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Sunday, October 28, 2012

40 Seconds

"The faithful are taught to study the signs of 
Christ's Second Coming and to be prepared for it."

As a psychologist I want to share with you one sign you may not be paying attention to  - “Hearts shall fail them.”
And in that day shall be heard of wars and rumors of wars, and the whole earth shall be in commotion, and mens hearts shall fail them... (D & C 45:26)
What better represents a "failing heart" then - suicide.

A way of coping
Suicide has been used as a way of coping with life problems for centuries. Ahithophel in 2 Samuel 16:23 was referred to as “an oracle of God.” He was a “counsellor” to King David and hung himself. (See 2 Samuel 17: 23). And perhaps one of the more famous suicides was the apostle Judas in Matthew 27:3-8 where he too hung himself. Unfortunately we Latter-day Saints are not immune from suicide.

In the past 30 days there have been 2 suicides within a mile of my home! Within this calendar year I've consulted with three separate wards who wanted advice on how to help their young men and women organization - deal with one of their youth who had committed suicide. If you haven't had a personal experience with suicide.... unfortunately YOU probabaly WILL.

We are living in the prophesied time “when peace shall be taken from the earth” (D&C 1:35), when “all things shall be in commotion” and we read again men’s hearts shall fail them”(D&C 88:91). There are many causes of commotion as we go about our daily lives - including wars, natural disasters, wickedness, addiction, etc.

We mental health professionals have known for a long time one reason people committ suicide is because they perceive it as -solving a problem- typically a way of dealing with "commotion."

A suicide every 40 seconds
Every year, almost one million people die from suicide; a "global" mortality rate of 16 per 100,000, or one death by suicide every 40 seconds. In the last 45 years suicide rates have increased by 60% worldwide. Suicide is among the three leading causes of death among those aged 15-44 years in some countries, and the second leading cause of death in the 10-24 years age group; these figures do not include suicide attempts which are up to 20 times more frequent than completed suicide. (World Health Organization, Suicide StatisticsTo bring this figure home- if you took 10 minutes to study this blog 15 sons and daughters of God would have successfully killed themselves. If your ward had 300 members - it would take less than 4 hours before an equal number would be in paradise.

Imagine that - the equivalent of dozens of wards disappearing every week. Yet we don't talk about it... nor recognize this as a sign of His Second Coming.

Let me share one personal story about a Bishop and his son.

Best Friends
My son Gary was probably my best friend. We spent a lot of time together. When he was little he liked sports and I coached his baseball and basketball games. I loved watching him play. A little later, he learned to bowl and found he had a natural ability for the game. I always went with him to his tournaments and shared his happiness when he won. … He dropped out of school altogether at age 16. He had several jobs but they didn’t last long when he was about 20, Gary met and married a girl he loved a lot. For a while they were really happy he vowed to give up the things that were bringing unhappiness. Some of his old friends started coming around and he started drinking again. He and his wife divorced and he moved back home.

Come on Dad…
During this time we spent a lot of time together. When he was working nights, he’d wake up early and say , “Come on, Dad Let’s go for a ride.” He’d get coffee and I’d get hot chocolate and we’d just ride around. He loved riding on country roads or in the mountains.
… Shot in the heart
The day before he died we helped with ward clean-up-day. He worked so hard and enjoyed being with the other guys there. He came home, got cleaned up and went to a street festival in town. I didn’t hear him come home but it was late. The next morning I went to Bishop’s meeting and then my wife and I attended the other Sunday meetings. It was about 4:00 pm when I got home. My wife asked me to go downstairs and get Gary for dinner. He didn’t’ wake when I called his name. When I turned on the light, I saw him lying back on his pillows and that he had shot himself in the heart.

Raising from the dead…
I reached out to hold him but his spirit had gone. Thoughts raced through my mind-with my Priesthood, I could heal him-If only I was good enough-so I gave him a blessing. I was bishop of our ward at the time. I remembered how Jesus had raised the dead and I wanted so much to have the faith to bring my son back to me…. I was standing at the foot of his casket when I realized that my son was just 33 years old, the same age the Savior was when he died. (Where is our hope for peace?: A resource guide for LDS families coping with suicide)

Some of the most powerful memories imprinted in my soul for the eternities have to do with suicide.

