When Essential Brain Skills Are Missing-Case Study-Part 2

Brains-Amplify.pngIn the last blog, I talked about what it looks like in real life when one or more essential relational brain skills are missing and how that played out in one family. I described the rule of thumb that when our brain does not have the skill of returning to joy from one or more emotions, then we will do almost anything to avoid that feeling.

Michelle was a highly sensitive burden bearer, who had been made the family scapegoat. There are three ironies in making her the scapegoat.

Irony One: Michelle who was accused of intending to be harsh to her dying mother, was the family scapegoat precisely because she was the most tender hearted in her family of origin. Michelle’s heart was very tender. Being highly sensitive, she was actually the safest family member. She would cause the least amount of pain because when she did inflict pain, she felt it and sooner or later that caused her to stop. Increasingly, she learned to trust Jesus and worked to use her sensitivity to avoid inflicting pain in the first place.  Some evidence of Michelle being the safest one in her family was that when family members could not avoid feeling hurt, they went to Michelle and confided in her.

Irony Two: Michelle was angrily accused of being mean but she was the main person, aside from the father, who helped her family learn the way back to joy from anger. He also kept the mother’s alcoholism under control.

You see, the one who was the kindest, the one who worked the hardest to make things better, the one who was the most apt to forgive made it possible for angry siblings to become less angry, calm down, and even return to being glad to be together. Things may not have been allowed to be talked through to resolution, yet Michelle’s ability to be a sponge and absorb without always dishing back in kind, made it possible for emotions to settle down.

If Michelle was as mean to others as they were to her, they would never have learned a way out of anger. If Michelle was as angry and mean as the accuser said, none of them would have ever learned a way out of anger. It was her kindness and her sensitivity that found a way to forgive and be glad to be together again.

Irony Three: Michelle’s love was characterized as meanness. She loved people, including her family even more than she loved the comfort of their alliance. Linda, who characterized herself as loving actually loved the comfort she gained from having Mom as an ally more than she loved Mom.

You can see this dynamic in Jesus with the rich ruler in Luke 18:18. Jesus loved the rich young ruler and he loved him enough to caringly confront that man with his need to sell all he had so he could own things instead of things owning him. If Jesus had loved being admired by the man more than he loved the man, he would have been “nice” and enabled the man to stay in denial rather than say anything that would upset him. Even a loving correction can hurt like a wound. The truth is that Jesus loved the man enough to risk losing him and sure enough when Jesus told him the truth with love, the man walked away. He walked away sad rather than angry, but still he walked away. The Bible calls what Jesus did “an open rebuke”, a wound that “can be trusted” (Proverbs 27:5-6). There are times and places to do that with love.

Let me say it again with the brain skill. If someone’s brain doesn’t know the way back to joy from sadness or fear, then they cannot make a loving open rebuke—a faithful correction. They could still make a correction from their anger, but that will be for self or from being out of control. It wouldn’t be for the sake of the other. If someone’s brain knows the way back to joy from sadness or fear, then they can risk losing the relationship for a time or even risk losing it permanently. They can risk giving a loving correction and risk being seen and talked about as being a mean person because they love the other person even more than they love the comfort that comes from the relationship, like Jesus.

Michelle would have loved for her mother to reconcile and acknowledge the harm caused by her narcissism. There was a long list of hurtful actions that the mother had not acknowledged. However, Michelle knew that her mother was probably incapable of apologizing for what she had done. It would have had to be a miracle from God. She would NEVER demand her mother’s acknowledgement—especially when she was weak and dying.

Michelle’s heart was to be loving, to make the mother’s passing as peaceful as possible. “Linda’s” story was a figment of her imagination—a way to distract and avoid the painful emotion of fear and the sadness of loss. She ran from these feelings to a familiar sanctuary (anger) because anger made her feel powerful. Fear made her feel powerless but anger made her feel powerful.

Like every person actively serving God, Michelle was a work in progress. She gave credit to God for continuing to renew her mind, for her husband’s love and support. She was involved in a small group whose members possessed these brain skills to varying degrees, though none felt they had arrived. She learned about burden bearing and through her group learned a larger understanding of the dynamic of being the family scapegoat. That alone was profoundly healing. The Lord used Jim Wilder’s ministry to give understanding of the importance of learning how to return to joy from painful emotions . She was learning the healing power of truth with love.

