Spiritual but not religious

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Waterlily

Mindfulness and meditation.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

What exactly does “Spiritual but not religious” mean?

A very large number of people here in America are describing themselves as “Spiritual, not religious.” There is a growing disconnect between religion and people’s day-to-day life.

As a result of this disconnect we are gaining some things, I hope, such as a wider appreciation of our differences, but we are also losing some things.

In secular programs, those run by government agencies, we try to accommodate people of all faiths and those with no faith. Sometimes this is a challenge. We have to ask people what their religious or spiritual belief is without implying that they need to have one or that the belief they have is not acceptable to the agency.

An example of accommodating faiths and other spiritual beliefs

There are a whole lot of people who are vegetarians, do not eat meat variety vegetarians, not because of religious or health reasons but because they view the killing animals for human food as morally wrong.

Our society seems to be doing a better job of accommodating this particular moral belief. More events are offering vegetarian meals.

It gets harder when we take into account that some faiths do not eat pork, some decline beef and some require particular diets as in kosher.

Beyond dietary restrictions, it gets progressively more difficult to accommodate other spiritual beliefs within our increasingly multicultural society.

During intake processes, we are supposed to ask about client’s race or ethnicity. An increasing number of clients are finding it difficult to answer that question. Some people are reporting 5 or more different ethnicities in their background.

When talking with clients I try to make it a practice to ask about their spiritual or religious beliefs.

Say the client reports that they are African-American. This tells me nothing about their spiritual beliefs. We need to try to stay open to all manner of possibilities.

More and more people are finding it impossible to answer questions about their faith. We have to tread lightly here. I do not want to imply that they need to have a faith or that any particular faith is preferred, but I do not want to completely disregard their spiritual practices in designing their treatment.

Those few who do answer are resorting to one of two responses. I am a Christian or Spiritual But Not Religious. Most who say Christian do not self-identify with any particular denomination. They are not Catholic; they are not Protestant and so on. Some few report attending Non-denominational churches.

Most who self-describe as Christians are reporting, at least in my experience that they do not attend any particular church.

A very large number are reporting as Spiritual but not religious.

So why does all this matter? From a practical standpoint those who self-identify as believing something do better in treatment than those who have no faith. This benefit includes those who self-identify as Atheists if they also report some particular higher law or principle, say right and wrong, that helps them guide their life and is reassuring in times of stress.

One of the gains from this spirituality moment has been sets of values that people take with them day by day in all areas of their lives. I am suspicious of any faith that requires you to be a believer for a couple of hours each week, while in a particular building, but you are free to spend the rest of the week on raping, pillaging and burning.

One of the things we are losing as a result of this increased emphasis on spirituality and the disconnect from religion is the loss of meaningful shared rituals.

Rituals give meaning to things which would otherwise be everyday actions.

Rituals are not solely the providence of the religious world. Court proceedings, with that robe, the bailiff, and the ritualized language, make the whole process seem more meaningful and as a result, are intended to increase respect for the law and the workings of the court. The ritual gives the process meaning. Occasionally the system debases the meaning when they do not follow the principles of justice these rituals imply.

Graduation ceremonies are a ritual we can all share to make the transition to another life stage. Marriages used to be a way to make the transition from being two separate dating people; to one committed couple. We still have the ritual despite the loss of meaning that a wedding has after having the parties have several children.

Funerals are also a ritual we all share that helps us negotiate the loss of a person who had some meaning in our life.

In places where there is one dominant faith, rituals are shared by virtue of people’s participation in that faith. With the decline of active participation in a particular religion and an increase in self-identified Spiritual But Not Religious, what has been missing are the rituals that used to accompany life events.

Creating new rituals.

People in recovery have resorted to creating new rituals that may help them to share the emotions and resolve the changes in status without invoking a particular religion.

Addicts may write a “Goodbye Letter” to their drug of choice. There are traditions of sponsorship that may replace the “rite” of confession in certain religions. People celebrate the anniversary of their embarking on the road of recovery.

One remaining challenge has been how to create meaningful shared rituals that do not impinge on people’s particular religious faith and allow full participation in the ritual.

Whatever your spiritual or religious tradition, here is wishing you the best possible life.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

Tranquility

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Tranquility:

free of any disturbance or commotion, free from or showing no signs of anxiety or agitation.