Unanswered questions
With every suicide there are many questions. M. Russell Ballard shares a few:
Was the person who took his/her life mentally ill? Was s/he so deeply depressed as to be unbalanced or otherwise emotionally disturbed? Was the suicide a tragic, pitiful call for help that went unheeded too long or progressed faster than the victim intended? Did s/he not understand the seriousness of the act? Was s/he suffering from a chemical imbalance that led to despair and a loss of self control? … The Lord will look at that person’s circumstances and the degree of his accountability at the time of the act. (M. Russell Ballard, “Suicide: Some Things We Know, and Some We Do Not,” Ensign, Oct 1987)
If your life is such that you and those around you have a sense of peace and "will" to live... thank the Lord tonight in your personal prayers. Not everyone is blessed with such.

The Savior will return to the earth in power and great glory to reign personally during a millennium of righteousness and peace. At the time of His coming there will be a destruction of the wicked and a resurrection of the righteous.  No one knows the time of His coming. Our challenge - study the signs  and to be prepared.

dr rick

Sunday, October 21, 2012

When caring hurts

Give, Give, Give
President Jones was up bright and early. She helped her daughter finish a math assignment while she cooked breakfast for her three children and husband. As soon as the kids and husband were out the door she started baking bread for the new family that moved in down the street. While the bread was cooking she received a phone call from one of the ward sister’s who had a fight with her husband. The police had just arrived at her home. After all President Jones had just told that sister the night before “If you ever need anything just give me a call.” The day continued with “one thing after another.” It was Monday night and there was no way she could get the lesson for family home evening. She was watching a 2 and a 3 year old of another family whose parents had to go to the hospital for a family emergency. By 11:00 pm President Jones collapsed on her bed still dressed in her street clothes. She was exhausted. She didn’t even hear her husband invite her to join family prayer.

I met Sister Jones, the Relief Society President, a few days later in a psychiatric ward. She had been hospitalized because of a “nervous breakdown.”

Some people believe GIVE GIVE GIVE is the secret to HAPPINESS! 
If it was that simple, then WHY did Sister Jones end up in the Psych Ward? She wasn't drinking beer or having an affair- just doing her church job, RIGHT?

Caring Can Hurt
For the past 30 years, psychological research has been steadily accumulating to demonstrate that caring has its costs. We now know that if you’re not careful, caring for others can have negative effects on the caregiver. These physical, mental, and spiritual side effects of care giving can be potentially very dangerous. “Compassion Fatigue” has become such a significant problem that it now has it’s own “Syndrome” - Compassion Fatigue Syndrome- CFS! Google reports over  1 million references to “Compassion Fatigue.” Here is an example of a Compassion Fatigue Self-Assessment if you’re interested in how you personally might be doing: Compassion Fatigue Self-Assessment. (It's not scientific but gives you an idea of the concept.)

Principle With A Promise
Consider what Jethro had to say to Moses while he was performing his church work:

Moses sat to judge the people: and the people stood by Moses from the morning unto the evening [Jethro says to Moses] What is this thing that thou doest to the people?…The thing that thou doest is NOT GOOD. Thou wilt surely wear away, both thou, and this people … for this thing is too heavy for thee; thou art not able to perform it thyself alone (Exodus 18:13-18)
Notice how long Moses spent fullfilling his church calling - "From morning unto the evening." Next, pay attention to the consequence of excessive giving - "Thou wilt surely wear away, both thou, and this people."

Of course Moses harkened to the Lord’s counsel and intervened by organizing the Israelites into small groups and delegating (See Exodus 18: 19-24).

Our Relief Society President - unlike Moses - did not intervene soon enough. She “wore away” and ended up in a psych ward.

Mothers Beware!

The principle:  Excess in giving, inordinate church service, and a desire to sacrifice more than is needful - will lead to Compassion Fatigue  a devilish diversion.

Devilish Diversions
Dallin H. Oaks describes several devilish diversions –sins, that we as Latter-Day Saints experience including:

-Desire to sacrifice more than is needful
-Excess in giving
-Inordinate church service
To read  the details see: Dallin H. Oaks, Ensign, October 1994, “Our Strengths Can Become Our Downfall”) 

Joseph B. Wirthlin, in the article “Concern for the One,” Ensign, May 2008. Teaches the same concept:
... caring Church leaders are mindful of individual limitations yet eager to utilize members to the extent of their strength and abilities. Leaders teach and support but do not bring pressure to “run faster or labor more than” strength allows.

