by James Rudy Gray
Sometimes in our work with people, we will face those who simply refuse to accept reality. That is a frustrating moment—one which requires the wisdom of God and the patience of His Spirit if we are to help the person in need.
In whatever way people deny reality, the breakthrough will come when they are able to face the truth. In order to do this, our clients must be taught that everything that happens is real, even if it is not good. They must also be led to see that denying reality by working to repress or suppress it only leads to more difficulties in the long run.
Whenever people are able to get something out of their subconscious and into the flow of conscious thought, they immediately have more control over the feelings associated with the difficulty. It actually takes more energy, and is more harmful, to keep something buried than it is to get it into our conscious thoughts and then work to see it differently or change something.
Since God is sovereign, we cannot control the world or all the things that happen in the world. Since we are people with the capacity to choose, we can gain a tremendous sense of healthy control by making good choices.
Perspective, it has been said, is perhaps 90 percent of a person's inner reality. It is how we interpret something, rather than what happens, that determines our responses or reactions. Thus the key to our emotional and spiritual health is maintaining a solid and true way of interpreting things.
Some counselors refer to this process of personal interpretation of life events as a cognitive cube. Basically, this means that our attitude shapes our behavior. Many things make up a person's cognitive cube: our family background, life experiences, education and training, personality type, health, and other factors. When we attempt to aid people in a journey of awareness about some besetting problem, we must explore these areas to see how they have formed and shaped our client's cognitive cube.
By better understanding how a person thinks (his way of interpreting things), we can better counsel him toward more wholesome and productive ways of thinking.
For example, persons who suffer from low self esteem may find it difficult to trust others and may also find it hard to believe that they have very much personal value. If they have been abused and devalued while growing up, they have developed a cognitive cube that is distorted and sends out false interpretative guidelines. When they can see the truth of their value in Christ and then apply that to changing previously developed attitudes and behaviors, significant change can take place. It is often a slow process and one that is filled with progress and loss.
The focus in the process must be truth. By learning to accept the truth, we can then believe the truth, and finally practice the truth in our daily living.
People use many ways to escape reality. The sinful patterns they develop are flawed ways of coping with challenges, problems, and traumas. Those patterns become comfortable because they are well-known and seem to prevent the greater hurt of rejection, etc. However, those patterns are nothing more than the results of wrong thinking. We are not simply what we think but also how we think. The opportunity before most of us who counsel is to help people change their thinking. In this process, every pattern, thought, and habit of the enslaved life will rise up in protest. God's truth does set people free. We must help our clients to continue to know, believe, and practice the truth. Eventually, new ways of thinking evolve and new habits are born. Over time, sinful patterns are replaced with more godly ways of living.
When we encounter persons denying reality, they are likely to be using a device that helps them avoid pain. What they do not realize is that they are causing themselves more pain trying to escape pain than they would have when they deal with the issues they have been trying to deny.