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Natalie Lane Eden, LLC

Fully licensed Faith-Based Clinical Counseling

Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (Illinois)

Licensed Professional Counselor (Pennsylvania)

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"I Want to Forgive But I Still Have Pain

Posted on July 20, 2014 at 3:49 PM Comments comments (0)
Jesus and the Money Changers in the Temple

“I Want to Forgive But I Still Have Pain.”
 
This phrase frequently comes up during in the course of counseling.  Many have injuries from past and even current relationships that continue to cause pain thus hindering advancement to fuller productive lives.  The desire to move on is present but former feelings of being hurt, mistreated, ignored, and/or neglected keep cropping up causing re-injury.  The desire to eliminate these sensations and memories is strong but for some reason there is an inability to move on.  Efforts to “stuff it down” and “forget about it” just don’t seem to work.  Exasperated, they conclude that they are unforgiving simply based on the remaining sensation of pain and recurring memories.  The feelings can snowball by adding layer upon layer of frustration, guilt, and anger.
 
Emotions are the GPS system given to us by God.
 
One big misconception is that all emotions are bad. But truthfully emotions are a type of natural GPS (Global Positioning System) given by God to help figure out where we are, where we have been, and what is going forward in our lives.  It can be viewed as a warning device when we are getting off course.  Emotions are meant to flow and not to be blocked.  According to Karla McLaren, the author of The Language of Emotions, every experienced emotion contains a message and we must learn how to read the message. Mistakes are made when instead of properly “reading a message” we decide to ignore it or impulsively overreact to it.  No one likes the feeling of being angry, hurt, sad, anxious, guilty, etc.  But in reality we must learn to be mindful of what we are experiencing and be able to take away from it useful information to help us have fuller lives and better relationships. 
 
Common emotions that appear to block our ability to forgive
 
A common emotion associated with an inability to forgive is that of fear.  Another one is anger.  In some ways these two go hand in hand.  Fear is the most primal of emotions and is a trigger for the need for protection. Fears can be real or unfounded due to habit.  Anger is a response to the threats that cause fear.  According to McLaren, the message of anger is basically one of protection and contains two main questions that we must ask ourselves:  (1) What must be protected?  And (2) What must be restored?  Anger is the result of some type of event/stimulus that threatens one’s sense of self, standpoint, or voice. Another common emotion is that of guilt.  The message associated with guilt is the feeling that we ourselves might have violated someone or compromised a code of ethics.  Shame is very similar in that one feels lessened by being untrue to the community with which they identify or to their own personal set of core values.
 
To act or not to act
 
Validating one’s emotions is important, but on the other hand, interpreting the message in our emotions doesn’t give a license to blow one’s stack or fly into a rage.  We must understand a couple of important points.  First, even if an emotion exists, our interpretation of what it means might not always be correct.  There is a time and place for “righteous anger” and some persons/relationships in our lives might even be dangerous or pathological to continue.  Even Jesus became angry at the money changers in the Temple.  However, prudence and discernment must be used so that we are not flowing with unbridled destructive passions and become like a volcano ready to blow.  Fear is one emotion that can very often become out of control and manifest as chronic anxiety as a result of habit.  Fortunately the brain has plasticity and can unlearn such patterns.  Secondly, being able to set clear boundaries and to restore one’s sense of self without offending the dignity of ourselves, another, or others are better indications of success, particularly when dealing with forgiveness.  Without realizing it, more injury can be caused to ourselves and others by improperly reacting to an emotion.  It is important in the cycle of forgiveness to not perpetuate re-injury with others and particularly within ourselves.
 
How to check the reliability of the message in our emotions
 
The basic principle behind cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is that our perception and belief of an event effects how we will feel and behave.  Checking in with ourselves is essential.  Looking for cognitive distortions and exaggerations are important.  Asking further questions such as “Have I really been violated?” ; “Am I blowing this out of proportion?”: “Have I really violated someone or some code of ethics?”; “What have I really lost?”; and “What is the worst thing that can happen?” are examples.  Challenging our own perceptions can sometimes be quite revealing if we do it with complete honesty.
 
Remember that past emotional wounds leave scars just like physical injuries.
 
A cut or a broken bone can leave a scar, so it is with emotions.  I still have a scar on my knee from when I was 6 years old when learning how to ride a bike with training wheels on it.  I also have a mark on my finger from a cut from a can of tomatoes after making stew when I was in my early 20s.  These cuts no longer cause me pain but the memory of the event is still there and I can see the scars. If they had not healed properly in the first place, they could have potentially caused me much more difficulties down the road.  If anyone has ever broken a bone, they can tell us that the place of breakage is prone to arthritis in later years.  But on the other hand, some physicians will tell you that sometimes the place of healing of a broken bone can become much stronger because of the abundance of scar tissue. 
 