“A lonely day is God’s way of saying that he wants to spend some quality time with you.”
― Criss Jami

“We are not going to change the whole world, but we can change ourselves and feel free as birds. We can be serene even in the midst of calamities and, by our serenity, make others more tranquil. Serenity is contagious. If we smile at someone, he or she will smile back. And a smile costs nothing. We should plague everyone with joy. If we are to die in a minute, why not die happily, laughing? (136-137)”
― Swami SatchidanandaThe Yoga Sutras

“Our life depends on the kind of thoughts we nurture. If our thoughts are peaceful, calm, meek, and kind, then that is what our life is like. If our attention is turned to the circumstances in which we live, we are drawn into a whirlpool of thoughts and can have neither peace nor tranquility.”
― Elder Thaddeus of VitovnicaOur Thoughts Determine Our Lives: The Life and Teachings of Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica

“The very secret of life for me, I believed, was to maintain in the midst of rushing events an inner tranquility.”
― Margaret Bourke-WhitePortrait of Myself

Quotes from GoodReads 

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings, and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at http://www.counselorfresno.com/recommended-books/

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Higher Power Listening Skills

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Waterlily

Mindfulness and meditation.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

So you pray, but do you listen for an answer?

We read lots of things about the power and value of prayer. As far as I know, every religion out there has a practice that looks like that thing we would call prayer. While these various styles of praying have their differences, most have at their core a person making a request of their higher power.

What I do not see much written about is – how exactly is this Higher Power supposed to get back to you with an answer?

Seems to me, that a lot of people are placing their prayer requests the same way they place their online merchandise orders. Give me one of those in blue and ship by Friday. Here is my credit card number, or a reminder of the good deeds I have done that entitle me to priority shipping on my request.

What I do not hear people talking about is how they leave their email addresses so that this Higher Power guy or gal can get back to them.

Meditation?

A few people have mentioned the values of a practice called meditation. This is supposed to allow that higher power of yours, to get back to you on those requests and also allows responses to those rare times when you leave an online 5-star rating of the Higher Powers fabulous success in filling your order speedily and with just the right size.

Mention mediation to most western religions and you get a negative response, something to the effect that meditation is some Pinko-hippy-freak-subversive practice. Now while I am not convinced that being a “Pinko-hippy-freak-subversive” is a bad thing, still I know that calling meditation by some derisive term turns a lot of the faithful away from that practice.

So the question remains, you ask for things in prayer, how does God or your Higher Power get a chance to say anything back?

Back a while, religious people, and that includes some of these “old time Christians” had a practice they called “listening for that still small voice.” Not sure that Higher power always uses his small indoor voice, but I think we would all be benefited by spending some time listening for “Knowledge of God’s will for us and the power to carry it out.”

Frankly, if you do all the talking and God never gets a chance to say anything that is not much of a conversation is it?

However you do it, sometimes it just might pay to turn off the entertainment center, put the Angry Birds to bed and sit a spell and listen to see what that Higher Power of yours is trying to tell you.

If the term mediation bothers you, try “thinking on it” a spell and see what God may be trying to tell you.

 

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

Safe use of your Spiritual – Prayer tool

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Praying.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

The Prayer Tool.

People in recovery need to use all their tools. Spiritual tools are important just as professional and social ones are. Tools work best when they are used in a safe manner and in my opinion that includes spiritual tools also.

Power tools come with instruction books and with safety guides. There is always some person (fool?) out there who takes off the safety guard and misuses the tool. Sometimes they cut off a finger. Sometimes they hurt others.

They have neglected to read the instructions or follow the safety warnings. The results are not what they wanted. I am told, and I tend to agree with this, that there are safe and there are unsafe ways to use this prayer tool of yours.

This is the brief abstracted version of the prayer tool instructions. It is based on the use of the 12 step prayer model but will work when used with most similar prayer models. For more complete instructions consult the 12 step book of your choice or your religious instruction manual.

Here are the tips.

Use Prayer to communicate not as a request list.

Most of us pray like the greedy little children we really are, waiting for a big haul at Christmas time.

“Please God send me a new better paying job, a new car, a better-looking spouse and I need that by Friday before the big class reunion.”

