How to stop the emotional-spiritual collapses


In my time as I spend time working with, praying for and listening to hurt people and in particular hurt Christians, I come across some things time and again. I described a very common imbalance in this post: Love God, love others, love yourself – a biblically balanced life and I received some really good feedback on it.

In this post I am describing another problem I commonly see. It’s when people try and try and try to do some “spiritual work” but they keep falling over. Sometimes their health lets them down. Their energy goes. They often burn out and feel terrible. They lift themselves up and try again, only to fall over again. They try to be “faithful” to God, but fall over. They try and try but collapse. It’s not a good look and it’s not really bringing glory to Him, I don’t think. And I would know… I did it for the longest time.

Then I began to get some basic lessons in the Kingdom and my life changed. I wrote Christian burn out cycle and I wrote about The parable of the talents. I now live my life with this parable as a foundation for what I do.

In this post I am writing about another way to grow and avoid the collapses that I see so often.

I read a HECK of a lot of books. I gobble them up and I usually only mention them on this blog if I am 100% sure that they will help. The really good books take me 1-2 years to read, because they contain so much new information and they are so stretching that quite often when I first read them I respond with a “what rubbish!” and I actually remember throwing a book across the room saying “that will NEVER happen!” and in fact 5 years later it is happening. hehehe!

selfmatterscompanion.jpgselfmatters.jpgThis book “Self Matters” by Dr Phil (and the companion/workbook) is one of those books that has taken me years to digest. When I first bought 3 years ago it I couldn’t get into it. I gave it away. Last year I bought it again, but struggled. Months later I was finally ready for the wisdom Dr Phil was sharing.

He explains SO MANY things in this book, but I want to share just one thing. It’s actually a very well known and accepted “Maslow” hierarchy type of theory.

BTW Did you know Maslow became a Christian after a radical experience with Jesus and just before he died he modified his theories to include spiritual needs?

Maslow made a hierarchy of needs. Dr Phil is describing a hierarchy of emotional needs. Stick with me on this… I promise you won’t regret it.

Did you know Dr Phil is a Christian, I have personally heard his confession of his faith. I was astounded at what I heard and I’m really pleased that I will be seeing him in Heaven.

You have a hierarchy of needs

The basic idea is like a house. If the foundation is weak you can’t go higher. If level 1 is weak you cant build level 2. To build a 20 storey building, the first 19 have to be strong. You can see this same kind of planning logic in the Kingdom of God:

“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’ – Luke 14:28-30

The collapses that so many people experience are because their foundation is not solid.

Your 1st emotional need is SURVIVAL. This is the first and most basic need. If you lived in a home where you weren’t sure that you were going to survive, you would have modified your behavior so that you were able to stay out of the conflicts at all cost.

When the need for survival was met – when you felt safe – you would have been able to begin to focus on the next need, security. You can’t focus on security until you know you will survive.

Your 2nd emotional need is SECURITY. Dr Phil says that there are two types of security needs: emotional and physical. I would add a third security need: financial. So in this level we ask the questions:

  • am I emotionally safe?
  • am I physically safe?
  • am I financially secure?

It is only AFTER the three security needs are met – when you can say “yes I am safe” – THEN you will be able to focus on the 3rd need: love, then the 4th need for self-esteem, then the 5th need for self expression, then the 6th need for intellectual fulfillment and finally the 7th need for spirutual fulfillment.

Now here’s the problem.

Sometimes people are trying to give and receive love in a marriage, but they don’t feel emotionally safe. First they have to feel emotionally safe BEFORE they can give and receive love, because security is the 2nd need and love is the 3rd need.

Here’s another example. Ssometimes people try to have intellectual fulfillment (6th need) in their work and through their ambitions, but they still remain somehow unfulfilled and they somehow keep collapsing. If we look closer perhaps they lack self-esteem (4th need).

In this post I am trying to explain why I often see Christian people struggling so hard to do some ministry (7th and highest need), but they collapse again and again. Why? In my case I lacked financial security (2nd need) and I lacked every need above that one (love, self-esteem etc.)

How on earth could I handle all these people’s problems while still having such a weak foundation in my own life? If I lack security, how can I provide security for my wife? If she and I don’t have security, how can our love life flourish?

So may I suggest that if you are struggling in your ministry and if you are suffering a regular collapse in your spirutual life, take a long honest, hard look at this hierarchy of emotional needs and ask yourself, which one should I focus on so I can become strong enough to do what God wants to do through me.

Here is Dr Phil’s hierarchy of emotional needs… with my own questions that you can ask yourself to figure out where you may be stuck and therefore where you should begin to devote your attention SO THAT later on you can succeed at all the amazing God things you want to do.

  1. Survival (is my life protected?)
  2. Security (do I have a safe place to stay, kind friends, reliable income?)
  3. Love (was I loved in my home as I grew up, or am I hungering for love now in the wrong way?)
  4. Self-esteem (do you love, believe in, accept yourself?)
  5. Self-expression (am I making my mark on the world in a way that is uniquely me?)
  6. Intellectual fulfillment (am I finding answers to the things I want to know about?)
  7. Spiritual fulfillment (am I building or participating in something that is bigger than myself for others/God)

No matter where you are or what you need to deal with, everything can be handled. You can do it. Find a friend. Find a Christian counsellor. Talk, talk, talk. Pray. Talk more. And more.

I once asked a counsellor how people heal. He said: “talking“.

FWIW here is a nice list of bible verses that correspond to “planning and management” concepts.

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3 responses to “How to stop the emotional-spiritual collapses

  1. Wow,

    Good to read a post where you feel understood without sharing with someone. I have learned that talking gets you in trouble. “You talk to much!”. You hold it in and you suffer the emotional damage. I really can relate to the posting by the christian counselor Lucille Zimmerman. I have given to a lot of people and guess what I hear that I am selfish….Of course only when you have nothing left to give…Right down to your strength. I am learning that forgiveness is important in my healing. It’s just that I have been made to be wrong because of the very feelings that I have read in these posting. So then you carry around guilt of not being able to deal with all this stuff. Anyway, moviing forward……believing that God is healing, restoring, and knowing that he sees everything

    • Hi healing

      You sound like your are on the right track. I once asked a Christian counsellor “how do people heal?” and he replied “by talking”. So please dont bottle it all up. And don’t hang around with people who want to bottle you up by putting you down.

      God bless you! Mark.

  2. Hi Mark, I got to glance at your site. It looks great. I wonder if you want to read my articles about Boundaries. I am counselor (Christian) and recommend the books by Cloud and Townsend more than any other! For some reason Christians think they have to give to everyone, until they have nothing left. But, even Jesus had boundaries.

    Blessings!

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