Forgiveness is an act of the will.
 
Sometimes when we have made the effort to forgive, the recurring emotions are remnants of earlier wounds that have not had a chance to heal or require longer time.  Forgiveness is an act of the will that occurs most often way before the feelings subside.  The emotions are the baggage that still can drag behind.  In most cases it takes patience and grace from God for the pain to go away long after the commitment to forgive has been made.  It is important to remember that it is always possible to forgive in spite of how grave and difficult the situation. This is possible only because of the example that Jesus gives us.  If we attempt with the best of our human intentions, our feelings inevitably get in the way. 
 
Forgiving with the Heart of God
 
The key to forgiving is actually with God’s heart.  A look at the Gospels shows that Jesus put a lot of emphasis on forgiveness. In fact, often when healing a person physically many times Jesus also said, “Your sins are forgiven”.  The whole point of His dying on the Cross was to atone for sin.  He who was not sin became sin.  It is important to leave the door open when considering forgiveness.  That means the door to our heart.  If we approach the situation with a closed heart, we might miss out on someone’s attempt to reconcile with us.  Also when dealing with persons, often it is a matter of swallowing our pride and taking the first step to repair a relationship.  This is like being a sacrificial lamb.  If efforts are met with rejection, don’t feel defeated but rather pray for the oppressor then go in peace knowing that you have given it your best shot.  Don’t be surprised if by praying you find your heart softening.  That is a healing by-product of prayer.
 
Remembering without the pain
 
Persons challenged with post-traumatic syndrome can testify that recurring memories and flashbacks are frequent obstacles in trying to heal from a past hurt.  Fortunately there are some psychotherapeutic techniques that work well in eliminating the emotional charge from bad memories.  One can learn to remember without feeling the hurt.  EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a method that is very helpful in assisting clients to properly reprocess emotions that have become stuck in parts of the brain.  There is also help in various mindfulness techniques through meditation and prayer.  Prayer not only helps a person to solicit help from God but also teaches discipline in ways to quiet the soul and helps one to achieve greater control over unbridled emotions.
 
Forgiving oneself
 
One final note is that in order to be able to receive and give forgiveness one must be able to forgive oneself.  Just about everyone has difficulty with self-compassion.  Even the narcissist has a wounded inner sense of self.  True humility is not being a doormat but acknowledging one’s self worth in relationship to God.  It is realizing that one is created in His image and likeness and as such is loved by God unconditionally.  True self-compassion is different from self-esteem.  Self-esteem has worldly overtones of competitiveness in that one has to do things better than others in order to have value.  Self-compassion is different in that it acknowledges that everyone has shortcomings and imperfections but they still have worth.  Forgiving oneself allows one “to get over it” by realizing that it is normal to sometimes make mistakes.

Reflections on Over The Hill + One Year

Posted on February 14, 2014 at 11:21 AM Comments comments (0)
The dates I have passed in my journey
Another date crossed out on the calendar as I approach another year of my journey. Over a half of a century is definitely in my rear view mirror. I do know that in many ways my “inside self” still feels like that young somewhat carefree girl that once played on the fields of Western New York. It is only when I look in the mirror that I am reminded by my “outside self” that I have been travelling for quite a while.

What have you learned?

When my spouse was a young boy his mother would always have devotions before school with her children.  My husband likes to tell the story of how she would often read Sacred Scripture and pray with them before the sun rose. He stated that unfortunately sometimes it was a struggle and often he would fall asleep. At the conclusion of each devotion however she would give them a quiz by asking, “What did you learn?” He recalls that in his drowsiness he could always rely on one quick answer, “Love one another.”  This was because at an early age he quickly realized that no matter what was said or read, it always somewhere and somehow contained the message, “Love one another” and in the context of “As I have loved you, so you also should love one another (John 13:34).”  Smart kid!

So likewise, even today as I encounter being “Over the Hill,” the message of “Love One Another” is still relevant and echoes with “my inside self.” Have I not thought of this before?  Have I not visited this before?  Yes, but I can honestly say, that with each encounter perhaps I go to a level deeper and even sometimes it is necessary for me to relearn it at a more superficial level what the simple yet profound  words of Jesus “Love one another” actually means. It is true that while in this life and on this earth, one cannot fully comprehend the depth and absorb the magnitude of “Love one Another.” Especially since God, Himself is Love.

Needing to learn the same old thing over and over again

I know that there have been times and it will inevitably happen that I will not be as charitable as I should be.This is why the journey continues. I am still learning what it means to “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another (John 13:34).”

