I had the privilege of interviewing  Aron Strong, LMFT, a former pastor turned therapist.  Aron talks about how having a healthy theology about God and HIS feelings, helps us understand ourselves as we grow closer to God.  

  • Does God have feelings? What emotions does God feel?
  • The importance of knowing God and understanding His emotions
  • God is for us, not against us
  • Understanding human emotions
  • Why did God create emotions? 
  • To negate emotions is to misunderstand who God is. 
  • How to manage intolerable and overwhelming feelings
  • Brief overview of the modality created by Aron called Attuned Systemic Repair

Links and Resources:
Aron Strong, LMFT 
Pathway Counseling
In Relationship Marriage Retreats

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Transcript of Episode 29

Hope for Anxiety and OCD episode 29. Today, I was able to interview one of the local counselors here, Aron Strong. There were so many different things that Aron could potentially speak to that we really had to narrow it down as far as what he was going to talk about today. We landed on discussing the intersection between having healthy theology about God and God’s feelings, which helps us understand our feelings since we’re created in his image. This is a conversation that I believe we really can get a lot out of. So let’s dive right in. 

Carrie: Welcome to the podcast. Tell us a little bit about you. 

Aron: My name is Aaron Strong. I am a licensed marriage and family therapist and an approved supervisor. I worked in church ministry for 15 years as, pastor and some other roles. I am now the founder and the director of pathways counseling in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. I’m the co-founder of a company called the In Relationship that focuses on helping therapists in the general public develop healthy relationships in a lot of different contexts.

And we have online courses and marriage workshops and other stuff. And then I’m also the creator of a therapy called Attuned Systemic Repair and we’re developing that. I’ve been married for over 20 years. I’ve got a 15-year-old son and a bunch of pets. That’s a little bit about me.

Carrie: Are you a dog or a cat person?

Aron: We have both, 2 dogs and 4 cats. We didn’t always have cats. We had a dog once that thought of cats like tennis balls. And so that didn’t work out well. We had her for a long time. When she finally passed of old age, we got some new dogs that were a little more cat-friendly and so now we have a diverse brood in the home.

Carrie: That’s interesting. You’re the second person that I’ve interviewed that started out as a pastor and then became a therapist. Can you maybe briefly tell us a little bit about what that transition was like for you or how God brought that about. 

Aron: Sure. Well, for me, it was a little traumatic. I didn’t plan on leaving the ministry.

My wife and I had met on staff at a church in California outside of Fresno in a town called Clovis and worked at that church for 13 years, 12 years. And then moved across the country to Tennessee, to work at a church out here. That didn’t work out. We had thought it would pretty quickly.

And so I was there for about a year. And then I was out of ministry and left wondering what was next and prayed and sought counsel. I didn’t feel called back in the ministry, which was kind of shocking for me. I always thought I’d always be a pastor and working for a church, but then God led me to pursue marriage and family therapy.

And that wasn’t something that was ever on my radar. And so it was a little surprising for me. I enjoyed it as a pastor, but when you’re a pastor, you’re expected to know a lot more things than you actually know. And so it was always terrifying for me. So if I was going to do that and I was going to do it right, and what that meant grad school and the whole deal.

And so I talked to my wife about it. We prayed about it, felt it was right and then at 40 years old, I had changed careers. 

Carrie: That is an inspiration to somebody out there that’s listening that feels like they need to make a change and do something different. So that’s awesome for you to be brave. 

Aron: Yeah, I think I’m probably better at this than I was working for the church.

I hadn’t quite expected that. It was a hard transition. Working full time plus doing grad school and an internship and trying to manage a family. It was not an easy transition, but it was definitely worth the price. And so I’m very, very pleased to be where I am now.

And you know, that God called me into this and I still get to do a lot of ministry. It looks a little different than it used to, but I still do a lot of speaking at churches and training and kind of integrating faith and theology with clinical therapy. it’s neat to be able to draw from both.

Carrie: Absolutely. That’s a good segue into what we’re talking about on the show today, which is essentially how our theology of feelings, how we understand God’s feelings and our feelings and those interactions and connection pieces. How was it helpful for us as Christians to understand that God is a God who has feelings?

Aron: Well, it’s really interesting is our perspective of wondering about God’s feelings. And I think we often forget that we’re made in his image. So the reason why we have feelings is because he has feelings. It’s not hard for him to understand how we feel. We actually have all his feelings. That’s how it works.

God has all the feelings and we don’t think of him that way. Scripture shows all those feelings of anger, joy, and sadness. He feels hurt. There was at least one time he felt horrible. There was at least one time he felt regret, making the world around the time of the flood. He feels longing. He knows what it’s like to feel misunderstood.

