Victimology

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victimology |ˌviktəˈmäləjē|
the possession of an outlook, arising from real or imagined victimization, that seems to glorify and indulge the state of being a victim.
I want to share with you a mindset or approach to life that has crippled me more than anything else other than being a sinful, fallen human being.
Being a victim. I should clarify, I don’t mean I have been crippled by an actual victimization that has occurred. That is different than this. Some of us have experience trauma and abuse and are victims of tragedy. I mean another kind of victim.
I mean the kind of victim that can best be described as passivity. This kind of victim revels in being a victim. This kind of victim using their victim-ness as an excuse to not move forward. This kind of victim is crippled and unable, dare I say unwilling, to make any changes or adjustments to their live in order to grow and move on from whatever circumstance they find themselves in.
This kind of victim is passive. They allow life to happen around them, to them… without taking any stand or trying to effect or impact what is going on around them. This kind of victim assumes they aren’t able to change anything so they don’t try. They passively watch as life passes them by, thinking to themselves how unfair it is that everyone else has everything they want and how good stuff happens to everyone else but me, I’m stuck here in the mud with crap just happening to me.
I am a Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern (fancy way to say Licensed Mental Health Counselor in training) and have suffered my share of mental health related difficulties. I am aware of the intricacies of mental health struggles and how difficult it can be to take responsibility and action in our lives. I know how easy it can be to allow life to happen without trying to engage and impact the direction of life. Please understand that when I say, we can’t afford to passively approach our lives.
I only took seven years to complete my Master’s degree, which gave me plenty of time to think through and mull over how I approach mental health. I have realized a couple things about how I approach mental health issues. First, we all have a backstory. Each one of us has a history that helps to explain who we are and where we have come from. For many of us, in that backstory are clues to why we are using the particular coping strategy to manage life. Oftentimes, we don’t even realize our coping strategies are maladaptive or unhealthy… they are the only ones we know.
Secondly, in that backstory is the root issue we must face and overcome if we are to move on with our lives. For each of us this is different. It may be trauma or abuse. It may be our perception of experiences we had growing up. It may be unresolved guilt or anger. Whatever the root issue is, it will eventually have to be overcome.
Thirdly, I know we are responsible for our actions, thoughts and behaviors. We have to be. We aren’t machines or robots. There are at times circumstances making it more difficult for us to act, think or behave in certain ways… but that doesn’t give us a pass to sit back and stop acting, thinking or behaving in rational healthy ways. If we want things to be different in our lives, we are the catalyst to make that happen.
We can no longer accept passivity and victimology. Can’t continue to live life from the sidelines expecting for it to somehow get better or be different if we aren’t willing to get in the game and make an effort to make it different and better. You are responsible for the way you approach life. You are responsible for your victim mindset.
And so am I.
I have come to understand when we approach life and mental health circumstances we have to uncover the root issue in life causing us problems. We have to learn better ways to cope or manage our behaviors. We have to restructure the way we think each day. We have to adjust our behavior patterns to healthier ones, to ones utilizing healthy coping strategies to combat life. We have to take responsibility for ourselves, our actions and the place in life we find ourselves.
I am no longer content playing a passive role in my life, allowing someone else other than me or God to have the spotlight in my life. Are you? Are you ready to actively engage in your life? Let’s and together and overcome passivity and victimology.

The Beginning of the End

Tunnel
I started this journey in October of 2007… that’s over six years ago.

Six years ago.

Today is the beginning of the end. This is the first day of class of my last term in my masters in counseling. In 9 weeks I will graduate and complete this degree. There is a light at the end of the tunnel!!

These last six years have been some of the hardest years of my life. Not because of this education… this education was one of the very few constants in my life over these years.

I have learned much about myself, my wife, the resiliency of my children, what authentic community feels like, the pain of losing jobs, the difficulty of financial ruin, the anguish of mental breakdown, and most importantly the unending love of my savior for me.

I also learned about the healing of restoration, the excitement of redemption and the joy of emerging on the other side of intense pain & difficulty.

By the grace of God I have emerged victorious against my foes.

There is a sense of accomplishment that goes along with getting to this place in my life… but honestly, it isn’t the kind of feeling of accomplishment you might expect. I am proud of myself, but more than anything I am proud of the God who has gotten me through.

