First Fruits: Acting As If

I welcome people from all walks of life into my office.  It is my desire that people from a variety of cultural and religious backgrounds feel comfortable choosing to do therapy work with me.  I regularly work with people who are religious and non-religious.

It is said that good therapists are aware of who they are and always working towards a better understanding of their selfhood and how their selfhood influences their work.

I am a licensed therapist and I am a Christian.  My faith influences everything I do.  As already mentioned, I have people from a wide variety of backgrounds walk through my door.  I also have a lot of Christians who come for therapy.  This weekly post is a tribute to them and to that most significant part of my identity.

There is an idea in couples counseling, not attached to any religious dogma, called “act as if”.  You don’t love her anymore, but wish you did?  Well, try acting as if you love her for several weeks and see what happens.  This idea that stands on research tells the tale that behavior itself can and does shape emotional experience.  Too often we wait to feel like it before we do it and for our behavior to follow…the exact opposite of which we teach our children.  “I didn’t say you had like going to school today.  I just said you had to go to school.”

We see this happen all the time with parenting and teaching children.  We are told to build on the positives.  If we want a child to be positive, well-behaved, and a good student, then it is beneficial to treat the child as a positive, well-behaved, and a good student.  The “acting as if” seems to communicate an expectation that pulls out for what we are hoping in the child.

God seems to love to “act as if”.  Romans 7:17 calls the God of the bible “the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were.”  He blessed me and loves on me and “acts as if” I am His lovable child rather than His child who can be petulant and moody…and somewhere along the way, His “acting as if” parenting begins to shape me into a more lovable person.

For those of us who get up and go to church every Sunday for weekly worship, we already know all about this.  Do you always feel like getting up and going to church?  Of course not.  Have you ever had the experience of being glad that you did go after you got up and went?  Me, too.

“I don’t want to be a hypocrite.  There are too many hypocrites in the world”.  Too bad.  We each are a hypocrite because we each are humans.  Even Paul said in Romans 7:17: I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.

This idea can apply to our relationship with our self, too.  I have heard it said that being an adult is being your own mom or dad.  When you were a child, hopefully your mom or dad told you to eat your vegetables, to go to bed at a decent time, to get up and be active and go to school.  They made your doctor and dentist appointments and drove you there, etc.  Who does all of those things now?  Hopefully, if you are an adult, you do.  However, when the busy-ness of our culture takes over or even mild depression ultimately sets in, it can be challenging to “feel like” parenting ourselves.  We don’t feel like cultivating friendships or taking care of our bodies.  We don’t feel like loving ourselves as Matthew 22:39 makes it clear we need to, which makes it difficult to love others.

So, this Monday when you don’t feel like you love your spouse, when you don’t feel like you love your life, or even when you feel like you don’t love yourself, try “acting as if”.  Get up with a smile, go for a walk in the sun, and see what happens to your attitude.  Look for God to “call things that are not as though they were” and to “give life to the dead” stuff in your life.

***This post is in no way attempting to insinuate that a person can just “smile” their way out of depression or a serious crisis in a couple relationship.