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Alethia Counseling Center

The Greek word for “counselor” is “Paraklete.” Think “two pairs of shoes.”

el-camino-path-cuts-off-640x426It literally refers to a person who comes to walk alongside. Too many people
attempt to journey down all the paths alone. There are times, and paths, when we need someone alongside to encourage, support, and help us.
Our symbol is the compass, since our goal is to help people walk the path when they need us.

Making the decision to come to AlethiaonBlackcounseling (as well as the counseling process itself) can be pretty difficult.  Maybe everyone needs some counseling from time-to-time, but it takes a certain amount of health to get it!  We applaud you for looking…  so here is some information about us that will hopefully help you make your decision wisely with all the information you need:

“Alethia Counseling Center” is in Tyler, Texas located at 7925 South Broadway, Suite 820.

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If you are interested in scheduling with any of us, call us at 903 561 8955 today.

Back to the Greek:  “Alethia” is the Greek word for “truth – revealed, discovered, to be made known…” We want to help you and those you love discover how to life the fullest life possible.

 

9U5A0414Chris Legg, LPC.  I am the owner/operator and the lead therapist at Alethia.  I have been counseling since 1996.  I love to come alongside to challenge and encourage people to live in freedom!   I started counseling in Tyler in 2001, and have continued to have a passion for this community.  Coming to counseling is hard, and it takes courage, but I have sought to gather a team of therapists who are caring, professional and competent to come alongside us when we need a hand… and we all have times like that.  Take a big step toward a free-er, full-er life. www.chrismlegg.com

 

9U5A0362Millie Tanner, LPC.   As a Licensed Professional Counselor I see people who have different backgrounds, struggles, and ways of coping.  Pain can come from broken relationships, cold marriages, or the devastation of losing someone we love.  In those times a therapist can give encouragement and insight by asking the right questions to lead to a healthier way of living.  Through this many find freedom as light is shined on dark places in their lives.  www.tannertherapy.com

 

9U5A0482Zach Herrin, LPC.   I have been a counselor in some capacity for the last eight years. To recognize where you are gives you the freedom and choice to leave where you are.  Working with men and teens are high on my list, but I also love to help families and couples.  The counseling process can be encouraging and discouraging all at the same time but I believe from personal experience it can make all the difference… when we take the first step in asking for help.   www.herrincounseling.com

 

 

9U5A0431Keely Burks, LPC.  My desire is to see marriages healed and parent and child relationships reconciled. I consider myself blessed to come alongside people as they discover the truth of who they are, choosing not to believe the lies they previously subscribed to. www.keelyburkscounseling.com 

 

 

9U5A0357Amy Waters, LPC.  Hebrew wisdom tells us that “in an abundance of counselors there is safety.”  The decision to seek counseling is both wise and brave.  It is a joy and a privilege  to come alongside people in this way.   There are few things more rewarding that seeing people get in touch with the truth and be transformed by it. www.amywaterscounseling.com

 

 

9U5A0396Allison Cooper, LPC: I am an LPC with experience helping individuals, couples, and families. My Supervisor is Jennifer Brown.  I enjoy working as a team with clients to help them gain perspective, insight, and self-confidence when facing challenges.  It is my philosophy that through the therapeutic relationship clients can gain strength and find peace.

 

 

 

9U5A0446Josh Berger, LPC: Life is full of storms. The ebbs and flows they bring can leave anyone feeling shipwrecked. My role as a counselor is a grounding one: to equip and enable you to see light through the darkness. Together we pursue truth and beauty and lasting freedom.  www.bergercounseling.com

 

 

 

Deb outdoor open

 

Debra Henderson, LPC:  It takes courage and strength to ask for help. I have great admiration for the person who can admit they are in a “stuck” place, and choose to seek professional input. I am always honored when given the privilege to come alongside a person’s journey toward greater mental health. As a licensed professional counselor with NCC status and certification in trauma therapy, I have great faith in your ability to accomplish the task before you; therefore; I have worked extremely hard to acquire the necessary skills to assist you in the journey toward wholeness in body, soul (mind, will, emotions), and spirit.

 

IMG_4555Molly Moore, LPC-Intern:  I am an LPC-Intern, under the supervision of Chris Legg, and have experience working with children, adolescents, adults, and couples. I view counseling as a partnership where you, the client, and I, the counselor, work together to bring health to all areas of your life. I believe it is extremely important to take a holistic approach that not only examines the mental or relational issues you may be facing, but also the spiritual and physical issues, as well, to find a greater sense of healing and purpose.

