“Being Fully Yourself…”

4th July, 2012 - Posted by Sam - No Comments

I read something from Psychology Today recently that really intrigued me: “marriage can’t succeed unless we claim our sense of self in the presence of another.” As it made intuitive sense to me, I began to share this definition with some couples that I work with and in some talks that I’ve given in the past month. The phrase comes from an interview with marital therapist Dr. David Schnarch who spoke about how to have a passionate marriage. Let’s ponder about the meaning of “being fully yourself in the presence of another.”

Being fully yourself seems like the most natural way to behave and live. Yet the truth is that some people spend much of their awake time being anything but their true selves. I think the real challenge is how to be ourselves in the presence of another. In some relationships, the individual is caught up in seeking the approval of the partner and fearing the partner’s rejection so that he or she stops being authentic and open. Being fully yourself requires a freedom to express who you are and what you are thinking and feeling at a particular moment. This freedom requires the presence of safety and true acceptance.

The origin of being ourselves fully in the presence of another comes from the Genesis account in the phrase: “and they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed” (Genesis 2:24). God’s original design for the most intimate relationship for humankind is captured in the above account of the first marriage where there is this freedom to be vulnerable and authentic. The nakedness between man and his wife represents more than the absence of any physical covering but also the absence of any psychological or emotional defensiveness.

The entrance of sin into human existence also brought shame about nakedness, guilt and fear, blaming and defensiveness. The phenomenon of hiding first entered the scene between humans nonverbally and then was expressed verbally between man and God. Genesis 3:7 – Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. And then in verse eight and ten: “and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden…I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”

It is in the marriage relationship that we can clearly see one of the opportunities for humanity to experience a reversal of this need to hide from each other. Though this may seem like an ideal for some, it is the rich union that some couples are able to experience, if not for long periods of time, at least in moments. The key is learning that you can be exactly and completely who you are while allowing your partner also to be exactly and completely who he or she is.

As a way to gauge whether you are moving towards this ideal in your relationship, ask yourself the following:

  • Do I experience my partner as a safe person? Do I feel a freedom to be fully myself in my partner’s presence?
  • Do I share my opinions and thoughts with my partner?
  • Do I share my preferences, wants, wishes, and deep desires with my partner? Or do I fear rejection and keep most of this to myself?
  • Does my partner experience me as I a safe person? Does my partner feel a freedom to be fully himself or herself in my presence? Or am I someone who is quick to be critical and to judge my partner?

Written by Dr. Sam B. Leong, Psychologist and Marital Therapist

Sitting Before God

14th June, 2012 - Posted by Gracia - No Comments

A good friend said to me, “Come over for a cup of tea and let’s visit“.

We visited and talked about all kinds of things.  There were pauses between sips of tea. Reflective moments, laughter, wonderings, some gossip of this person and that…..and disclosure of deeper thoughts, feelings, hopes, and struggles. Being present and in the present with each other.  Time flew by and it was time to leave. I left known and knowing.

Jesus knocks at our door, asking for an invitation to come in to sit and fellowship together. What is it like – sitting with Him, speaking and listening, knowing and being known, drinking in the presence of the Creator, Redeemer and Refiner God and being soul-filled?

Moses spent a lot of time with God in the Tent of Meeting. Ever wondered what all they talked about? If I were Moses, I would definitely spend much time complaining about how hard it is to lead the complaining lot of Israelites.  After some time God would probably laugh and say: “Hey, you are doing the same thing now” and we would laugh together and I would have become wiser. I would probably spend no less time bemoaning how inadequate and ineffectual I feel – not getting the job done – just making circles in the sand. After some time God would probably say: “It is not about you, it is about Me, Who I Am”.  I would likely walk straighter, looking up. No wonder Moses’ face shone after spending time with God.

Why then is it so hard to sit long enough with God for the heart to speak and for it to listen? It seems easier to say the prescribed words, the shopping lists of needs, and the Lord’s Prayer, and move on with life’s demands. To sit with God can be hard work. It requires focused attention, willingness to disclose, comfort with lapses of silence, inner quietness, and receptivity to the Spirit’s response through the Word and inner promptings. It is an acquired and nurtured attitude and skill. It requires time.

In Psalm 130, the Psalmist attests that God already searched and knew what is in our heart and our mouth even before a word is uttered. When we speak to Him, all our revelations are not new, shocking, or titillating to Him.  Is it therefore necessary to verbalize what He already knows? Yes, it is necessary – necessary for us. We need to hear ourselves – hear our heart’s inclinations and our thoughts – so that we can listen to God’s review of our disclosures and His Self disclosures that lead us into greater intimacy with Him.

Let me encourage you to sit with Him in your disappointment, anger, confusion, fear, struggles, and failures.  If you stay long enough expectantly, His searchlight will bring light, life, hope, and healing. He will surely comfort and restore. Then sit with Him too in your joy.