Twelve-steppers are taught to pray to their higher power, “Only for the knowledge of his will for us and the power to carry that out.”

What we learn is that our Higher Power can help with our needs, which that Power already knows. But our wants may not be the best thing for us.

You Higher Power is not limited to only one response.

Lots of people say prayer does not work because they say that God does not answer their prayers. The reason they think that are either they haven’t tried it very often or they don’t recognize the answers when they get them.

Your higher power may say “yes”, or “no” or “not just yet you need to wait a while.” My particular Higher Power seems to have a sense of humor. Sometimes I have gotten the answer “you want what?” Then I get what I asked for and find it is not what I had in mind.

I am learning more and more to just ask for that knowledge of his will for me and stop making dumb requests. I said learning not that I had perfected this.

Do not try to use this tool to force God to do what you already wanted to do.

You pray for rain. You get it. You want to take on the responsibility for the flooding?

I was told – in no uncertain terms “There is a God – And you’re not him.” It works better when I stop trying to do his job and just stick to mine.

Prayer should not be a one-sided conversation.

Ever talked to someone and they did all the talking? Was that a satisfying conversation? Really?

Your conversations with the Higher Power need to be two-way conversations. So you pray, which means you talk. So how does this higher power communicate back?

Careful here. You need to learn to tell the difference between the Higher Powers comments and the lies that some of those unruly nerve cells in your brain may be telling you.

The meditation tool.

That brings us to another Spiritual tool for your recovery toolkit. Meditation – listening for your Higher Powers voice.

Wait – don’t leave just yet. Meditation, it turns out is nothing like that cartoon version you see in the media.

P.S. – By saying Higher Power, God or Him – I am not meaning to exclude any of your for whom that spiritual being is a Her, Them, force or so on. Just English is such a problematic language in that regard. So if you understand your Higher Power as some other entity, make the necessary translations.

Next time – Higher Power Listening skills.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

Spiritual recovery tools- The religion, spirituality divorce

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Praying.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Spiritual recovery tools need to be a part of your toolkit.

In a recent post, we looked at how we all need the right tools for our recoveries, recoveries from whatever things you define as your particular issue. In that post, I left out spiritual recovery tools, partly because of space and partly because this area is so important we needed to look at it separately.

There are two reasons to talk specifically about spiritual recovery tools. Some people need spiritual tools to recover and some people are in recovery from spiritual issues.

If you hang out around recovery tables, or in therapists offices, as I do these days, you will hear a lot of troubling things.

There are a lot of people these days who describe themselves as “Recovering Catholics”, “Recovering Baptists” and so on. Over time I have found that you could fill in that Recovering —- blank — with most any religion or denomination.

You will also hear a lot about how people in recovery give credit to their “Higher Power.”

A key reason why some people are able to use their belief system to aid their recovery and others are in recovery has been the long-term separation between Religion and Spirituality. In this millennium it would appear that those two entities – religion and spirituality have finally gotten their divorce decree.

There are also more and more people who report being believers in “God” or spirituality but do not self-describe as being a member of any particular religion.

Here in America, there are a whole lot of people who describe themselves as “Christians” but are emphatic about not being a member of any particular denomination.

While all across the globe various religious sects are at war killing each other, there continues to exist this search for a spiritual connection to something beyond our selves. In a previous post, I described this as a Spiritual Famine.

What is the difference between Religion and Spirituality?

For me, there is a significant difference

Religion is about culture, the forms of worship that we as a group practice. Do we worship in a small chapel or a mega-church?  At what point in the proceedings do we stand up, sit down or wave our arms in the air?

Does the church serve Wine, Grape Juice or Water for their Communion, Sacrament etc. service?

Often Religion has spent way too much time in bed with Politicians and governments and as a result has become more of an instrument of social or political control rather than any expression of belief or spiritual connection.

Religious leaders have often used their power and control in a highly abusive manner. They are prone to say something to the effect that if you were really a —– (fill in name of religious denomination here) you would do or say this or that. Mostly this involves giving them money and obedience.

All the while they are demanding that everyone agree with them or else, they are free to take the liberty to steal from the elderly and molest the young. This is not a new phenomenon, for an early example of this see the Book of Jude in the Christian Bible.

