Wednesday, January 31, 2007

A Quick Thought On Diet

I sometimes wonder how what we eat can affect how we think. It seems people are willing to accept certain foods (alcohol, sugar, caffeine) have an effect on our thoughts and behavior while we don't question whether a bag of potato chips has an effect as well. I have read recently about the benefits of fish oil in treating depression. While I have known that depression has a biological component, I never thought about how what we eat (or what supplements we take) can affect us in such a direct manner. Maybe eating healthy can have a positive effect on mental health as well as physical health.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

The Blessing Assumption

Many Christians believe that if something that seems to be good happens in their life then they should thank God for it. In fact, Christians often criticize themselves if they don't "give God the glory." But often they give God credit without thinking how he played a role or if he even played a role in it at all!

For example, some Christians assume that financial success = blessing from God. But this is simply not supported Biblically. What we call a blessing from God, others might call "overworking," "exploitation," or "unfair business practices." Obviously, that kind of behaviors does not stem from a just God. I could get A's in all my classes by cheating but that does not mean that God has blessed me.

We need to be discerning about what in our lives is really from God and what is actually against God. While God has given us the ability to achieve many things, he did not give us free license to use it as we wish. Sometimes we need to be more critical and realize that what we see as good things are not always that good to God. Perhaps the best way to thank God for his blessings is to quit just giving him lip service and take the time to really count HIS blessings.

Saturday, January 13, 2007


In my History and Systems of Psychology class we were given a scenario where we were asked whether or not we should take responsibility for the ways in which psychology has been used to abuse others. At first I had some trouble understanding so here's an example that helped me:
A client comes in and says their last therapist was verbally abusive. As a therapist myself do I see myself as connected to all other therapists as a member of that group? Do I therefore apologize to the client because I am "one" with that other therapist? Will the client hold me somewhat responsible (unconsciously) simply because I am a therapist?

I know that sometimes I take too much responsibility for things that occur. Just because I am mean to someone does not mean that I cause their reaction - but I nevertheless can think that way. But is taking responsibility for the actions of other people healthy? Should I apologize for being a man because men have done awful things? Should I apologize for being white because white people have done awful things?

I think the answer is a tentative yes. As a member of a group - whether voluntarily or not - I am connected with the other members of my group. People will therefore see me as being "one of them" and an apology can be useful for accepting that stereotyping people together is just a part of human nature. I need to accept that everybody places other people into groups and makes assumptions about them. We are not isolated from our group identity.

However, I recognize that I am not fully connected with people in my group and am thus autonomous and independent. It is not right for me to distrust all people of one group just because one member has done me wrong. I accept that one person holds the final responsibility. So while I am willing to accept that others will hold me responsible for what members of my groups have done - from other Christians, other psychologists, other men, other whites, other tall people, etc - I hope that I will be judged in the end for my own actions and for how I have shaped the groups I find myself in.

Monday, January 08, 2007

What owns you?

I'm a channel flipper. As soon as a commercial comes on I'm gone to the next channel. I guess it shows my lack of patience. But sometimes I feel quite justified because I know the effect commercials can have on me. Ads make me feel like I'm missing out on something. I've gotten hyped over countless movies only to be disappointed that they weren't as life-changing as the trailer made it seem. I am completely convinced that advertisements provoke a sense of dissatisfaction within me.

Advertising was originally aimed (in the early 1800's) at making people feel uncivilized, unhygienic, and unsophisticated. As commercialism evolved so did the advertisements. While advertisements at first were meant to convince people that they needed to be clean and proper, they soon were clearly selling the abundant life itself. The quality of one's relationships could even be defined by what you bought: parents were bad if they did not provide everything they could for their children.

As a result we are left with a sense of self that is no longer rooted in tradition, family, character, or religion. We have entrusted our lives into the care of companies concerned about profit earnings.

I hate depressing messages. They don't motivate me to change or even be self-reflective. And so far that's what this has been. But it doesn't have to end that way. You can reappraise your life right now and better determine what is important to you. We all live in a world where we simply cannot avoid some materialism. And that certainly has not been all bad - with improved standards of living and financial security. But while we live in such a world we do not necessarily have to embrace it with open arms.

What areas in your life might you consider living without luxury?
What are the costs of doing so?
What are the benefits?

Final thought:
"The things you own, end up owning you."
Brad Pitt in Fight Club

Most of this has been provoked by my reading of Philip Cushman's Constructing the Self, Constructing America: A Cultural History of Psychotherapy. You have him to blame (or thank) for the guilt trip.

Friday, January 05, 2007


My church had set a goal to raise $160,000 in a single Christmas Eve offering to build a hospital in Malawi. Not only did we surpass that goal (our previous largest Christmas offering was $23,000) but we raised $525,000 and we now have to figure out what to do with the excess, possibly considering building more hospitals. I'm proud to attend Whittier Area Community Church and am glad about how our church is now considering what we can do to show love to the global community and help make a difference.

Thursday, January 04, 2007


I started classes again yesterday. Dr. Brown, my neuropsychology professor, shared that his thinking on disability was that it is a range rather than a category. From that perspective we are all disabled to some extent. For example, I wear glasses and thus am disabled in vision. While some people are more disabled in some areas than others, we can all relate to the experience of not being able to do something that we would like to do. (As a side note, I have frustrations with people who believe that all we have to do is put our mind to it and we can do it - we all have our limits.)

Being disabled I have to remind myself of two key ideas. The first is that I must rely on others to meet many of my needs. Regarding my nearsightedness, I have to rely on an optometrist to give me the right prescription, the eye glass store to have fashionable glasses, and insurance to help pay for it. We all have to accept that we need others to some degree in order to survive. More generally I need to remind myself that I need to search out counsel, support, knowledge, and direction in the ways that I choose to live my life.

The second related idea is that others are relying on me. Given that I have physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual handicaps, I need to accept that others will have them too and will be looking to me to bear with their disabilities and help in any way I can. Understanding that when others are a burden it is not their choice reminds me to be patient, generous, and kind. So let's remember to be united with one another and love one another.