Counseling Federal Employees

Counseling Federal Employees

Years ago, there was a man on the committee which hired me in San Antonio. He had worked for the federal government since he returned home from military service in World War II. He was my Dad’s age, he had no kids, and my folks lived in Kansas City, so we became family of choice.

You’d have loved his warm smile and bright eyes flowing from his unselfish personality. You’d have respected how he climbed the ladder of GS ratings through devoted hard work. And, you’d have been heart broken when his kidneys failed.

We hear a lot of bad press about bureaucrats and federal employees pursuing and exercising power for selfish reasons. We need to hear more about people like my adoptive father. When he had to retire after 30 years of service, he had accrued a couple of years of vacation and sick time he had not used over his career. After he stopped working, he continued to receive the salary and benefits he had earned over the decades and made life a little easier on his wife during the treatment years.

I miss him.

I want to continue to work with and for people like him. His vocation was a federal employee, but his passion was this country. He served the nation to continue what was good and to solve bad problems. I want to serve such public servants. Your Blue Cross will pay for your services here.

If you need a counselor who is a preferred and experienced provider with your FEP insurance, no matter where you live (we can use Telehealth).

As Paul Harvey used to say, I’ll tell you the rest of the story: 509-466-6632.

You can please some of the people all of the time

You can please some of the people all of the time

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

“You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.”
― English Monk John Lydgate

Although for 600 years people have quoted this passage from his testament, most of us still try most of the time to please most of the people. Jesus Christ was unable to please all the people, and He was perfect. Most of us aren’t perfect most of the time. But it is still difficult when people are displeased with us.

Someone recently posted a negative review about our work at the Healthy Counseling Center. I must admit that I wasn’t pleased that the reviewer wasn’t pleased. Ironically, the writer judged us for judging. Nevertheless, having a critic displeased with our work hurts us. Well, some of us.

I read a story this morning about a young artist who was having the first public exhibition of his art. A famous art critic came to the exhibition and looked at the work.
The critic asked the artist, “Would you like my opinion?
The artist replied, “Yes.
The critic said, “It’s worthless.
The artist replied, “I know but I’d like to hear it anyway!

I’ll be pleased someday if I can be that imperturbable by someone’s disapproval. Intellectually I believe someone else’s opinion of us is none of our business. When that opinion is posted without evidence to support it, with anonymity so it is without consequences to the critic, and without any way of correcting what displeased the critic, then it may especially be none of our business.

People pleasing is not only a bad goal, it’s a sin against God’s first commandment: Have no other gods before me. Pursuing the approval of other people instead of God’s approval, might have saved Jesus’ life when He was on trial, but He wouldn’t have saved us from sin and death. Good thing for us that He sought first to please God.

People pleasing is a mental health problem–codependency means trying to have someone else’s approval or avoid their disapproval. “Codependency” was defined in addiction research for the spouses of people who were dependent on alcohol. The codependents sought the approval of their addicted spouses and tried to avoid their disapproval. The term has evolved to mean using something outside of us to change or numb how we feel on the inside, especially people pleasing.

When you look in a mirror, seek first to please your Creator, then the person in the mirror. If any of the rest of the people are pleased with any of the rest of the things we do, then we have a bonus.

Remember Rudyard Kipling’s poem about people pleasing?
(I first read it on a graduation card.)

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

GPS and Life

GPS and Life

I have a car and enjoy driving it. In the old days when I needed help finding my way, I used a paper map. Now I use GPS. If I want someone else to do the driving and find the way to the destination, I can hire a taxi or Uber.

When you want to find your way emotionally or relationally, you might want a guide. Our counseling center is a GPS: Guide Providing Solutions.

You have a life and enjoy living it. Even a hero like King Arthur used Merlin for a guide to provide solutions. If you want a guide for your quest, then please give us a call at 509-466-6632.

