by Linda Parker, LMFT
“I can see goodness again.” I loved hearing this from a woman who had gone through several losses at once and come out on the other side with this perspective in her heart and life. Perspective….hmmm, a healing force when it comes to dealing with difficult circumstances. Often, as was the case here, it comes after we’ve passed through the difficult circumstance, but come, it must, for healing to take place.
We often think the circumstance or person has to change for our negative emotions to change. This leaves us a victim of things we have no control over. However, what we do have control over is changing our perspective of the circumstance. That’s when we’ll see a change in our emotions. Let’s look at important changes in our perspective that can make a difference in difficult times.
Our perspective about ourselves often turns negative when we experience difficulties, particularly if we live or work with difficult people who can eat away at our sense of self worth. Experiences from our past may have instilled the seed of doubt about our worth, but there’s nothing like the present to trigger those false beliefs about ourselves. Some therapies, such as EMDR and cognitive behavioral therapy, work directly on false negative beliefs about ourselves that we come to believe as a result of a past trauma or unhealthy relationships. And as Christians, we have the added resource of knowing our worth and identity in Christ (See tool Identity in Christ under the resource tab of our website).
Our past experiences with people create a boatload of potential projections into present relationships. It’s no surprise that the difficulties of cross-cultural living have a way of activating those projections. Your ministry leader is all of a sudden that scolding father you had. Yes, he may be somewhat harsh in the way he communicates, but you may magnify his sternness in your mind when you add dad into his personality. When we see our reactions to somebody out of proportion to the situation, we need to try to separate this person in our present from that person in our past. Counseling might be needed to facilitate resolution of the hurt from that past person and so reduce the potential for projections into present relationships.
Where and who is God in these tough times? Does he care, is He too weak to act? Oh how important a healthy perspective on the character of God is in trying times. Sometimes giving permission to those in our care to express strong negative emotions about God and to God can facilitate the grieving that then leaves room to receive His love and see his goodness.
Vicarious trauma, where we counselors experience painful emotions when hearing stories of others’ horrendous experiences, can leave us needing a renewal of our perspective on God’s good character. I remember one such time where I needed a heavy infusion daily of hymns and songs about the character of God. Combining music with these truths, engaging the left and right brain concurrently creates a powerful inroad into our hearts. Here’s a link to a beautiful way someone has done that which can be used to calm our emotions and change our perspectives on who God is in our lives.
Healthy perspective does not wipe away painful emotions. There still may be pain, but by working on our perspectives of ourselves, others and God in difficult circumstances we will find a clearer path forward in which to work through the pain. In Romans 12:2, Paul talks about the transforming power of renewing our minds. What an amazing promise that His perspectives in any situation we encounter can transform us to where eventually, we can see goodness again.
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