 

And here is our newest member of the team:

 

Headshot_TylerTyler Sullins, LPC-Intern: I am a Licensed Professional Counselor – Intern under the supervision of Chris Legg, with experience working with individuals, couples and families My hope is to help clients gain insight and perspective in the midst of life’s challenges. It is a joy and a privilege to walk alongside clients as they begin to gain confidence and strength to deal with life as it comes. www.tylersullins.com

 

 

 

 

If you are interested in learning more or in scheduling with any of us, call us at 903 561 8955 today.

Today we have taken a question from one of our Facebook followers:

“Two of my friends have been hanging out with each other without me there – I don’t know why, but it is really bugging me – help?”

This is a question about jealousy and envy. It really has an easy answer, though not an easy one to hear, I will warn you. I will offer up an answer after I have explained a little bit.

Jealousy is such an interesting concept. I have a really hard time defining it, since it has to be defined in such a way that it is morally virtuous for God to be “jealous” (eg. Exodus 34:14, Duet 4:24, Zech 8:2) With this in mind, Jealousy is probably something along the lines of “desiring to get what is due us.” In 2 Cor. 11:2, Paul claims to have a jealous-like feeling that is the same kind of feeling God has, too. Naturally, it is truly God who is due every kind of worship, praise, admiration, tribute, sacrifice, etc… so it works out for Him to be jealous. He is right to desire to be given the position that is rightfully His – the first priority. Now, what about us? Break-Free-630x315

What are we due? Really… nothing. We are the creation who have earned nothing of our own accord. Our works just don’t add up to much that on our own. However, in certain relationships, we somehow feel justified in thinking we are “due” something… or “owed” something. We want to have something that makes us somehow special in that it gives us an advantage over another. I am jealous of something because I think I should get it. That makes some kind of sense if you are thinking about “I am jealous of attention my wife might give to another man” if it somehow is something that would only be appropriate for me.  I often reference the intimacy of God “wiping away our tears…” and use it as an example of this.  If I saw another mere man (not God, or someone else with that freedom, like her dad, son, or maybe brother) wipe away my wife’s tear, I would feel jealous… that kind of intimacy is really not for someone else.  Might there be some things that a teacher, parent, mentor, etc., might feel a certain kind of jealousy about?  Maybe, by that definition and understanding.

However, that is not usually what we mean when we feel jealousy… we usually mean that we feel somehow possessive or maybe that we want what they are getting for ourselves… at the root of this kind of jealousy and envy(which seems very similar to jealousy in that it is “to want something someone else has”) for people, is probably a lack of love.

The problem is that you don’t love your friends, or at least not very much. I told you it wouldn’t be fun to hear. Here is why I say this:

We think that someone who is our friend should not spend time with another friend – because we either think “I want that time and relationship for myself.” (envy) or “That person owes me more time or loyalty than they are giving me! (jealousy) rather than thinking “I love this person, so I want them to have everything best even more than I want it for myself!”   This would be love.

This is a key part of this:
The problem with your thinking is that you think love and friendship are limited commodities. Imagine: you dump out a bag of M&M’s on the table in front of a bunch of 1st graders. There are only so many M&M’s there! In the mad scramble, every M&M you get is one I cannot have! They are a limited resource. There are many commodities that are limited – but all of the most valuable things aren’t. You seem to think that any friendship that your friends give to one another represents friendship that now you cannot have! This is a lie from Hell I run into on a regular basis – way too often! I pray that God will teach us that love, trust, friendship, hope, faith, forgiveness, and the list goes on, are NOT limited resources. When my one of my children overheard me saying “I love you” to their mother, they said “Hey, you don’t love her, remember you love me!” (this actually happened) This is kind of cute in a 2 year old; it is only sad in us grownups, especially when they are married to one another – which I see regularly.

I pray that God will continue to free you of jealous feelings. We don’t own anyone; we haven’t purchased them with a price; they are not ours; we have not sealed them with our spirit. All of this applies to a dating relationship too. We don’t own each other and the things we want aren’t limited anyway! Are you jealous when your boyfriend or girlfriend talks to someone you are insecure about? Grow up – especially you guys. What are you afraid of? That she will fall for some other guy and leave you for him? Have you thought that through? So, rather than have her leave you for another guy she likes better, you would rather have a relationship for the rest of your life in which you are having to constantly control who she is around because you have chosen to spend your life with someone who you think is so weak in her character that she is going to run off with the first guy who flexes her direction? If you really think she is that kind of girl, then don’t date her! If you haven’t been able to trust any woman, then recognize that you are the problem, not her. Ladies, if you are dating a jealous guy, it may feel a little like love that he is so worried about where you are all of the time, but it isn’t… it is fear and the fearful need to control. 1 Cor 13 tells us that love is not envious (same word as “jealous” in that passage). It indicates a pretty serious insecurity and probably a pretty strong character flaw as well in him. I recommend dumping him for someone with more faith and less fear.