Living Inconsistent with Our Values and Paying the Cost

Living Inconsistent with Our Values and Paying the Cost

If you ask most any adult in America today about his or her values, you will find some very familiar and even predictable responses regardless of the usual demographics; age, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, race, religion, occupation, or location in the country.  Our values are those essential priorities and high ideals we deem to be most important to us, so naturally they include; good health (mind, body, and spirit), close relationships within the family, with loved ones, and within our vital friendships, a fulfilling social life, healthy self-esteem and self-respect, quality education, gainful employment, a satisfying career, financial security, and opportunities for growth and self-improvement, etc.  These are the kinds of things we believe to be enriching. 

Nevertheless, millions upon millions of us live grossly inconsistent with what is most valuable to us.  In other words, our “lifestyle” does not cultivate, support, or advance what is truly most important to us.  And because of this disparity, we pay the cost with poor health, broken relationships, compromising “friendships”, spiritual bankruptcy, poor self-esteem, and little self-respect.  We lack for quality education and progressive self-learning and we fall short of maintaining meaningful and gainful employment and career satisfaction.  Furthermore, instead of realizing steady and upward personal growth and encouraging self-improvement we find ourselves stagnating or regressing.  Frustration and anger become common to us.  We too often feel anxious and depressed.  And in deficit of healthy self-respect and reasonable impulse control, we are then prone to cope with stress by any number of self-destructive habits and dangerous addictions.

Just look around and you will see this to be true and widespread.  The greater collective of modern American society lives in compromise of values which are enriched with, and fortified by integrity and virtue; that which is morally uplifting to our manifested civility and humanity.  Truly, far too many of us are over-fed, over-medicated, and over-stimulated with shallow information and hollow entertainment and recreation.  We are largely sleep deprived, and too often ridden with tension that we carry in our neck, shoulders, and back.  Our stomachs churn and minds ache with stress.  Too often we amble through life uninspired and feeling disoriented, disconnected, and discouraged.  We are dissatisfied with mediocrity, and we should be.

How has this happened to us in our modern American culture?  There are a few explanations.  The most obvious one is that we are so easily programed and “brain-washed” into believing that our self-indulgent pleasures with bring us fulfillment.  We are force-fed the “American dream” which promotes hyper-consumerism, and so we buy things we don’t really need with money we don’t really have.  We are programed to be ever entertained, and so we spend liberally of our time and money to “enjoy” life, but maybe at the high cost of overlooking more essential needs and greater priorities.  

We tell ourselves we can’t afford to eat healthy, get a better education, join a health club, but we easily buy junk food and fast food, or buy and consume beverages and substances that don’t support our health whatsoever.  We “afford” cable TV service, but not the gym membership.  We purchase expensive recreational vehicles and boats, etc. but we don’t want to invest in our own mental health through a series of high-impact counseling/therapy programs that can really make a profound difference in how we think, feel, and perform; with great potential to actualize real and lasting positive change.  We buy the latest and greatest smart phones, but believe that we can’t afford a bicycle or a good pair of hiking shoes that we might actually use instead of being sedentary and getting sucked-into a non-stop frenzy of social media that is likely to be far more superficial than beneficial.  Does any of this sound personally familiar?

So what can we do to live consistently with our values and reap the benefits inherent of being in alignment with them?  Remember, we identified our “lifestyle” as the key element in this concern.  I believe that our lifestyle is a culmination of the patterns and habits of even our simplest choices, day in and day out.  Choices always begin with questions and options.  This is what I like to do to strive towards living in harmony with my values.  First I take a close look at my values and the belief systems that explain them and support them.  I want to be very clear and I want to aim high.

Next, I ask questions and examine my options.  I like to begin with simple yes or no requests.  Example: “Does this purchase support any of my critical values?”  “What are my reasonable options?”  A few more yes or no questions ~ “Can I afford to spend this money on this……. right now?”  “Am I being impulsive, self-indulgent, irresponsible, reckless, etc.?”  “Will this bring me closer to my goal of……(insert the relevance of the important value)?”  I can’t fake-myself-out because I know better, and I won’t want to fool myself into believing that I can better manage this system of healthy choosing at some other time in the future, because I care too much about my values right now.

