Habits or disciplines?

I seem to be doing a bit-of-a-series of blogs about processing emotions.

I blame Barb for this. 😀

It is interesting for me though, as processing emotions is a skill I have been learning more systematically over the last few years.

It is a skill I have needed to grow since embarking on a therapeutic journey, that I refer to in the book that I am currently rewriting/editing.

I would like you to help me in this, please.

You perhaps experience and process emotions in a very different way to that which I experience and process them. No doubt you have different issues, different traumas, different challenges.

But I would love it if you read my articles and think (for example), ‘I don’t find that at all, I do x,y and z, because I experience not a, but c.’ – I would love you to tell me about that.

Some people will identify with the thoughts and feelings I describe and some will not, but they might identify with yours. This is great.

I am very interested to know how you think, feel and function too.

Today I just want to share something about me which irritates me.

People speak about bad habits and good habits. This has always puzzled me, though I know what it should mean.

Confession 1: I do not have any good habits. The nearest to a good habit I possess is brushing my teeth at bedtime!

Every other good and healthy thing that I do is a discipline. I have to work hard to make myself do the things that I feel I should do and even when I become so regular that I do it every day, I only need to miss it once and the effort to continue is monumental.

Confession 2: I have a lot of bad habits! I was addicted to alcohol and to nicotine, until 7 years ago and 4 years ago respectively.

I no longer drink any alcohol and no longer smoke, but I am still an ‘all or nothing’ person. If I open a packet of biscuits, figs, chocolate, ice-cream, halva, etc it will be gone before the day is out. Sometimes I sellotape, wrap and hide the packet, but my short-term memory is good and it is not fooled. My mind obsesses about it until it is gone.

This disappoints me enormously!

Good habits disciplines: I have a range of these – and some are so useful and wonderful that I manage to discipline myself to do them daily:

– My Morning Pages and my time-of-prayer are two that I love to start my day with. They bring me enormous joy, peace, focus, insight and revelation, but some nights when I am setting my alarm I choose to ignore this and set the alarm to not allow the time for them! I can become quite disappointed with myself if I miss these.

– Language practice and keyboard practice. I am not very musical (this is an understatement!), but I managed to teach myself 24 favourite praise songs (by rote) and in order to practice them I made a rota of 8 songs per day, to ensure each song is practised twice a week. Are they? No! For the first year, I was disciplined and did it every day, now I feel pleased if I practise a group of eight each week.

The languages? So far these are on a good run. I use Duo-lingo to practice the languages and am very excited to have achieved a consecutive run of (streak) of over 300 days. The incentive there is if I miss a day, I’ll go back to zero and I can’t bare that now!

These are just some examples.

Of course I have commitments that I fulfil and it is very important to me to keep my word and perform the duties I’ve signed up to do. Doing duties and jobs is not a habit or a discipline, in my perspective.

Maybe I am more concerned about not disappointing other people than I am about disappointing myself?

How do I process my disappointments with myself?

  • I have to forgive myself. I believe God forgives me, so I have to forgive myself.
  • My addictions took a lot of preparation and work to break and having someone alongside me and to whom I was accountable was crucial.
  • With things I have omitted, I try again – sometimes I will add it on to the end of my day instead.
  • With my ‘all-or-nothing greed’, I have to avoid purchasing large packets of anything. I purchase individual ice-creams, small individually wrapped packets and I hope that next time, when I open a packet, I can learn to be restrained.

Some of the knocks in my life have left scars and given me a limp. It does me no good to beat myself up over the weaknesses still around.

I believe that I can change and slowly break the bad habits, but so far I maintain that the good practices remain disciplines.

Like my book, I am a work in progress.

How about you? Are you disciplined and moderate? Are you ‘all-or-nothing’? Do you beat yourself up, or accept your weaknesses for today?

Have you thought to have somebody to whom you hold yourself accountable?

Tell me if you want prayer for a habit you want to break, or an area you want to change.


Do you ever have that thought of ‘The grass is always greener on the other side’?

Of wanting not this one, but that one – the one you haven’t got?

A sense of always seeking something else/ something other/ something more, but never quite finding it?

A sense loving and hating the same thing – of an ambivalence that you almost dare not admit, because it feels ‘wrong’ in some way and of which you feel you should be ashamed?

Ambivalence (noun)

-uncertainty or fluctuation, especially when caused by inability to make a choice or by a simultaneous desire to say or do two opposite or conflicting things.

-Psychology. the coexistence within an individual of positive and negative feelings toward the same person, object, or action, simultaneously drawing him or her in opposite directions. (Dictionary)

Ambivalence is a state of having simultaneous conflicting reactions, beliefs, or feelings towards some object. Stated another way, ambivalence is the experience of having an attitude towards someone or something that contains both positively and negatively valenced components.Wikipedia

Possible examples –

Your beloved infant is playing, but their demands are beginning to irritate you and you wish they would take a nap and give you a moment to yourself… then they go to sleep and you don’t know what to do and stare at them with awe and such love and you wish their nap would be over already?