He knows what it feels like to love someone who doesn’t want to love you back. He feels weary at times. He knows what it’s like to feel jealousy of wanting the affection of the one that you long for. All of those things that are regular experiences, or feelings that he experiences and scripture talks about.

So we can feel comfort in knowing that we have a God who not only understands our experience, our experiences help us connect to who he is, and we have a better understanding of who God is because of our experience.

Carrie: That’s really good. I think a lot of times people focus energy on the maybe negative feelings of God like God must be mad at me. God must be disappointed with me. And it’s hard to find that balance in understanding that there are times where God may be upset about our behavior, our sin, but at the same time God delights in us as his children. Our own woundedness really clouds how we see God based on our interactions with caregivers and maybe former spouses, other things that have really messed with that view, harmful church experiences.

Can you talk a little bit about that?

Aron: Yeah. It’s interesting that even before we’re born we have feelings. Feelings, or sensations that happen in our body that communicate to us about our experience of something and the part of our brain that does the processes. Physical feelings also process emotional feelings.

It all runs through the vagus nerve in our bodies. We literally feel our feelings in our bodies and that begins in utero. We’re born feeling feelings, but what we don’t have as a language to describe what’s happening to us. So our understanding of feelings comes through our development and our interaction with parents and caregivers and other people in our lives.

Then based on however our family manages emotions or has language for them, or doesn’t talk about them. We try to build models. We don’t think about it, but we just do of how to manage feelings and what that means. In that context then we kind of do something very similar with who we believe we are and who we see God as.

As we build our models of who God is based on our interactions from others and our own felt experiences in contexts. And we construct ideas of what those things are out of the lack of knowledge or direct interaction with him to know him personally.

And so we don’t know him personally, then we kind of like we do with celebrities or other people in our lives, we don’t know them, but we build ideas of them based on what we hear and what we see and how people talk about them. We may read a report that they did, but we don’t know them personally to understand what’s really going on inside. So part of our experience in our faith journey is beginning to understand who God is personally and how we interact with him and learn from him and understand how he sees us. Helpfully, a lot of our personal experiences in life help us once we have a good framework to understand them, how to understand who God is and how he sees us and being a parent is probably a great example of that. Because I can both love my son and want to murder him in the same moment. That’s what it’s like sometimes no one knows how to hurt you like your kid when they’re being rebellious. I remember the first time, you know, um, my son told my wife, he didn’t like her, and the pressure feelings because she loves him so much. So there are times that you can absolutely love someone and be disappointed in them, but that’s not the totality of your belief in them because you love them.

And when you understand the totality of God’s love for mankind and for us individually, then his anger or his jealousy or his disappointment, or those things have a context that isn’t against us. God’s feelings are always for us to draw us into relationship. And when we understand the context of how God manages and expresses his feelings, we begin to understand what a healthy expression of anger or a healthy expression of jealousy might look like. We tend to do ours. It’s very self-centered and about ourselves, but God’s feelings are for us. He’s jealous for us. Not against us. He’s not disappointed to drive us away. His disappointment wants us to live up to all the good things that he has in store for us and wants to draw us into the fold.

And so those things aren’t to drive us away, they’re always to draw us closer to him. 

Carrie: That’s really great. I like how you, how you put that. If we have this understanding of God’s love like at the deepest level that we as humans can really understand it because I don’t think that we can fully grasp the depth and the height of God’s love for us.

But if we can somehow tap into that and filter God through that lens of love, then these other feelings are going to help us make more sense that God desires to be in relationship with us. And wants us to be close to him. And oftentimes when we have certain feeling experiences, our tendency is to do the exact opposite. It’s to do what Adam and Eve did is to run and hide from God, you know, because they felt ashamed or to be afraid and isolate.

Aron: Yeah. It’s hard. We tend to think people are one feeling. If someone is angry, all they are is anger. And we miss the complexity of who God is and who people are. God has this very strange dynamic that we’re not used to where he is fully love and grace and mercy and compassion. And he is holy and he is righteous and he has judgment and he has wrath.

And he’s not one of those things. He’s both of those things. And when we understand the balance of love and desire for relationship and accountability, and managing the context of relationship that keeps it healthy. It’s the interplay of those two things that helps us understand the total, who God is.

He’s not love at the expense of any sort of accountability because no relation can function that way where there’s no rules and no boundaries, and people can hurt each other as much as they want. “But hey, we love each other like that.” That’s not a healthy relationship. Likewise, someone’s only judgment and wrath and condemnation. That’s not a real relationship either. There’s no tenderness. There’s no connection inside of that. And so the context of the fullness of who God is and both of those aspects and all of those feelings that go inside of that, they show up in us in everyday experiences with our spouses or our bosses or strangers in the freeway when they cut us off in traffic. And we feel like that stranger isn’t caring for me because of the way they’re driving.

