Thoughts from counseling…

“So, how did your writing assignments go?” Stephanie asked me at my last session.

“Good!” I answered with a smile.

“Tell me what you learned,” she smiled back.

I related my thoughts and discoveries to her and she nodded, made some observations and then moved on to my second writing assignment.

“So, what are the two principles you want your children to learn?” she asked and then waited.

“I want them to learn obedience to God’s will and compassion for others,” I answered.

She paused and then said, “Let’s talk about that…  Why do you obey God’s will?”

I blinked.

Uh…  Because we’re supposed to?

I blinked again.

Noting my blank stare, she offered another question, “When you obey your mother or father, why do you do it?”

I looked off and pictured my parents.  I saw them smiling at me and asking me to do something.  Then I saw myself smiling back at them and doing what they asked.

“Because I love them,” I suddenly answered.

Stephanie’s eyes lit up, “Exactly.  Because you love them.  We obey someone because we love them.”

Understanding dawned and a warm feeling spread through me.

I obey God because I love Him…  I love God!…  And I want my children to love God, too!

From that moment on, my perspective on the Gospel changed dramatically.  It wasn’t a bunch of rules and commandments.  It was a Father and Son who love me and whom I love.

And from that moment on, my perspective on how to teach my children the Gospel changed dramatically.  I wasn’t teaching them a bunch of rules and commandments.  I was teaching them how to love God and the Savior.  And how to feel Their love.

I struggle to describe the profound difference this has made for me.  Now, when I pray, I try to take time to feel that love for my God.  And when I do, I talk to Him differently.  It’s more meaningful and reverent and grateful.  And I can feel the Holy Ghost so much easier.  And I feel joy and peace.

The night after this session, I excitedly told my husband what I had learned.  His eyes lit up as he realized the same thing as me.  It’s so easy to focus on the rules and forget our relationship with Heavenly Father.  But if we focus on our relationship, keeping the rules comes naturally.

“I want to change the first principle I want our children to learn,” I told my husband.

“What do you want it to be now?” he asked.

“Instead of learning obedience to God’s will, I want them to love God,” I stated.

He nodded and said, “And instead of learning compassion for others, you want them to love their neighbor as themselves…  Those are the two greatest commandments!”

I blinked.

And smiled.

“You’re right!” I laughed.

And thou shalt love the Lord they God with all they heart, and with all they soul, and with all they mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.

And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.  There is none other commandment  greater than these.

Mark 12 : 30-31

“Yes,” I nodded with conviction, “That is what I want us to learn.  And that is what I want us to teach our children.”

During that session, Stephanie and I also had a wonderful discussion about parenting and I solicited her advice on some of my theoretical concerns.  These are some notes I took and wanted to remember…

When asked how to prevent children from feeling like they need to perform for praise or love, Stephanie said:

“Performance is good for developing talents, but they shouldn’t feel like they need to perform for praise or love.  Give your children praise that is action focused.  Instead of telling them they are great at loading the dishwasher, tell them specifically what they did, “You put all the plates in, great job!”  This allows them to make their own conclusions on what they’re good at, instead of you making the conclusion for them.”

“Tell your children every day, “You are a blessing.  You are loved.  You are wonderful.”  Then they will know you love them no matter what, even if you had a rough day with them.”

When asked how to prevent ourselves from comparing our children to each other or peers, Stephanie recommended:

“Compare them to themselves and let them compete against their own record.  Say, “Look!  You couldn’t do that six months ago, but now you can!  Way to go!””

Some of my other favorite quotes:

“Don’t take my word on it, go look it up for yourself.”

“Every age has its gifts.”

“Just remember you’re working for Heavenly Father.  No matter what you’re doing, even if you’re changing a diaper, think, “I’m working for Heavenly Father!”  When you do that, it changes how you feel about it.”

Writing assignment: Two principles

“When someone is a perfectionist, they often micro-manage their children which limits their freedom,” my counselor told me, “So, I want you to write about two principles you want your children to learn for governing their lives–to be able to go into life and do well.  There are so many we could choose, but I want you to only pick two.”

—-

After much thought (there really are so many!), these are the two principles I finally chose for my children:

  1. Obedience to God’s will
  2. Compassion for others

—-

What two principles would you choose for your children?

A few thoughts on perfection

Writing assignment from my counselor:

Why did Heavenly Father make the world imperfect?

