Seeking Balance to Overcome Racism (Part 2)

The call for justice in society, a universal desire inherent in the heart of all people, resonates across all cultures.  Protests across the USA illustrate this principle. The triggering spark that lit the fire of protests was the senseless death of George Floyd under the knee of a police officer abusing his power over this man. Violence against police officers and others defending their businesses is also a serious injustice.  When institutions enable injustice in subtle or not-so-subtle ways, such as inconsistent treatment of people depending on the color of their skin or other differences, these need to be challenged.  (Ecclesiastes 5:8; Proverbs 17:14-15)

Assertiveness.  Free speech is a fundamental right in this country, since the First Amendment was ratified by our founding fathers. We all must speak out against wrongdoing and strive for justice, even if those injustices are through institutional politics and power inherent in some organization. Those who enforce justice must be careful not to abuse the power they have been granted, or tragedies like Mr. Floyd will continue to occur. Revenge by some who have chosen to go beyond peaceful protests needs to be stopped. Assertiveness is not aggression, and getting back to respectful assertive relationships is essential. 

Reflect on: Ephesians 4:25-27;  Proverbs 28:1

Boundaries.  Responsibility for our own individual actions is inherent in the concept of justice. Who is responsible for violations of the boundaries we define in our laws?  The perpetrator!  Defining the rules and consequences for violating those rules is part of why we vote for politicians who represent our personal beliefs and values. Children need to understand this in the home to internalize lessons from disciplinary actions and learn self-control. Apart from healthy boundaries, abuses of power will only grow and become more devastating to society.  Perpetrators of all crimes need to be held accountable, not through removal of boundaries, but rather through proper enforcement of justice.

Reflect on: Galatians 6:1-5; Proverbs 22:6, 15; 24:23-25; 28:4

Forgiveness.  Dr. Everett Worthington and Dr. Enright, and many others specializing in forgiveness research, have much to contribute as we seek unity. Marriages would all fail, if offenses were not put behind them. Families would all disintegrate. And societies cannot stand, if prior offenses cannot be put and kept in the past – after we have learned the lessons of our mistakes and changed our behavior. Sitting at the table together to dialogue is essential in order to achieve the unity forgiveness brings. Notable quotes: “Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude” (Martin Luther King Jr.). “There is no peace without forgiveness” (Marianne Williamson). “To forgive is to set a prisoner free, and realize the prisoner was you.” 

Reflect on: Ephesians 4:29-32; Matthew 18:15-35

Leadership. We have much to learn from leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  He had a dream which should be our dream, too. Love, unity and justice for all are at the heart of that dream. Mercy and forgiveness, as Dr. King preached, are also necessary for us to move forward toward this goal. The science of leadership development can help. Humility, vision, and character are all essential in picking leaders we can follow.Reflect on: I Timothy 3:1; 5:17-18; I Corinthians 11:1

Seeking Balance to Overcome Racism (Part 1)

This article is an effort to give practical direction in our quest for solutions to such a complex problem with such deep historical roots.  One challenge, I believe, is to join together and share our diverse expertise and perspectives, gleaning from the hundreds of specialized areas of research and study in the field of psychology. In an international virtual town hall sponsored by the American Association of Black Psychologists, someone rightly indicated we need the “ammunition of science” to help our local communities.  Reflect on: Psalm 89:14; Proverbs 1:2-5

Generalizations and biases may cloud the judgments of all of us, but we can help one another to pursue a valued goal of unity. Reflect on: John 17:19-21; Ephesians 4:2-6, 12-16

Here are my thoughts for using this time in history as an opportunity for healing.

Acknowledge prejudices.  Awareness of our biases based on our past experiences can help us respond rationally rather than emotionally based on fear or unresolved anger toward a person or particular group. All racism is unjust, just as all prejudice is morally wrong. Research shows that self-awareness and mindfulness exercises can help us all. 

Reflect on: Matthew 25:31-46; John 4:1-42

Listen and empathize. The past century of research in psychology has shown the value of non-judgmental acceptance of others, tuning in and listening to them.  It is the foundation of therapeutic relationships. 

We need to listen, seeking to understand and empathize with the pain and grief others experience because of injustices done to them. People tend to pre-judge others based on many different factors.  Recognizing and overcoming those tendencies is part of our challenge as we seek to unite as a community and society.

Reflect on: James 1:19-20; Proverbs 18:13

Trauma research.  Trauma in our personal and family histories often creates a hindrance to healthy emotional and relational functioning.  Research addressing how trauma can be resolved and how people can build wellness and resilience into their lives has much to add to the race relations issue.  Post-traumatic growth literature can guide many of our discussions on this issue.  