Let’s all do better to get clear on our values, and choose actions which will protect, support, and advance them.  This is what living with balance and harmony and being at peace with self looks like.  Let’s not let all of the enticements within our modern American ~ consumer-driven culture provide the defining influences on how we live our lives.  Let’s be thoughtful and disciplined consumers.  Let’s invest in our health (mind, body, and spirit).  Let’s cultivate empowering self-respect, and then let this be the catalyst for how we treat others respectfully.  Let’s not compromise our cherished morals, integrity, virtues, and fine human character.  Let’s make our humanity beautifully human through how we live in consistency with our inspiring and encouraging values.  

 

Kurt M. Leonard, MSW, LSWAIC, MHP (Healthy Counseling Center; Spokane, WA)     

No bad Weather

My little brother is an engineer, which usually means that he thinks in different ways than most of us, like are you a glass half-full or half-empty kind of person and the engineer says it was poor planning for a container suitable for the contents. Anyway, he says there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.
That’s probably more true here in Spokane than Antarctica.
I heard a story once of two neighbors who planned camping trips for the weekend, then it rained. One neighbor was angry and the whole weekend was ruined. The second neighbor set up his tent in the living room, made s’mores, and had a wonderful time with his family. When the first neighbor found out and was surprised, the second neighbor said, “We make our own weather.”
That’s helpful: our last human freedom is to choose what we think about. Even Henry Ford supposedly said, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t—you’re right.” The second neighbor was right to think he could have a camp out no matter the outside weather.
Maybe our attitude could be gratitude even if the weather seems too bad or the task seems too daunting to think we can do it.
My wife was reading about a boy Schindler saved from a Nazi concentration camp and he said the children would say if it doesn’t get any worse than this they could stand it. That’s resilience! Those kids had bad weather, bad clothes and certainly must have had times when they thought they could not do it another day, and the boy survived.
If you need help with your attitude of gratitude, please contact one of us at HealthyCounselingCenter.com.

Pain

Spiritual gifts are listed in different places in the Bible as good virtues given by God, like wisdom and courage. Most of us never think about pain as a good gift from God, yet there are stories of Jesus healing the lepers, who were people who felt no pain. Ironically then, when they were healed, they began hurting again.

Leprosy injured the nerves, so if a leper stepped on a nail and never felt the pain, the injury would worsen over time. The reason we blink our eyes is because they get dry and cause pain, which is relieved for us when we blink. But the lepers did not feel that dry eye and so they went blind.

Most of us don’t want more pain. Women who give birth more than once are incredible for their willingness to endure all kinds of pain for the purpose of giving new life. I have known soldiers who endured all kinds of pain in order to save lives and overcome evil. They must not have wanted pain, but they went through it for a worthwhile purpose.

Maybe pain is similar to anger. We usually don’t think of anger as a good gift from God; however, when anger takes the form of righteous indignation and energizes people to fight evil, the worthwhile purposes can be understood as good gifts from God.

If you are in pain other than pregnancy, you may be praying for different gifts from God, and understandably so. When I took my children to get their vaccinations, they did not think the pain was a good gift from their earthly father. They would have asked for different gifts from me. Having had most of those childhood diseases they were immunized against, I am certain their moments of pain during the shots were worth it to prevent them from getting sick.

Viktor Frankl and other authors who have been in pain teach that we should focus not on the painful situation, but on our last human freedom: to choose what we think about. Frankl should know, as a survivor of the Nazi concentration camps. When I’ve been in physical pain, like with a kidney stone or pancreatitis, looking back, that severe pain got me to the hospital in search of relief, so it may have been a blessing from God. My preference might have been more like W. C. Fields, “On the whole, I’d rather be in Philadelphia!”

When I’ve been in emotional pain, my temptation has been more to quote King David’s 22nd Psalm (“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”) than his famous next one (“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.” Ps. 23:1).

The Holy Spirit is called the Comforter. Comfort is what we usually want when we’re in pain. If we were lepers, we could be more open to pain, and think about pain in a different way, maybe even in a grateful way (“Give thanks in everything,” from 1 Thes. 5:18).

If you’re in pain and need help thinking about it in a different way, then recruit helpers and the Comforter.