  • Well, if God had made the world perfect, I think it would be difficult to learn anything.  And the purpose of our life on earth is to learn and grow…  So God designed a world where His plan to further our growth and development could happen.  And, technically, if God designed it, isn’t it perfect for His purposes?  Hmm…   So instead of allowing these imperfections to cause me grief and anxiety, I should recognize them for what they were meant to be.  And I should use them to learn.  And maybe even ask for more of them to learn more?  Wow, that kind of scares me…

—–

Other questions I’ve thought about:

Are we really supposed to be perfect?

  • “Ye are therefore commanded to be perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48, with Joseph Smith Translation)

Wow, that sounds pretty definite!…  Okay, then what does it really mean to be “perfect”?  What should my goal be?

  • The footnote for “perfect” in the above scripture says it is Greek for: “complete, finished, fully developed”.  (see here)

Hmm, I expected it to say something about being sinless or without mistakes…  I wonder if you could be perfect and still make mistakes?…  Either way, should I make perfection an expectation for my life here on earth?

  • “We will not attain a state of perfection in this life…” (Elder Bednar)

That’s encouraging!…  But I know I should still be working towards it to follow Jesus’ command.  What should my goal regarding perfection be?

  • “We will not attain a state of perfection in this life but we can and should press forward with faith in Christ along the strait and narrow path and make steady progress toward our eternal destiny.” (Elder Bednar)
  • “Only Jesus was perfect in all things, including love and meekness…. Thus, as members of the Church, if we can see the life of discipleship… as a combination of proving, reproving, and improving, we will be much better off. (Elder Maxwell)
  • “None of us is perfect yet. But we can have frequent assurance that we are following along the way. He leads us, and He beckons for us to follow Him.”  (President Eyring)

Hmm…  I can see why my perfectionism has been causing me anxiety.  I need to change how I view perfection and what I expect of myself and the world around me.

Some questions I want to ask my counselor at our next session:

How do I change my thoughts, expectations and behaviors surrounding perfection?

Is it possible to stop being a perfectionist?

Going to see a counselor

And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.

(Ether 12: 27)

I went to see a counselor last week.  She was highly recommended by a good friend who liked her a lot.  Even then, I was really nervous walking into that first session.  I’ve never been to a counselor before and as much as I wanted help, it was scary to actually sit down in front of a counselor and ask for it.

But the minute I met Stephanie, my fears subsided.  She was German, she was a grandmother, she was LDS, and she called herself “Shtephie”.  I loved her!

“So, Heidi, what has brought you here today?” was one of the first things she asked me.

“That’s a great question,” I chuckled and looked off in search for the answer.

I wasn’t feeling depressed.  I had never experienced abuse or trauma.  I had experienced loss with my miscarriage last year, but those wounds had healed. I was functioning well in my life and could fulfill all of my responsibilities.  But up in my head, I wanted to change.

So, I just started telling her some of my goals.  Some of the things I wanted to change about myself, but I didn’t know how.  I have been having a lot of anxiety and was wondering if I might have Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, but Stephanie didn’t think so.

Then we explored my perfectionism.  It had served me well in school and at work, but it was presenting a challenge in mothering.  And it was causing a lot of anxiety.

“Why do you think Heavenly Father made the world imperfect?” she suddenly asked me.

I looked at her.  And blinked.

“I’ve never thought about it like that before,” I replied.

“He could have made it perfect, but He didn’t, why didn’t He?” she continued.  Then she watched as my face registered a series of unexplored insights.  With a nod and a smile, she said, “I want you to write about that.  I give writing assignments every week and that’s one thing I want you to write about.”

We discussed other things.  I told her how much I love being a mother.  How I love children more than anything on earth.  And how I was worried that my perfectionism and difficulties with change would limit how many children I could mother or my enjoyment of it.  (Oh man!  Here come the water works!  It happens every time…).  And she was so empathetic and understanding.

Then she gave me another writing assignment, “Write about the two principles you want your children to learn for governing their lives–to be able to go into life and do well.  There are so many, but I only want you to pick two.”

After that, she tried to define me.  She looked over her list of categories.  Since I was functioning fine in life, I didn’t really fit any of the disorders.

“Your situation is probably best defined as “Self-Improvement”,” she mused, “But you might fit under “Adjustment Disorder”, since you have a hard time with change.  I’ll have to read up on that one again and see if you fit.”

We scheduled our next appointment and as we concluded our session, I reached out and shook her hand. “It was a real pleasure meeting you,” I said sincerely and with gratitude that my initial fears had melted away into emotional reassurance.

“It was a real pleasure meeting you, too,” she replied with a smile and twinkle in her eyes, “I think we’re going to have a lot of fun.”