How I Cleared My Depression with 12 steps – step 3

I used the steps from Alcoholics Anonymous to clear my depression. You can too.

Step 3 – I made a decision to turn my will and my life over to the care of God as I understand Him.

This is about surrender. It was really hard for me. I thought I had to be strong; I had to defeat my own demons on my own. I had tried to do this and I hadn’t succeeded. I just seemed to be digging myself in deeper. I used to be pretty independent and self-reliant. It seemed like the only way. Then after my career disaster I became financially dependent on my husband. This still didn’t help me. I had got rid of one problem that depressed me (my work) but now I had other problems – poverty, lack of self-worth, lack of meaning and purpose…I still hadn’t made the shift. I was still looking for the wrong things to make me happy and medicating myself daily with red wine.

I had a blockage about surrendering to God. I kind of worried about being a Christian. I had met plenty of Christians I didn’t like – judgemental, obsessed with other people’s sex lives, joyless, cruel. I had met many Christian teachers like this and I did not want to be like them. Christianity has a strange history and a lot of skeletons in its closet. On the Alpha course I started thinking about the true message- the words of Jesus which really are astounding. Jesus is nothing like the sort of Christians I had met in the past. My favourite passage is the Sermon on the Mount, particularly ‘Consider the lilies…’ Go and check it out if you haven’t read it. It is about surrendering to God and letting go. It really is the hardest thing but the most worthwhile thing. God clothes even the wild flowers of the field with beauty. They don’t work for it, they don’t strive yet God looks after them. He will look after you too because you mean more to Him. Notice there is no Protestant work ethic here. Where did that come from because it didn’t come out of the mouth of Jesus? Surrendering to God causes a change in your consciousness. It doesn’t mean you won’t do things wrong (sin) and mess things up. You will but it’s ok.

The plan I had for my life didn’t work. It was a rubbish plan. I was working in the education system that I didn’t believe in. In the end it drove me to break down. Then I thought I would write books but that didn’t work out either. My plans were all wrong. I accepted help from God and at this point I realised change was possible. I am still not where I want to be. I have held back from total commitment. I am not a nun or a holy person on a mountain. I haven’t made it in to Mother Theresa territory – yet. I ask God for help every day. When I feel despair I pray. I remember that I am Divine – I am made in the image of God. That helps me. I still have some bad habits. I still drink wine but nothing like as much as I used to. I am trying to phase it out completely but I keep failing. I have a daily spiritual practice involving reading the Bible, praying, meditation and yoga. I am working on myself bit by bit. I am an ongoing project. If I mess up I ask for forgiveness and start again. I can observe my emotions and detach from them. I am training as a therapist so I can be of service to others.

Accept help from God as you understand Him. It does not have to be the Christian God. It could be Ganesha or Buddha or nature or Allah. It’s up to you.

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How I Cleared My Depression with 12 steps – step 2

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I used the 12 steps from Alcoholics Anonymous to overcome depression.

Step 2

I came to believe that a power greater than me could restore me to sanity.

This was a big shift for me. All my life I feel like I have been surrounded by atheists: my family, my friends. They know it all. They don’t need God. But I did. After years of vague belief I finally submitted. I became a Christian on the Alpha Course. This helped me a lot. Therapists often say you have to fix yourself; that it has to come from within. That’s good advice for many people but I had been trying to fix myself for years. There was something about surrendering myself to a loving God that worked for me.

I have suffered in the past from depression, low self-esteem and a sense of worthlessness. This just leads to nihilism: there seems no point in doing anything in a meaningless universe. Christianity gave me a way out of this trap.When the Bible is explained to you as an unfolding story it all starts to make sense. There is order in the universe, there is purpose and intention. Most of all there is love. Love is the thing I have been lacking. God loves me just as I am with all my flaws and faults. I don’t have to be perfect. I am good enough just the way I am. This is a revelation to me. We are all sinners. God knows this but he forgives us and accepts us through the blood of Jesus.

Being a Christian gives me meaning and purpose. I am still early on in my journey and I haven’t figured everything out yet but I read the Bible every day and pray and I attend the local abbey and sometimes my village church which has intermittent services. When somebody at Alpha prayed over me I felt like some evil thing left my body and something else came in its place. My depression began to lift there and then. I didn’t get rid of it overnight but it was the start of my journey to recovery. A lot of people have trouble with the word God. If you prefer you can use Higher Power or Nature or whatever you like. For me God works best though. I feel better when I think of something external to me helping me: a great spirit. I can’t make it on my own but I can make it with God. And so can you. Surrender to Him and you can heal yourself of all kinds of issues. Just one step at a time each day.