Reflect on: II Corinthians 11:23-30; Hebrews 11:32-12:3

Seeking Balance in a Pandemic (Part III)

Pandemics increase anxiety and fear in large part due to the uncertainty principle. We don’t know the future, thus cannot control it. Our temper can flare and emotional reactions can feel overwhelming.  Some key questions to ask yourself are:  What is beyond your control?  What are you able to influence by choices you make?  For example, you may not be able to control the news about what is happening in the world, but you can control the amount of time you spend watching it.  (Matthew 6:25-34)

Accept changes.  A “normalcy bias” leads people to think things won’t change, but will go back to things as they were in the past. This may not happen.

Accept this possibility, and evaluate different potential scenarios. You can then plan for different contingencies to regain your balance in life.  (Matthew 24:32-46)

Grow through new challenges.  Fear and seeing the threats ahead, especially when health and financial crises are already present, can paralyze people and lead to unhealthy coping strategies.  Turn your “threats” into “challenges” to think creatively about different options that are within your power to manage.  Make specific plans for growth in different areas. Explore new ways to earn income.  Read again, selecting various types of books.  Write.  Learn a musical instrument.  Sing. Develop your spirituality. Explore your options for growth.  (II Timothy 1:6-7)

Practice mindful empathy.  Care for yourself and others requires an awareness which we can call loving mindfulness. Tune in to your own struggles, emotions, and physiological sensations (such as rapid heart beat, perspiration, etc.) with compassionate acceptance. Then turn this empathy toward others. Isolation can be extremely detrimental, and crises can bring opportunities to address the needs of others. When others need food, for example, drop some off on a porch without physically handing it to them. Love your neighbor as yourself.  (I John 3:11-4:21)

Develop your faith.  Crises often bring opportunities for spiritual growth and development for people. Explore your religious tradition more deeply. Read your Bible.  Discover new ways to pray.  Read the writings of spiritual leaders whom you respect.  Meaning, purpose, and a valued direction in life, can grow out of your renewed relationship with God. This foundational arena of life can help you find peace that passes understanding, establishing your equilibrium regardless of what life throws at you.

(II Timothy 3:16-17;  II Peter 1:2-8)

Ronald S. Newman, Ph.D. is a psychologist in Mays Landing, NJ who now does teletherapy for clients in New Jersey.

Photo by NBC News

Seeking Balance in a Pandemic (Part II)

In February, I was in Disney World enjoying time with my family, and now the world is in lockdown mode. Here are more key points for those of you who want to manage your own wellness and build resilience.   (III John 2)

Listen to authorities.  Experts on the spread of the virus have given advice regarding  care for yourself and others, social distancing, and even what symptoms constitute a need to be tested.  While this information may change as we learn more, look to specialists for their knowledge and expertise.  Good sources of information can be found through various websites, including the CDC government sites or WebMD. 

(I Timothy 2:1-4)

Practice extra hygiene principles.  The COVID-19 virus at present is known to be easily transmitted in a variety of ways, such as surfaces that people touch and is even airborne through coughs or sneezes.  It is reasonable to wash hands for 20 seconds, to avoid touching your face, to possibly wear gloves and masks when around others, and follow other recommendations from the experts.  (Leviticus 15:1-15)

Socialize from a distance.  Use this as an opportunity to connect with people via social media platforms, phone calls, or even personal conversations from six feet away. This may be with distant relatives and friends, or neighbors with whom you have little contact.  We are all part of the human race, which unites us even with others whose cultures may be less familiar to us.  (Hebrews 10:23-25)

Practice physical health strategies.  Sufficient sleep, nutrition and exercise are foundations for health, so consider your personal health practices.  Build your immune system, strengthen your muscles, and take charge of your health. Eat less sugar and more plant-based nutrition.   Walking in the woods, biking a lonely road, or hiking on a remote trail can all be positive healthy experiences for you. (Dan. 1:1-21)

Ronald S. Newman, Ph.D. is a psychologist in Mays Landing, NJ who now does teletherapy for clients in New Jersey. 

Seeking Balance in a Pandemic (Part I)

Currently, the Coronavirus (COVID-19) has spread around the world, influencing world leaders to take measures which have caused both healthcare and economic crises. The following suggestions can help you find balance in your life so you can think clearly and cope rationally with this pandemic.

Calm yourself.  Practice centering and mindfulness exercises. Relax your body and calm your emotions.   Simple deep breathing with long, slow breaths and progressive relaxation techniques can help.  Meditative prayers and prayers of surrender can help, along with petitionary prayers.  (John 14:27)

Grieve as needed.  Losses come in many forms, and awareness of our grief can help us work through it and find the comfort and resolution we need over time.  Acceptance of your emotional experience, maintaining healthy memories, forgiveness where needed, and talking it out with a supportive person, all have their place when grieving.  (II Corinthians 1:2-5)

Renew your mind. Develop healthy thinking.  Hold on to hope. Avoid “awfulizing”, where we focus on how awful things are, taking our minds off those things for which we can be grateful.  Avoid “learned helplessness” where we get stuck feeling vulnerable and helpless, rather than understanding what reasonable action steps we can take.  This is not a time for blaming and being judgmental of ourselves or others, but rather for showing grace and working toward healthy solutions.  Maintain an appropriate sense of humor, in spite of the grief that comes at times like this.  (Romans 12:1-2)

Solve problems creatively.  Engage your reasoning and critical thinking abilities.  List problems separately, so you can take the time to brainstorm creative solutions for each more fully.  Be proactive, recognizing the power you do have to act.  Develop and work the plans you develop addressing each problem identified. (Proverbs 1:1-7)

Ronald S. Newman, Ph.D. is a psychologist in Mays Landing, NJ who now does teletherapy for clients in New Jersey. 

