PROGRAM DETAILS: • Each FRIDAY, guests join me in a conversation. • Come back each Wednesday (on “Hump Day” aka Midweek) for a brief Soul School “lesson”–something for your interior world and common life.
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Today my guest is R. SCOTT GORNTO (MDIV, LMFT, CST,) who is a therapist, speaker, and author based in Dallas, Texas. He’s the creator of the Auxano Approach® to relationships, The Truth About Marriage® workshops and intensives for couples, and the RQ Relational Intelligence program for C-level executives and leaders.
• Today, we discuss very useful concepts and methods from his book “The Stories We Tell Ourselves” among other things, including how we construct reality.
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I hear lot of people batting around the terms “mystic”, “mysticism”, and “contemplative” lately, so I thought it might be helpful to speak about what some of these terms and concepts mean and speak about some common misunderstandings too.
If you’d like me to go into more depth in an upcoming episode, send me a note or a question!
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Did this ever happen to you? You think the way your family (of origin) does something is normal, and then, suddenly, you find out it isn’t?
Usually, this happens when you form close relationships outside your family of origin. Fireworks can ensue!
How your family dealt with conflicts, problems, shame, secrets, and tragedies shaped you and learning relational and loyalty dynamics from the previous generations in your family can bring relational repair, health, and hope.
That’s what today’s show is about. I’m glad you can listen, today.
Today’s guest is graduate school professor and marriage and family therapist in private clinical practice, Janet Stauffer, Ph.D.
Dean of Students, Evangelical Seminary
Professor of Marriage and Family Therapy
In addition to her work at the seminary and her clinical practice, Janet is vice president of the Board of Directors at Philhaven Behavioral Healthcare facility. She has led retreats, presented at professional conferences, and published articles in a number of journals. She is a licensed marriage and family therapist and approved supervisor and clinical member of the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists. She also holds membership in the Christian Association for Psychological Studies. Her research interests include genuine meeting through dialogical engagement, loyalty dynamics between and across the generations of the family, and the intersection of faith and therapy.
Each person is born with an inherent longing to connect.
Early childhood experiences shape who we are and how we relate to others.
Our ancestors deliver ways of being to us across generations:
What can be done if the early years weren’t filled with dysfunction and problems?
How relationship can alter the wiring and re-patterning of the brain.
Jim Coen, UVA – The Hand holding experiment.
In close relationships, we end up feeling–not only are you here with me–but somehow you are me. Somehow we are here together.
Before we can help others, we have to be open to ourselves and our own healing. Our wounds can remain as vulnerabilities and our greatest resource.
“I because who I am through my relationships with other people, so that more of me gets called forth as I respond to others in my world around me.”
The still face experiment:
“Foo-Poo” (FOO = Family of Origin) influences our current relationships.
The interconnectedness and “loyalty dynamics” between and across the generations and how during all our interactions we are holding something that has been passed down across generations and in the larger cultural dynamics.
Example from life (Janet, her husband and the Ford Fiesta). Naming the truth in our interactions and being curious about what we hold from generations before us.
Janet explored what anger was like for her mother and grandmother and discovered not just a family secret and the shame that was carried on, but also a a family norm relating to how pain is dealt with.
Family secrets and ways of interacting waiting like land mines that can sabotage our other relationships.
We can also end up carrying or holding visibly or invisibly things that our spouse (or other close relationships) hold as well.
There are options for growth and healing if we can be open, aware, curious and can find courage to turn and face [the other] and remember where our weakness are and admit them.
The power of naming what is happening for us emotionally.
“Honoring my personal truth, personal awareness, my being, and made a claim for myself has a profound impact in my own knowing.”
“Every one of us experiences terror at the thought of finding the courage to turn and face the other in a painful situation at some point in our life.”
A defend or fight mode should be superseded by the prevailing message “You and I are on the team team ultimately. We have a reason to connect and I long for you. But it’s been hard between and here’s something of how it’s been for me… and I want to know what it’s like for you.”
Yet, we cannot think what we say will always help because we cannot guarantee the other person’s response. So there is vulnerability in saying the truth.
Being calm, curious and compassionate even in the face of wounds and vulnerability.
Emotionally self-regulating and contending with emotional triggers.
(In marriage or close relationships) Learning self and other in a whole new way…in a kind of sacred space to grow through the most tender places that we hold.
Telling the other what would help in what feels like an unsafe place emotionally.
Learning to soothe one another.
On core lies we can believe about ourselves.
Honoring when emotional safety is just as important as physical safety.
What to do when it’s not safe to have important conversations.
Martin Buber-We live with an armor around us and bands around our heart and being closed off and unaware and unaddressed.
Asking questions of ourselves to create more awareness and realizing our thoughts and memories are not us.
We limit our imagination about the capacity each of us holds to respond the other, the world around us and ourself.
We can test our assumptions and plant seeds that bring new possibilities for ourself and others.
When we can’t yet name or isolate our feelings.
Giving permission and a soft demand to know what is going on with someone else and helping them find their voice.
The biblical tradition of the garden where God says “Where art thou?” a story about hiding. God’s longing for humankind.
King David in the psalms is modeling openness and receptivity…asking “What is in my heart?” “Who am I?” “What do I hold?”
Being open and still safe. Giving yourself warm, regard, and leaving the self-judgment out.
“Judgment limits the knowing.”
Being present to and growing in recognition of “here’s what I hold” or “here’s what freezes me” etc and asking “how can I be more free?” and then exploring new pathways and practices that go somewhere.
On the spiritual practices and things can people do to move forward.