Personal Therapy Philosophy

In this essay, I will outline my own ideas about hypnotherapy which will form the foundation of my private practice. Firstly, I will explain my background, values, and beliefs which will affect my practice. Then, I will describe the integrative approach to therapy I will take incorporating elements from humanistic therapy, cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), and psychodynamic approaches which I will combine with transformational hypnotherapy. I will explain my reasons and give evidence for my stance. It will be argued that integrative practice is the approach most likely to help the majority of clients with varying issues. I will then explore the argument taken by the NHS that cognitive-behavioural therapy is all that is necessary for modern psychotherapeutic treatment and find reasons to reject this argument.

Firstly, it is necessary for me to explain my own background as it is important for a therapist to work in a way which is comfortable for them and in line with their belief systems (Corey, 2001). This gives the therapist authenticity. I have a fairly academic background. My first degree was an MA in Philosophy which gave me a life long interest in ideas and the ‘big questions’ about the meaning of life and the nature of reality. I have a second degree which is a BSc in Psychology which was very science based and concerned with evidence. It was not particularly relevant to therapy. I am currently undertaking an MSc in Psychology which is concentrating on research methods and again is not particularly focused on therapy. This educational experience has given me the tendency to look for evidence to support the claims of different modalities but at the same time to be aware of the flawed nature of much evidence in psychology. I have had a long career in teaching which has given me a practical insight into human nature. I ended my career prematurely due to inability to cope with prolonged stress which also led to bouts of depression. This experience gave me an interest in mental health and I have received CBT, counselling and transformational hypnotherapy which have all helped me to manage my mental health. I sought training in hypnotherapy as I wished to help others who were undergoing similar issues to me. I have a particular interest in anxiety and depression. Recently, I became a Christian and before that I was a practising Buddhist. I now blend these two belief systems and think of myself as a Christian Buddhist. I have a daily spiritual practice and spirituality is an important part of my life and gives me meaning. My education, spiritual life, and life experience have informed my values. I believe that the purpose of life is to develop yourself as much as possible, to self-actualise, and then to help others by sharing your skills and knowledge. I am motivated by the values of kindness and compassion and I would like to see a more spiritual, caring society. I see therapy as a way of helping people with their life problems so enabling them to live more fulfilling lives and reach their personal potential. I would not wish to impose my spiritual beliefs on anyone but if it was wished by the client, he or she could find a safe space to explore these issues.

Contemplating my life story has led me to embrace some of the humanistic tradition in psychotherapy, particularly the ideas of Maslow (1993, cited in Joseph, 2010) and Rogers (1959, cited in Joseph 2010). I feel that the transpersonal approach to psychology, emphasising spiritual experience, is the one to which I feel most attracted. Rogers (1980, cited in Joseph, 2010) wrote that he felt he was most effective as a therapist when his inner spirit reached out and touched the inner spirit of another. The relationship transcends itself and becomes part of a larger phenomenon enabling deep growth and healing. Maslow (1968, cited in Joseph 2010) developed the idea of a hierarchy of needs beginning with physiological needs such as food and water and ending with self-actualization where individuals are self-directed, creative, and independent and are willing to try to understand other people’s point of view and are open to new experiences. Such experiences could be what Maslow calls ‘peak experiences’ which transcend ordinary human consciousness and can be spiritual in nature: beyond the person. The transpersonal approach also draws on the work of Jung (1957, cited in Joseph, 2010) who developed the idea of a collective unconscious that exists beyond the boundaries of space and time and reflects a cosmic intelligence. The collective unconscious provides an inner wisdom for healing. Some transpersonal notions have much in common with Buddhism as individuals come to an understanding that there is no real self. Clients can undergo a transformation where their current way of seeing the world is shattered and they realise the unity of all things (Wilber, 1998, cited in Joseph, 2010). Meditation techniques can form part of transpersonal approaches. The therapist is co-operating with the client to allow inner healing to take place. Transpersonal therapists are not much concerned with scientific evidence and it can be argued that their approach is difficult to research effectively. However, there is some research that suggests that humanistic approaches are just as effective as other forms of therapy (Grof, 2007). In spite of my enthusiasm for the transpersonal approach I am aware it will not be appropriate for all clients which is why I intend to practice therapy in an integrative way with the transpersonal approach underlying my broader range of techniques.