Written by Gracia Wiarda, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist

Renew Your Mind – One Thought At A Time

30th July, 2011 - Posted by Christine - No Comments

What do I mean when I say – “Renew your mind” ?

I mean a few things, but I’ll start by sharing one concrete suggestion: Renew your mind by focusing on changing one thought at a time (removing a destructive one, while replacing it with a constructive one).

Why even try?

Because what you think about daily matters.  It affects your body, your spirit, your heart – and it affects those around you.  Your thoughts can lift you up and energize you, or they can drag you down and paralyze you.

So, how do we start?

Start small and start simple.  Take a look at what fills your mind each day – what are you thinking about? where do your thoughts originate and where do they end? Perhaps most importantly, where do they lead you – mentally and behaviorally – as you relate to yourself and others? Are your thoughts mostly negative? positive? reasonable? delusional? real? destructive or constructive? healthy or unhealthy? life-producing or self-defeating? self-sabotaging? Are you constantly thinking about what OTHERS are thinking? Are you constantly frustrated or annoyed at someone else, at yourself, at the world?

Our well-being is often determined by what our thoughts are filled with – so try it out for today.


June – Wedding & Anniversary Month

30th June, 2011 - Posted by Myrna - No Comments

June has come and gone and so now would be a good time for couples to assess their marriage and consider ways to enrich their relationship. A key area that may need attention is unmet expectations.

Most couples go into marriage with countless expectations. Many are discussed prior to the marriage, but many expectations are out of the couplesʼ awareness until the time comes when a particular expectation is not met. Disappointment can set in if the expectation is not discussed. If the disappointment is discussed, but there is disagreement and no resolution, then a small resentment gets lodged. Without resolution, the issue will likely come up again and again. Resentment will continue to build. It is these unmet expectations that can lead to a very conflictual or unsatisfying relationship.

If a couple does not have the needed skills to navigate their differences in expectations and needs, itʼs time to get some help. Getting help sooner is better than later – before patterns of conflict get ingrained in the relationship. It seems that very few couples go into marriage with the needed conflict resolution skills. They can be learned. A good way to view gaining the skills is to consider how one would go about gaining skill or competence in any area – sports, technology, language, cooking, etc. First, the couple needs to gain knowledge about the skills and then they need to practice until there is a level of competence. As with any new skill it takes time and commitment to master the skills. Itʼs important not to let pride prevent one from pursuing the needed skills to make a marriage work.

Where does a couple go to find help? Sometimes a pastor or mature couple can come alongside to coach the couple. There are communication skills workbooks available for couples to work through together. Many psychotherapists are able help couples gain the needed skills in counseling sessions.

If your marriage is lacking the skills to navigate conflict and differences, donʼt let another anniversary go by without getting help.

-Myrna L. Klassen, M.A.
Marriage & Family Therapist

Pain and Joy: a Natural Pairing

21st April, 2011 - Posted by Colleen - No Comments

Spring rains bring such vibrant renewal to the earth.
The tiniest and perhaps the ugliest shrub magically blossoms into a lush verdant foliage.
Yet Spring is not without its storms. The Bay Area is testament to that. One day we have a cozy warm sunny day, the next is filled with black clouds bursting with rain.

The human story is not unlike Spring. A baby is born while a loved one passes away. A couple celebrates their wedding while the mother of the groom is under going chemotherapy for the seventh time. Pain and Joy are not immune to one another. They occur on parallel tracks, often traveling together, hand in hand.

How does one live in this space of two distinct and powerful emotions?

Walking through the Pain toward Renewal and Hope.

I am still struck by rainbows. Its fabric and nature is dependent on the rain and the sun. Its essence is the reflection of light alone. If it were not for the rainy darkness would there ever be a need for renewal?
If it were not for the sunlight, would we ever hope?

-Colleen Lam Nguyen, M.A., MFT Intern

Holiday Reconciliations

18th November, 2010 - Posted by Colleen - No Comments

The Holidays are fast approaching, between the hustle and bustle of the World Series and trying to get that November Election ballot in, Holiday Season is creeping in fast. The stores have all their decorations up and the onslaught of sales paraphernalia have already been mailed out to fastidious buyers.

What sorts of feelings come about when you think of the Holidays? Perhaps there is a bit of stress and apprehension. Gatherings with families can bring with it a variety of mixed emotions and feelings. And with all the swiftness of time that carries no mercy, the festivities begin.

Good intentions collide with misunderstood comments driven by the stress of getting everything just right and tasting simply delicious. Old wounds are torn open and begin to bleed. This may sound dismal, but nevertheless, a reality to many every year. But there is hope.