When I began this journey, this masters degree, I honestly wasn’t sure why I started it. I didn’t really want to be a counselor. I would have rathered an MSW (Master’s of Social Work)… I felt as though this was more up my alley and have continued to profess that over the course of 6 years. Each time reassuring myself when I complete this degree it will certainly help me in ministry. I no longer feel this way exclusively. It will help in ministry, but it also fits me very well. I enjoy counseling (actually I enjoy being on both sides of the couch, but that’s for another time) and believe I make a good counselor. I listen well. I have good insight. I offer sound, wise advice. I certainly have experienced my own pain in a way that is meaningful to others and in a way that resonates with them. I can help others because of what I have experienced. I am a better father and husband because of what I have experienced. I am more humble because of what I have experienced.

I have learned more than I can put into words about myself. One thing I have certainly learned is I am able to accomplish something. Over the last six years, more times than I care to recount, I have felt like a failure. I am not a failure.

Quite the opposite is true.

I am a Champion.

Today, I lift the head of the giant and celebrate my defiance. But the Lord is with me like a dread champion; Therefore my persecutors will stumble and not prevail. They will be utterly ashamed, because they have failed, With an everlasting disgrace that will not be forgotten. (Jeremiah 20:11 NASB)

Today is the beginning of the end.

Wandering Mind

As I sit down to put the finishing touches on classwork for my internship class, I find it easier to let my mind wander in an accelerated manner. My thoughts aren’t quite racing per se… but as my dad used to strongly encourage me and my bro as children, I wish my thoughts would stop ‘flitting around and light somewhere’. I realize my thoughts vacillate between wrapping up this course and the last 2 I have left to have earned a master’s degree, my church ministry, my internship where I am counseling clients, my family (both wife & kids and bro/sis(es)/mom/dad), impending employment at conclusion of grad school,the numerous blog post ideas I have been sitting on for months, my desire to publish a book, our search to buy a house this summer and the slight indigestion I have from that burger I ate at lunch.

I find myself at this moment specifically asking God to calm my mind and fears and to allow me to feel the peace beyond understanding and to know that he is God in the midst of the whirlwind of experiences that is my life.

Peace. As I hate hell, all Montagues.

I can’t help to think of Romeo & Juliet when I think of the word peace… sorry.

I find myself a little antsy or anxious today in general… which is probably the contributor to my thoughts not wanting to sit still while I wrap up homework. I have found there are times when my thoughts wander that it is better to give it space to calm itself down rather than force it to do what i want. It doesn’t hurt to throw a prayer in there to assist in the calming process.

We all have moments when our minds want to be somewhere other than where they are… we don’t wanna have to deal with work, family, church, school, friends, whatever it may be. I have learned the most important thing I can do to make me the best husband & father I can be is to focus on my own mental, emotional and spiritual health. I am no good to anyone else if I am a mess. Today, as my thoughts are scattered I let God fill me with calmness so that I am to parent my children well and finish my homework.

Are you feeling scattered and disjointed? Feeling like your mind wants to be somewhere else? Try asking God for calmness, then sit quietly and let your mind wander until it comes home.

I Like to Live Alone, but it’s Crowded Inside

In 1995 the movie Se7en was released.

On the soundtrack was a track by an unknown band at the time named Gravity Kills, that song was titled Guilty.

The band’s first album was self-titled and featured Guilty as the leadoff song on the album (after the intro track). Seven tracks later was Never, which started with the lines: “I like to live alone, but it’s crowded inside sometimes.”

When I first heard the song at 17/18 it blew my mind. I was like, wow… for some reason it just seemed to fit. This was years before I became acquainted with mental illness. I’m not suggesting that I have more than one person living inside. But maybe I am.

Let me explain.

I am almost a month into an counseling internship. The clients that I see are homeless or the next best thing to it. They are single mothers, single dads, and families whose lives have taken a drastic turn in a direction they did not expect or want. As I have been counseling these clients, I have been reminded of something I realized sometime ago. Whether we suffer from mental illness or not, we all have multiple persons that live inside us.

We all live daily with at least 3 persons inside us:

We live with the person that we want to be. This is the DREAMER. This is the embodiment of our dreams, hopes, passions, aspirations… everything that excites us, gives us reason to get out of bed in the morning. This is the person that we want to be. This is the person that we want others to view us as being. This is who we define ourselves to be. This is the person that thrives in our dream world. This is the person who wants us to succeed more than anything else in life. Unfortunately, this person often doesn’t get to be the primary reflection we see in the mirror. This person often gets drowned under the other persons.

We also live with the person that the voices in our minds tell us we are. No, we don’t all hear voices, but we do hear lies that we tell ourselves about ourselves. This is the LIAR, because they rarely tell us the truth about who we are. This is the person who wants us to fail. This is the person who is actively trying to make us fail. This is the person who never has anything good to say about us. This is the person who constantly beats us down, only focuses on our failures and weaknesses. This person has a very loud voice.