I am drawn to the integrative approach as much of the research into the effectiveness of psychotherapy has emphasised the importance of common factors between therapies. Ablon and Jones (2010) have shown that in practice skilled, experienced therapists integrate techniques belonging to several approaches, adapting to the individual needs of their patients. A positive relationship between the therapist and patient is of paramount importance in the success of the treatment. This is known as the therapeutic alliance (Grencavage and Norcross, 1990). It has also been suggested that successful treatment may depend on various non-specific therapeutic factors: the confidence of the therapist in the treatment, the patient’s perception of the therapist as skilled and confident, a patient’s expectation that the treatment will be successful, characteristics of the patient such as commitment to therapy, being able to formulate problems and a willingness to challenge themselves (Wampold, 2015), (Cuijpers, 2013), (Ablon and Marci, 2004). The genuine interest of the counsellor in improving another person’s quality of life is vital (Schneider and Langle, 2012). It is likely that it is these mechanisms of change that predict the success of psychotherapeutic treatment, rather than the type of therapy that is utilised. As a result of these findings, I intend to work on creating a strong therapeutic alliance where I collaborate with the client to find solutions to their issues. I also intend to incorporate Rogers’ core conditions from person centred therapy: congruence, empathy and unconditional positive regard (Rogers, 1959, cited in Joseph, 2010). Congruence means the therapist is being his or her real self which is also close to his or her idealised self and he or she is integrated into the relationship with the client. Empathy means the therapist understands the client’s feelings. Unconditional positive regard means that the therapist will accept and support the client whatever he or she does or says. There is a real warmth and respect in the relationship.

Some clients’ issues may not be suitable for humanistic therapy so I will also make use of cognitive-behavioural techniques (CBT). The therapy focuses on the present rather than the past, and on changing negative patterns of thinking and behaviour (Joseph, 2010). Theoretically, CBT is rooted in behaviourism. Behaviourists believed that only observable, measurable, outward behaviour was worthy of scientific inquiry (Skinner, 1974, cited in Joseph, 2010). This theory was further developed by Beck (1976, cited in House and Loewenthal, 2008), who added a cognitive element. My reason for choosing CBT is that it has an impressive evidence base in research which suggests it is as good as or superior to other psychotherapies (Barth, Munder, Gerger, Nuesch, Trelle, Znoj and Cuiijpers, 2013), (Cuijpers, van Straten, Andersson, and van Oppen, 2008), (King, 2007), (Elkin, Shea, Watkins, Imber, Sotsky, Collins and Parloff, 1989). The approach is appropriate for clients who want fast solutions to their presenting issues and don’t wish for greater self-knowledge, spiritual development or to revisit the past.

The third approach I will integrate into my psychotherapy practice is psychodynamic therapy. There is great emphasis placed on the relationship between the patient and the therapist (Joseph, 2010). This has the advantage of giving primacy to the interactions between the two, which can be analysed in the course of the dialogue, thus finding solutions. However, this emphasis has raised criticisms. Unethical practitioners have abused the therapeutic relationship with its inherent power imbalance and there have been cases of sexual abuse of patients and other humiliating experiences (Masson, 1992). There is a focus on defence mechanisms and transference of issues from the past onto the counsellor. The emphasis is on the unconscious mind and early childhood experiences. At its best, the patient and therapist form an equal partnership, where the patient makes a breakthrough by working through issues from the past, bringing the unconscious causes of behaviour into conscious awareness and thus relieving current symptoms and empowering the patient (Joseph, 2010). This emphasis on the past has been criticised, as some therapists have been accused of unwittingly planting false memories in patients, particularly of sexual abuse, which can seriously harm people (Masson, 1992). Psychodynamic therapy is grounded in the work of Freud, (1901, cited in Joseph 2010) which gives it a firm theoretical basis and long history (Milton 2008, cited in House and Loewenthal, 2008). Freud developed psychoanalysis from a small series of case studies of his patients in Vienna. He believed that human behaviour has its origins in the unconscious mind, which is full of irrational, conflicting needs. In recent times, Freud’s ideas have been heavily criticised as they are based on studies of a limited number of people and they lack empirical evidence (Eysenck and Wilson, 1973, cited in Joseph, 2010). The cultural values of Edwardian Austria may not apply across the world. In spite of these criticisms, psychodynamic therapy has a strong evidence base, particularly for depression (Shedler, 2010). I choose to integrate elements of this approach in my practice as it will be suitable for clients who wish to revisit the past due to traumatic experiences. Modern psychodynamic therapy can be delivered in relatively short time frames such as 10-16 sessions. I am drawn to this approach more than CBT as I have found revisiting the past has been helpful to me in my own personal therapy so I believe it will help others.

