Faith & therapy: 3 ways spirituality can help your relationship

by  Nancy Pina

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It is faith that enables you to embrace and stick with a plan to replace former patterns with new thoughts and actions. 

As a Christian relationship coach, I know the power of lasting emotional healing comes from having a foundation of faith in God combined with the understanding of one’s behaviors and temperament. It is this strong dynamic that allows those seeking help to believe that therapy will work. Belief gives one the courage to change — especially negative mindsets. For couples, the problem is often engaging in destructive behaviors that we know are wrong. The ultimate goal for healing is learning how to break free from those behaviors, applying the knowledge learned in counseling to create a new pattern and making that change stick for the long haul. Faith is the glue that makes everything come together.

Relationship patterns repeat, for example, even if you know you should not be with someone who overreacts and takes out his anger on you, the go-to thought pattern is rationalizing that your love will be motivation for his eventual change for the better. After all, you rationalize, he is sincerely sorry every time he loses his temper. Because that feeling of tension, anxiety and not knowing what will happen from one moment to the next is familiar, the tendency is to ignore the heart’s pull away from the fire and allow your mind to justify that wrong behavior.

In a recent New York Times article, the topic of belief in God and responsiveness to mental health treatment was explored. Researchers at McLean Hospital asked people to rate their spirituality by answering the question: To what extent do you believe in God? It was not surprising to me that the results published in The Journal of Affective Disorders show that those who valued faith were less depressed after treatment because of their high expectations. In other words, they believed they would be healed.

These findings are valuable because many people seek advice when the bottom has fallen out of their lives — often when they are having relationship problems. Without the understanding that all trials are spiritual battles, the tendency is to mentally understand the information from counseling, but real-world application is met with resistance or inconsistency. This then leads back to the familiar way of relating to life’s challenges. The result? You are still stuck. You end up knowing why you do what you do, see the hole you are about to fall into, but do not have the strength to go in another direction and avoid the outcome.

A foundation of faith allows you to know who you are apart from what you do, your circumstances and your environment. When life does not work, faith gives you hope for change. The study highlighted that those who believed in God likewise believed the treatment would help them according to psychologist Dr. David Rosmarin, director for the Center of Anxiety in New York.

Many people seek help for emotional challenges only to find substantial change elusive. Religious stability can bridge the knowledge you learn in counseling to life application so you can see tangle, lasting results.

The following are a few of the positive outcomes you can experience:

You stop manipulating: Love should not be enabling bad behavior from those closest to you. Love should not be “fixing” your significant other or trying to shape them to the person you feel is best suited for your needs. Love is not ignoring abuse or addictions in others. Love is not pretending family problems will go away on their own. With faith as your foundation, you can learn what is really love and how to love. It does require bravery to be vulnerable in relationships and it is only through God’s love that you can let down the defense mechanisms you constructed to prevent anyone from hurting you for good.

You establish healthy relationship boundaries: Faith gives you the initiative to let go of trying to control other people and situations. Life gives you a daily choice to embrace a new way of thinking and relating without giving into the pressure to conform to an old standard which led to heartbreak, loss and misery. It is important to take responsibility for your life, setting limits with others so you can establish emotionally healthy connections, instead of living emotionally drained by assuming roles that are not your own.

Your new normal is emotionally healthy: The foundation of believing in God gives you clarity about past relationship patterns and how those familiar yet ultimately destructive ways of communicating will not lead you to the true desires of your heart. Instead of passively allowing the wrong type of person in your love life, you will know what emotionally healthy relationships look and feel like. You will proactively choose a better road.

It is faith that enables you to embrace and stick with a plan to replace former patterns with new thoughts and actions. You will be transformed by the renewing of your mind and heart through faith in God.

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Read this article in Your Tango

 

Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

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