by Shane Fookes, MA MDiv, Registered Counseling Associate
When couples arrive in a counselor’s office for Christian couples therapy, inevitably they sit down and begin (literally or figuratively) pointing fingers at each other. Each person is focused on what the other is doing wrong. And they are convinced that if the other person changed, then everything would be okay. A good marriage counselor’s first move often is to redirect each person’s attention to their own emotional world. Because in reality, each person’s lack of emotional regulation is the primary barrier to the intimacy they crave.
This is the 3rd post in a 5-part Balanced Marriage blog series. The first post introduced and expanded on the work of Dr. David Schnarch and his “Crucible 4 Points of Balance.” The second post examined the first point of balance: a Solid, Flexible Self. This post introduces the second point of balance: Quiet Mind and Calm Heart.
Quiet Mind and Calm Heart
A Quiet Mind and Calm Heart means taking responsibility for our own emotional world. This starts with understanding the two interrelated facets of our emotional world: affections and thoughts. Affections involve our visceral body responses to internal or external stimuli. We describe them with words such as feelings, emotions, urges, desires, longings, and yearnings. They are primarily associated with and caused by the body’s autonomic nervous system. The second facet of our emotional world is our thoughts, in particular our automatic thoughts. As the descriptor “automatic” implies, we do not willfully produce these thoughts. Rather, they arise unbidden and in response to internal and external stimuli.
Affections and thoughts are separate, yet closely intertwined. Hence this one point of balance has two aspects: quieting our minds and calming our hearts. These involve understanding and training our automatic body and brain activity. When we are unable (or unwilling) to recognize and deal with our thoughts and emotions, we project them onto the people around us and demand those people “come through” for us. When this happens, others become objects to serve our purposes rather than people with whom to relate. This is especially true in marriage relationships.
In practical terms, calming your mind and quieting your heart involves:
- Learning your body’s physical stress reactions.
- Monitoring, training, and managing your body’s “threat response system” so it doesn’t run away with you. Mindfulness and Meditation can be especially helpful skills to learn to accomplish this.
- Paying attention to automatic thoughts without mindlessly obeying them. One way you can do this is by learning to add “I’m having the thought that…” to your automatic thoughts.
- Distinguishing between thoughts and affections. When your body responds to “threats,” your rational thinking ability is impaired. Noticing emotions and thoughts as separate (though related) entities is crucial. For example, rather than angrily thinking or saying, “You’re such a jerk!”, instead you respond with “I feel very angry and I’m having the thought that you’re such a jerk.”
- Soothing emotional bruises and choosing forgiveness. The reality is, we live in a broken world full of sinful humans. We will hurt each other! Too often we react instinctively and vengefully when we’re hurt. When this happens, we perpetuate the hurt in ourselves and others. With forgiveness, we release the offender to God’s justice and step into the mystery of grace (Romans 12:9-21; Ephesians 4:31-32)
When we quiet our mind and calm our heart, we put ourselves in a position to respond to others rather than merely react. This increases our ability to give and receive love, which is the very reason we got married in the first place!
Get A Balanced Marriage In Christian Couples Therapy Online in Oregon
Our Christian counselors in Portland, Oregon are here to support you and your relationship, wherever you are in Oregon. At Life Discovery Counseling we can help you and your partner have a balanced marriage with Christian couples therapy. When you are ready to start follow these simple steps:
- Find out more about our our dedicated therapists in Beaverton and our understanding counselors in Clackamas
- Schedule an appointment with your preferred counselor, or reach out to us with questions
- Start learning how to have a quiet mind and calm heart
Other Mental Health Services at Life Discovery Counseling in Oregon
If you are in Portland, Clackamas, Happy Valley, Damascus, Hillsboro, or Beaverton, we can help you in person at one of our comfortable therapy clinics. Christian counseling is the cornerstone of our approach to therapy. Not only do we see adults, but children in counseling too. We also work with depression treatment, anxiety therapy, trauma therapy and PTSD treatment, relationship issues, marriage problems, and postpartum counseling. No matter where you are in the state, we can provide the support you need with online therapy in Oregon. Once you’re ready to start, we’re ready to meet you. Let’s connect!
About the Author
Shane Fookes graduated from Western Seminary’s Counseling program and is a Registered Counseling Associate. He served as a pastor for 17 years and is still involved in leading churches. He is dedicated to helping couples find a balanced marriage through Christian couples therapy in Oregon. This is why he writes about marriage and relationship issues.