Thursday, December 20, 2012

Wise words

"Galdarag" over at "Zelophehad's Daughters" posted her notes from a talk that Cheiko Okazaki gave at the Missionary Training Center in Provo nearly a decade ago.  Good food for thought.  So I'm saving them here.  Enjoy.
(Referencing Adam and Eve): “There are ways in which we remain children morally instead of developing adult faith and maturity if we don’t break some rules.
“Jesus could denounce the pharisees as hypocrites because He was Divine. We are not, so we cannot.
“Hypocrisy starts on the outside and stays there. Goodness can start either way. Doing our duty, even with a grudging heart, can still teach us.
“Jesus is not as concerned with the details of our behavior as he is with our hearts. Therefore, if being good is more important than doing good, how can we not be hypocrites if we act good but don’t feel good?
“The answer: You are not your feelings. Your feelings are not you. What do you do with feelings? Give them to God, and do your duty.
“It is not hypocrisy to act cheerful if you feel badly – as long as you don’t mistake the way you feel for who you are. However, depression and abuse are exceptions to this general rule. In both cases, seek professional help and help from the Savior.
“In Ephesians 6:11 we are told to ‘put on the whole armor of God.’ Job 29:14 states ‘I put on righteousness and it clothed me; I was robed with judgment as a diadem.’ Garments are symbolic. Clothing signifies affiliation, protects our modesty, and enables us to do work. We are not different without our clothing.Armor gives us strength and protections. Is it hypocritical? No, it is wise.
“‘Let us walk honestly as in the day …  Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ.’ (Romans 13:13-14). Let us live the right way. Clothe yourself with the Lord Jesus Christ.
“Remember, ‘There is neither Jew nor Greek … there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.’ (Galatians 3:28)
“Are we hypocrites in our attempts to ‘put on righteousness,’ even if we stumble on the hem in a few steps? No! Because part of who we are is the desire to be better.
“He loves all of you. He loves you even if your past has been sorrowful and painful. Not just in your moments of strength and joy, but also in your times of despair and self-loathing.
“Remember Colossians 3:14-15: ‘And above all these things put on charity …And let the peace of God rule in your hearts.’”

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

The light of the body is the eye. So then, if your eye be single thy whole body shall be full of light.

Last night as I was reading through parts of William Barclay's commentary on Matthew 6 I was struck by the following and its correlation to the cognitive distortions that I've been reviewing.  See what you think.

Barclay writes, "The eyes is regarded as the window by which the light gets into the whole body.  The state of the window decides what light gets into a room.  If the window is clear, clean and undistorted, the light will come flooding into the room, and will illuminate every corner of it.  If the glass of the window is colored or frosted, distorted, dirty or obscure, the light will be hindered, and the room will not be lit up...
So, then, says Jesus, the light which gets into any man's heart and soul and being depends on the spiritual state of the eye through which it has to pass, for the eye is the window of the whole body."

Barclay goes on to describe the distortions of prejudice, jealousy and self-conceit that can distort our view of reality, others and ourselves and then he adds

"But here Jesus speaks of one special virtue which fills the eye with light..."

He then explains that the word translated as single is the Greek word haplous, the corresponding noun being haplotes.  He points out that in other places in the Bible these same two words are translated as generous, generosity, liberality.  The footnotes in my edition of the Bible also translate it as sincere, and without guile and healthy.

All of those definitions point to a way of seeing reality through an eye that is clear and open-hearted, based upon truth, reason and an open generosity of spirit.

Cognitive distortions are the opposite of that.  They overspread our window, our view of ourselves and others, with false assumptions and false extrapolations, misperceptions, distrust, illogical conclusions, and bleak judgment.

No wonder we feel "how great is that darkness" when we fall into patterns of using them.

Fortunately there are ways to learn how to change those patterns of thinking into clear, truthful, generous lenses that let in light.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Cognitive Distortion #1, All-or-Nothing Thinking

For my own personal reference while my library is in storage as our house is repaired, I'm listing David Burns' excellent list of cognitive distortions that often clutter the brains of all of us and make clear thinking more difficult.  Many thanks to Dr. Burns and his book, "Feeling Good, the New Mood Therapy" from which these ideas were taken.  After I finish this, I plan to post ideas for combating them.  

This first cognitive distortion, all-or-nothing thinking, occurs when you take one failure and translate it into total failure.

For example, you are unable to get your child to respond positively to your best efforts at getting him to exercise regularly.  You brain tells you, "I am such a failure as a parent."

Or, you surprise your spouse with an unexpected night out together and though the food is good the conversation is bland and you both are tired and you think, "I am such a loser at this whole marriage thing."

One failure immediately translates into complete failure.

All-or-nothing thinking, among other things, forms the basis of perfectionism.  It causes you to fear mistakes or imperfections because then you will see yourself as a complete loser, and you will feel inadequate and useless.

This way of evaluating things is unrealistic because life is rarely completely one way or the other.  For example, no one is absolutely brilliant or completely clumsy all of the time.  Every person, and every thing is a combination of excellent and average and not-so-good.  If you tend to push all of your experiences into absolute judgments you will be constantly discouraged and discredit yourself endlessly because no matter what, because of your God-given mortal state, you will never measure up to your exaggerated expectations of excellence.

You see everything as black or white.  If it's gray, it's black.  Thinking patterns like this leave little opportunity for recognition of progress or celebration of what is good as every black or gray experience blankets everything in black.

Recognizing this in yourself and teaching your brain to see your less-than-perfect experiences with the same kind of love, clarity, and encouragement and perspective that God does, rather than with the judgmentalism of a pharisee, is a major first step in overcoming this cognitive distortion.  And it helps your ability to do better and improve a zillion times more than does the blanket of black.

In my next post maybe I'll talk about ways to talk back to cognitive distortions with truth once you recognize them in your own head.