Finally, the fourth approach which will be an important part of my practice is transformative hypnotherapy. I was very impressed on the course with the work of Boyne (2018) as he could produce real change in a short period of time by revisiting traumatic events in the past and giving new more helpful ways of regarding them and new ways of living after the release of emotion from dealing with the past. I have had personal transformative therapy recently from Peer (2018) who has developed her own version and I found it very helpful to me. I would like to incorporate this into my own practice as well as using techniques from Milton Erickson (Rosen, 1982) such as hypnotic language and the use of stories and metaphor. I also wish to use the technique of guided imagery which has its roots in the work of Jung (1957, cited in Joseph, 2010) as I have seen the powerful, transforming effect of this method and I find Jung to have spiritual values which are similar to my own. There is a growing body of research which finds hypnotherapy is useful for a great many issues, even physical medical issues such as IBS especially when it is combined with psychotherapy (Kraft and Kraft, 2007).

There is a school of thought that only one therapeutic modality should be used, particularly by beginning practitioners, as the therapist needs a firm grounding in one technique and cannot hope to be expert in all therapies (Corey, 2001). Following this line, the NHS has decided that CBT is now virtually the only therapy it offers due to its strong evidence base and its value for money and speed (NICE, 2018). While I have some sympathy for this view I do not believe that CBT is appropriate for every person and every issue. It is far too reductive in reducing complex human states to merely thoughts and behaviour while ignoring emotions, the social context, the past and the unconscious mind. One argument against CBT is that it is telling people how to think and reprogramming them in line with the expectations of society. ‘Faulty’ individuals are to be made to fit in with the current culture rather than attempting to change the culture. Thus, CBT is not counselling, but just a series of tools to ‘fix’ symptoms. As a result, this treatment does not address the underlying issues of the client (Woolfolk and Richardson, 2008, cited in House and Loewenthal, 2008). As a consequence, CBT therapy becomes a political act, aligning with governmental needs for a healthy workforce. CBT is offering a kind of sticking plaster to control the emotional and behavioural impact of a lack of meaning and spirituality, rather than addressing such existential concerns. Furthermore, it is possibly unethical, as it is imposing solutions, rather than being patient-led. There is a power imbalance between the counsellor and patient (Brazier 2008, cited in House and Loewenthal, 2008).

Effective, integrative therapy has been summed up by Paul (1967, cited in Corey, 2001) as: ‘What treatment by whom, is the most effective for this individual with that specific problem, and under which set of circumstances?’However, there is a problem theoretically that the approaches are incompatible. For example, the humanistic approach believes people are basically good while the psychodynamic approach points to darker, irrational drives suggesting people have evil within them. My own belief is that people are neither good or bad but a mixture of both so I don’t fully subscribe to either theory though I lean to the humanistic. I am taking a pragmatic approach and using what works from each therapeutic modality in order to maximise my ability to help clients.

In this essay I have revealed that I intend to take an integrative approach to therapy using techniques from humanistic traditions, CBT, psychodynamic therapy and transformative hypnotherapy. This approach is underpinned by my belief in the value of transpersonal therapy as an overarching concept which will guide my practice. This is in line with my beliefs and values and enables me to help a great many people in the most effective way for them. I have supported my philosophy with research evidence.

References

Ablon, J. and Jones, E. (2010) ‘How expert clinicians’ prototypes of an ideal treatment correlate with outcome in psychodynamic and cognitive-behavioural therapy’ Psychotherapy Research vol. 8, no.1, pp. 71-83 (Online). Available at doi: 10.1080/10503309812331332207 (Accessed on 5th April, 2018)

Ablon, J. and Marci, C. (2004) ‘Psychotherapy process: the missing link: comment on Westen, Novotny, and Thompson-Brenner’ Psychological Bulletin vol. 130, no. 4, pp. 664-668 (Online). Available at doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0033-2909.130.4.664 (Accessed on 5th April, 2018)

Barth, J., Munder, T., Gerger, H., Nuesch, E., Trelle, S., Znoj, H. and Cuijpers, P. (2013) ‘Comparative efficacy of seven psychotherapeutic interventions for depressed patients: a network of meta-analysis’ PLoS Medicine, vol. 10, no. 5, pp. 1-17 (Online). Available at https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001454 (Accessed on 5th April, 2018)

Boyne, G. (2018) Gil-Boyne.com (Online) Available at http://gil-boyne.com (Accessed on 13th June, 2018)

Corey, G. (2001) Theory and Practice of Counseling and Psychotherapy, Stamford, Wadsworth

Cuijpers, P., van Straten, A., Andersson, G. and van Oppen, P. (2008) ‘Psychotherapy for depression in adults: a meta-analysis of comparative outcome studies’ Journal of Consultant Clinical Psychology vol. 76, no. 6, pp. 909-22 (Online). Available at doi: 10.1037/a0013075 (Accessed on 1st April, 2018)