However – dating aside, my advice is that you learn to love your friends and praise God for their friendship. In fact, I would recommend that you pray for their friendship and grow, as well as for your friendship with them to grow as well!  In the end, it is all God’s from an ownership or “worthy of” perspective.

Your friend, even though I have other friends,
Chris

Loving with Limits

You may also have noticed that we have limits.

Though many of you may live as though this isn’t true, there are plenty of unlimited resources for us as humans – love, friendship, forgiveness, joy, trust, etc. I will write more about this later, because it isn’t the main purpose of this article, but it fits to mention it here:

Too many people live as if those things too, are limited resources.

Many men, especially, treat love as though it is a limited resource – like, say, a bag of candy. Every1_31 empty candy bag 1-1 piece of candy that I eat from the bag is candy that you cannot have.

This is a zero-sum perspective. There are only a certain number of pieces and as you make use from the total, you eventually end up with zero.

Here is a common way I see this lived out: a man lives in the assumption that his wife has, say, 100 points of love. If she loves her parents 30 points then she only has 70 points left. Divide her love out further between their kids, her friends, and he sees that she only has a very few points of love left for him. The truth is that we are not like a bag of candy with a zero-sum of love.

In regards to love, we are more like a tomato plant – the more we love, the more love we have! Love is a limitless resource in that the more we have, the more the total amount is! If I have 100 points of love and a I make a new friend who I love with 30 points, then my new total is just 130 points. There are many resources like this, and they are actually those things which are sweetest about life. I have known many who did not understand this and they live sad, competitive, predator-prey existences that are heart breaking.

Again, I hope to write more about this truth, but this article is meant to address those aspects of life that are more limited and how to love in them.

In some ways humans are also unlimited – we are eternal, and we are created in the image of God, and He has set eternity in our hearts.

However in some very real ways our existence here on Earth is greatly defined by limitations as well. My teachings on rest taught me this more than anything else I had learned. I became convinced that though we have a limitless calling, we are limited creatures. God’s provision for this inequity is rest… and rest is an application of the wisdom of accepting these truths. So, though our love for our wives may be well rooted and capable of endless growth, our ability to express that love is limited.

So, what are we to do?

Hire a consultant and follow their advice. I don’t mean me (admit it, you thought this was going to be an advertisement, didn’t you? Ok, it probably won’t hurt you to hire me too, as a counselor or even better to come teach a seminar to the men at your church, but that isn’t what I was going to say).

I mean your wife.

As I have mentioned before, we don’t think like them, gender to gender; within those genders, we are also individuals with radically different perspectives on things. Life rules (read about those under my therapy section), personality differences, personal preferences, etc. make us different enough to have difficulty seeing the world through each other’s eyes at the best of times. So, you will have to ask sometimes, and be happy to accept critical input the other times.

Ooooh, yeah, I know that last bit is tough, so let me create a picture for you that will make it easier. If you buy some pretty red roses for your wife and her response is anything other than shucking clothes, you may feel a little disappointed.

However, our gender can be insecure enough that if she offers even the most gentle and passive critical input, we can go into pouting “take my toys and go home” mode. Imagine she says “Wow, these are really amazing! Thanks so much!… so you know, I like pink roses best.” We might think “Oh, I see how it is, I can’t do anything right, can I? Nothing is good enough for you, is it? (we might even say these), see if I get her flowers again… etc.”

Why do we do that? Yes, insecurity. Let me help.

Remember that your purpose was to show her that you love her, right?; that you desire her, and think she is wonderful. She knows that, and she knows you can’t do everything, so she wants to help you do an even better job of showing her that you love her – that she believes this is evident in her critique! Why do we take that as destructive? Let me give you another picture for how to think of this.

Consider that you were making love to your wife (but stay focused on this article… foooccccuuuuusss).

Your goal is to pleasure her (assuming that you are not a lazy and selfish lover – if you just realized that your main goal in making love to your wife is to get pleasure, then call me and let’s talk. I’m not kidding, it can be a therapeutically significant realization).

Again, your goal is to pleasure her, so you start to touch and kiss her in the intimate ways that can create that pleasure for her. You have a desire to do a great job of pleasuring her, but only one person in the room knows what feels best to her, and it probably isn’t you. Sure, after a decade of loving the same woman and listening to her well, you have some great ideas, but her opinion still trumps your in almost all cases! So, fortunately, you have direct access to that person, since she is right there with you. When she says “more of that” or “slower” or “lower and softer” you probably don’t respond with “Oh, fine, I see how you are! I can’t do anything right…”

Some men do, I know. Again, that means that your insecurities are deep enough to get past your desire for your wife and intrude even in the bed. However, I think it is more common with more surface things, like with flowers… or dates, or the way you do the dishes, or driving, etc. (“she told me I loaded the dishwasher wrong, so see if I do that ever again”, “She is always criticizing my driving”).

