, an energy deep within you, God himself willing and working at what will give him the most pleasure. Philippians 2:12, 13 The Message (MSG)

Paul wanted to be with his friends to help them in their personal journey of transformation and change. He couldn’t. 

His hands were tied.
Even so he was trusting God had it in hand. God’s hands were not tied. God could bring something good out of what seemed so desperately bad. 
Paul trusted in something bigger than himself. 
Paul in fact rejoiced in his situation. 

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Philippians 4:4

4 Joys that you can grasp when your hands are tied.

1. God is in you. This is amazing. If you have asked Jesus to be leader of your life then he comes and lives in you. The Holy Spirit comes and fills your life. Paul writes that we are a temple of the Holy Spirit.
2. God is at work. God’s creativity is not limited. Just look at our universe and marvel at the creative energy unleashed. The only limits we have on God doing an incredible creative work in our lives is what we place on God ourselves. Freedom of choice is what God has handed us. God allures us to further and further transformation. Aslan is on the move!
3. God takes great pleasure in his work. Creative God shouts at the end of creation ‘It is good, very good’. Have you ever created something and in the process of creating you just get a great deal of pleasure? God is like this and gets a great deal of pleasure of being in charge of the creative process.
4. God has a bigger story unfolding. We can’t see the big story of what God is up to. I wonder if Paul had an inkling as to the absolute blessing his ‘hands are tied’ prison letters would have on billions of people. Hands tied released a freedom to write. Your hands maybe tied in one way, but how could this be used for some thing good in God’s big story?

Want to read more? Here is a link to a message I gave called ‘Working out what God is working in’.

  • How are your hands tied? 
  • What opportunities does this provide? 
  • How does it feel to know that God is at work in you and is taking pleasure in the process?

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Barry PearmanImage by penguincakes creative commons Flickr