Cuijpers, P. (2013) ‘Effective therapies or effective mechanisms in treatment guidelines for depression?’ in Depression and Anxiety vol. 30, no. 11, pp. 1055-1057 (Online). Available at doi: 10.1002/da.22205 (Accessed on 5th April, 2018)

Elkin, I., Shea, M., Watkins, J., Imber, S., Sotsky, S., Collins, J. and Parloff, M. (1989) ‘National Institute of Mental Health Treatment of Depression Collaborative Research Program General Effectiveness of Treatments’ Arch Gen Psychiatry vol. 46, no. 11, pp. 971–982 (Online). Available at doi: 10.1001/archpsyc.1989.01810110013002 (Accessed on 5th April, 2018)

Grencavage, L., and Norcross, J., (1990) ‘Where Are the Commonalities Among the Therapeutic Common Factors?’ in Professional Psychology: Research and Practice vol. 21, no. 5, pp. 372-378 (Online). Available at doi: 10.1037/0735-7028.21.5.372 (Accessed on 5th April, 2018)

Grof, S. (2007) ‘Theoretical and Empirical Foundations of Transpersonal Psychology’ (Online) Available at http://www.stanislavgrof.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/FoundationsTP.pdf (Accessed on 13th June, 2018)

House, R. and Loewenthal, D. (eds.) (2008) Against and For CBT: Towards a Constructive Dialogue, Monmouth, PCCS Books.

Joseph, S. (2010) Theories of Counselling and Psychotherapy, Hampshire, Palgrave Macmillan.

King, R. (2007) ‘Evidence-based practice: Where is the evidence? The case of cognitive behaviour therapy and depression’ Australian Psychologist vol. 33, no. 2, pp. 83-88 (Online). Available at doi: 10.1080/00050069808257386 (Accessed on 5th April, 2018)

Kraft, T. and Kraft, D. (2007) ‘Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Symptomatic Treatment Versus Integrative Psychotherapy’ in Contemp. Hypnosis vol. 24 no. 4 pp. 161-177 (Online) Available at DOI: 10.1002/ch.339 (Accessed on 13th June, 2018)

Masson, J. (1992) Against Therapy, London, Flamingo

NICE (2018) Depression in Adults, London, (Online). Available at https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg90/chapter/Appendix-Assessing-depression-and-its-severity (Accessed on 4th April, 2018)

O’Neal, P., Jackson, A. and McDermott, F. (2014) ‘A review of the efficacy and effectiveness of cognitive behavioural therapy and short-term psychodynamic therapy in the treatment of major depression’ Australian Social Work vol. 67, no. 2, pp. 197-213 (Online). Available at doi: 10.1080/0312407X.2013.778307 (Accessed on 4th April, 2018)

Peer, M. (2018) Marisa Peer (Online) Available at https://www.marisapeer.com (Accessed on 13th June, 2018)

Rosen, S. (1982) My Voice Will Go With You, London, Norton and Co.

Schneider, A. and Langle, K. (2012) ‘The Renewal of Humanism in Psychotherapy: Summary and Conclusion’ Psychotherapy Vol. 49, No. 4, pp. 480–481 (Online). Available at doi: 10.1037/a0028026 (Accessed on 5th April, 2018)

Shedler, J. (2010) ‘The efficacy of psychodynamic psychotherapy’ American Psychologist vol. 65, no.22, pp. 98-109 (Online). Available at
http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0018378 (Accessed on 5th April, 2018)

Wampold, B. (2015) ‘How important are the common factors in psychotherapy? An update’ in World Psychiatry vol. 14, no. 3, pp. 270–277 (Online). Available at http://doi.org/10.1002/wps.20238 (Accessed on 5th April, 2018)

Interview about Gateway into the Dark

Q: Why did you write Gateway into the Dark?

A: I became very interested in and of course appalled by the Syrian War. I wanted to write a novel that featured it somewhere. I was also interested in how Islam is perceived. I wanted to show the good side, how it can help someone on a personal level to live a good life but also the extremist side with the behaviour of ISIS.

 

Q: Tell me about the main character.

The story is seen through the eyes of Molly. She is a working class girl from Manchester who gets into university and then marries a Muslim man. I wanted to tell a story about someone who starts out poor. Marginalised people are almost never written about and I wanted to tell a story through one of them. I lived in Manchester for years when I was a teacher so I wanted to capture the atmosphere of the centre of the city.

Q: How did you research the novel?

