By Russ Beck
I’ve often been asked why I chose to go into counseling and particularly, why I prefer pastoral/religious counseling. The answer to the first part is that I’ve always been fascinated by people. I’ve often wondered how we become who we are and how we change.
While in college for my bachelor’s degree in sociology, my adviser directed me toward a class on theories of personality. He felt I’d enjoy it and he was right. I was hooked from the beginning. Captivated by all the different opinions as to where our personality comes from, I read about the thinking of Freud, Adler, Pearls, Rogers, Ellis, and many others. Each had their own special twist on things. They all believed that by understanding how the personality is formed, we can then figure a process for producing change.
Finding the truth in such a myriad assortment of ideas and theories was difficult. There were those in my field of study who ascribed to only one theory, excluding all the others, while most became “eclectic,” choosing bits and pieces from this or that one. I, like others in the field, had my preferences, but used bits and pieces of all of them.
As my career expanded, I had the opportunity of serving as a Bishop in the LDS Church. It was there I came to fully realize the power of another force in helping to understand personality and the process of change. While I always worked hard to help people change their outward problems, lasting change always came from the inside—through prayer, faith, and the acceptance of Christ and his principles. Pastoral counseling offers a counselor a wider selection of tools for helping.
I have seen ordinary men with no training in counseling give the best advice and counsel as they prayed and exercised faith in Christ. The inspiration they received far surpassed any counsel a mere mortal could give, regardless of the amount of training received.
As an individual prayerfully approaches God, they establish a communication with the Almighty, who loves them. As their faith increases, their confidence waxes strong to the point they recognize they have within themselves the divine spark of change, which enables them to make necessary course corrections for a happier life.
Over the process of time and because of the many experiences I’ve had in the church, I recognize that there are three main areas affecting the development of our personality; nature, nurture, and the pre-mortal existence.
All of us are subject to the laws of mortality. Genetics govern much of who we are. We have our mother’s eyes, our father's nose, Aunt Julie’s ears, and our grandfather’s walk. We inherit tendencies for various illnesses such as diabetes or heart problems. Our height, body structure, and even our laugh comes from the genetic process.
The environment of our youth influences our personal concepts of who we are. Through the interactions of family life we learn who mom and dad are and what moms and dads do. We can feel loved or not. We find out what our position is in society—we've all known someone who seems to have the “right name” and is instantly accepted at school or work.
I’ve had the occasion to meet many people who are struggling in life because of the atrocities which occurred to them in their youth. Abuse, violence, and the lack of feeling loved can generate within someone a belief that they are worthless and unloved by God. This is very difficult to change later in life.
All of us have lived for eons of time with God prior to coming to this mortal existence. Each of us brings some of that with us. Our memory may be gone, but still, there is more of God in us than of man. Tapping into this knowledge through prayer and faith will cause us to start changing from within.
All of us want to be happy. It is the number one thing people say when asked what they want in life; even more than money. Yet how many recognize that happiness is right within our grasp if we but calm down and seek God. There is a saying by Thoreau that puts it well: Happiness is like a butterfly. As we chase after it, it constantly flutters away, just out of our reach. Yet, if we sit down and ponder about the beauty of the world, the butterfly comes over and lands on our shoulder.
Through true change that comes from a companionship with God, we may have the ability to have butterflies fluttering around us in our lives and sometimes, even landing on our shoulders.
Until next time …
* Names have been changed.
-----© Russ Beck, 2011-----
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