Spirituality is another case. It asks only that the person has some form of relationship with a higher power. Most people chose to call this power God. Since this is a close personal relationship there is no need to insist that others form precisely the same relationship as you may have.

That choice is of course between them and their higher power.

This is scaring some of you, I can tell. What is to stop any person from deciding on their own standard of right and wrong? What if their beliefs are mistaken? Some of you are even thinking that if that person does not change their beliefs and think the right way (the way you do) then that other person is going straight to hell and you are duty bound to force them the go the right way thereby saving their soul.

I am unconvinced that any Higher Power will chalk up any righteous behavior to anyone’s credit when it is coerced at the point of a gun, bomb, sword or another lethal weapon. We may be able to make laws prohibiting murder, even though those laws have not worked all that well so far. We still seem unable to pass laws that require people to love each other.

One suggestion made in recovery groups is that in the process of trying to grow your connection with this higher power, you check out your thoughts or beliefs and see what others in the recovery group or your spiritual adviser have to say.

While this getting a second spiritual opinion does not rule out the possibility of the other people’s biases and it does not absolve you of the responsibility to work on that relationship with your higher power it may keep you from jumping to some wrong beliefs.

As we saw elsewhere, sometimes the voices in your head are not God speaking, sometimes the voices lie. Also, you should not believe everything you think. More is likely to be revealed.

So what are these spiritual tools you might want to add to your recovery toolkit?

Prayer, meditation and a conscious contact with your higher power would be good tools to start with. Also throw in some action. Not works. That is just doing the motions. Action is the things you do because of your beliefs and values. Not things you do to pay off your fines for past bad behavior.

So there you have it. I have explained the difference between Religion and Spirituality and tried to sell you on a set of shiny new spiritual tools. But I didn’t include any instruction manual for those spiritual tools.

In future posts, maybe on some Sundays to come, I will try to get back to a discussion on the safe and proper use of spiritual tools.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

Therapists have therapists – Who do pastors and priests see?

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Church.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Who is helping the helpers?

Therapists are encouraged to go for their own therapy. Rather than being a sign that there is something wrong with this professional, having someone you can talk to about your problems is recommended practice, and for good reason.

This got me thinking, wondering, which professionals who help others are encouraged to get help for themselves and which are too embarrassed, ashamed or arrogant to get help for themselves.

Counselors need to have counselors. 

First, let’s talk about the counselor or therapist who goes for therapy and then we will inquire about other professions.

Beginning counselors are encouraged to see another professional both as a part of the training process and ongoing after they are licensed. Being a helper is a stressful job and you would have to be pretty arrogant to think that once you become a professional you will not need to see someone for your own stuff.

Clients sometimes ask about this. I see it in the search terms from time to time. There is no reason to avoid a therapist who is going for personal counseling and in fact, we think this is a good thing. Many licensing boards feel it is so important that the counselor work on their own stuff that they allow us to count a certain number of hours of personal counseling towards licensure. This process is so important there is even a bonus of extra credit for some hours of personal therapy.

Many schools require counselors in training to go for their own counseling. Doctors see other doctors. Teachers take classes from other professionals and it just makes sense to take good care of yourself.

Drug counselors need help staying sober.

Substance Abuse Counselors have recognized this for a long time. They are at high risk of relapse by virtue of spending all day talking about drugs with their clients. Sponsors should have sponsors and therapists need to see another mental health professional.

In substance abuse counseling it is common, almost universal for the counselor to be in recovery and often they are still attending meetings.

Mental health staff needs self-care also.

What we do not hear nearly enough about is the number of mental health professionals who are in some form of mental health recovery. Our professional schools are still too under the influence of those Freudian’s who never self-disclose anything to anyone. But a whole bunch of mental health professionals have told me privately that they have struggled with or are in recovery from some mental illness or other. If not them then they have a relative or friend who has that issue.

Why else would you want to work in this field if you or someone you knew had not had to overcome an issue?

Incredibly that mental health professional who entered the field because someone helped them create a happy life, once they are in the field, becomes too embarrassed to talk about their own issues. Some have even been threatened with loss of job or friends if they self-disclose this item. Peer counselors and members of self-help groups are at special risk to think that having “fixed” themselves they can now stop working on themselves and just help others. This is a relapse waiting to happen.