The Manchester scenes were easy because I could write them from memory and mix in my own imagination. Syria was much harder as I’ve never been there. I did a lot of research on the internet and looked at videos and pictures to get a sense of the place. It is a very restricted view as Molly is a Muslim woman in a very controlled society so she does not see everything that happens.

Q: What genre is your novel?

I always find genre difficult as I don’t really write in genre. I just write about life and things that interest me. I have called it a romance as love does feature but then so does war and loss and religion. It has a lot of themes just like life itself. It’s definitely not a thriller. There is no daring do and not much action. I don’t write books like that. It is quite contemplative, particularly about spirituality and what it is to be a woman in modern society.  I wanted to make people think about the different facets of Islam and the experience of faith itself.945265338

Gateway into the Dark – New Novel

Buy it here

945265338

 

Molly is just an ordinary woman living in Manchester, England with her Muslim husband Taj. She wakes up one morning to find him gone. The horrible truth dawns on her. He has left for Syria to join the Islamic State. What is she to do? Should she follow him to try to bring him back?

This is a novel about eternal themes: love, loss and love discovered once again against the brutal backdrop of war. It is also a quiet contemplation on a woman’s growing Islamic faith. Not the usual romance.

On being a new Christian

I have been a Christian for about two months now. I got a real high at first when I was filled with the Holy Spirit on the Alpha Course but it hasn’t lasted. I have been studying the Bible, praying and going to Church. My moods have been up and down. In general, I really like having a structure to my life. I think I need a framework to hang things on and Christianity has certainly given me that.

I am fully aware of my many faults and failings and I am working on them daily. I have learned to speak in tongues which I am quite ambivalent about. I use it sometimes to pray and it comes out as song which is quite beautiful and joyful. I feel like I am worshipping God through it though I have no idea what I am saying. The nonsense language aspect of it is the bit that bothers me.

My main problem has been with the Church I have been attending. It is charismatic and evangelical and the service is quite American in style in my view. There is a lot of arm waving and crying out. The services are mostly the pastor speaking and the Bible is referred to briefly. Leaders from the congregation are invited to preach and sometimes there are visiting preachers. The songs are modern. There is a prayer team who lay hands on people at the end and pray for them. There is a great emphasis on emotion and I have  found myself crying many times.

In spite of the un-Britishness of it all I was just about coping and I did feel God was at work in the Church. The thing that bothers me the most is the words of knowledge. These are supposed snippets of information from God, often though not always about the future. A section of the service is handed over for this. People go to the front and announce their words of knowledge. Last week it was all quite innocuous about bad backs and changing jobs and so on. It may be harmless but it worries me that these messages are said to come from God. How does anyone actually know?

This week was the final straw for me. There were three baptisms of teenagers. After they were dunked in the tub their faces were really joyful so that was a lovely thing to see. They were given ‘words of knowledge’ saying things like they were flowers just about to open. All inspirational and fine and dandy.

We went back to the main hall and two of the congregation were preaching. All they were really doing were giving words of knowledge. Somebody was told they had leadership qualities and I can’t remember the others. Then the female turned to me. I was picked out as the lady with the tartan scarf. Then I was harangued for five full minutes. I was accused of not giving my burdens to Jesus. I was informed in a raised voice that Jesus is not in his grave but is alive today so why don’t I accept him? I had already accepted Jesus a month previously so I had no idea what this tirade was about or why it was being addressed to me. Her face was full of malevolence. I could feel the tears pouring down my face. Everyone else gets beautiful flowers opening and I get this. I must be a black hearted sinner indeed.

I was in shock afterwards and for the rest of the day. I won’t be going back to that Church. As far as I can see this is bullying. It could happen again or to anyone at any time. As a fragile new Christian I really don’t need this approach. Even my novice reading of the Bible has taught me that words of knowledge are controversial and should be tested. Parts of the Bible warn against them. Parts seem to condone them. Such is the Bible.

I have contacted another Church, a local abbey. I will be going there next Sunday. It will be full High Church Mass and all the trimmings. I’m hoping nobody will see the need to shame me from the pulpit.

I am sad as I shall miss some of the lovely people I have met but I have learned to protect myself by now.

Goodbye to all that.

New Year’s Resolutions

I know we are all tired of resolutions and I have failed to keep many in the past but I still need goals so here are mine.