These ways of understanding what it is to connect, grow and be human are universal and offer hope to those with varied religious tradition and no religious affiliation too.
The spiritual and the Other when it is not defined as “God”.
“God doesn’t limit God’s self to the church or the synagogue or the mosque and we can never fully describe God because God cannot be contained and is always more than what I can fathom or grasp”
Asking, “How do I understand the call before me and how do I invite others and find the place where they are experiencing call and longing and where is this work happening within them. What is being invited forth?”
How we can pass down the best of our generational dynamics and loyalties to our children.
On the invisible family rule of perfectionism and how it made Janet think she could be the perfect parent and how that idea was shattered.
How she approached her son after that point to understand what he was experiencing and being surprised by his reply.
We can never get it all right, but we can be willing to go to our child and ask them about their experience.
Inviting others to know themselves in whatever capacity to do that they can and hold what they say with care and honor.
Enacting moments and accumulating themes and transactions and happenings and asking “Is their a burden they carry or an injury of disregard or diminishment that was not theirs to carry?” which deserve address and caring and honor.
On having a commit to “I will be there for you, and I will be here for me, and I invite you to be here for me,” is a profound act that helps us for the long run.
Despite our efforts, outcomes are not guaranteed and each person has an opportunity to respond uniquely.
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I was a sweaty, nervous wreck on my first periscope.
It’s comical…did anyone ever see Broadcast News (the movie)?
I needed two tissues for my sympathetic nervous system.
(Some technical difficulties threw me just before broadcast and I talked SO VERY fast.)
If you didn’t get to see it here you go!
THE #1 Myth about the SOUL…
is that we have one.
But first….we should get on the same page…
WHAT IS A SOUL?
(what are we talking about?)
This is how I’m describing it:
In the Old Testament the Hebrew word for soul is nephesh. We might use it this way, “1,517 souls were lost in the Titanic disaster.”
SOUL ≠ dead BUGS BUNNY …like a floating ghost and that sort of stuff.
Not a faint rendering of bugs bunny leaving his body to play a harp on a cloud with Porky Pig. Not something that is ghosty and haunting a house or helping Demi Moore on a Pottery Wheel. (Patrick Swayze-style..google it, young people.)
Ancients thought of the mind and heart differently (the will and the emotions)…
Maybe these verses come to mind…but you’ve been thinking about them in your own context instead of the ancient context from which they were written.
Remember this one?
The heart is deceitful and wicked above all things JER 17:9
(Guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life)
Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.
….The writers of these scriptures were not talking about emotions and feelings when they said “heart” (like we associate the heart today…they were talking about the HEART as one’s will and control center of a person…(the thing we now associate with the mind.)
For them, the emotions (the heart for us in our context) were associated, instead, with the bowels. Perhaps a bit gross..but there is some
MEDICAL TRUTH/correlation : anxiety and stress are closely associated with disease and problem that happen in the intestines…like….ulcerated colon, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (bloating, constipation, gas, and other fun things), digestion issues, food sensitivities and problems in that part of the body. These are extremely related to one’s emotions and levels of stress.
The GEM MODEL of the Soul (my version)
Think of the SOUL as a gem and the facets are ways to see the soul.
You can go as far as saying other things beyond these are facets:
family of origin, social economic situation, skin color (if that has been a defining factor in your life)
education, the country you live in,
Even Christianity is a facet. A worldview is a facet that we can gain a kind of look at who we are.
Grace is central to Christianity, for instance. We can look at our soul through the facet of grace.
When light is added to a stone you can see its flaws and imperfections and you can see its quality (color, cut, clarity, caret)
UGLY soul? Is that possible? what do you think?
In his book Care of Souls, David Benner writes, “We can define soul care as the support and restoration of the well-being of persons in their depth and totality, with particular concern for their inner life. Soul care is done in the context of community.”
The vantage point of Soul Care views struggle or failings not as fatal flaws or illness to be “cured”. Not therapy or self-help.
It’s a sustaining endeavor for our interior lives and our relationships, like water and food is for the body. Incidentally, caring for the body falls within the bounds of Soul Care.
Ten Signs that You Need the Renewal of Soul Care
1. Fruitlessness. Are there observable deficits in the enacted your Fruit of the Spirit? That means, is there any lack or slack in the
areas of love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, gentleness, and self-control? (If not, I think E.T. went home without you. Phone again. You might want to text, and retweet as well.)
2. You find yourself perceiving things others say as personally offensive, or as direct attacks.
3. You are “venting” more in person or online. 4. You feel unloved. 5.You feel increased frustration, restlessness, or disconsolation.
6.Your fears and anxiety are more prevalent.
7.You have increased tension in relationships.
8. You struggle with one or more of the “seven deadly
sins”: wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony.
9. You have problems sleeping or bad dreams.
10. You’re in a creative slump.
THE #1 myth about the soul is that…. you have one. You don’t have a soul you are a Soul. You have a body. George MacDonald, in 1892 (C.S. Lewis quotes him and the quote is mistakenly attributed to him sometimes)
Think of the Soul as “the real you” the essence of you. contained in a body, yes, but made up of everything about you in a pure sense.
Some might say the soul gets extinguished or goes to paradise or gets absorbed into the great Life Force (God) …but in terms of what you need…you always need Soul Care, because you are a soul and that include both the visible and the invisible.
All this more and much more is available in my book. Shame-filled plug.
Shane is a Soul Friend (Spiritual Director) with a focus on artists and creatives, be they “yuccies”, “slashies”, painters, musicians, or any one in need of deeper and more sustaining, soul-level communing.
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