Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Destructive Emotions: Facing Up to Guilt, Fear and Anger

Working through the chapters in this book is like being instructed by an insightful spiritual director or a scripture-based psychologist. I recognized so much of what I had been taught, and learned many new approaches as well, in this workbook by psychologist Florence MacKenzie. It offers a combination of practical examples, solid mental health advice and Christian guidance to help people overcome the toxicity of guilt, fear, worry, anxiety and anger.

Part One sets the ball rolling by dealing with mind renewal, showing us how important it is to control our thoughts and reminding us that we have the power to overcome destructive emotions -- most of which come from wrong thinking or negative past experiences -- through the working of the Holy Spirit within us. MacKenize illustrates all her points through liberal uses of scripture; in fact, each chapter begins and ends with a “memory verse.” To fortify us for the journey of change, she uses 2 Pet. 1:3: “His divine power gives us everything we need for living a godly life.”

MacKenzie knows this is not easy because many people have been hurt deeply and destructive emotions are now ingrained. “Many Christians are living in defeat and not enjoying all God has for them because they don’t know who they are,” she writes. “Perhaps negative events in their pasts have eroded any sense of self-worth they might have had.” For this reason, she uses the first few chapters to make it clear that our foundation is in Christ, and repeats throughout the mantra that “what we believe determines the way we think, which influences how we feel and subsequently act.” But she doesn’t just quote scripture, she offers practical solutions to overcoming our destructive emotions.

The workbook format gives readers space to work out their responses to questions and scriptural references. I like this approach, as opposed to just offering textbook advice, because it focuses our thinking into personal examination. She makes it clear, through quoting Romans 12:2, how changing our thought patterns and emotions will come about: “Let God transform you by changing the way you think.” Each chapter offers a prayer to help in this.

MacKenzie, who studied psychology at Edinburgh University, has been on staff in the School of Psychology at Aberdeen University in Scotland since 1996, lecturing to classes of more than 600 students and teaching psychology in small group settings. She is cofounder of the internet-based Christian ministry, Equipped for Living.

“Destructive Emotions” reflects this strong rootedness in psychology, as well as her faith. “It’s important to recognize that how we perceive and interpret a situation or the way we think or talk to ourselves will determine our emotional response,” she writes. We can’t always control our circumstances, but it is essential that we develop the habit of critically examining our thinking. There are shelves of books devoted to this important idea in Barnes & Noble, but few if any of those are faith-based.

“To become the people God wants us to be by dealing effectively with our destructive emotions is a process, not a one-off event; it’s ongoing, not sudden and immediate,” she writes. And she gives us a promise from 2 Cor. 3:18b that it will all be worth the effort: “And as the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like him and reflect his glory even more.”

To order this wonderful book, visit www.pleasantwordbooks.com.

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