See? She isn’t usually, really, just criticizing you, she is really just telling you when she feels more or less loved by you.

Most women feel less loved when her husband is driving aggressively or too fast, since he is willing to put her at unease or even risk just because he likes to drive that way! Think about what makes you feel unsupported or insecure about her love – the way she talks to other men? The way she spends money? Imagine if you asked her to change that and she ignored you or pouted about you criticizing her, and went back to doing what she wanted with even less consideration of you! So, stop complaining about being taught how to attain your hopes and desires of loving her best.

So, how does this play into limited resources?

I am glad you asked.

zenith-infotech Unless you are a lot different from me, you have a limited amount of time to devote to expressing love your wife… a limited amount of energy, money, and hours in a day, days in a week and weeks in month, etc. to dedicate to strategizing, creating, thinking, purchasing, and spending on expressing your love to your wife. If you have young children or teenagers, you have almost none of these (especially emotional energy) left over for this (and have compassion on the fact that she is also pretty much tapped out at the end of most days, weeks, and months too)

What to do

Therefore, it is vital to make the best possible use of what little we have to spend. Thus, you have to know what matters most. Once you have learned that from her, then

1. note and remember it.

2. keep doing it – most men a great sprinters at this kind of thing, but awful marathoners, and this is a marathon.

3. keep doing it – I thought it bore repeating.

4. find new places to apply this.

5. be prepared to sacrifice some of what you would otherwise spend on yourself. Not all of it, mind you; a totally empty husband is a poor one, but you probably aren’t as tapped out as you think. We whine a lot in our country and in our gender. Men used to harrow (like plowing) a field by hand all day for a month from sunup to sundown after doing their morning chores, with a break only for lunch, and then doing their evening chores afterwards. Actually, according to “Farmer Boy” (Little House on the Prairie book) that was a 9 year old boy. I think some of us are too easily “tapped”.

Application: So, I prefer my bedroom clean, as does my wife.

We have different opinions on what makes it clean, though. For my wife, it means the bed is made. The bed being made represents 75% of a clean room. A laundry basket of clothes doesn’t bug her much at all… but it does me. I, on the other hand, couldn’t care less about the bed being made! Bed = 3% of a clean room for me, maybe. All piles of clothes gone? 80% easily.

So, I have a sudden 15 minutes that I can devote to cleaning our room, for some reason. What makes the meter run the fastest for her? I cannot do it all. I can dust, clean up a pile of clothes, make the bed,Home_furnishing_bed_sheet_ or maybe something else. If I am following my own advice here, well, you know what the right answer is. My consultant has already advised me on what makes my wife feel the most loved by me.

In fact, the final comment I will make on this is to remind you that, at some level, hers is the only opinion, outside of Divine revelation (again, I am serious about that too), about how to love her that is valid.

Other helpers can be great – her family, friends, counselors, books, etc… but her opinion how what makes her feel most loved is most valid (again, outside of God). I know there are some circumstances in which most people, including our wives, may want things that aren’t good for us, aren’t biblical, and only make us feel loved because we are broken and hurting people, not because we are living in an abundant version of God’s love.

I know this, and maybe I can write more about it later.

However, I think it is very important that we learn from our wives what makes them feel most loved, and, within God’s designs for leadership, consideration, and sacrifice… try to love them the best we can! Listen to your consultant and encourage feedback from her – not hate it, encourage it.

Follow through, men. We are in this together!

Be considerate as you live with your wives…” -The Apostle Peter, a married man.

couple holding handsWhy do so many marriages struggle? What is at stake when we live in a mediocre marriage? Chris Legg teaches locally about how to save our marriages in The Alethia Navigating Marriage Conference.

Now you can listen to the full audio for each talk here, or if you would like to hear about upcoming Alethia conferences and seminars you can sign up for our mail list on the Alethia homepage.

 

Navigating Marriage – part 1

Navigating Marriage – part 2

Navigating Marriage – part 3

Navigating Marriage – part 4

 

You can also listen all of our podcasts, seminars, and conferences here

 

 

 

 

Image used by courtesy of Unsplash.com

Spam concept with businessman receives a noisy ad

It is amazing what we as humans can deal with when we see things in different perspectives. Imagine that you chose to work at a camp for helping Down’s Syndrome kids. Imagine that at some point, a big teenage DS boy walks up to you in the cafeteria and touched you in a sexually inappropriate way.  How would you respond? Note that in another situation… at the grocery store, etc… if a big teenager did that, it would be an extreme and traumatic situation that might involve screaming, pepper spray, calling for police, etc!  The trauma might take weeks or months to recover from. However, in the camp, you would probably gently remove the boy’s hands and say something like “Now, Jimmy, we don’t touch like that.”

