Outsmarting Yourself: Catching Your Past Invading the Present and What to Do about It. Karl Lehman, M.D. (ThisJOYbooks, 2011)
Dr. Karl Lehman and his wife Charlotte, who assists him in his ministry alongside of her pastorate at Reba Place Fellowship, Chicago, will be the featured speakers at the Mennonite Church Canada Minister’s Conference on July 3, 2014. As a respected psychiatrist with substantial experience at integrating of Christian principles with psychiatry, and of training lay people to use what he calls “The Immanuel Approach” to do the same, Dr. Lehman is well equipped to speak to this year’s topic, “Prayer that Heals the Heart.” As a pastor practitioner of this approach, Charlotte will no doubt add valuable connections to the interface of this approach with pastoral ministry.
The Immanuel Approach appears to be very effective for people with a relational awareness of Jesus. Many pastors and other church people who are involved in spiritual care ministries, whether they are lay or professional, have been trained by Lehman and are using this approach with success. In the book, Lehman describes how to grow in this awareness of the presence of Jesus, so that a spiritually attuned person could heal privately. He also describes how skilled therapists can help a person heal their traumatic memories when that spiritual awareness is absent.
His book provides a clear introduction to the underlying principles and facts that are needed to understand and use this approach. Because he illustrates his points with very ordinary anecdotes out of his and Charlotte’s marriage, it is easy to recognize personal need for healing of past traumas. His definition of trauma is any painful experience which has not been effectively processed so it leads to increased knowledge, skills, empathy, wisdom, and maturity. These traumas, he writes, continue to return for processing whenever we are triggered by conflict of some sort. For instance, he describes how his unreasonable irritability at losing a game of SCRABBLE to his wife indicated an unresolved childhood trauma; how he recognized that this minor issue was triggering an unresolved childhood experience of loss, visualized the presence of Jesus, remembered and returned to that childhood experience to process it successfully with the help of Jesus, and then was able to process the present conflict successfully and emerge as a wiser, more empathetic, and more mature SRABBLE loser.
As someone who regularly plays SCRABBLE with a superior player, that caught my attention. But even if that’s not your issue, his many examples will demonstrate the wide range applicability of such an approach for many people who would never consider going for psychiatric counselling. Another statement that really leaped out at me was the following: As you age, you will increasingly walk around in your psychological and spiritual underwear. (p. 65)
After reading that statement several times, I decided that I’d rather work at doing what I can to have my psychological and spiritual underwear in good condition in case dementia some day exposes it to one and all! But even when I put fears about my future aside, I found his blend of neuroscience and Christian spirituality very helpful and am really looking forward to interacting with him at the ministers conference on July 3.
Outsmarting Yourself, is available for loan http://resources.mennonitechurch.ca/ResourceView/2/16627 for purchase at http://outsmartingyourself.org/ where there are numerous other related down-loadable resources. Or, if you’d rather experience Dr. Lehman on a video you can see him here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gNifFLtVREo&feature=player_embedded . No matter how you access this material, it is well worth giving some serious attention, even if you’re not a sore SCRABBLE loser and don’t fear dementia.