This year I continue to learn even more about God’s power of love through forgiveness and pray for others to learn more as well. I have encountered a quote that has been attributed to various sources (which includes everyone from saints to Confucius to Nelson Mandela) that states “The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” The fact that this resounds with persons from so many diverse backgrounds, speaks to me about the vastness of God’s love and forgiveness and the human condition. Life is not so much about making mistakes but in being able to learn and grow from them.

In my work as a Licensed Professional  Counselor I encounter so many persons plagued with issues pertaining to guilt, low self-esteem, scrupulosity, and the obsession of perfectionism.  Don’t get me wrong, we are to strive to be perfect even as our heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:48), but when we make a mistake, God loves us just as we are. How I pray for this message to be screamed into so many souls.

February 15 is the Feast Day of St. Claude de la Columbiere
What makes this saint particularly interesting is that he was the spiritual director of St. Margaret Mary, the founder of the devotion of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. I have had the opportunity to visit Paray-le-Monial , the town in France from where these two great Saints came. This is particularly relevant to my above point.  Devotion to the Sacred Heart is precisely the message that no matter how much we have messed up in our lives, the love of Jesus can overcome. This devotion of old is for all people of our time who are afflicted by so many challenges of life.

Falling down is about being humble.
It is not that God trips us up. But life on this earth plagued with original sin will inevitably bring times where we fall down. And humility is not about being a doormat.  It is about knowing who we are in relationship to God:  “As I have loved you, so you also should love one another (John 13:34).” This often means being willing to forgive others that might disappoint us. Just like God is waiting and willing to love and forgive each one of us in spite of our shortcomings.

One last note, the older I get the more I believe that the aging process is our last opportunity to become more humble!  What can make a person more humble than losing one’s school girl figure, increasingly aching joints, and obtaining a forgetful brain?  It is all the more opportunity to join these sufferings to those of Jesus on the Cross.  So as I age and reach for another ibuprofen, hopefully I will learn to become humble once and for all.

On the Tragic Loss of a Child: The Feast of the Holy Innocents

Posted on December 28, 2012 at 10:34 AM Comments comments (1)
The Feast of the Holy Innocents
 
A person that loses a partner is called a widow.
A child who loses a parent is called an orphan.
But there is no word to describe a parent that loses a child,
Because the loss is like no other. ..”
(Paraphrased from “An Orphan’s Tale, by J. Neugeboren, 1976)
 
Parental grief
Recently, there has been a lot of talk about the loss of innocent children, particularly in light of the mass shootings in Sandy Hook, New Jersey. There are no words to describe the grief that a parent experiences after the loss of any child. We cannot possibly fathom what such a person might be feeling. And often it is not only the parents, but other family members, friends, and sometimes even strangers. We have little defense in coping with the loss of an innocent child. Some say that the pain lives with them the rest of their life while here on earth. It does not matter what age the child is, whether a fetus or a full-grown adult. There is still grief. Many who have suffered a miscarriage can testify that the emotional pain is very real.
 
On loss
When someone experiences a loss, they go through all types of different emotions. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in her 1969 book, On Death and Dying, popularized the five stages of grief. Her model lists them as denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. And not everyone goes through all of them or even in that order. In fact some might not even go through any of the stages at all. Each person’s experience of this type of suffering is unique. If this is the case, then what good is a theory? It gives us a template from which to work and somewhat of a ballpark idea of what one might be going through.
 
Being able to forgive the unforgivable?
Getting over a loss from a tragedy or murder is wrought with additional trials because it involves a pain that is the result of something that is perceived to have been done unjustly. It is natural to feel angry at such. However what makes the major difference and leads to the greatest healing is how one chooses to deal with that anger. Some might feel that seeking revenge or getting even brings satisfaction. However, God’s way to heal the hurt is through forgiveness. We might ask ourselves, how can one ever forgive someone who has done what seems to be the unforgivable? It might be easier to think of a perpetrator who has committed such a crime to be a horrible, nasty, evil, and even less than human. But the fact of the matter is that such a person is actually a human being. Such a person is actually someone who is wounded, hurt, weak, immature, ill, and/or spiritually blind –for whatever reason. Just like each one of us. While it is true that not every person who has imperfections is a mass murderer, we all can see clearly that someone who kills innocent children might not have their elevator connecting on all floors. They are deeply wounded.
 
Fr. Anthony de Mello, S. J. is quoted as saying “people who hurt are asleep. If they were to wake up they would never behave like that.” (Obtained from “How to Forgive Yourself and Others”, by Fr. Eamon Tobin) Which echoes what Jesus said when He was dying on the Cross, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing (Luke 23:4)”.
 