 

No police.  No self-defense. Why?  Because you understood going into the situation that sometimes DS kids touch inappropriately, and you understood how to deal with it.  You knew what you were getting into.

 

Now, think of the person that is tough to deal with emotionally in your life. Doesn’t it make sense that if you know that they are constantly critical or ravingly insecure or self-absorbed, or just mean, that you could engage with them the same way?

 

If you know that you are going to interact with a narcissistic person and they behave in a self-serving and egocentric way, why be traumatized by it?  (I am not excusing the character flaws or sins of others, but talking about how we can engage with them).  Why be surprised by it?  Why expect or even look for anything else? Don’t you know what you are getting into?

 

A rule I live by is:  Don’t look for healthy behavior from an unhealthy person.

 

This doesn’t make all of the consequences of what the person did suddenly go away, but it allows me to take it less personally!  It isn’t about me. If a client with a fragile ego and an anger problem cusses me out and storms out, can’t I just think “well, of course they did – they have a fragile ego and an anger problem!” If an egocentric family member changes plans on me in such a way that would send them crashing if I did it to them, what should I do?  Yes, the consequences of their decision is still there – a sudden change in plans.  Gotta deal with that.

 

But I don’t have to take it personally.  Didn’t I already mention that they were egocentric?  Of course they did what was convenient to them.  I knew what I was getting into.  I don’t think I have to or need to be shocked.  “Yep, that is what it means to love a Down’s Syndrome person – sometimes they touch inappropriately.”

 

“Yes, that is what it means to love a perfectionist – they are going to criticize whenever they feel insecure”. “Yep, that is what it means to have a relationship with a pessimist – they are going to be constantly bringing up the negatives.”

 

Again, whether personality quirks or character flaws, I am not explaining away or minimizing the consequences… nor am I cutting someone a blank check… but I am saying that no matter how close, we can accept that it is about them and not be surprised or traumatized when it happens. Their immorality is still theirs… but I don’t have to bear the emotional weight of it when it shows each time.

 

Now, also knowing the truth about someone allows us to draw healthy boundaries with them. If someone lies, we aren’t required to accept everything they say as the truth. Just like we wouldn’t accept math advice from someone with a math learning disability, why should we take identity, value, or emotional advice from an emotionally dysfunctional person?

 

I know that this is especially hard with family – and especially with parents.  Parents naturally speak identity into us, and from infancy, we learn to label whatever they do as “love.”  However, there comes a day when we have to put childish ways behind us and accept their limitations – again (must I say this again), not “excuse” them or pretend they aren’t real… but predict that they will act according to the character that we know about already! I am also not advocating stopping loving someone because they are damaging – exactly the opposite!  However, that isn’t possible with where so many are…

 

One final consequence of this issue is this: I believe many people are hurt when they are mistreated, especially by family, because they are in denial of who their family members really are. I had a young man tell me what a great dad he had, but by the time we were done talking, it was clear that his dad was an immoral slap of a human!  Why the self-deception?  I am sure it was self-protective. Rather than have to love dad – the unfaithful, philandering, angry adolescent – the dad he actually had…

– Created a dad much easier to love – but who didn’t exist – and loved him instead.
– It wasn’t satisfactory.
– First, because it meant he kept being surprised when his awesome dad acted like an idiot.
– Second, because it also meant he didn’t love his dad.

 

So, instead, we talked about learning to love the real dad – not excuse him – but love him. Then he didn’t have to be re-traumatized every time dad turned out not to be the fake image he had created… (this did not change dad’s behavior, by the way… he was still the same slap as always). Thoughts?

 

filter lense

There are many filters through which we see our world and others. Whether it is based on a previous experience or interpretation of the event, no two people’s filters are the same. Here is where it gets tricky! We’re constantly surrounded by people. So how do we communicate well with other people’s filters?

As humans, we naturally create filters, often without even thinking about it. A couple comes in… He had intended to take his wife out on a date but never followed through. She saw it as par for the course and instead of allowing it to upset her, she gave him a pass (outwardly) but added to her filter, “my husband will never follow through”. A client blows up at her kids and her husband adds to his filter, “she’s just like her mom”. A teen wants to go hang out with friends but his parents don’t think it a good idea so he creates the filter, “my parents don’t like me and don’t want me to have fun.” What ever the filter is, they distort our view of what the situation truly is.

Common Filters We Use Daily

There are several filters I see on a daily basis that when people work through their filters they will likely have more satisfying relationships with their loved ones:

1. Personality: So often we’re in relationships with people who God has made so different than us. The beauty of this phenomenon is that God does that on purpose to help us focus on some one other than ourselves! When I project my personality on to another and assume their thinking the same way as I am, there is often disappointment and let down. There is a great personality test I use at http://www.abidinglife.com. He breaks it down to three types based on the mind, will and emotion. Corresponding to that is the Thinker, Feeler and Doer. When people find out what their normal style is and give themselves permission to be themselves, they then can love other for the unique way God created them.