If you work in this field, as a professional, a peer or even a volunteer, you need to stay connected to a support system that can help your recovery and that may mean you need to continue to go to meetings or see a professional.

So what about other professions self-care?

It is Sunday, I wrote this on another day and scheduled it to appear later, but it is being posted on a Sunday. Which brings up the question – who – mostly works on Sundays?

The first thing that comes to mind is what about religious leaders?

One way of understanding churches and similar institutions is that they are hospitals for the spiritually sick. Many recovery programs include spirituality or religion as parts of the life that need to be included in your recovery plan.

So do religious leaders, pastors, priests, rabbis, Imam and so forth ever need spiritual guidance or are those guys and gals that close to spiritual perfection? Far as I know there are relatively few perfect people on earth and the ones who think they are there, that they have arrived at perfection, they are at the highest risk of taking a wrong turn into thinking that they need to take over and do the job of being God.

Does anyone out there know – do pastors see other pastors? They can’t very well go to church can they, what with having to work every single Sunday.

I know that some denominations have a hierarchy and that the local pastor or priest has to report to a superior. Mostly that looks like running a business. How many viewers did your sermon get and how much was in the collection? What about real spiritual guidance?

Given the number of cases of child sexual abuse and the affairs of the clergy, one has to wonder. Pastors and Priests do, for the record, end up in rehab. We can’t tell you which ones. That is about confidentiality. It would appear that religious leaders have the same prohibition on self-disclosure therapists are encouraged to observe. They just seem able to hide it better than depressed psychotherapists.

What is up with us not wanting to admit that the caregiver sometimes needs help and that needing help sometimes does not disqualify you from being of service to others?

Related articles

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

God needs an anger management class

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Anger burning

Anger Burns the holder.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Why is God so angry? Doesn’t God like us anymore?

God is in an evil mood these days, or so I am told. Even allowing for the possibility that there is more than one God this bunch needs some serious anger control training.

God is an equal opportunity hater. He has been quoted as wanting to kill, wound and maim, Christians, Museums, Jews and Pagans alike. Anyone not fully in compliance with his impossible difficult requirements is at full risk of his wrath.

God has not been in this vile a mood since the close of the Old Testament.

God is forever getting credit for things. We hear about acts of God. Mostly these consist of things like flood, famine, and pestilence. God would be doing hard time if he just stuck around at the scenes of his crimes but whenever we go looking for this dude he has snuck out the back way before he gets caught.

The Catholic God seems to be out to get the Protestants and the Protestant God is mad at well almost everyone. Even the Muslim guy, Allah, he has been out bombing and killing his followers, Sunni and Shiite alike, or so I have been told. Can’t prove any of this but, I see a whole lot more bombings and funerals than love fests.

Not sure what all them religious leader-types would do if all of Gods followers ever decide to start liking each other. No more religious wars? What will we do? What will we do?

You’re not like thinking there is any risk of this, are you?

Given the current state of wrath on the part of the various deities, what I am proposing is something like a WWE God smackdown. Let all the various Gods wreak havoc with each other and leave us out of the mix.

There is this theory that the problem with God these days is that he is lonely. The Hindus suggest that all the happy Gods have consorts. But then who is listening to the Hindus these days, are they sponsoring any good wars?

If by consort they mean Girlfriends and lovers, that might be what God needs so he gets back into the loving mood. If they are thinking wife, then based on my experience doing marriage counseling, having God get hitched is a bad idea. If you have seen the way married couples fight I am afraid of God and his wife trying to set the world spinning in two opposite directions.

Frankly, this is all very confusing. Why is God, according to his financial advisers, so into wars, hate and killing?

It is not possible that any of Gods handlers and P. R. staff are spinning his positions on things incorrectly is it?

Just exactly who do we need to be talking to if we need some of that unconditional love stuff? Why then is it so easy for all these God-followers to find someone to hate and try to destroy?

Oh no! I think I have done it now. Someone is sure to write in and tell me that God hates me and wants me dead. I did vote the wrong way in that last water bond election and there is still that unfinished business with that Beatles album I listened to way back when.