Footprints.pngTake Away Lesson: It takes time to build new connections in the brain and it takes time for the heart to heal from old hurts when ongoing behaviors create more wounds. But it is possible and vitally important to learn brain skills that were missing in the family dynamic. Learning the skills makes it possible to stop the hurtful patterns from repeating in successive generations.

May your joy be full,

Chris & Carol

Chris Coursey, MA Theology — Author, Speaker and Thrive Trainer, www.thrivetoday.org

Twitter – @coursey_chris

Carol Brown, Author of The Mystery of Spiritual Sensitivity and Highly Sensitive                            www.fromgodsheart.com      Carol’s email — godsheart@comcast.net

p.s. Last 2014 Thrive Training to learn these brain skills:

Date: July 14th – 18th, 2014
Location:
Holiday Inn, East Peoria, IL. USA
Registration: Is now open!
Click here to register.
Find Out More

When Essential Brain Skills Are Missing-Case Study-Part 1

We can talk about essential relational brain skills and you can read about them…but what does it actually look like in real life when one or more are missing? How does it play out in the family dynamic?

Brains-Amplify.png

The general rule of thumb is that when we are missing the brain skills for dealing with even one emotion, like anger or sadness, then we will avoid that emotion at all costs. Avoiding out of wisdom is one thing, but avoiding out of fear can be costly.

When we lack the brain skills to deal with one or more emotions, we will go through all sorts of contortions to avoid feeling those emotions. This includes contorting the truth and even putting others through serious hurt.

What is Needed — We have learned (consciously or unconsciously) that if we feel that emotion, we become lost, or stuck in it. We need to learn how to return to joy when there has been a rupture in our relationships where one or both people are not glad to be together. These brain skills are not something we can learn from a book or lecture. We learn this best through face to face interaction with others who have learned them.

sharing joy

Case Study —  In this case a number of essential skills were missing in the matriarch of the family. She fit the profile of being narcissistic. We will look only at the essential relational brain skill of “return to joy from fear and sadness.” Because “Ruth” (fictional name), the matriarch, did not have the skill, none of her children learned it in childhood.

The impending death of the matriarch set off overwhelming fear of loss in one sibling. We will call her “Linda”. I don’t know which was the most painful for Linda, fear or sadness but the fear of loss combines both of them. Since Linda did not know how to find her way back to joy from fear or sadness, those emotions felt unsafe to her. She avoided feeling fear or sadness at all costs.

Anger is often the “go to” emotion to avoid fear—a person may know how to return to joy from anger, but not how to return from fear or sadness. Linda’s mind rescued her from the fear of loss by pulling out bits and pieces of the family history which she wove together with newly imagined “facts” to create a potential scenario which she “knows” to be truth.

She drew on the family dynamic of “Michelle” as the scapegoat of the family. Any family member who did not know how to process an emotional event would conveniently find Michelle and angrily blame her for something real or imagined. After the explosion the family member felt better (self-righteousness is a stronghold in the family line). However, the explosions left Michelle staggering under the load of blame, accusation and shame–even for things she did not do.

Michelle was eldest child, so as well as being the scapegoat, she also had the role of being the responsible one, the one everyone went to when they needed fixing. They were saying, in essence, “Come sister, grab my pain, grab our pain, come and make it better.” They were unconsciously using and abusing Michelle’s high sensitivity, her empathy or as we call it, burden bearing ability. Michelle did  this for so long, it was as reflexive as breathing. She began asking the Lord to help her have boundaries for her sensitivity a number of years before her mother’s death.

Fear–As mother’s death approached, Linda’s mind put together the story that Michelle would come to the bedside of her dying mother and make a scene. She would insist the mother apologize for a laundry list of hurts and slights and demand the mother ask forgiveness for a multitude of sins, and break the mother’s heart. Linda spewed horror and outrage that Michelle could be so insensitive and unloving.

The payoff for Linda in creating an uproar was that she could feel justified in her anger and avoid seeing how she was using anger to avoid feeling fear and sadness from the anticipated loss of mother.

Taking Sides–All her life, Linda took sides and insisted that others take sides. She chose mother’s side and made her identity to be “the good daughter who takes care of mother.” When mother died, who would she be? Unfortunately, when she identified so closely with mother, she also picked up the narcissistic behaviors that mother modeled. The mother was capable of causing the most hurt, i.e. she was the most unsafe person in the family. Consciously or unconsciously, Linda found it “wise” to side with the strongest, most dangerous person.