2. Gender: Many articles have been written on how men and women are different. The funny thing is many people “know” this but few let it really sink into the way then interact with the opposite sex. We differ in so many things that it wouldn’t suffice to try to make an argument here. The places I see it the most is in sex life, communication processing, relationship dynamics, task completion, and roles. A great place to start on this journey are the books “For Men only” and “For Women Only” by Shant Feldhahn. She has some research based findings that allow couples to really laugh about their differences.

3. Past: Our past shapes every interaction we have with our life. The problem I see is when I allow the past to define me rather than merely shape me. Every statement is filtered through our past and usually the reaction that comes out it has nothing at all to do with the situation. Our life is full of objective statements by people in our life. Objective means based in fact. What happens is we make it subjective which means I make it about me or what my past has told me. Our core beliefs are direct results of our past significant relationships or events in our life. I recommend people write a time line to map out their past and talk to a good counselor as to how it effects them.

4. Enemy vs Ally: Often couples come in and, based on the previous filters, have made their spouse out to be the enemy or worse, which helps explain why they treat them so bad. Once the bitterness and resentment set in, the other person becomes the worst possible human on the face of the planet. The irony is when people have got a divorce, they all say “I really want the other person to be happy”. If we would work towards making the other person our ally then we would realize we are fighting for our marriage not because of it!!

5. Self: The biggest hurdle to jump is self-centeredness. I believe this is God’s role for any relationship is to get us out of ourself and to focus on others. When I actually begin to think of how I can bless others I can be happy! There is much to be said about a self-centered person because they have a hard time addressing any of the other filters until “self” is dealt with. It takes others to reveal self, and it takes God to kill self. Even in our own attempts to deal with self, it always comes back to focus on self. As I think about God and the salvation from self, then I am free to love who he has made me to be in the middle of all my filters.

There are several more filters I’ve come across and I will write more in the future. These are some of the big ones I see on a daily basis. The whole point is if I can recognize where I am, then I have the freedom and choice to leave where I am. What God reveals He heals. Filters are not all bad but some just need to be updated or replaced.

This is the second part of our Parenting in Freedom Seminar audio. If you would like to listen to our breakout sessions on discipline and anxiety you can access those here.

funny-baby-kid-elephant-dress-photo

It’s hard to imagine, but those cute little faces are going to grow up into adult men and women. And what kind of man or woman will they be? Will they be loving, strong, ready to face the challenges set before them? What does it really look like to prepare our children for adulthood? Chris Legg discusses the role that we as parents have with our children, guiding them towards freedom and a deep relationship with God. For the full audio of this session click here.

Why are boundaries so important for us to set with our children? Zach Herrin provides practical steps for parents to take in setting boundaries for our children and in our own lives. For the full audio of this breakout session click here.

 

Sometimes, I teach on and counsel regarding the personality disorder known as “Narcissism.” I get asked about it a bit and used to pretty regularly teach other therapists about it. In an effort to get some thoughts on paper and help anyone who might be orbiting themselves or another, I figured to put something down here.

Additionally, though you or I may not be a full-blown diagnosable narcissist, we often will have some lines of thought, or some chips in our soul that are very similar. I think the narcissist lurks in the hearts of many of us. I recommend getting the help you need to come clean.

Entitlement has no place in the life of the Christian and virtually any sense of expectation is toxic in friendships and marriage, but we live in a narcissistic culture and many of us need to be honest, face these tendencies, pray for deliverance, and dealing with them in community. I am so much more free since I began to recognize some of this junk in my own heart. I pray the same for you.

narcissism Incidentally, the name from this disorder comes from the myth of the man, Narcissa, who starved to death because he could not tear himself away from his own reflection in a pool of water.

Some theorists say that people cannot be “cured” of personality disorders. And with man some things are impossible, but with God all things are possible (Matt 19:26). Change is never easy and it is impossible for them. Even for someone who knows no god higher than themselves, there is a God who may decide to break a false one.

I depend on the Holy Spirit to make me whole through His sanctifying work, and He does. I will start this conversation with a story that may be all too familiar with some of us:

There is a couple newly married. He goes away for a weekend business trip. His bride gets excited to surprise him, so she sneaks out to the lingerie shop and buys something new to surprise him with. He comes back on Sunday evening and finds rose petals spread in a path to the bedroom. There, his bride seduces him in a free act of love, romance and passion. His desire to feel desired is overflowing! This also includes his insecurities about being wanted, needed, etc. He feels empowered because of her free gift of choosing him in this powerful way.