 

1 Read the Bible every day

2 Pray every day in English and in tongues.

3 Meditate every day

4 Find out all I can about different mental health therapies  by reading and having therapy. Choose one that works for me

5 Diligently work on my hypnotherapy training and become qualified in it.

6 Diligently work on my MSc Psychology and complete the first module.

7 Do not drink alcohol

8 Do not eat meat

9 Attend the Alive Church every week and decide if it is the right Church for me.

10 Find paid employment.

11 Do voluntary work.

12 Find out all I can about Christianity by reading and talking to other Christians.

13 Rework my second book and self publish it.

14 Start and complete a third novel.

15 Increase my social circle.

Yogi Cameron The One Plan weeks 9 and 10

I have been really bad at following the One Plan these past few weeks. It’s all about getting rid of extra possessions that you don’t need. I have done this in the past and I tend to live simply and don’t have a lot of things. I still have some junk I could clear out but as I live with someone else I can’t throw out everything I would like to as some of it is his.

I haven’t been following the diet properly and I have been drinking wine so lots of backsliding.

In this two weeks I became a Christian so my focus has shifted. I am still going to continue the One Plan and follow most of the recommendations as I think they are valuable and try to incorporate them into my new Christian lifestyle.

It is really cold in England at the moment and that always has a bad effect on me and makes me not want to do anything much.

So hopefully I can shake myself up and get back on the health track next week.

How not to get your Book Edited

So having failed to get an agent for my second novel I thought I would enlist some help in the shape of an editor. Not knowing where to turn I tried The Writer’s Workshop.

I got the manuscript back after a few weeks. I was quite horrified by the comments of the editor. I know there are things wrong with my novel but I wasn’t prepared for the total decimation that happened. She didn’t like anything about my book at all. She didn’t like the beginning. She didn’t like the middle. She didn’t like the end. She didn’t like the characters. She didn’t like the dialogue. She didn’t like the story. She seemed to have expected it to be some kind of tacky thriller with lots of edge of the seat action. This couldn’t be further from the kind of book I was trying to write. It is a book about a girl’s discovery of faith through Islam and what love is and what it is not.  I don’t want to write thrillers. The advice was full of patronising comments. At one point she tells me the plot of Cinderella. It’s the kind of writing advice you would give to a class of ten year olds. I know because I used to do that for a living. There was a whole segment about the plots of various books which I feel sure I have read somewhere before, probably in a book about novel writing. So she had lifted her advice straight from someone else.

A quick google gave me the information that my experienced editor and agent was in fact someone who only started writing in 2014. They had one novel published which sounded deathly dull middle class home counties fare. She had failed to get a publisher for her second one so had self-published and had set up her own publisher to publish the third one. Hardly experienced. I felt I had been misled by the kind of editor I would get. Her main achievement on her web page seemed to have been home schooling her children. She also had the cheek to put a blatant ad for her book on the end of the email.

I felt angry and then I just felt sad. I can hardly bear to look at my book now. There is an art to giving feedback. When I was a teacher however pitiful the child’s offering I always found something positive to say first. I thought the Writers’ Workshop was about nurturing new writers. Assassination is not nurturing.

I was advised to read On Writing by Stephen King and go on a course run by their company. I have nothing against Stephen King but I don’t particularly like his novels and I don’t want to write like him. It seems to me everyone is now writing the same kind of books because they have all been on the same courses and read the same advice. It’s all so boring. I haven’t read a really good book in ages.

I would not advise anyone to use the Writers’ Workshop but to find an editor by other means that at least gets what you are trying to do to some extent.

I will probably just self publish my book as it’s not commercial. Then I will have  a go at another one. I doubt I will ever land an agent.

I must go on…

The Alpha Course – A Personal View

A couple of months ago I signed up for the Alpha Course. I am doing it in the neighbouring town of Wymondham about 20 minutes drive away. It has been running once every two weeks in the evening.

I got interested in it because I have been seeing these ads for Alpha for years but never dived in. I was brought up by Communists so though Christened no attention was ever paid to my spiritual development. I got introduced to Christianity at school and through friends. I dabbled a bit but didn’t completely get involved. At university it was the same. I went to a few prayer meetings in my Hall, attended Church a few times and then abandoned it for other things. I have always been quite spiritual though and returned sporadically to exploring. I have dabbled in Paganism, witchcraft, the occult in a New Agey way, Spiritualism, Hinduism and Buddhism.  The Buddhism was my most recent foray and I really liked it. I have been to the Norwich Buddhist Centre and learned to meditate. I still wasn’t sure which one was for me.

So I decided to learn more about Christianity. The Alpha Course is supposed to be for non-believers, agnostics or new Christians and is an introduction to the basics of the faith. I hoped I would get answers to my questions like the problem of evil in the world and why God made the world.

When I arrived at the hall I found that everyone there was already a member of the charismatic Church which used the Hall. I was the only vague one. I hadn’t expected this. What struck me the most was how pleasant everyone was. It was very welcoming. The pastor and leaders didn’t wear any particular clothes. It was very casual and relaxed.