You spend ages planning for your holiday; you can’t wait and finally you go… and you enjoy it, but you miss the cat and the neighbours and can’t wait to come home… and then you return home, look at the photos and proclaim what a fantastic holiday it was and how you wish you were still there?

You are happy that your friend is coming to visit at last, but it will take some preparation and your routines will be disrupted, and you feel a bit nervous, because you won’t be able to… But then the friend cancels and you are terribly disappointed and a bit cross and immediately forget the reservations and try to reschedule?

Or you just always seem to be only interested in the chase – for the thing (new toy, purchase, acquisition), the person (contact, relationship, follower), or the experience (holiday, job, thrill, adventure) and when you have acquired it, you have to move on to chase after the next thing?

It can be anything – a job, a partner, a home, a holiday – something you dreamed of, worked for and love, but yet there’s a dissatisfaction – a sense of it not being enough maybe? To think it is ‘not enough’, that he or she ‘is not enough’ sounds like an insult and feels like a bad thought, so you don’t say it; but what is it really?

Why the conflicting thoughts, or uncertainty or ambivalent feelings?

Could it be a healthy, mature result of a broad openness that sees possibilities and opportunities, by removing limitations of ‘either/or’ and welcoming ‘both/and’ options?

Or could it be a healthy motivating force, that keeps us growing, moving forward, learning, searching and working to improve our environments, our situations and the world in which we live?

Or could it be an immature response – a self-centred focus on immediate personal gratification, without any commitment to any work or sacrifice?

Or is it society conditioning you to be a target/materialistic/status oriented person, that keeps you dissatisfied with the present and hankering after a promised future with ‘more’?

Or is it just impossible to really know what you actually want, in your heart of hearts?

Personally I am frequently aware of my own ambivalence in so many situations of life, particularly in the thousands of choices I make within each day.

I want it and I don’t. It’s never quite right. Or I just have no idea what I want, because I am more aware of what I think you think I should want! Maybe my ambivalence is purely a result of insecure childhood attachments and lack of safety or certainty growing up?

So how do I process this, in order to function and grow?

-One of my processing tools is my ‘morning pages’ – wherein I write, sometimes in shocking honesty, all those conflicting thoughts and emotions to expose them to myself. (It does take some work to silence the inner-critic and the inner-censor, but that is the practice of morning page and a large part of their value.) The reality is often that the processing just reveals the complexity of needs – past and present – that can then allow me to choose to compromise, with a fresh perspective and a dose of healthy realism, rather than false expectations.

-The practice of being mindful of the eternal here-and-now reminds me to savour the NOW of each experience with gratitude for the magic of the moment.

-Gratitude for all the blessings in my life and a practice of prayer are also a major part of my learning to make wholesome choices and to be content to commit myself to the paths I choose.

Do you experience any of these aspects of ambivalence?

If you do, how do you process them and resolve the inner conflicts?

What are you afraid of?

What are you afraid of?

Many are afraid of death. Most are afraid of pain.

But what is behind the fear; behind the threat, if you like?

For most of my adult life I have been told not to worry and am reminded that the Bible tells us to ‘Be not afraid’. But I was still afraid.

For me, apart from the common fear of annihilation and fear of physical pain and suffering, most often the fears I have are much more difficult to understand or explain – and therefore more difficult to control. These are often experienced as worry, nervousness, anxiety, but can be equally terrifying and debilitating.

We all know about the flight, fight or freeze response to fear of immediate (real or perceived) threat. This bypasses reason and thought, which is why it can be more difficult to control. If we have suffered trauma in the past, this fear response may have become a default response.

This had happened in me. My immediate response was usually to freeze, but later I would look how to run and escape.

These are old scripts and I have (in the last few years) been looking at debunking some of those lies and myths that held me captive to fear for so long.

It’s all well and good to say – ‘Don’t be afraid’ – but what do we do if we are afraid? Today another well-known Bible verse on fear came to me in a whole new light. The verse says:

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear,’ (1 John 4:18)

but it then says something I had not seen before; it says

because fear has to do with punishment.’

Wow! Yes. I think that is certainly true!

So I allowed my mind to answer the question of what I am generally afraid of, in a day-to-day personality sort of way.

I make myself vulnerable here, but you may resonate with some of this:

I’m afraid you will hate me; you might laugh at me; you might reject me; you might blame me; you might take revenge on me; you might punish me and make me pay; you might smack, starve or torture me; you might hurt those I love; you might abandon me completely; you might turn everybody against me; you might deprive me of something…

Ultimately what you might do is to see me as I truly am and then reject me – confirming my fear that I am an unimportant nobody, a complete waste of space, a mistake to my very core and completely undeserving of any love or warmth from anybody!

If this is true, then you might also infringe on my other fear and physically torture, rape, hurt or in some concrete way annihilate me.

This is big stuff!!!

You know what they say about making a mountain out of a mole-hill, but for some of us, hearing a flippant comment, or considering a job-interview, or being asked a question – such little molehills can cause an unconscious mountain of serious stuff like the freight-train above, to come crashing through our emotions, via our thoughts, and cause us to freeze, fight or run!

