Thursday, December 31, 2009

Managing feelings

I am reading Reggie McNeal's book Practicing Greatness: 7 Disciplines of Extraordinary Spiritual Leaders. Chapter 2 is on 'The Discipline of Self-Management.' In it he talks about a few emotions that can be problematic, such as: depression, anger, hostility, grief and loss, fear, and bitterness.

Of depression he says there are two basic types: endogenous and exogenous. Endogenous is biological in nature and requires medication (usually antidepressants) for treatment. People suffering with this typically feel worse in the morning, and better at night. Therapy is not a cure, but is helpful. As for exogenous, he says this is a psychological and emotional condition that is usually a response to some loss. The loss can be anything, from the death of a loved one to a crushed expectation. And the severity can be mild or significant. Medication may be a partial answer, but over time no medication will help exogenous depression. The best treatment is at the emotional and psychological level.

McNeal says both types of depression evidence some classic symptoms: confused thinking, a loss of interest in work or hobbies, inertia, fear of losing one's mind, feelings of impotence, appetite shifts in either direction, sleep-pattern shifts, guilt, and stomach discomfort.

What I thought was interesting in reading through this chapter... certainly there are times when I've struggled with depression (exogenous), but I don't really think that is my main nemesis. I think what I often mistake for depression is actually more related to anger, hostility, and bitterness, and a struggle to properly deal with them. According to McNeal, anger is "a psychological response of readiness, usually caused by hurt, fear, or frustration... Feeling irritated, misunderstood, violated, maligned -- all these emotions can produce anger for spiritual leaders." As well as disappointment with life station, blocked goals, or unrealistic expectations. Along the same lines, there are several factors known to feed hostility: unresolved anger, personal self-esteem issues, and unrealistic expectations. And he says, "Bitterness that takes the form of disappointment, resentment, or cynicism is one of the most pernicious negative emotions that spiritual leaders have to confront." Depression or mismanaged anger may actually lay the foundation for hostility and bitterness.

Though it seems rather simple laid out in black and white, this was quite helpful for me.

There were also a few quotes that especially caught my eye...
  • "...surviving the ministry is a matter of surviving depression." (so says Archibald Hart) 37
  • "One's level of faith affects the outcome of the grief process but neither the need to grieve nor the time required to do it." 40
  • "Suffering in silence is a Stoic, not Christian, notion." 41
  • "Time alone does not heal. God heals." 41