Six months later, he goes away on another business trip. He finds himself anticipating his welcome home! Here is a key that I will mention later… *there is something special that happens here for the emerging narcissist (usually not for the first time)… however, in an effort to show how damaging this mindset can be, even for those of us living a less than fully blown narcissistic life… He finds himself anticipating his welcome home! He arrives home to find that due to what happened in her life this weekend, for whatever reason, sex with him has not even crossed her mind once (yes, this is possible for most women). Even in the best of situations, he is a little disappointed.

Likely he, as most of us do at some point, responds in an emotionally negative way. He pouts, or is a little more edgy, maybe much worse. Soon, she puts it all together and realizes that the negative emotional consequences come when she “lets him down” in this way. The depth and breadth of his response will dictate so much in this moment of their marriage. Let’s assume it is pretty strong. It certainly doesn’t have to be, but for simplicity, we will say he is sullen for a few days. After a few days, she catches on – rather through her intuition, or through a fight he lets it be known, or another way, she catches on.

Six months later, he goes on another trip. When he comes home, she seduces him again. It looks similar, if not almost identical from a behavioral sense, but it isn’t at all the same in a spiritual sense. What motivated her a year ago? Freedom, and the expression of her new freedom to love her husband in power and grace. What motivates her now? An effort to avoid negative emotional consequences… what we might call wages.

In its worst form, which will be created if this is left unchecked, what was once a gift will become dutiful labor, if not downright blackmail. In our example (which is common, but certainly not universal – there are myriad different things this can play out about – what happens if I disagree with him or correct him? Joke in a way that he feels is at his expense? Prepare dinner for him? If I am on the phone when he gets home? Keep a clean house?)

“If I don’t work for him correctly, then my wages are anger, disconnection, etc. So, I better pay.” What was a gift, is now an effort to earn wages. It may not look different on the outside, but it is death.

This can happen to any couple, and almost any marriage can accidentally become defined with this kind of performance based wages version of marriage. It is like plant killer on the garden of marriage. It is a key part of the teaching on marriage that I think can rescue us from this awful spiral. It is too easy for any of us to get there. However, this cycle is virtually guaranteed in a marriage with the true narcissist… and even if he understood it, he would be ok with it so long as it gets him what he wants.

At some point in life, the narcissist’s identity becomes dependent on proving certain things.

He isn’t just any person, but is a special, extraordinary person and he needs to continually prove it to be true. This splinter begins to create other symptoms.

For example, they need to relate to other exceptional people, and can only really be understood by them. They need to be show that they can escape the gravity of the rules that bind other people. Other people must obey their rules nearly flawlessly, but the rules aren’t for them. The narcissistic thinking is to berate a wife for buying shirts for their kids that he considers unnecessary while feeling totally free to spend his money without any accountability, even if it means coming home with a new business he has invested their retirement in.

Before we think “I would never do that,” keep in mind that the way of thinking is the same even if the degree isn’t. If the rules apply to others, but not to you, there is a seed in there. If you need to be treated better than others, it is there.

Also, the narcissist tends to treat other people’s boundaries as somewhat personally offensive. This is because it indicates that the boundary draw-er apparently respects their own boundaries more than the narcissist.

Anything the narcissist has to compete with for perceived respect must be fought against.

Consider, wouldn’t the ultimate proof of his value comes when someone chooses to please him rather than hold to their boundary? The more precious, personal, and intimate the boundary is, the more it proves. This seems to be why the narcissist’s sex partner often feels under constant pressure. If she is uncomfortable with something, she can count on him pushing because he feels less “loved” because of it. He will often obsess over anything that she is unwilling to do for him. This isn’t only about sex, either.

Their life will slowly begin to take on the look of a series of steps that she must take in virtually each interaction in order to avoid his emotional consequences. If he gets angry if she is on the phone when he walks in the door from work, then he will demand that behavior change.

For be it from him to accept her attention being pointed anywhere but him when he arrives. He feels a strong need to hold first place in everyone’s heart. Technically, he feels a strong need for constant evidence that he is first. After he has communicated this kind of preference, he then breaks into what may be the most important mindset of the narcissist, entitlement.

In the story at the beginning of the article*, I mentioned that something key happens in the soul of the narcissist at moments like that.

Entitlement is that key.

There is more than can be put in a blog, but this is the fuel that keeps the narcissistic cycle running. Expectations can and usually do steal the joy from marriage, but the narcissist’s heart is ruled by them. Everything needs to conform to him. Vacations and holidays should look a certain way, and if they don’t, everyone will pay somehow. He expects his children to respond to him a certain way (and the younger children generally do, but his teenagers usually cry out in some form). All of us may do this at times, but the narcissist cannot escape it.

