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How our upbringing affects our lives & relationships (Copyright © 2019 Steve Cornell). 13 chapters (207 pages) $ 15.99
EXPLORING THE PAST – Why look back into your past?
Chapter 1 Buckle up for a ride into the past
Chapter 2 What good will it do to look back?
Chapter 3 Toxic emotional drugs
EVALUATING THE PAST – How does the past affect the present?
Introduction: Lisa’s Story
Chapter 4 Primary influences: relationships
Chapter 5 Primary influences: circumstances & physical challenges
Chapter 6 Significant disruptions
Chapter 7 Severe dysfunctions
Chapter 8 Unsafe protective mechanisms
Chapter 9 Four kinds of children
Chapter 10 Four kinds of parents
DETOXING OFF THE PAST – Do I need to go to detox?
Introduction Diana’s Story
Chapter 11 Welcome to detox: Yes. It’s necessary.
Chapter 12 Welcome to the O.R.:
Not an outpatient procedure
RESTORING A BETTER FUTURE – How can I rebuild for a healthy future?
Chapter 13 Welcome to Recovery and Rehab:
Restoring the whole person.
- Physical beings with bodily needs
- Social beings with relationship needs
- Psychological beings with cognitive needs.
- Spiritual beings with spiritual needs
Restoration must involve remedies that offer an integration of the physical, social, psychological, and spiritual parts of life based on the three primary expressions of personhood.
- Intellect: our minds (thoughts, imagination)
- Emotion: our feelings (affections)
- Will: our choices (decision-making)
Appendix I: 18-Year Factor Inventory
Appendix II: Evaluating the Effects of Your 18-Year Factor on Current Relationships
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From the book
“Adverse childhood experiences are the single greatest unaddressed public health threat facing our nation today” (Dr. Robert Block, the former President of the American Academy of Pediatrics).
Negative affect of a father
A medical doctor in his mid-fifties admitted, “About ten years ago, I finally came to terms with the negative effect my father had on me.” His wife (also a doctor) was shaking her head affirmingly. He was unresolved for more than forty years and taking everyone else along for the ride.
Raw, afraid, and nervous
Everything seemed even more unbearable because I could find no one to talk to…nowhere to unburden my troubled heart. I felt raw, afraid, and nervous to expose the painful things in my life. It seemed safer to keep on suppressing the memories.
After working through the pain of her troubled upbringing, this young lady (whose full story you’ll read later) acknowledged, “It is good to look back at these things, to cease being pushed around, burdened by the past, to know that they are memories. I do not need to carry them around or relive them anymore.”
A journey back
Exploring the 18-year factor takes us on a journey back to our childhood home. That journey affords us an opportunity to look closely at how the people, circumstances, and experiences of the past continue to affect our lives and relationships. The message of the well-known saying “Home is where the heart is” conjures up an image of an idyllic childhood home, but that is sadly not the way many people remember their upbringing.
- True or false? Most people understand that their upbringing affects their lives. True.
- True or false? Most people understand how (and how much) their upbringing affects their lives. False.
Four reactions to a painful past
- Ignoring the past
- Denying the past
- Accepting the past (in a self-defeated way)
- Perpetuating the past
Men are wired to be reluctant historians of their emotional past. They tend to mask pain behind a perceived obligation to “man up” in the face of hardships. “There’s no time for licking your wounds or wallowing in the past,” they believe—no sense in putting the past up for review because none of it can be changed. Those who travel in close company with these men tend to see things differently. They feel firsthand the lingering effects of their troubled past.
An alternate reality occurs when children accept responsibility for the hurtful actions of parents and other adults. Misreading what happens to them as an indication of something wrong with them, they place themselves at fault for being victimized. A woman in her early forties acknowledged that she finally began to overcome the effects of growing up in a violent home when she realized that what happened to her as a child was not her fault.
Key lines from The 18-Year Factor
- Attachments to a painful past make it difficult to do well in the present.
- The narrow lens of yesterday’s loss doesn’t have to control the way you see your future.
- Don’t let the diagnosis define your destiny.
- Where you’ve been doesn’t have to define who you become.
- Include the past in who you become instead of letting it define who you are.
- Overcoming a problem involves understanding where and how it originated.
- The only thing you can change about the past is how it affects the future.
- What you focus on is what will become your reality.
- The only person you can change is you. Get started!
Though the names have been changed, the captivating real-life stories throughout this book will help readers think more deeply and talk more openly about their own stories.
Stories in The 18-Year Factor
- A quiet domineering father.
- A dark secret that couldn’t remain hidden.
- I carried my rock.