But they don’t know me. They’re not thinking about me. The context, I think about it and I want to hold them accountable because I didn’t feel cared for. So this interplay of needing to feel loved and managing accountability is the dynamics of all relationships, both our relationship with God, our relationship with others and our relationship with ourselves, where we have to lead ourselves.

I have to lead my feelings. I can’t let them just leave me because one feeling can’t represent all of who I am, but when I let a feeling do all the talking for me, I ended up saying things that I don’t really fully mean. My anger does all this talking and I regret everything I said because that anger didn’t reflect the rest of me.

It was only just this one piece of me. And so I have to leave my experience and I have to submit myself to be cared for by others. It’s a very complex dynamic. I think that’s why we struggle with it so much. 

Carrie: I would agree with that for sure. What kind of things do you see Christians doing to get out of their feelings in an unhealthy way where maybe they really need to be with what’s there?

Aron: I would say Christians tend to do the same things. All humans do. I don’t know that Christians manage it any better than any other person. It’s funny. There’s one thing every human being has in common with every other human being on the planet. It’s not their class or their race or their culture or their socioeconomic status.

That’s not their traumas. You don’t get to pick those things. You don’t get to pick who your parents were or where you were born. There’s so many things that make us all very unique from each other, but the one thing we all have in common is we all have the same feeling. Everyone knows what hurt feels like.

Everyone knows what disappointment feels like. Everyone knows what longing feels like. Sadness. Those are universal expressions that live inside of us. The contexts in which those feelings occur are very different. but the feeling itself is universal. We all have the same feelings. They’ve even done research on facial expressions and paired with emotions.

They’ve gone to every culture around the world, and they’re all universally recognized because again, we’re all made in God’s image. So we all have in the same way. So the inappropriate ways Christians manage their feelings, look a lot like the way the rest of the world manage their feelings because we don’t know what to do with them when we feel overwhelmed.

And so we avoid them, we try to pretend like they don’t exist. I can’t tell you how many, especially guys like to do this, they’ll come to my office and they’ll say, “yeah, I don’t have any feelings.” And I’m like, “really?” And they’re like, “no feelings.” I’m like, “you’re never angry.” “Oh, well I’m angry. Oh, but never frustrated while I’m friendly.”

“Bored?” “Yeah, I’m bored.” “Irritated?” ”Yes. Apparently, you only get the bad feelings, no good feelings, but you got a lot of feelings. So we tend to suppress them. We avoid them. Oftentimes we overexpose them to everyone because we don’t know how to manage our feelings. And so we really want somebody else to do all that work for us.

And so we express it in a very large way, but oftentimes the ways we express it, make it kind of intimidating or overwhelming for others to care for us in the ways that we can. Sometimes we want others to know what we need without having to disclose it. And so we just want them to know what it is. And so we drop hints or innuendos. For me, manipulation means that we’re trying to get our needs met without disclosing what they are.

It’s actually a protective strategy that we use to protect ourselves and still get our needs met. It’s not against someone, it’s to try to help ourselves, but we’re not going to, we don’t trust others enough to let them in on what’s really going on in us. So there’s a lot of different ways that we don’t know how to manage our feelings well, and everybody tends to do them pretty similarly in categories, I suppose.

If everyone’s unique in their specific ways they try to manage themselves. There’s also broad categories that we all tend to fall in, in terms of the ways that we do that. We overexpress or we under express or we swallow, or we pretend like they’re not there until we explode. There’s so many options we get.

Carrie: Yeah. Something I hear commonly in my office. I imagine you may in yours as well. “Well, I’m angry about that but I mean I really shouldn’t be”  or “I feel guilty that I feel this way, that I feel sad about that”, or “I know I need to just like have joy in the Lord, but I just feel so depressed right now.”

And sometimes there’s Christian mask, almost that we put on things like somehow we’re supposed to feel a certain way about a situation. And if we feel differently, or if we have a complex feeling, if it’s multi-feelings, then we may feel guilty for one of those feelings or the other. And somehow there’s this expected Christian response.

And if we don’t fall into it, all of a sudden there’s like this guilt and shame over our experience. 

Aron: Yeah. That’s very interesting when you’re helping somebody understand their feelings, they don’t realize they can have a feeling about a different feeling. I feel guilty about my anger.