The third person that lives inside is the person who is just making it through the day. This is the PRESENT. This is the person who has succumbed to the weight of the world and everyday life, this is the person who just wants to survive. This is the person who has almost given up on dreaming… because they can’t see any light at the end of the tunnel… they don’t even realize they are in a tunnel, they believe they are in an endless cave. This person lives with the constant stress and pressure of life. They feel the weight of it every moment of every day. They are almost defeated… many times they are outright defeated.

Therein lives the struggle. Deciding which person is going to be our reality. It is possible to hear the voice of the person we want to be and not be the person we want to be, yet let their voice be the loudest calling us, urging us, forcing us to move forward, to make difference to change our circumstances to be the person we want to be. Too often, we settle to hear the vice of the liar or of the present and we don’t listen to the voice of the dreamer.

We don’t let the dreamer excite our passions.

We have settled.

We don’t dream.

We don’t get excited.

This can be a sad, depressing way to amble through life.

There is another way out…

Christ.

This may not solve all the dilemmas of our life, but Christ does provide peace.

He does provide a truth.

He does provide acceptance and LOVE.

He allows us to dreams and encourages us to dream big. He shows us that the voice of the liar and the present don’t have to be our reality. He holds us close until we realize we were meant for more.

We are WORTH more. We have infinite value to a God who loved us enough to die for us.

It is difficult to drown out the voices of the liar and the present by ourselves. It is much easier to do when we are wrapped in a passionate embrace by Christ our Savior and God.

Who are you going to listen to? Are you going to let the liar and the present keep you from being the dreamer that God designed you to be?

I Like to Live Alone, but it's Crowded Inside

In 1995 the movie Se7en was released.

On the soundtrack was a track by an unknown band at the time named Gravity Kills, that song was titled Guilty.

The band’s first album was self-titled and featured Guilty as the leadoff song on the album (after the intro track). Seven tracks later was Never, which started with the lines: “I like to live alone, but it’s crowded inside sometimes.”

When I first heard the song at 17/18 it blew my mind. I was like, wow… for some reason it just seemed to fit. This was years before I became acquainted with mental illness. I’m not suggesting that I have more than one person living inside. But maybe I am.

Let me explain.

I am almost a month into an counseling internship. The clients that I see are homeless or the next best thing to it. They are single mothers, single dads, and families whose lives have taken a drastic turn in a direction they did not expect or want. As I have been counseling these clients, I have been reminded of something I realized sometime ago. Whether we suffer from mental illness or not, we all have multiple persons that live inside us.

We all live daily with at least 3 persons inside us:

We live with the person that we want to be. This is the DREAMER. This is the embodiment of our dreams, hopes, passions, aspirations… everything that excites us, gives us reason to get out of bed in the morning. This is the person that we want to be. This is the person that we want others to view us as being. This is who we define ourselves to be. This is the person that thrives in our dream world. This is the person who wants us to succeed more than anything else in life. Unfortunately, this person often doesn’t get to be the primary reflection we see in the mirror. This person often gets drowned under the other persons.

We also live with the person that the voices in our minds tell us we are. No, we don’t all hear voices, but we do hear lies that we tell ourselves about ourselves. This is the LIAR, because they rarely tell us the truth about who we are. This is the person who wants us to fail. This is the person who is actively trying to make us fail. This is the person who never has anything good to say about us. This is the person who constantly beats us down, only focuses on our failures and weaknesses. This person has a very loud voice.

The third person that lives inside is the person who is just making it through the day. This is the PRESENT. This is the person who has succumbed to the weight of the world and everyday life, this is the person who just wants to survive. This is the person who has almost given up on dreaming… because they can’t see any light at the end of the tunnel… they don’t even realize they are in a tunnel, they believe they are in an endless cave. This person lives with the constant stress and pressure of life. They feel the weight of it every moment of every day. They are almost defeated… many times they are outright defeated.

Therein lives the struggle. Deciding which person is going to be our reality. It is possible to hear the voice of the person we want to be and not be the person we want to be, yet let their voice be the loudest calling us, urging us, forcing us to move forward, to make difference to change our circumstances to be the person we want to be. Too often, we settle to hear the vice of the liar or of the present and we don’t listen to the voice of the dreamer.

We don’t let the dreamer excite our passions.

We have settled.

We don’t dream.

We don’t get excited.

This can be a sad, depressing way to amble through life.

There is another way out…

Christ.

This may not solve all the dilemmas of our life, but Christ does provide peace.

He does provide a truth.

He does provide acceptance and LOVE.