I have heard people turn their anger towards God. Some people might conclude that God doesn’t care about them when terrible things happen. There are no easy answers to what happens to any of us while on our journey and in this life on earth. Even non-Christians would agree that this world is full of anxiety and suffering. The worse approach however is breaking our relationship with God and deliberately abandoning prayer. However, if we are Christian, we know that God the Father did not even spare the Cross from His own Son, Jesus. And whether or not we are Catholic we can cling to the redemptive value inherent in suffering. There is a lot of meaning in the saying, “offer it up.” I only wish I had realized this sooner in my own life.
 
The Feast of the Holy Innocents
The Church celebrates the Feast of the Holy Innocents this week during the Octave of Christmas. This Feast remembers the little babies and children of Bethlehem who were slaughtered by King Herod. In the history of the early Church, these helpless little infants were the first persons to shed blood for the sake of Jesus and as such are known as martyrs. The Scripture repeats the prophesy from the Old Testament: ”Ramah is heard the sound of moaning, of bitter weeping! Rachel mourns her children, she refuses to be consoled, because her children are no more.” (Jeremiah 31:15-16).
 
These children of Bethlehem did nothing to deserve their demise. And there are likewise so many innocent unborn and born children who die from various causes known and unknown. It can be said that there is an army of children in heaven. Knowing that these little angels have a soul in eternity can be a great source of consolation and hope.
 
Being able to heal from the pain is a grace from God
Being able to forgive and get over such a loss obviously takes a lot of time, patience, humility and prayer. It is not easy and to think such would be misleading. Taking the step towards forgiveness is actually an act of the will and healing of the hurt most often comes later. This is why often when someone has decided to forgive the feelings of hurt can still emerge even much later down the line. To still feel the pain doesn’t mean that one has not forgiven. One does not have to repress their anger and hurt. It is actually healthy to be able to admit that one is mad and extremely upset. The difference is when one decides to forgive regardless of the hurt. The grace of healing from the pain most of the time comes much later. It is a difficult journey and a tough Cross to carry but can be overcome by the grace of God. This is why prayer is so important throughout the process.
 
Know when to seek counseling
Sometimes the pain is so deep that it cannot be dealt with alone and a person might need professional help from a counselor and/or a spiritual guide. Just as someone needs help to cure a physical illness, it is wise to know when to seek out counseling. Help is warranted when someone has been unable to perform normal daily activities for an extended period of time. What is considered “normal daily activities” and “an extended period of time” can vary from person to person. But in general, a major change from one’s usual activity level can be a warning sign.
 
Isn’t abortion a loss too?
No one ever wants to lose a child. Or do they? According to the Centers for Disease Control, about 22% of all pregnancies end in abortion in the United States (National Vital Statistics Reports, April 6, 2010). The most common reasons cited for abortion include not feeling emotionally or financially capable of raising a child and fear that a child would drastically change one’s life. But still thousands of women who have actually gone through with an abortion still experience loss and its effects have a negative impact on their life. There are websites such as www.silentnomoreawareness.org and www.afterabortion.org where women and men share their stories. The fetus is a life and any mother can tell you that the maternal bond is formed very early in the womb.

Five Things We All Should Know

Posted on September 17, 2012 at 9:23 AM Comments comments (0)
A thankful heart is a healing heart.
Recently I ran across a news network that gave us five important things that we need to know, listing the top five news stories for the day. This gave me the idea to contemplate and ponder what are the five most important things to know that would be helpful for us in our daily lives. Here is what I came up with:
 
1. Things and people are not always what they appear.
 
In the psychological realm. We all have encountered the situation where someone appears on the surface to be quite happy when in reality they are actually quite sad, miserable, and even depressed. They wear a face for the public in an effort to hide their true feelings. Because of this we never can quite know what someone might be going through. Their insides could be in a state of turmoil. Or even they might be living a lie. Not only are they being untrue to others, but they are betraying themselves. In psychology this is referred to as incongruence. Sometimes it is done deliberately, but often it is unconscious. In addition some people are more expressive than others. As the old expression goes, some wear their heart on their sleeve. Others because of cultural norms may give little hint of emotion, even when experiencing very trying times.
We also have persons who seem to be so full of themselves, self-centered, and inconsiderate. They like to brag to others about their accomplishments, possessions, and appearance. Their energies are devoted to drawing attention to themselves. This could be viewed as narcissism, however in reality these persons are actually quite insecure and have very low self-esteem. Their behavior is an effort to puff themselves up as they seek to feed their low self-image by siphoning positive feedback from others. The results often backfire on them as others get worn down and tend shun them for what is perceived as “stuck up” and selfish behavior. This is a tragic paradox, as they sabotage that which they need most.
 