Each session takes the same format. There is a meal prepared by the Church members and then a video headed up by Nicky Gumbel the founder of Alpha. Then we break into groups and discuss the topic. There is an accompanying booklet. I was hoping for some intellectual discussion but this didn’t really happen in my group. Everyone was already a true believer so they just believed. Sometimes I asked questions nobody could answer such as why the Old Testament is in the Christian Bible when there is a new promise of the New Testament. The leader who was incredibly sweet looked it up on Google for me the next week. They all seemed to take the Bible literally as the word of God so didn’t question anything. I realised I wasn’t going to be converted by clever arguments.

One thing struck me from the very beginning. They were all incredibly open and honest. Most had had life traumas which they discussed candidly. The Church was for broken people. At least this one was. I would fit right in. I warmed to them over the weeks though I often felt awkward and didn’t know what to say.

One week I finally cracked and cried as I thought about how sinful I had been and how I hadn’t come to Jesus properly even though he had given me plenty of opportunities.

The first few sessions were about what it meant to be a Christian but it swiftly turned into a conversion course.  I didn’t mind this but I could imagine some people would. In fact I wanted to be converted. I really need something solid in my life and I know the pick and mix spirituality is never going to work.

I felt I was on a roller coaster ride and I really was confronting my past and my failings and being honest with myself. I often went home in deep thought but I was enjoying it. I worked my way through the New Testament though I have done this many times before. The group leader behaves as if I am a complete atheist but I have actually read the Bible many times. I like the core message but I find lots of it confusing and contradictory. I still had lots of unanswered questions. I knew I wasn’t going to get them answered. If I wanted this I had to just go with it in my heart.

So I girded up my courage and prayed the conversion prayer recommended by Alpha. I repented and asked Jesus into my life. To my disappointment no Damascene miracle happened on the spot. Slightly sadly, I went out to walk the dog. In the church yard glebe at dusk I saw a huge white barn owl with wings outstretched hunting over  and over on the same patch of ground. It was completely unconcerned by my presence. As I stopped to watch it I was aware it looked a little like an angel. I took this as a sign. Maybe it was a very weak sign and just a coincidence but it was something.

The following week at Alpha there was a Holy Spirit day which was on a Saturday in the Church. For some reason I had a total foreboding about this and nearly didn’t go. When I got there it was all set up for a service. We watched no less than three videos in a row which were building up for the Holy Spirit experience. We had a short discussion and then the experience began. We all stood up and prayed and started to sing a hymn. We asked the Holy Spirit to come. The leaders went around and prayed for people. My group leader came to me and asked if I wanted to be prayed for. I said yes. Already I had started to feel quite strange even before this. My nose was running and I felt hot and shivery. She prayed for me and put her hands on my head. Then she started speaking in tongues and asked me to copy her. As I started I felt incredibly hot in my forehead and shivery but not cold. Then I felt like a great force came into me and something went out of me. I screamed I think about three times. Bizarrely, I can only compare it to orgasm. I am embarrassed I had a very loud orgasmic experience in front of a lot of fundamentalist Christians. Joking aside it was quite an incredible happening. I was also crying and my cheeks were wet when I opened my eyes. This was the Holy Spirit in me.

I sat down for a while afterwards feeling completely strange. I was different. One of the other leaders came over and asked if I wanted to learn to speak in tongues. I was inclined to say I had had enough for one morning but he was quite insistent so I agreed. He laid hands on my forehead again and spoke in tongues. It sounded like Ancient Aramaic. As I repeated it I had the hot sensation again and lots of lights were appearing under my closed eyelids like little fires. He said the Holy Spirit is upon you and carried on chanting. I found I could chant away on my own these strange words but I had no idea what I was saying. The same hot feeling was there but it wasn’t as intense as the first time.

Later on  a few of us joined in a circle and spoke in tongues.

I still feel in shock a few days later and I don’t quite know what to make of it. I do know that something profound happened to me and there was definitely something supernatural in the room. My rational mind has tried to make sense of it but come up with no explanation. I feel like there is something different in my mind. When I meditate or pray my brain feels different.

So I think I have become a Christian. I have been praying and reading the Bible and going about my usual tasks. The inital high has worn off but I still know I am changed. I have prayed in tongues and found it just flows out of me but I don’t know what I’m saying.

There are still a few sessions of the course to go but I feel like I have converted. It has taken me fifty years to fully accept Christ but here I am.

I don’t want to give up my daily meditation but maybe I don’t have to. I have a lot to learn but I have started the journey.