And if that is not good enough here is God's advice:
Do not run faster or labor more than you have strength and means provided to enable you... (D & C 10:4)
My advice: When you become so preoccupied and so worried about “another person or project” that you neglect your own personal self-care behaviors, you are committing a "Devilish Diversion" - and  will surely "Reap what you Sow" -compassion fatigue and possibly a trip to the psych ward :)

CHALLENGE: IF while reading this blog you felt a prompting that it applies to you --- and you have been neglecting your self care -- you probably have. Do one thing to care for yourself-TODAY!
If you want to catch yourself before you get Compassion Fatigue. Here are some hints:

-To prevent physical-compassion fatigue try getting enough sleep, eating right, and exercising.
-To prevent spiritual-compassion fatigue say your personal prayers, take time to ponder, and do daily scripture study.

dr rick
dr rick's blog index

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Hello, is the President available?

Calling Upon the White House
Presidents  typically say they are committed to creating an open and accessible administration. So recently I called the White House to visit with President Obama about some of my personal concerns. A receptionist answered the phone, “White House.” I asked if I could talk to the President and that I had some concerns. She transferred me to another line. I received a tape recording “President’s Comment Line” and then the recording said, We are closed.”

So much for my personal concerns.

Calling Upon God
When I call upon God in prayer, He is not that way. The call always goes through. No foreign voice on the other end. No recording. No support staff is going to answer.   He’s not out of the office when we call. He’s not disinterested in our concerns. We’re not boring him. We can never talk too long. He will hear us out. - You get my point. We are His children. He loves each of us as if there is only one of us.

Prayer is our means of calling Heavenly Father, the Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth. Only a fool would not take advantage of such a resource. Think of it - a personal conversation with the creator of the universe!

Our Heavenly Father has a voice to speak, ears to hear, eyes to see, and angels to send. There really is an almighty God with whom we can have a personal relationship. I can talk to Him and He can talk to me. David O. McKay said "You cannot imagine an effective prayer without visualizing and feeling a personal God." (Treasures of Life, Deseret Book, 1963, p. 308.)

Relationship, Relationship, Relationship
Therapy research has now identified the “therapeutic relationship” or sometimes referred to as “therapeutic alliance” as being more powerful than any specific psychological technique! That is, the therapist’s relationship with the patient, rather than techniques or theoretical orientations, are the more important aspects of effectively changing another’s life.

As mental health professionals, we are trained that the alliance with the patient is most effective when the therapist exhibits some of the following traits: warmth, friendliness, genuineness, empathy, active listening skills, and concern.

If this is true for relationships on earth, it is true for relationships in heaven.

Who better than God to have a perfect relationship with YOU.
Having a relationship with God, changes YOUR life.

When God is believed in as our Eternal Father, we can to a degree understand our relationship to him—that he is the Father of our spirits, a loving parent who is interested in his children individually and whom they can love with all their hearts, might, mind, and strength. Such a belief is essential to true prayer because intelligent beings will not pray fervently to a God they do not know. Such praying will be done only by people who believe their prayers can be heard and answered by an understanding, sympathetic parent. ("Pray Always" An address delivered at general conference October 7, 1944 by Marion G. Romney.)

God Smiles When He Hears From You and I
When God hears us calling Him, he rejoices. Even if we’ve done wrong. Like the prodigal son coming home. The father wanted to see his son and celebrated his return. “But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him” (Luke 15: 20).

That’s the picture we need to have of God when we visualize Him in prayer.

As we make a habit of approaching God in prayer, we will come to know Him and draw ever nearer to Him. If you don’t feel the power of His relationship - the therapeutic alliance - keep calling back, keep asking for God. Eventually, a personal relationship will come. Promise. It cannot NOT happen! (Eternal truths are just that way.)

As a shrink, I promise regardless of the challenges you face, the most powerful life changing resource I could ever offer you would be, developing a personal relationship with God.