- How could I kill my father?
- An unhealthy approval addiction
- I hate my father so much.
- Where’s that dummy son of mine?
- I go down to the basement.
- Hurt by a distant father.
- Your dad didn’t want you.
- My father always told me I was stupid.
- The day my childhood ended.
- I get out of the car quickly.
Note: This book is not written as a Christian book but ends with an emphaisis on the Christian understanding of the spiritual dimension of life as the the most plausible view. I wrote it this way to reach the widest possible audience.
“To say I was a mess growing up,” he wrote, “would be putting it mildly. As a young boy and then a teen, I longed for my dad’s presence in my life. I was painfully aware –especially in my high school years—that other guys had dads who played catch with them, helped them with their homework, attended ball games to cheer them on, and then took them out for burgers afterward. ”
Marriage has fallen on hard times.
The number of marriages in crisis is overwhelming. Yet we can’t afford to give up on marriage.
In his book, “The Four Seasons of Marriage” Dr. Gary Chapman observes that “…marriage between a man and a woman is the central, social building block in every human society, without exception.”
Quoting a recent poll of never-married singles ages twenty to thirty, Chapman wrote, “eighty-seven percent planned to marry only once.” Many of these singles want a lifelong marriage because they had a front row seat to their parents divorce.
Yet it’s not easy to break the cycle of divorce.
In his helpful book, “Breaking the Cycle of Divorce: How your marriage can succeed even if your parents’ didn’t,” Dr. John Trent suggested that adult children of divorce (ACOD) face daunting challenges in both life and marriage.
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The wise teacher, J. I. Packer wrote of how those who are new in the faith, “advance into their new life joyfully certain that they have left all the old headaches and heartaches behind them. And then they find that it is not like that at all. Longstanding problems of temperament, of personal relationships, of felt wants, of nagging temptations are still there—sometimes, indeed, intensified.”
“God does not make their circumstances notably easier; rather the reverse. Dissatisfaction recurs over wife, or husband, or parents, or in-laws, or children, or colleagues or neighbors. Temptations and bad habits which their conversion experience seemed to have banished for good reappear. As the first great waves of joy rolled over them during the opening weeks of their Christian experience, they had really felt that all problems had solved themselves, but now they see that it was not so, and that the trouble-free life which they were promised has not materialized. Things which got them down before they were Christians are threatening to get them down again.”
What are they to think now?
“The truth here is that the God of whom it was said, “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms” (Is. 40:11), is very gentle with very young Christians, just as mothers are with very young babies. Often the start of their Christian career is marked by great emotional joy, striking providences, remarkable answers to prayer and immediate fruitfulness in their acts of witness; thus God encourages them and establishes them in ‘the life.’”
“But as they grow stronger, and are able to bear more, he exercises them in a tougher school. He exposes them to as much testing by the pressure of opposed and discouraging influences as they are able to bear—not more (see the promise, 1 Cor. 10:13), but equally not less (see the admonition, Acts 14:22). Thus he builds our character, strengthens our faith, and prepares us to help others. Thus he crystallizes our sense of values. Thus he glorifies himself in our lives, making his strength perfect in our weakness.”
How does God help us grow?
“Not by shielding us from assault by the world, the flesh and the devil, nor by protecting us from burdensome and frustrating circumstances, nor yet by shielding us from troubles created by our own temperament and psychology; but rather by exposing us to all these things, so as to overwhelm us with a sense of our own inadequacy, and to drive us to cling to him more closely.”
“This is the ultimate reason, from our standpoint, why God fills our lives with troubles and perplexities of one sort and another: it is to ensure that we shall learn to hold him fast. The reason why the Bible spends so much of its time reiterating that God is a strong rock, a firm defense, and a sure refuge and help for the weak, is that God spends so much of his time bringing home to us that we are weak, both mentally and morally, and dare not trust ourselves to find, or to follow, the right road.”
“When we walk along a clear road feeling fine, and someone takes our arm to help us, as likely as not we shall impatiently shake him off; but when we are caught in rough country in the dark, with a storm getting up and our strength spent, and someone takes our arm to help us we shall thankfully lean on him. And God wants us to feel that our way through life is rough and perplexing, so that we may learn thankfully to lean on him. Therefore he takes steps to drive us out of self-confidence to trust in himself.”
Learning through failure
“This truth has many applications. One of the most startling is that God actually uses our sins and mistakes to this end. He employs the educative discipline of failures and mistakes very frequently. It is striking to see how much of the Bible deals with godly people making mistakes and God chastening them for it.”
