My Mom gave me a book a while ago called “The Greatest Psychologist Who Ever Lived: Jesus and the Wisdom of the Soul.” The book is written by Mark W. Baker, Ph.D., a psychologist who really manages to tie together psychological principles with the wisdom of Jesus’ teachings. This really fascinates me, especially as I complete my own psychology studies and try to find the spiritual components in the science.
Baker uses anecdotes from therapy sessions with patients to demonstrate how we can apply Jesus’ teachings to everyday issues. One passage really spoke to me- it talks about being vulnerable and allowing ourselves to feel and express emotions rather than hiding them behind hostility. This is a big issue for me. I have always felt that if I allow myself to be vulnerable and show emotion, I will be thought of as a pushover. So instead, I resort to anger. I am capable of going from zero to furious in about 2 seconds. Although I am able to control the anger and rarely have outbursts, the internalizing of the anger causes me a great deal of harm. Rather than confront an issue, I will sit and stew about it until I am so angry I’m seeing red. On the rare occasion I let this anger show, it has the potential to really harm my relationships- not because I would physically hurt anyone, but because I could really say things I can’t take back. So instead I let the anger eat at me. Many times I later realize that I wasn’t actually angry, but rather scared or sad. I don’t like to show these emotions because I would appear too vulnerable, and I think much of the anger comes from frustration over not feeling like I can express my emotions and be heard.
Baker is working with a patient who has a similar issue- she has a lot of anger and actually has outbursts and tantrums that cause problems in her relationships. This was all a way to avoid rejection- hostility makes it so we are the ones doing the rejecting, therefore we can’t experience the hurt of being rejected. However, as the patient learned how this pattern was affecting her life, she was able to change the way she expressed herself. Baker explains: “As Harriet began to realize how her anticipation of rejection was keeping her from getting what she needed from others, she began to change the way she expressed her feelings. Instead of violent outbursts that created distance, Harriet began to open up childlike feelings of pain and vulnerability that created a connection. What Harriet began to discover for the first time in her life was that if she opened up her emotions in a childlike manner, she became more attractive. Her courageous attempts to be vulnerable made people like her more, rather than less, as she had always feared” (p. 169).
Being childlike is one of Jesus’ teachings- that we become vulnerable, open up to each other, thereby making real, trusting connections with others. What a wonderful way to live! The understanding and genuine relationships that can come from such trust and vulnerability cannot be understated. When I reflect on this idea, it makes me less afraid to start showing some of my emotions other than anger. I have certainly found that such anger and withdrawing behavior have had negative effects on so many of my relationships. If I could open up more instead of shutting down for fear of rejection, I think I could be living a healthier, emotionally free life.
Baker, M.W. (2001). The greatest psychologist who ever lived: Jesus and the wisdom
of the soul. San Francisco: Harper San Francisco