And this is life eternal, that [YOU and I] might know thee the only true God, … “ (John 17:3.)
So we have some time. :)

Check out this video: Prayer

Develop YOUR relationship with God by doing the following:
1) Find a place that you can be alone for just a minute or two. Go there.
2) Imagine like you are the prodigal son/daughter and He anxiously awaits your visit.
3) Feel of His PERFECT love for you -
Think of the purest, most all-consuming love you can imagine. Now multiply that love by an infinite amount—that is the measure of God’s love for you … Though we are incomplete, God loves us completely. Though we are imperfect, He loves us perfectly. Though we may feel lost and without compass, God love encompasses us completely. He loves us because He is filled with an infinite measure of holy, pure, and indescribable love." (Dieter F. Uchtdorf, The Love of God, October 2009)
4) Follow these steps again, tomorrow and the next day, and the next day...5) Be aware of and follow your impressions.

dr rick

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Where did you learn about sex?

I usually don't watch tv but the other night I was laying on the floor on my back arch support (I'm getting old now)  Karla was watching the news. A comercial came on about NBC's NEW NORMAL promoting the acceptance of homosexual lifestyles.  I listened and watched. I was amazed at how brazen the 60 second commercial promoted same-sex behavior.

It must have been my lucky night - a few commercials later it was Victoria's Secret's turn!

We don't have satelitte or any subscription TV. Just regular TV so we don't get all the sex stuff, right? Having not watched much  TV my TV conscience was startled and offended by such explicit portrayal of sexual content in the commercials.

A few days later I was driving to do a fireside at a local young adult single ward. The Bishop had expressed a concern about the numerous sexual concerns with his ward members. He asked me to come out and visit with them about sexuality and pornography.

There I was driving down I-15 pondering how I could talk about sexuality to a group of single LDS young adults and randomly I looked up and saw this:

Well I thought - "Distract. Distract" that's a technique we teach to manage unwanted thoughts. I distracted by turning on the radio. I pressed the scan button jumping around and I landed on some station singing about "Let's Do It" - again very explicit sexual content. "Distract. Distract" right? But to what to I distract to now?  (I guess dr rick is going to sing "popcorn popping on the apricot tree")

I eventually arrived at the church house where about 150 young men and young women were waiting. I began by sharing how on my way to the church house I seen a Wendy's. I asked,

"What is Wendy's and why do people go there?"

Several hands were raised. We had a very comfortable conversation about fast foods and hunger and nutrition and etc. I then noted I saw a billboard for "Dr. John's"  and asked,

"What is Dr. John's and why do people go there?"

There was a silence. No hands were raised. I paused to let it sink in. (I"m sure the bishop was sqirming by now.) Obviously a discussion about sexual relations in an LDS Church house made many uncomfortable.

Later in my talk I asked when was the last time they had heard the words "Sexual Relations" in a LDS Church setting. ONE hand went up. His response "3 years ago."

My conclusion:



Let me pause here. For years as a professional psychologist I've been working with sex offenders.  Their crimes have ranged from viewing child porn, child molestation and rape. (Most of these offenders ARE LDS by the way.)  I listen for hours and hours to their stories.

Part of my interviewing requires me to ask:  "Where did you learn about sex?"  Over the past few years the typical responses have been: "At school in sex ed" and "from my friends."  (Of course I recognize the powerful influence of tv, music, and other media.)

I've never once, in the thousands and thousands of interviews, 
heard the answer: "The church." 

To my knowledge NO ONE has ever learned about sexual relations at church!

Now you might say, "dr rick of course not. That doesn't even make sense. Why would we need to talk about sex in the church?" Some might even add "Sex is evil!  We can't talk about that in church?"  Well I could bore you with stats about LDS porn use, LDS unwed mothers, LDS affairs and divorces, etc. etc.

But let's keep this discussion "plain and simple."
We, the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, solemnly proclaim that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children. The Family: A Proclamation To The World
Best I would suggest in a very direct way: "Sexual Relations" are ordained of God and central to the Creator's plan.

In answer to my own question, one of the most recent times I heard the words "Sexual Relations" in an LDS setting was a couple of weeks ago while doing an Endowment in the Bountiful Temple!

Challenge: Talk to someone you love in the Lord's Way about "Sexual Relations."