These religious enforcers most likely will be more than willing to do Gods work for him, these folk always aspire to be junior Gods themselves, that deciding on who should live and who needs punishing is so much fun.

But really folks, doesn’t God needs some anger management classes, or maybe a marriage encounter group? It just pains me to see that deity person so unhappy. Anyway, could we get a happy God? One that loves us again? I am just saying—

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

Why Sunday scares me, believing nothing does not increase tolerance

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Faith.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Sunday is becoming more confusing than ever.

I am feeling a little scared each and every Sunday largely because of the way my neighborhood chooses to celebrate this day.

Actually, to be truthful, the whole weekend thing is scaring me. Weekends used to make sense but not anymore.

This uneasiness is not solely because of the number of religious observances that occur over most weekends but also because I see a shift in the dominant religion and I am not sure I can fully embrace this new faith.

Most of my neighbors have abandoned the small local church, synagogue or other religious establishments in favor of monstrous temples dedicated to crass commercial consumption. The place of worship that seated one or two hundred has been replaced by the hundred thousand square foot place dedicated to the worship of a god known only by the name “More.”

All my neighbors seem to need to make weekly or more frequent pilgrimages to these palaces and they return with their vehicles laden with sacred venerable articles of the new faith in mass consumption. Buy more and the country and you will prosper.

The custom used to be to make donations to the work of the Lord, whatever particular lord or lady you chose to venerate, and then expect some form of blessing in the future.

Not anymore.

Now you load up your car with big screens, fashionable semi-clothing, and other shiny trinkets and then having received your blessings in advance you make a legally binding promise to continue to pay your alms on the monthly installment plan.

The banks and credit card companies are only too willing to do the work of the Great God of Manufacturing.

I try to be understanding of this new faith. I am accustomed to the concept that the entire weekend may include religious ceremonies on Friday evening Saturday or Sunday. Some faiths have worshiped by day and some by night. Some even worship outside. Some get dressed up and some were nothing or next to nothing. A smaller few even pray.

But this newfangled faith in the God of Things has taken to conducting their sacraments, called doing business, at all hours of the day and night. Some temples to consumerism are now open 24 hours a day seven days a week.

Can any heavenly God without a distribution warehouse match those hours?

I had fully expected that the rapidly expanding multiculturalism of this world would lead to more tolerance (religious not chemical tolerance.) It has not.

My neighbors who consider shopping a religious duty are beginning to look askance at my reluctant consumerism.

I have the anti-religious approach of driving my car until the parts can no longer be found for her in the wrecking yard. In deference to Mother Earth and my local political guru, I do get her smog checked on a regular basis.

My neighbors are beginning to indicate that my older car is both a detriment to the neighborhood and some form of religious sacrilege.

There are in fact an entire constellation of religious artifacts that are beyond my comprehension. I cannot invoke any I-prayers on my I-tablet nor am I familiar with blue rays or any other colored rays for that matter.

I would like to find the freedom to practice my own religion in my own way but the nightly broadcast media tells me that I am not doing either my religious or civic duty because I have not made any major purchases this month.

I am willing to greet the usual assortment of religious proselytizers that occasionally reach my doorstep. Recently, however, there has been a radical influx of missionaries devoted to more opulent consumption who tell me I am shirking my duty by not buying a host of products from vacuum cleaners for the hardwood floor to weekly specials on USDA rejected beef.

I had expected more religious tolerance, but somehow my efforts at frugality are seen as undermining the common morals.

Clearly with church attendance continuing to decline and a host of new religions vying for our membership there is less, not more, tolerance on matters of personal belief and practice.

For those of you have not yet done so – go buy something before Sunday is over. I am occupied for the moment watching a little bird outside my window as he scratches through the lawn looking for free seeds and bugs. He has not yet gotten the message that the duty to spend is awaiting.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Three David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

SasquatchWandering through a hole in time, they encounter Sasquatch. Can they survive? The guests had come to Meditation Mountain to find themselves. Trapped in the Menhirs during a sudden desert storm, two guests move through a porthole in time and encounter long extinct monsters. They want to get back to their own time, but the Sasquatch intends to kill them.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Books are now available on Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, and many other online stores.

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

How can you tell if a therapist is Christian or non-/Christian?

