While I am not a professional therapist, I am a pastoral counsellor and have some experience with emotional and psychological issues that all of us deal with. My experience has come both from the people I work with and from my own personal issues. And based on that experience, I would suggest that one of the most effective ways of dealing with most issues, after we have recognized and accepted the reality of it, is to confess it, out loud.
One of the most common ways I at least have tried to deal with stuff is by keeping it inside my head, trying to figure out some way to take care of whatever it going on. Unfortunately, this internal process really makes things worse because in the end, all I am really doing is spinning my mental tires on the stuff that it getting me stuck. Whatever the issue, I keep seeing it in the same way and in the same light, following the same ineffective mental paths time after time–and no matter how many times I roll things around in my head, I can’t see anything different. Things get worse instead of better.
I have to get out of my head–and the way to do that is to confess openly what I am going through. If I am down, I admit to being down. If I am tense, I admit to being tense. If I am suicidal, I admit to being suicidal. To avoid confusion, let me state that I am not stating in any way that what I am confessing is sin or wrong. I am using the word confession to describe the process of honestly and openly describing what is going on inside my head that is causing me trouble.
For me, there are several good places to confess what it going on. First, because I believe in God through Jesus, I confess to God. This confession is different from praying for help and healing. I do that–but before I do that, I let God know that I am feeling whatever and it is affecting me in certain ways. I know that God already knows that–he knew it before I was even willing to recognize it. But I still need to confess it to him. This confession creates an honesty that is based on having everything out in the open. Both God and I now know what is there and we can both look at it openly and honestly.
I also confess to other people. It is probably not a good idea to confess everything to everyone but in truth, open and honest confession is generally the best policy. The first person to hear my confession is my wife. I have and will continue to confess various struggles to people within the congregation, such as Bible study groups and even occasionally in sermons. If things get bad enough, I am willing to confess to a professional therapist, someone with the necessary training and expertise to help me.
The idea behind the confession is to get out of my head. Rolling things around in my head doesn’t get anywhere after a certain point and even begins to make things worse. Confession as presented here externalizes things so that I can see them from a different perspective. Whether it is to God, my wife, the Bible study group or a therapist, the new viewpoint enables me to process in different ways. Often, I don’t even need advice from the other person–just saying things out loud to a caring listener allows me to see and understand and deal with things differently.
Do I worry about what people will think of me? Well, honestly, I have never been too concerned about that. If my Bible study group or my congregation are upset with the fact that I sometimes get depressed, that is something they will need to deal with. Mostly, though, the responses I have received to my confessions is concern, support and lots of prayer. I have also found that my confession encourages others to make their own confession.
So, in the end, if January is dark, dreary and cold and I end up depressed, I am going to accept that reality and confess it. Likely, the feeling will go away when I manage to get out skiing but if it doesn’t, I know how to handle it.
May the peace of God be with you.