Remember, he must be constantly proving, proving, proving, and manipulating others to prove. They must prove that he is first, strong, right, desired, respected… that he is ok. These stem from his deep insecurities. If the entitlement is the fuel, I believe insecurities are the hidden engine.

Who needs to constantly and sometimes frantically prove these things about themselves?

Someone who doubts those things. One way that this plays out, incidentally, is probably why narcissists seem to never evaluate their own motives. When they are unhappy, they never consider that it could be themselves. Their marriage is not going as they feel entitled to, and it honestly never crosses their mind that it could be them (they have to subconsciously protect themselves from their insecurities); who does that leave? The witch.

I once had a “recovering” narcissist tell me about sitting in a parking lot for an hour inwardly debating the true motives for returning the extra change the attendant had given him – because it is the right thing to do, or in order for her to say “wow, more people should be like you.” He had no memory, as an adult man, of ever questioning his own motives before.

These deep insecurities, which the narcissist is almost always totally unaware of and totally unwilling to face, are the crack in their soul.

The ability to honestly deal with these is a huge sign of how able a narcissist will be to escape their painful mindset. So far, it is the only path by which I have seen them break free.

Very often, the narcissist has been taught since childhood that their performance is all that makes them valuable. Since only performance proves value, they are often great performers. In fact, very often they are much loved and respected people, at least to those who never create any real friction with them. They are often super honeymooners and romancers. Relationships with them, at first, don’t just seem to be going well, but extraordinary.

I won’t go into it in this blog, but the women they often draw into their orbit are very capable women, who are used to being able to solve their own problems, but who deeply desire to be with an exceptional and special man (this can be seen in a series of cycles that I can send to anyone interested). She meets him, and he believes himself to be that exceptional person and knows how to perform. She is swept off of her feet. It is not until after the honeymoon is over (often such wives will talk of things literally suddenly changing during or right after the honeymoon), that things begin to change.

How this plays out in marriage sometimes is that the narcissist seems like the fun, suave, healthy one to most people. Most therapists are even taken in by his ability to perform in a counselor’s office. If their wife is present, in fact, this tendency will make her panic – fearful that once again, she will be labeled the problem. Typically, her histrionic plea only comes across as more evidence of the theory that she is the problem. Often have I had these men look at me with a painful and almost pitying expression with a little nod to say “see what I have to deal with?”

Post tragic of all is that he believes this to be true. Generally, in fact, my experience is that it is the narcissist who finally leaves, sick of the way she has ruined his life. By the time they see me, they are often on the second or third marriage.

Another way this performance skill plays out is in their careers. Sometimes, they are narcissistic without anything to show for it, but in my experience they are more often quite successful from a worldly perspective. Performance pays. They are also often drawn to careers that “earn” them a measure of respect automatically.

The majority of the narcissists I have worked with have been doctors, pilots, military men, and clergy, for example. These roles cause people to immediately offer them the benefit of the doubt.

The last thing I want to take the time to mention is that the narcissist is almost always, and unknowingly accepting the counterfeit version of what he really wants. He deeply wants to be loved, but you cannot force something that by definition is a free gift. So, in his effort to force someone to “love” him, he receives “fear” instead.

If my wife engages with me in order to avoid negative consequences of not engaging, that is fear, not freedom! He wants “respect”, but gets “humored.” He wants “submission” but gets “capitulation.” Sadly, very often the friend or family member is trying to offer something free, like love, trust, respect, etc., but because he must push it and force it, he only receives it as the counterfeit! It is just too scary to let someone else be in charge of the narcissist feeling loved, and if it is a free gift, then it can be taken just as easily.

That feeling of not being in control of how another responds to him is intolerable to him. There is much, much more to talk about in this context… but to make sure you can see the whole picture:

In a nutshell, here are the symptoms of the narcissistic mindset:

1. offended by boundaries
2. strict personal rules that don’t apply to themselves
3. want to relate to “special” people *
4. a sense of expectation and entitlement *
5. doesn’t examine own motives.
6. great performers
7. expects to be treated as superior *
8. obsessed with their own desire for perfect love, success, etc *
9. requires excessive admiration *
10. thinks about things from their perspective only – this causes them to be exploitative of others *
11. believes others are envious of him *
12. is arrogant and haughty *

* these are also found in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (V)i love me

After reading this, you are interested in the cycle of a common cycle of the narcissistic marriage, or if you suspect yourself or someone else to be trapped in this mindset, let me know and/or come see me. My contact info is on my counseling page.

Incidentally, I freely use the masculine “he” when referring to the narcissist. This is because according to the research and to my experience, the vast majority are male. Women can be trapped in this mindset as well, though, even if not diagnosable-y so, so I waited until the end to mention this.

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