We all have very different ways of coping with fear. Ingeniously, apart from the fight, flight or freeze reactions, we devise coping strategies to respond to fear from an early age. We learn these from those closest to us, or we learn by trial and error of what seems to keep us safe.

We may learn to be silent, to disappear, to hide, to please and smile, to cry, to fight, to run away, to scream, or any host of other ways to cope with the perceived threat.

As we grow into an adult, these coping strategies often are no longer helpful in our functioning in the world as an adult. Often the old patterns disable us.

To grow and function well as an adult, we need to find ways to change our thought patterns so that we can rationalise and deal appropriately with things that make us fearful.

So how can we control the feelings of fear? First we can acknowledge the fear and where it is. How does it feel in my body? What thoughts are attached? (Somewhere there is a thought or belief that is making us afraid.) How do I want to respond? (I would write all this down, to hold it still.)

Then I might ask what is real? What is a fact and what is an opinion? (Are you saying I am ugly or that my eyes are blue?) Are any of those thoughts facts? Are they facts that matter? Can I identify and debunk the lies and myths? Are the facts a threat? (When we write these down, some of these look very silly, but be honest, because your thoughts and feelings are never silly!)

An important question might now be to look at what the worst case scenario or outcome might be? What could be the best outcome? And what realistically is likely to happen? Is there a real threat to me or to all I hold dear?

Most of the time, though the feeling of fear is real and we have to move forward despite the fear (we have to ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’) in reality the outcome for most of us is that the sky does not come falling down and the mountain is a construct of our imagination that no longer serves our needs as adults in society.

If we focus on the task before us, on how we can serve and contribute to the well-being of others, we take the focus off self and fear of threat to self and we can add positive experiences to the lives of others, to build a culture of love, forgiveness, support and community. We can, for example, take a deep breath and answer the question to the best of our ability, or ask for time to think about it; we can prepare for why we want the job and why we would be good at it and turn up to the interview with all we have to offer; we can think about the flippant comment, the person that made it and decide if any of this is true or relevant, or we can let go and move on to those that matter.

As we learn to recognise old lies and form new strategies we can retrain our minds with truths and helpful thinking patterns.

The Lord says, “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen and help you: I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah41:10

Does this idea of fear being to do with punishment resonate with you?

Can you identify the punishment you are afraid of?

Entering 2022 with Thanksgiving

Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise.” Psalm 100:4

This theme and this verse has come up so many times this last month, and it delights me now that I am beginning to understand it by experience and not just by hearing.

This monthly public thanksgiving to God now marks one whole year of doing this!

This morning I looked back, in my ‘Answered Prayer’ book, to the first records of specific prayers answered last February and over the year.

I am overwhelmed with awe and such gratitude that the God of all creation should listen to the prayers of a little me (and you) and should allow me (and you), through prayer, to bring God’s intervention into the lives of those around me (and you!).

What an enormous privilege, honour and responsibility!!!

And I have the privilege, honour and responsibility to come before my God and to give Him thanks and to give Him the glory by publicly sharing all that God has done.

Psalm 50:23 – “Giving thanks is the sacrifice that honours me, and I will surely save all who obey me.”

So with all joy and thanksgiving and without further ado, I thank God for all the specific answered prayers during January, but also for God’s ongoing intervention in areas that still await a breakthrough, and for all of those extra blessings and favour of which I may be blissfully unaware.

– That my neighbour responded with kind neighbourliness

– That many good re-connections made with long-standing friends during January.

– That A. sold her house and has moved back home.

– For many answers to prayer for S. – that she passed her license medical; bought good return tickets to M; for the long-term parking space and the last minute transport help; for all the favour and help in the journey and though controls; for your healing, personal growth and blessings; and for your protection and blessing through recent covid.

– That my own time of isolation enabled me to do lots of writing, editing and deep work

– For J.’s successful eye operation and for stopping the nose-bleeds

– That S. is now trained and willing to cover for contingencies and for the breaks we need at work

– That K.’s loan was swiftly agreed

– For the pleasure of meeting A. and for the power and love you have shown in miraculously healing little A. and for working in M. and mum and reuniting all the family. Glory to You, Lord.

– That D. is healed and policies in place for her to return safely to work

– That a lovely parcel of provision arrived from A. and then the funding back in place for her to return to work with the team in K.

– That E.’s tumour is completely gone

– That R. has done longer periods sober and You are changing his heart

– That C.’s funding has arrived

– That You healed C. and E. of their fevers and sickness and brought us all through swiftly

– That P. was fully prepared and enjoyed his exam

– That Y. has had great care and has gone home in peace to be with You at last

– That You provided me last minute with legal representation, but You were with me, Jehovah Shammah, and You fought my court case and You won for me. Glory to You, Lord.

Lord I worship and thank You for Who You are – such a Good, Miracle-working, Love-in-action, Holy, Amazing God and the most loving Father EVER!!

I am so grateful for Your faithfulness in all of Your promises:

And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20

And that

Your mercies are new every morning.” Lamentations 3:22

my choice of images reflect the morning sun breaking through the path through the trees…