He allows us to dreams and encourages us to dream big. He shows us that the voice of the liar and the present don’t have to be our reality. He holds us close until we realize we were meant for more.

We are WORTH more. We have infinite value to a God who loved us enough to die for us.

It is difficult to drown out the voices of the liar and the present by ourselves. It is much easier to do when we are wrapped in a passionate embrace by Christ our Savior and God.

Who are you going to listen to? Are you going to let the liar and the present keep you from being the dreamer that God designed you to be?

Shaking the Dust Off…

It has been a time since I wrote anything. Not for lack of desire or for things to write… Just can’t seem to find/make the time. Let’s see if we can change that.

I developed a good rhythm of writing this summer in June/July?partially August and absolutely dropped the ball in September. Here we are in October and I find myself wishing to get back into the game.

Today, I met with this dude who completed some assessment tests on me (that’s a story for another post… check back tomorrow, maybe). As we discussed me (I was the subject of the tests) one of the traits that came to the surface was a high sense of creativity. As we discussed this he asked me if I was an artist, musician, poet or something. I said, “I blog.”

He was thrown for a loop with my un-impressive artistic response.

I then alluded to a solo of ‘Family of God’ I sang during this week’s sermon at H2O Church and confessed there was good reason that I did not sing in the band. We concluded there is something about me that is artistic… we just didn’t know what.

When I shared this with Ronda, she was like ‘yeah.’ She went to say that I have the heart of an artist even though I have no artistic ability. We laughed. But it is kinda true.

I can’t dance, I can’t talk.
Only thing about me is the way I walk.
I can’t dance, I can’t sing
Im just standing here selling everything.

Wait, I got distracted.

I am ok as an artist… I have a vision that few understand so I tend not to exercise it much.

I am constantly being asked am I a musician or an artist. Nope.

Maybe there is something to this idea after all. Maybe I should really try to explore my inner artist… or maybe I should just stick to blogging and preaching.

… and yes that is an original Eli Westfall work of art.

Introverted Extrovert

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Have you ever taken a personality test? I have. Many times. I always score very highly as an extrovert. Which isn’t particularly surprising. I’m an outgoing, loud, obnoxious, boisterous, larger than life, center of attention, life of the party kid of guy. I do very well in settings where I am in front of people. I like to be in front of large groups of people. I like to be in charge. I like to lead. I like to administrate and tell others what to do. I have done very well in jobs that have allowed the freedom to think outside of the box and troubleshoot my own answers and then implement them.

Having said all that, there is still a piece of me that wants to be left alone to sit by myself without another soul anywhere in sight. I like my alone time. I’m at camp this week as the missionary speaking about h2o church and I realize that I’m good to be ‘on’ an in front of people for about 3 days. After that, I need to detox to decompress and relax away from everyone. This is hard when you are a dad… and you’ve brought 66% of your kids with you to camp.

Sometimes I chastise myself for being like this, telling myself I should be able to be in front people constantly. Then I think about how Jesus frequently retreated away by himself. I feel like the Gospel of Mark catches this about Jesus. In Mark 1:35 we read, In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there. Jesus got up and went to be alone. He started his day with time to himself (in relationship with God) so that he could give himself to others. Not that I am Jesus, but maybe it is ok to need time to myself.

I have taken enough time to myself and must rejoin the masses.

Refuge

Psalm 34:8 –

O taste and see that the LORD is good;
How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!

I always like the reference to God as a place of refuge. The images it brings to my mind are like a paradise beach by a waterfall and pool of water in the mountains. Almost reminds me of the falls on the Panther Creek trail in north Georgia. God gives us a place to rest, a place to relax, a place to be revived. Like the Panther Creek trail, you have worked hard to make it though the trail and now it is time to relax and eat you lunch, hide in the shade and get your energy back.

God restores us and rejuvenates us. I like to rest in the refuge of God… will you rest with me?

Be Still

Psalm 46:10

the Message: “Step out of the traffic! Take a long, loving look at me, your High God, above politics, above everything.”

NIV: He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

NASB: “Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

I don’t always do this.

What is the root of what God is asking us to do here? Let him be God. I think he is reminding us that when we take things into our hands we are putting ourselves on the throne and by doing so we have removed him from the throne.

This is a problem. This was the beginning of all of the problems of the world. We tried to be the boss.

Not good. We aren’t big enough to be the boss. We don’t even know that we don’t know enough to be the boss.

I think God was reminding us when we try too hard we are trying to be God, trying to take his role.

I’m gonna try to be still, to cease striving, to step out of traffic and let God be God of me and my life.