The Family system can be likened to an infant’s hanging mobile: forever held together by one wire with a series of attachments, you can strike one character and the rest of the little participants move either violently or ever so slightly – either way, every single one is affected. Small changes can make a large impact. A change within one person can lead to a shift on the outside toward a loved one. That one piece of empathy toward a family member can shake the system so deeply that a domino effect of love and compassion can be felt throughout.

Can Perfectionism Become a Problem?

17th November, 2010 - Posted by admin - No Comments

Society puts quite a premium on perfection, for good reason. Perfection fascinates and inspires. I am particularly drawn to the symmetry and complexity of buildings, bridges, and visual art, often staring at such creations with awe and wonder at how such perfection was achieved.

In addition to architecture and art, perfection is expected in vocations where the slightest mistake could be tragic. This is no less true for anyone than it is for surgeons. Surgeons strive for perfection from the moment they make their first incision to the moment they suture the exposed insides of someone’s body. When performing something as invasive as surgery, one can do great harm and when the rare mistake is made, the consequences could be just as great. Part of me feels badly for surgeons because they are, after all, human. The other part of me is comforted to know that they have such high standards because if they didn’t, I may think twice before seeking medical treatment.

All this to say that there is validity in striving for perfection. Surgeons strive for perfection. However, it is best kept contained within the context of their work. Outside of their profession, it would likely be too draining for them to maintain such high standards of living in everything they do.


I Want You to Know Me But…

17th November, 2010 - Posted by Sam - No Comments

Being a student of human behavior and psychology for the past 30 plus years, I am convinced that one of the deepest human needs is the need to be known; to have someone know you. I am not referring to knowing just facts ‘n’ stuff about you, but to knowing what is going on inside in your soul. (Soul is another word for psyche – that non-physical part of you where your thoughts, feelings, and will reside.) Our soul is that deep part of ourselves – where we feel and think late at night when everyone goes to sleep and we are all alone. Someone has referred to this need to be known and seen as – “into me see”. Would you please look into me and see me?

But our need does not just stop at being known and seen, but to be accepted for who we are. One of the greatest fears from our childhood is that of being rejected and disapproved of. So here we have the dilemma: to be known or to hide and defend against being known. “I want you to know me, but I am afraid that you may not like me, so I will not show you who I really am.”

The resolution for this inner conflict is found in the safety of the unconditional love that the great songwriter David reminds us of in Psalms 139. Here David sets forth the extent to which God know us – our every thought, our very words before we speak or text them.

The Greatest Thing…

2nd November, 2010 - Posted by Kirsten - No Comments

Love. It is a word we most likely hear at least once every day. “I love you.” “I love when that happens.” “She doesn’t’ love me anymore.” “I love the Giants!” “Love is a many splendored thing”. “For God so loved the world…” It is at the core of our being and one of the things that makes us uniquely human: not only the ability but the need to give and receive love. In Baz Luhrman’s 2001 movie musical Moulin Rouge, the entire film hinged on one song lyric: “The greatest thing you’ll ever learn, is just to love and be loved in return.”

Interesting, the inclusion of the word “learn”. If God is love (1 John 4: 8), and we are created in His image, then love, it would follow, is something that should come naturally to all of us. Regardless of one’s faith or religious practice, we are all imbued with the stamp of the Creator, and we all have a radar, a honing device if you will, for that thing called love. Why would we need to learn it?

If only it were that simple. Sadly, due to the broken nature of our world, our ability to give and receive healthy, life-giving love is flawed and broken as well. Our hearts and souls need and deeply long for the love of friends, parents, siblings, husbands, wives, partners, a community outside of ourselves. The wounding we’ve each personally experienced makes the authentic expression and receiving of love profoundly difficult, and in some cases, almost impossible.

Why Therapy?

28th July, 2010 - Posted by Myrna - No Comments

What does therapy do that your friends, family, pastor, or others can’t do for you?

Therapy can provide objectivity. Often the people who are close to you, even if they see the issues clearly, are not able to give you the feedback you need in a candid or helpful manner.

Therapy can help you see what’s going on in the hidden places in your life that you can’t seem to access on your own. It makes the unconscious conscious. Once that happens, you can decide how to proceed with the new information.

Therapy can be a safe place to say many things which you have been afraid to voice to anyone else. Sometimes these hidden thoughts keep you stuck.

Therapy can be a safe place to discuss areas of hurt or abuse that seem too hard for others to hear. Therapists are trained to “handle” those difficult or painful issues.

Therapy can be as open-ended as needed for you to heal or make the changes desired in your life. Friends sometimes weary of hearing your problems and are at a loss as to how to help you. Pastors often cannot realistically devote the time needed for the support you need for your particular recovery.

Therapy can be a place to learn some skills for communicating better and to resolve conflict. Many people do not learn these skills growing up.

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