Seeking Balance to Maintain Hope (Part 3)

“Hope is faith waiting for tomorrow”, as John Ortberg wrote in Faith and Doubt. At present, the world is waiting for creative scientists to develop tests, treatments, and even preventative vaccines for a virus that is causing world-wide turmoil.  The church is expectantly waiting for the return of Christ hoping for a revival of faith in the world. 

Meditate on Rom.8:18-25     

Embrace a positive mindset.  Whatever negative experiences we are going through, an optimistic mindset can help us see the positive parts of our lives as well.  Hope can lead to gratitude and happiness. Samuel Johnson wrote “Hope is itself a species of happiness, and, perhaps, the chief happiness which this world affords.”

Meditate on II Thessalonians 2:16-17; Romans 15:13; Jeremiah 29:11

Seek models of hope.  Healthy relationships with others who are optimistic in their approach to life can influence you toward a more hopeful attitude.  Hope is contagious.  Build those relationships.

Meditate on I Corinthians 11:1; Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-13; Hebrews 12:1-3

Professional help. If you find yourself stuck in a mindset with no hope, seek professional help from clergy or a mental health professional.  They can help you identify unhealthy thought patterns resulting in low self-esteem, unresolved grief issues, and chronic depression, among other things. 

Meditate on Proverbs 11:14; Ephesians 4:11-13;; Proverbs 24:5-6 

Ronald S. Newman, Ph.D. is a psychologist in Mays Landing, NJ who now does teletherapy in NJ.  He can be reached by phone at:  609-567-9022. Hammonton Gazette has first rights to publish, May 2020.

Photo by cru.org

Seeking Balance to Maintain Hope (Part 2)

The Hope score on Dr. Seligman’s Learned Optimism test, he indicated, was the most important score of all.  As Seligman went on to explain, we can learn to be more hopeful.  We can learn to think in optimistic ways.  Helen Keller famously said “Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement; nothing can be done without hope.”     

Meditate on:  Hebrews 6:17-19

Set goals.  The hopeful mind embraces goals and the plans necessary to achieve them.  These require a visionary future, even as you think realistically about the present.  Be ambitious, hoping for the best.    

Meditate on Ezra 1 & 6; Nehemiah 1 – 6

Define your own future.  You are responsible for your own choices in life, and hope embraces that power and choice of direction in life.  Your past does not determine your future.  You do.  You are not a pawn of fate.   

Meditate on Ezekiel 34:7-9;  Rom. 8:12-17;  10:8-13

Smile frequently.  Tune in to every opportunity to pass on a smile to others.  This will help you connect with them, even during circumstances that seem to pull people further apart.  Smiling is difficult with a facemask on, but even your eyes can smile.  ☺

Meditate on Philippians 4:4;  Mark 10:13 -16;  I Thessalonians 5:16-18

Improve yourself.  Life brings opportunities for growth through the difficulties we experience.  As you recognize these opportunities, you’ll be shocked how quickly growth can come forward.

Meditate on James 1:2-5;  II Timothy 3:16-17;  I Thessalonians 5:12-14

Seeking Balance to Maintain Hope (Part 1)

Hope has been called an anchor of the soul, because anchors provide stability to help us survive the storms of life.  We all need hope, and the losses and challenges many have experienced due to COVID-19 are creating new storms for most of us.  

What follows are some tips to help in times like these:

Accept positive pessimism.  This is rationally approaching the possible things that could go wrong, and then planning how you would deal with each option in a calm and thoughtful manner.  It is not getting stuck in fearful thinking, catastrophic thought processes or a helpless mindset, but rather planning for positive action steps.    

Meditate on Acts 27:14-44

Reinforce your courage.  Courage is not the absence of fear, but is discovered in the overcoming of it.  It is facing a world full of difficulties, and tackling the problems one by one in a manner that believes you will find victory with God’s help, if you show persistence.  

Meditate on II Samuel 23:8-39

Seek solutions.  Avoid getting stuck focusing on problems and fears of the future, but instead, embrace the idea that solutions are available for those who seek them.  Learn to be assertive about exploring God’s gift to you of creative options.  Think outside the box.

Meditate on Judges 7 & 8

Photo credit: cornerstoneofhope.org