And so they could become very complex. There’s times when we believe that we’re supposed to feel a certain way because the way that we would feel would make a statement about who we are. I shouldn’t feel angry because that means I’m a mean person or I’m ungrateful or whatever meaning we’ve constructed that goes with that feeling.

And we miss the importance of the feelings that we have. We’re kind of not addressing the reason why we have the feeling we have. We’re just wishing we had a different one, but our feelings are so important to us because they reveal what’s going on in us in the moment we feel. I call them a temporal truth.

It’s not an absolute truth like gravity. Gravity is gravity. It doesn’t matter how you feel about it or what time of day it is. My feelings are more like rain. It’s raining when it’s raining, but when it’s not raining, it’s not raining. It’s a truth that can come and go. So my feelings telling me what’s happening inside of me in the moment I feel it. The reason I know I’m hurt or feel angry, I feel hurt, or I feel angry.

It’s telling me, hey, this is going on right now inside of me and it needs to be attended to, or it needs me to lead it or comfort it or express it or do something. So, whether it should be there or not is kind of immaterial, the fact is it’s happening right now and we have to do something with that because we’re called to lead ourselves.

Scripture talks a lot about discipline and directing ourselves. I have a thing about that, but this idea of I’m supposed to manage my experience. And I’m supposed to know how to submit myself to someone else to be cared for after all God asks for us to ask him for what we need, even though he already knows what we need, he wants us to disclose because that’s part of the vulnerable part of relationship will be shared what’s going on in our hearts with one another and not just expecting someone else to know it. But on the other hand, I can’t just prioritize my own experience. I have to be able to put my experience aside. Scripture says to consider others’ needs as important as mine, you know, not just looking at my own interests, but the interests of others.

And in balancing that out, but feelings they need to be attended to, and it’s helping me know what’s happening. We would be burned or hurt all the time. If we can’t feel what’s going on inside. I have a father-in-law who has diabetes. He’s older and a couple of years ago he had to have a toe amputated because he broke it and had no idea. And by the time they saw it, it was completely black. It was your feelings help you know this is happening so we can care for it. So that’s an important thing. We just don’t worry about whether you should or shouldn’t have a feeling when you have a feeling, then it helps you know yourself and kind of what to do.

Carrie: I like the rain analogy that you use because there’s some language in church sometimes that I hear about, “you just need to fight your feelings with faith.” And I take issue with that statement because you wouldn’t fight the rain. You know, you might get an umbrella or put on stand galoshes, but you wouldn’t have a war with that. Like you said, if the feeling is here, it’s like, okay, well it’s here. So now what do we do.

Aron: Pastors are humans like everybody else. They have the same models of managing their feelings that other people have. They don’t have more access to those things than others. And I don’t know many seminaries that spend a lot of time talking about feelings.

They talk about liturgy and they talk about exegesis and all these kinds of bigger concepts. And so I’m with you. I was getting irritated when I hear a pastor say that if you believe in God enough, you won’t feel anxious. And I’m like, that’s ridiculous. Anxious is a very important feeling that helps you be prepared when you’re not anxious enough.

Sometimes then you make mistakes because you weren’t paying attention to it because anxiety is a feeling that says, hey, get ready for this. It’s when we try to be ready for things, we can’t get ready for that. We get stuck. We’re preparing for things that aren’t prepared, no something I can’t know.

And then it goes sideways, but a regular feeling is you’re going to have a test and you should feel anxious about that because it’s going to make sure you study harder. And so there’s appropriate ways of managing those things. But when we give a message that if you have enough faith, you won’t have any what we call negative feelings. That’s kind of really disabusing people and leading them down a straight path of how to attend to their experience and lead their own experience and know that all of those feelings have healthy expressions and unhealthy expression.

Anger is not bad. God’s angry all the time. Apparently, there’s a good way to be angry or hurt or sad or any of those things. Those are things that God does. And so it’s more important to understand the healthy expressions and how we do that well than just telling people to have more faith, pretend like those feelings don’t exist. 

Carrie: I think you hit upon on a point where in church circles, at least the ones that I grew up in, I know there’s many different streams of Christianity. There was a lot of focus on knowing about God, a lot of focus on learning about God and less focus on really the experience of interacting with God.

Aron: I remember there was a period of time when church culture was very worried about manipulating the congregation through emotion. And the emotion was manipulative and not authentic. It’s important not just to make an emotional decision about anything. You need a whole body to experience. You need your emotions and you need your intellect. Sometimes you need to trust your gut and your intuition and your body. And so having a whole-body experience in how we make decisions is important, but to negate the role of emotions is to misunderstand the context of who God is. God created emotions to be powerful for a reason because I think he feels them powerfully. He invented things that have you foric feelings. He made those feelings and made it that way. And so I think that understanding the fullness of balance and reason and the experiential, and not just knowing about who he is, but knowing who he is. Those are the best protectors in our faith and especially when it comes to sin, breaking the boundaries of relationship. To me, sin is a break of relationships. Sin is when we turn away from the relationship to do something that’s solely for ourselves. We neglect him or we forsake him to do something just for myself. And it doesn’t include him as part of the relationship.