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Religious cemetery.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Christian or Non-Christian?

Religious Symbols

Religious Symbols.

When this question turned up in the search terms for my blog I had to think about this subject for a while.

It seems like a simple question, but it is not. After a lot of mulling this over, I concluded there might be four reasons the person was typing this into a search engine. If I knew what country it came from that might help, but then maybe not. Here are my thoughts for what they are worth.

Today in America a large number, possibly the majority of people, describe themselves as “Spiritual, not Religious.” When asked for a religious preference, my experience has been that the majority of people here in my area will say “Christian” despite having no particular denomination in mind and not having attended services in a long time.

So what might this searcher have in mind by asking this particular question? I thought of four possibilities and they are below.

Remember in the course of this discussion, that counselors are professionals and they want to earn a living. They may prefer to work with a particular population, but most can and do work with people of all faiths. It would be considered unethical to engage a client in counseling and then move from helping them with their problems to trying to convert them to your particular faith. But sometimes that does happen.

So why would you ask about the counselor’s religion?

1. You want a counselor that shared your religious values.

If this is the case I think the question might need to be more specific. Many counselors include in their advertising that they are or practice “Christian Counseling.” Some additionally will advertise that they specialize in working with a particular denomination.

I have seen therapist include in their ads that they work with those of a particular faith, say Seventh Day Adventists, Mormons or from a Fundamentalist Christian perspective.

If this is your concern, I suggest that you begin your first contact with the therapist by telling them you are a member of “X” denomination and that you would like to find a counselor who has the same beliefs as you.

Most are likely to tell you that they work with clients of all faiths and that they see nothing in their approach that should conflict with your spiritual values. If you still feel the need for a counselor of a particular faith, say so and they should be willing to make a referral.

2. You are  “Spiritual” and do not want a counselor who needs to convert you.

In this case, avoid counselors who list in their ads a particular faith and tell them up front that being pressured in a religious way makes you uncomfortable. Can they deal with that? If they say that they believe that your problems would all be solved if you just attended their church, mosque, temple or whatever, move on.

3. You are of a non-Christian faith and are concerned about discrimination.

Counselors have a duty to maintain confidentiality. It is not just an ethical duty but a legal one also. You would think that they would all rigorously avoid talking about clients outside the session. I wish I could tell you that no counselor ever does this. Unfortunately, some do reveal clients secrets.

Every semester when I teach some student comes up after class to ask me about confidentiality. Way too often they have a story to tell about how they or someone they know went to see a counselor and then what they said got out.

So if you are a member of a non-Christian faith, ask other members of your faith who they have seen and see if there is someone who is open to working with you rather than focusing on changing your religious views. This also applies if you consider yourself Christian but your particular denomination has some different beliefs or practices that others might label “a cult.”

There was a time when counselors, especially those of particular religions tried to convert every Gay person to become a heterosexual. That has largely passed, there are openly Gay therapists and there are plenty of straight counselors who work with Gay clients without trying to change them.

I think there are lots of counselors who are willing to work with clients of any and all religions.

4. You are looking to find non-Christian counselors to warn others not to see them.

This reason to me is the most dangerous. I remember a time when there was a belief that no one would vote for or do business with a Catholic because they were “Popest’s.” I think we are largely past this issue since the election of President Kennedy. I do not think we are yet past this when it comes to some other religions.

The ability to find people of another religion and then discriminate against them because of their faith is one long-enduring feature of humans.

I think this last reason to want to know, the desire to punish those of another faith, was what prompted this particular search term use. The original form of the search was how can you tell when a therapist is non-Christian.

But then maybe I am just extra suspicious having been raised in a Sunday School where we were taught that our version of Baptist was the only true Christians and that those Southern Baptists had been led astray by the devil into false beliefs. But then what do I know?

The relationship between your religion, the counselor’s religion and the needs of both of you to talk about religion or not talk as a part of therapy, are just one more factor that influences the relationship between you and your therapist. And counseling is all about the relationship.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

Are we in the middle of a spiritual famine?

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Religion

Religious cemetery.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Is there a Higher Power shortage?

Religious Symbols

Religious Symbols.