The spiritual realm. There are many things in the life of faith that are not what they appear on the surface. One great example is with the Eucharist in the Catholic Church. Before us we might see only bread and wine, but through transubstantiation the items become the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ. In the Catholic Church, Jesus is really present in the Eucharist. It takes seeing with the eyes of faith to understand this spiritual treasure. This is why the Eucharist is called a Mystery of Faith or mysterium fidei.
 
Things of the world are only temporal and all things change. The only constant is God. Blessed Mother Theresa of Calcutta once said: Let nothing perturb you. All things pass. God does not change.. Life is often like a cloudy day where the sun still shines but we are unable to see it because of the overcast weather.
 
2. Know who you are.  In other words, know thyself.
 
Knowing who you are is not only the cornerstone of psychological health but also is the foundation for solid spirituality. One sure tenet and goal of any psychological theory has at its core the concept of a client coming to “know oneself.”
 
In spirituality, knowing oneself is the basis of humility. This includes an awareness of one’s own virtues and weaknesses. It is important to know that one is created in the image and likeness of God. Knowing oneself involves being able to praise God through all circumstances and giving God the credit for our accomplishments. St. Paul states, I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me. Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Cor. 12:9-10).
 
Also In knowing oneself, a person can have a firm understanding of the dignity of life including all human persons from the womb to the tomb. Each one of us is fearfully and wonderfully made by the hand of the creator.
 
3. You are loved.
 
This cannot be overemphasized. Many people act the way that they do because they are looking for love but unfortunately often in all of the wrong places. St. Augustine once said, “Our hearts are restless until we rest in Thee.” All of the glitter and glory of this earthly life is pale compared to a life that is found in God. It is only through love that anyone would lay down their life for another. This is precisely what Jesus did. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.
 
4. You can be forgiven and you can forgive.
 
Many people don’t realize what forgiveness is all about. They assume that their life has been ruined because of past mistakes and all is lost. In a sense, they give up and don’t understand the mercy of God. But is any sin unpardonable? In Christian circles I have heard a lot of talk about “Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit” as being the actual unpardonable sin from the Gospel of Matthew in Chapter 12. But what does this mean? Basically the unpardonable sin is dying in a state of unrepentence. This is rejecting the mercy of God by assuming that God will not forgive. This is not humility. It is actually a form of pride. It is essentially rejecting God. This is a condition of a soul that turns away from God. Obviously if someone never hears of the mercy of God, they cannot be accountable for what they do not know.
 
In the Catholic Church we have the sacrament known as Reconciliation or Confession. Confession is liberating. It frees us from the bondage that is the result of a life not lived in God. Many Catholics don’t go to Confession because either they are embarrassed to tell their misdeeds to a priest, don’t feel that they have any sins worthy of confessing, just don’t want to deal with it, or don’t realize that their sin can be forgiven. Some feel that committing an act like abortion could never be forgiven by God. However they are mistaken. God forgives all sins, we just need to bring them to Him. Often the only one unforgiving is oneself. We often have to work hard at forgiving oneself.
 
It is also important to know that we can forgive ourselves as well as others. We know that the Lord’s Prayer contains, “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” This suggests that with what measure we judge others, we will be judged. It is comforting to know that the mercy of God is greater than any human being, including oneself. Like the old hymn that states God’s mercy is wider than the ocean. I am often relieved to know that God is Judge. Quite honestly, I would make a lousy judge.
It is also important to remember that forgiveness on our part is an act of the will. Too many times we get caught in the trap of basing forgiveness on how we feel.
 
5. This life is not all there is.
 
On one hand, many live like there is no hell. On the other hand, there are those who hold hope in God and in eternal life. We often hear of stories of persons who commit suicide during economic crises. Just recently there was a newspaper article that featured company executives that took their own lives when they realized that they had lost their financial fortunes. But fortunately this life is not all there is. To many of us, there is great comfort in knowing that this life is not all there is. This is especially true for those who spend their lives suffering. It is even more comforting to know that suffering can have redemptive value beyond what our temporal existence.
Before I converted to Catholicism, other spiritual paths left me asking the question, “Is this all there is?” I actually joined the Church about a decade ago when the priest scandals first hit the fan. However in realizing that the Catholic Church had the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, learning about the lives of the Saints, and reading the writings of the doctors of the Church, I discovered that Catholicism contained treasures much richer than any newspaper sensationalism
.
Our Lady of Lourdes once told St. Bernadette during an apparition, “I promise you happiness not in this world but in the next.” This is something to think about!