This Week’s Top Free Resource: Church Mental Health Summit

Invest World Mental Health Day in learning about best practices for congregations and mental health at a free global conference.

The Church Mental Health Summit is hosted by Hope Made Strong, a Toronto-based mental health ministry. Attend the online event free, or pay just $59 to receive all 60 sessions recorded for continuing use.

Register and get more info here.

Hope to see you at the summit!

Free Resource: Evidence-Based Workbooks for Growing Forgiveness, Humility, Patience

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Who wouldn’t love to be more patient by next week? More forgiving in just 6 hours? All without leaving home or paying a cent. These evidence-based, free downloadable workbooks could be as transformative for you as they are for me.

Evidence-based workbooks make it possible to start clearing unforgiveness and gain freedom from the past in just 6 hours at home.

Everett Worthington, Jr., a Christian and a professor of psychology at Virginia Commonwealth University, has spent much of his career developing an evidence base for how good character can be formed. Over decades, his teams developed and tested workbooks that can be used by individuals or in groups. Although developed in a secular realm, these function as great DIY discipleship for Christian character formation.

Worthington describes his personal mission as to help every heart (individuals), every home (couples and families), and every homeland (communities and countries) to forgive. His professional studies in forgiveness, as a psychologist, began in 1990 after many years work in couples therapy. His Campaign for Forgiveness Research awarded more than $6 million in grants to studies researching forgiveness. He mentored researchers worldwide.

Worthington’s personal mission is to help every heart, every home, and every homeland to forgive.

After his mother was murdered in 1996, Worthington’s thinking became both more expansive and more personal. The emotional impact, even after forgiving the killer, was tremendous. Self-forgiveness became a new research interest. At the same time, his writing began to relate the personal experience of forgiveness to the larger concerns of justice, faith, and virtue.

DIY Discipleship in Christian Character

I’ve found a lot of value as I worked through the six-hour The Path to Forgiveness  workbook. For me, the benefits of Worthington’s approach included these:

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Real Identities and Reflected ‘Personal Brands’

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Trying to live as our “personal brand” makes us neither “human doings” nor” human beings” but reflections. Illusions. Fleeting. (Es Devlin’s disorienting mirror maze, London, 2016, was photographed by Victor Frankowski for Dezeen)

“I am not a brand.”

Why does that sound radical, counter-cultural, even revolutionary?

“Personal branding,” as we’ve come to know it since the 1990s, is a means of limiting how the world sees us by intentionally establishing boundaries around the view each of us shares with the public. We attempt to guess what the particular audience wants and then share just that much of ourselves. Will we present ourselves as a loose-curled inspiring Christian woman leader? A sharp-tongued, short-haired rebel against the status quo? A fully committed denizen of our Red or Blue political community?

The difficulty for us as human beings is that we are people, not brands. We have, by our God-given human nature, identities. A brand is less than an identity. A brand is only how people present things for other people to see.

I am not a thing. I am a person. I want people to see the person God made, not an object of my own creation.

Branding includes calculated behaviors and calculated images. The calculation usually is weighted toward what we think others want to purchase.

I am not for sale. I am a person. I have an identity, not a brand.

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Wow! A quarter of us hear voices and aren’t diagnosed!

Just heard a great talk about hearing voices by Dr. John Swinton (chair of the Center for Spirituality, Health and Disability at the University of Aberdeen. (Pathways to Promise conference, Houston, TX, offered online this year and attended by more than 2,600 worldwide, including me.)

It turns out that voice hearing is a very common experience. It occurs in 5-28% of the non-diagnosed population. And voice hearing is not typically disabling in itself, but becomes disabling in countries — like the US — where it’s treated as an illness, not an experience.

[One of the odd cross-cultural differences is that in the US, where we treat voice hearing as an illness, people tend to hear only negative, hectoring voices. In Ghana and India, Stanford anthropologist Tanya Luhrmann found the voices heard were more often benign, encouraging or even playful.

In essence, the disability is social stigma, not the experience of what USD psychiatrists call psychosis. In this part of his talk, he drew on Luhrman’s cross-cultural research on the experience of voice-hearing, published in the Annual Review of Anthropology.

Food for thought.

Rooted on a Rock, Part 2

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Well, if those trees aren’t rooted on a rock, I don’t know what would be. Kamen Brela juts out of the Adriatic Sea on the Dalmatian coast of Croatia. This image, which popped up in my browser today, took me back to last week’s post about trees that manage to thrive despite their challenging settings — and even depend on the challenging setting to remain alive.

The image reminded me of the “islands” I saw in Fundy Bay, a day or so northeast of me. When Fundy’s dramatic tides drop to low, the islands become giant’s flowerpots, with trees as the “flowers” above.

Low and incoming tide in the Bay of Fundy, located between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia At high tide, these rocks will be nearly immersed.

I imagine the challenging first months and years for these trees. A seed found enough moisture to germinate … it found a tiny bit of moss or humus to grant it a bit of nourishment … and it faithfully depended on God’s provision of each next tiny bit of water and nourishment as it slowly grew to its full heights.

Those of us who have lived through remarkable challenges are as remarkable as those trees. We may not have known that God made sure we were provided what we’d need to grow. We may be surrounded by people — church people, counselor people — who are intent on “healing” us and “delivering” us from the very challenging rock in which God has taught us to root our lives.

Believe God. A tree rooted in a rock is remarkable. God made your life in this place possible. Stand tall.

New Research: Your ‘Mental Illness’ Might Be a Normal Response to COVID Stress

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COVID has increased stress, anxiety, depression, substance use, and even suicidal thoughts among more than 40% of US adults, the CDC reported this week. Image by Engin Akyurt from Pixabay

The difficult emotional reactions to COVID uncertainty have led many — including this week the US Centers for Disease Control — to suggest we’re surfing a tidal wave of new mental illness, with depression and anxiety at dangerous crests.

Biological anthropology is responding with a different idea. Maybe the depression we’re seeing is a normal human response to adversity. Maybe ADHD and PTSD are likewise our bodies’ appropriate responses to certain environmental threats. Maybe we’re seeing symptoms of “mental illness” because we’re experiencing so much adversity in our environments.

The anthropologists’ study, reported in Forbes this week, was published last November in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology.

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