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Dealing with family pain can ease chance of depression later, leader says

GLORIETA, N.M. (BP)–Failure to deal with a painful family history can be a trigger for depression later in life, an editor of life support materials at LifeWay Christian Resources said during a July 19 seminar at LifeWay Conference Center Glorieta.
“God intended for us to have healthy families. Unfortunately for a lot of us, that just wasn’t our experience,” said Dale McCleskey while leading “Strength for the Journey,” a seminar on dealing with depression, during Discipleship and Family Week at the New Mexico conference center.
He introduced participants to LifeWay’s new nine-week study by the same name. Subtitled “A Biblical Perspective on Discouragement and Depression,” the study was written by James Porowski, professor of pastoral care and counseling at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and director of Family Life Resources, Inc., a counseling center in Raleigh, N.C., and Paul Carlisle, professor of pastoral care and counseling at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Kansas City, Mo.
To break the cycle of hurt, McCleskey encouraged church leaders to help people deal with the baggage from their past and learn to effectively communicate negative emotions.
“In my family, we just didn’t do anger. It was either calm or we were screaming,” he said. “So, it seemed to me that being angry meant you were out of control. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
“Dumping our anger on other people isn’t what we need to do. We need to learn to cry out to the Lord. And we have to learn to communicate with other people.”
In a healthy family, McCleskey said:
— Open communication is practiced, including a willingness to talk about problems and hurts.
— Conflict is viewed as a normal part of life.
— Parents have an intimate marriage, openly showing love to one another.
— People are permitted to be themselves and are accepted as such.
— Home is a safe place.
— People share encouragement and affirmation.
Drawing from “Strength from the Journey,” McCleskey also shared several “present indicators” that people haven’t dealt with past hurts:
— Others feelings are more important that my own.
— I am worthless and unlovable.
— Bad love is better than no love at all.
— I must be dependent on others or I won’t survive.
— If I am good, I will be loved.
— I am responsible for the behaviors and feelings of others.
— I am bad if I feel angry.
— I must keep peace at all costs.
— I can never change.
— I can never make mistakes.
“When you want to get your blood pressure down, you have to get it up [with exercise]. It’s a paradox, but it’s the same with depression. The way to get over the hurt you’ve got is to experience the hurt,” McCleskey said. “We have to let people feel their pain.”
In addition to family pain, he said depression can be brought on by loss (past or present), anger, stress, medical problems and poor personal choices (sin). While proper nutrition, exercise and medical care may be needed to relieve the problem, he said the real answer is hope, which he defined as “the emotional component of faith.”
“It’s an expectation that I’m not going to be stuck where I am forever; I’m going to get to a better place.”
Discipleship and Family Week was sponsored by LifeWay’s discipleship and family division.

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  • Chip Alford