When Mom died, Linda lost her most powerful ally. She felt vulnerable and fearful and attempted to fortify her position. She defaulted to anger to avoid feeling her fear and attempted to recruit everyone to her side leaving Michelle as “the bad guy.”

Michelle and Linda’s brother and Michelle’s son were normally close to Michelle so those alliances were threatening to Linda. She worked to draw both brother and nephew into her vortex. She filled them with her imaginary scenario and her outrage over what Michelle would do. Looking at things through Linda’s eyes, they became offended, outraged, and pulled away from Michelle–even refused to speak to her.

They also tended to avoid feeling fear and sadness and it never had been safe to disagree with Linda, especially when she was angry. It was much safer to be angry at Michelle. She would forgive you and you could find your way back to joy with Michelle, back to being glad to be together. 

Take Away Lesson: Missing skills in one generation will have a ripple effect on the following generations within a family. Those who invest in learning these brain skills are investing in the health of their family and future generations.

Next week we will bring you the conclusion of this case study. We hope you will be able to use this and other case studies we write up to help identify the missing skills at the root of problems you encounter in your ministry.

May your joy be full,

Chris & Carol

Chris Coursey, MA Theology — Author, Speaker and Thrive Trainer, www.thrivetoday.org

Twitter – @coursey_chris

Carol Brown, Author of The Mystery of Spiritual Sensitivity and Highly Sensitive                            www.fromgodsheart.com

p.s. Last 2014 Thrive Training to learn these brain skills:

Date: July 14th – 18th, 2014
Location:
Holiday Inn, East Peoria, IL. USA
Registration: Is now open!
Click here to register.
Find Out More

Pondering Joy and Its Place In The Scheme of Things

The blood moons are not the only interesting phenomenon happening these days. We have bible prophecy, present day prophets and social forecasters agreeing—a miracle! Of course what they infer from the same common elements varies greatly! The consensus seems to be that things are bad and getting worse…something big is coming down the pike.

I’m not a bible scholar but clearly the Bible shows an increasingly dire situation until the Lord returns. Nor am I surveyor who can figure out an unknown location by using the two points he is sure of, but I can usually find my way out of the woods by checking where the sun is, and which side of the tree the moss grows on. You have to stop the panic, get your bearings, figure out which way you need to go.

When the children of Israel were slaves in Egypt their situation was about as bleak as it could be! God brought them through the wilderness and out of it. I believe God has a way through this current and approaching wilderness and out of it into our promised land just as the children of Israel came into theirs.

In navigating our wilderness the Bible is our guidebook. We don’t need to panic—stop, calm, refer to our guide and set off in the direction He indicates. From our guidebook we can learn how to respond in testing. We can learn of God’s character and how He wants us to develop ours. We can learn God’s ways and values; about choices and consequences. And we have the assistance of the Holy Spirit to keep us on course toward our promised land at some “unknown location.”

So where does joy fit in with all this turmoil?

I believe the knowledge of the 19 relational brain skills and the ability to grow joy in relationship with Jesus and other people will be what keeps us grounded. I believe joy is the antidote for fear. Psalm 91:7 says “A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee.” Joy can keep you level headed when people all around are going off the rails. Joy in relationship with Jesus and others will give you the strength to keep your values in the face of temptation to compromise.

It was the JOY that was set before Jesus that made it possible for Him to endure the cross. JOY is the source of our strength also. JOY fills us with the light of God and that light in us will be a light on our path. JOY will be our light when the world is in darkness. It will shine out of us and draw others to Him. JOY’s sister is Peace.

If you would like to shore up your relational skills, the next skills training will be this coming July.

Date: July 14th – 18th, 2014
Location:
Holiday Inn, East Peoria, IL. USA
Registration: Is now open!
Click here to register.
Find Out More

Hope to see you there.

Blessings, Chris & Carol,

Chris Coursey, MA Theology — Author, Speaker and Thrive Trainer, www.thrivetoday.org 

Twitter – @coursey_chris

Carol Brown, Author of The Mystery of Spiritual Sensitivity and Highly Sensitive                            www.fromgodsheart.com