“Abraham, promised a son, but made to wait for him, loses patience, makes the mistake of acting the amateur providence, and begets Ishmael—and is made to wait for thirteen more years before God speaks to him again (Gen. 16:16-17:1). Moses makes the mistake of trying to save his people by acts of self-assertion, throwing his weight around, killing an Egyptian, insisting on sorting out the Israelites’ private problems for them—and finds himself banished for many decades to the back side of the desert, to bring him to a less vainglorious mind. David makes a run of mistakes—seducing Bathsheba and getting Uriah killed, neglecting his family, numbering the people for prestige—and in each case is chastened bitterly. Jonah makes the mistake of running away from God’s call—and finds himself inside a great fish.”
“So we might go on. But the point to stress is that the human mistake, and the immediate divine displeasure, were in no case the end of the story. Abraham learned to wait God’s time. Moses was cured of his self-confidence (indeed, his subsequent diffidence was itself almost sinful!—see Ex. 4:10-14). David found repentance after each of his lapses and was closer to God at the end than at the beginning. Jonah prayed from the fish’s belly and lived to fulfill his mission to Ninevah.”
“God can bring good out of the extremes of our own folly; God can restore the years that the locust has eaten. It is said that those who never make mistakes never make anything; certainly, these men made mistakes, but through their mistakes God taught them to know his grace and to cleave to him in a way that would never have happened otherwise. Is your trouble a sense of failure? The knowledge of having made some significant mistake? Go back to God; his restoring grace waits for you” (J. I. Packer).
The clear lesson is that we are always dependent on our Lord. And our extremity furnishes the most suitable opportunity for God to display His power.
There’s a lesson for the Church in the two reasons why the Amish reject assurance of eternal salvation.
Two primary reasons
I hit more than a few nerves when I wrote about an encounter I had an Amish man who had been shunned by the Amish Church for belief in the assurance of salvation.
This man was shunned for heresy because he affirmed personal assurance of his standing with God. Yet he was quick to tell me that he still opposed the doctrine of eternal security.
I wrote of my attempts to help him understand how personal assurance is only possible because of God’s promises of complete security in Christ. What generated the most response was my portrayal of Amish faith as a works-based approach to salvation. Many were supportive of my conclusions; others were upset by the suggestion that the Amish don’t believe in salvation solely based on God’s grace.
A few of the responses helped me gain a better understanding of why the Amish oppose assurance of salvation.
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Some relationships are difficult because we approach them using the wrong method of communication. Effective approaches to communication vary with different people and situations.
Three approaches are helpful to consider.
Our goal should be to identify the best approach for each situation and to adjust natural tendencies so that we can be the most effective.
- Directive – the aim here is following orders. This approach commonly involves giving orders and directions.
- Quick decision-making
- Crisis situations; where there is immaturity, right answers needed; addresses indecisiveness
- Might yield better results when quick decisions are necessary
- Centralizes in one person – the leader
- encourages others to use less creativity and take less initiative
- Fails to draw from the strengths of others
- Doesn’t multiply through others
- Consulting – the aim here is commitment
Decentralizes leadership and delegates decisions and authority. Leader makes a final decision after consultation with others. Could still involve limits within which people function.
- Recognizes value in others – encourages positive attitudes,
- Reduces resistance to change
- Exchanges ideas, improves job satisfaction and individual and group morale.
- Shared ownership and responsibility
- Time consuming and slower decision-making.
- Could create problems when unwisely practiced
- Requires more maturity from leaders and participants
- Possibly opens a door to antagonistic people
- Free-reign – the aim here is initiative. This approach gives freedom and decision-making to others to operate as a group or individual independently. The leader uses this approach to allow free-flow of communication and he replaces authority with availability.
- Increases satisfaction and morale of others
- Encourages initiative and ownership
- Develops leadership in others
- Insufficient leadership
- Insufficient guidance and support
- Working at cross purposes – creating confusion, disunity and discouragement
Free-rein style is appropriate when others are well trained, knowledgeable, skilled. It is used with those who are self-motivated and prepared to take responsibility.
Ask yourself which of the three is your natural or learned tendency. The ability to restrain our natural tendency when a different approach is more effective is a mark of maturity.
Parents must be more directional with children when they are small. As children grow older, the consultative approach teaches them to become involved, responsible and committed to doing what is best.
Use the three words below to help you when faced with different situations.
- Pause – don’t react naturally
- Identify – the desired results
- Adjust – your response to produce the appropriate communication/leadership style
Note – The categories above do not all originate with me but have been adapted from a number of different sources that have been widely used over the years. Please use this material as a discussion item with others.