BOOK THREE – Angel’s Story
THE FIRST PRINCIPLE: Prayerwork
from The One Minute Minister: Restoring Spirituality to Time Management
“Life is made up not of what we promise to do but what we actually do,” Angel continued.
“What do you mean by that?” the minister asked.
“When you write three pages a day as a regular part of your life, you can notice your emotions – and particularly your anxiety levels piling up, higher and higher. One acronym for fear is False Expectations Appearing Real. The problem is not what happens – that’s usually pretty innocent. It’s how we emotionally react to what happens that determines whether there is damage or not. And the worst damage is when we begin to allow our feelings to rewrite reality. We project onto other people emotions that we need them to feel, in order to justify and explain to ourselves our own feelings.”
“I think I know what you mean. When I’m angry, everyone is perceived as provoking me?”
“Exactly. But when you journal, you make a snapshot in time. When you come back to it in a different mood, you begin to be able to see the patterns of your actions. And you particularly see how you are deceiving yourself.”
“You mean denial?” the minister asked.
“Denial is the worst sort of problem in any kind of addiction.”
“Addiction? I thought we were talking about burnout.”
Her laugh was bittersweet. “Burnout is the consequence of addiction. No, don’t frown at me like that. I’ve been there. If a person drinks too much, there are consequences that are physical, emotional and relational. At one level the addiction brings some sort of pleasure, and at another level harm is being done to all concerned. The purpose of denial is to hide the pain and hurt so that you can continue longer on the path of self destruction without being aware of what you are doing. You may not be drinking, but your life is falling apart just as if you were.”
“OK, but I don’t know what I am addicted to…”
“Think of addiction here not in terms of the substance that you can’t quit; think of it in terms of the consequences of choosing to live in a way that is destroying your health, your marriage, your life, while pretending that there is no problem, that you have everything under control. I’m not sure what is destroying your life, but it is the denial, your avoiding the truth, that allows it to take place.”
“So don’t look for the bottle, look for the hangover?”
“The hangover is just the part you can’t deny, but that’s the idea. Look for the damage; pray about it. There is a goal with the first concept: Journal Clarity. We write as we pray and sit with God in order to achieve a clear picture of our life. That clear picture includes the picture of our life as we want it to be, our differentiation, and our current reality.”
“Differentiation? What does that mean?”
“In the psychology of Family Systems theory, the health of a family is measured by the degree of differentiation in each of the members. Your differentiation is knowing who you are and being faithful to yourself while at the same time remaining in touch with the other members of the family. Rabbi Edwin Friedman applied this theory to churches as extended families. Your use of time reveals clearly who you are in your relationships with others, so a Time Inventory can also help us get that clear picture.”
Fear = false expectations appearing real.
At the end of the day review your morning pages for examples of fear. Did any of the expectations you feared come to pass? What was real? What was not real?
Morning pages can be a reality check. What expectations turned out to be true? Which ones were imaginary?
Morning pages can be a snapshot for our emotions. Hindsight provides for a better understanding. When were our emotions reasonable and justified? When were emotions out of control? When did emotions help you to be on course or off course?
When were your emotions an experience of denial? Where were you avoiding the truth, leading to damage in your life?
Where do your morning pages and/or your evening reflections show that you are in denial about your life?
What is a pleasure that your protecting Through this Denial? What are you afraid to admit?
What is the damage to your life because you will not admit or face what you need to face?