Recently I have been struck by the number of people who sit down with me to talk about their mental and emotional problems who say they are spiritual but can’t describe themselves as a member of any particular religion.

These clients know that they need some spiritual help, they often have some sort of general idea of a God or higher power that they feel could be particularly helpful to them, but they find no way to connect that belief in a higher power with any particular religious practice.

We know that for recovering people having a strong support system a key ingredient in their recovery. I suspect that having that resource is helpful in keeping other people mentally healthy also. But repeatedly I hear that despite multiple tries these folk are not getting their spiritual needs met at any particular religious organization.

As a professional, I try to not take sides in any religious controversies. It is not my place to tell you what you should believe. I find that having that spiritual belief, so long as it is helpful to you and does not encourage you to harm yourself or others, can be of great benefit to most everyone.

One question on the assessment form we use asks about the client having a particular religious or spiritual connection. Most clients can’t answer this one.

One common saying in recovery is that if you hang out in a barbershop you will get a haircut. We know this also applies to bars and crack houses, not getting a haircut there, but drinking and using drugs. So it makes sense that attending some sort of religious institution should help connect you with other supportive people who are working on their relationship with their higher power.

In trying to help clients find that support system, I often ask what religious or spiritual group they might choose to affiliate with. The suggestion here is that attending a particular church, temple, mosque, coven or what have you, might connect them with other people with similar spiritual beliefs. I make these suggestions despite my sometimes having personal misgivings about the particular religious group they have been affiliated with in the past.

A very large percentage of these folks report that they have tried and are unable to find a religious group that meets their spiritual needs.

It is not just my clients that have this problem. This situation is not unique to those who are in recovery from mental or emotional problems. It is not a special issue for just those who use or abuse drugs and alcohol. Nationwide surveys indicate that the number of people who report being spiritual rather than religious has been rising and in some surveys, those who describe themselves as spiritual rather than religious exceed those who have a particular religious affiliation.

It has been suggested that this move away from God and organized religion is the result of secular materialism and our modern culture. I find that hard to believe. Most of my clients have tried that culture of things and drugs, found it wanting and are searching for some spiritual values.

There is a spiritual hunger that is not getting fed. This hunger is approaching famine stage.

One reason for this spiritual hunger is that the food being offered in so many religious institutions has spoiled.

We do not need to pick on any particular religion to see the effects of this spiritual spoilage.

Christian groups splitter and hate each other. Wars occur because of doctrinal differences. The Protestants fight the Catholics and then they fight each other. The Muslims divide up into Sunni and Shiite and they then bomb and kill each other.

Clearly these religions Gods are grumpy cantankerous, constipated old men who hate anyone who does not wear the right clothing and join the correct political party.

Too many of my clients have been harmed by someone under the guise of being the servant of some particular God. When I suggest taking the family to church the client may confide in me about being sexually or physical abuse by a religious leader. They are afraid to leave their child alone with a religious leader.

They may have been told repeatedly that they are worthless and will never be of any value if they do not do the work prescribed by their religious leader. Once convinced you will never be satisfactory in your god’s eyes, you eventually give up trying. We call this learned helplessness.

When someone says they are an alcoholic I give thanks, I know where to send them. They will find a spiritual tradition and people who will accept them at an A.A. meeting. Drug addicts have N. A. I feel sorry for those who are merely depressed or anxious. I am not sure where to send them.

I find it hard to make religious referrals. Most places of worship do not want my clients. They dress funny, they have used drugs and some of them are mentally ill. Not many religions want those people around.

Where am I to send Mary Ann or Mary Sue? Churches do not want prostitutes or psychotic people coming to services. I am not sure I could make a referral for Mary Magdalena or even Jesus these days.

I am even worried about Mohammed if he were to return. If I send him to the wrong mosque will he die again, this time in a bombing?

Despite a church, mosque or other religious institution on most every corner, the spiritual famine continues. My only hope is that God is not restricted to doing business in a particular building and that spirituality can work anywhere.

So if your higher power has let you down consider a new search for a spiritual power and a spiritual home that can help you find that happy life you deserve.

For more on this topic take a look at a previous post here on counselorssoapbox.com about how to hire a God that is up to the task you need him for.

Wishing you the best on your road to a happy life

David Joel Miller, LMFT, LPCC

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.