And that hurts. So that’s outside the bounds of what he longs for in a relationship. And so understanding who God is and wanting. It’s kind of when you know your spouse really well, you know the things that hurt them. And so you try not to do those things because you love them. You don’t want to hurt them. But it’s not about checking boxes of legalism and rules, it’s about understanding the context of the one that you love and maintaining an as close and intimate and healthy relationship as you can. And that’s almost intuitive. It’s very easy. That’s why Jesus said if you love me, you obey my commands.

Not like, come on, baby. If you love me, you would. Or if you obey my commands, you don’t love me. You just say, it’s almost like when you love me, then it’s easy because it’s about the relationship.

Carrie: That whole like my burden is light verse.

Aron: That verse to me is about ownership. Come to me, you were weary and burdened. I always ask clients what’s the burden you’re giving God? And what burden is he giving you? Because he says he gives you a yoke. It’s just lighter than the one you carry. So what are you giving him and what are you receiving in return for me? The one we give him as the burden of ownership, where I take on the burden of owning my own sin or my own guilt or my own shame or trying to control my future and all of those things.

It’s the ownership I’m giving him. I’m giving them ownership of all of those things in my life. And the burden he gives us in return is the burden of faithfulness. That my job is to just be faithful to what he’s called me to do. To do the best I can, and to trust him to carry all the things I can’t because there’s only so many things I can manage. Everything I can’t manage is his job because it’s too much for me. And so I don’t need to be him or take over his role in the relationship. I can let him be strong where he’s strong and then I can be faithful to do the things that I’m called to do. Now that he’s called me to do and trusts me to do those things. 

Carrie: What would you say to someone who finds their emotions intolerable?

I know that’s a really big question, but let’s say there that they’re trying to have a healthier relationship with themselves, their emotions, and God in that interaction. What encouragement would you provide to them or maybe a starting place? 

Aron: People who find feelings and intolerable have had experiences that have been overwhelming that they did not have someone assist them or care for them through the process.

So in those experiences, their self, who they are, their soul was unable to manage the context of the totality of their experience. And so their self kind of collapses. The feeling is uncontained. It’s out of control. And that feeling begins to persist. And it’s a lot of what we describe as trauma is parts of us that remember in re-experience the intolerable illness. The overwhelming sense of helplessness or fear and they can’t be contained. And then my feelings don’t trust myself to lead it because when they reformed, myself couldn’t do it either. I was too young or somebody literally took away my power because I was being assaulted or I was in a car crash where literally I was helpless.

There’s a feeling of helplessness and the feeling has no sense of containment at all. And that happens. Even those times occur to us, that doesn’t have to be a persistent experience because our feelings are still looking for the same things they were looking for when they originated, which is to be led, to be held, to be understood, to be comforted, to be directed in a way that’s productive and helpful.

And oftentimes when we don’t know how to do that with our feelings, and we don’t know how to manage those feelings. So often others are fearful to engage with us in a way that feels safe to us then we stay trapped in these patterns of feeling overwhelmed, having maybe some other side coping ways we try to do with it.

We’ll do it through. Some kind of maladaptive ways. We’ll gamble, be promiscuous or we’ll do drugs or we’ll do something right to help manage these overwhelming feelings. And so, finding healthy relationships, finding a therapist that can help assist that process who’s trained to not be overwhelmed by your feelings and help engage you and help you lead your feelings and help rebuild. One of the principles of the modality I developed an attuned systemic repair is restructuring the leadership of self over our distressed emotions and repairing that relationship so that the parts of us within us can trust ourselves to lead that process.

And the therapist can model that and guide, direct that and restructure how that works in type the individual in helping them know how to do that with others. So there’s ways that we can learn how to manage those intolerable feelings just because they have never been contained or led doesn’t mean that they can’t be.

And in fact, they are still crying out for those experiences, which is why they’re so big. The only way that those feelings know to get cared for is to increase their volume until someone hears and responds. And so that’s what they do. They cry out for help. And when we learned that that’s what people’s feelings do, I can stop feeling attacked by the overwhelming feelings of others. I can hear the distress inherent in what’s going on. And that allows me to be more like a firefighter that runs into the fire to put it out rather than just being like, well, I guess I’ll just let that thing burn to the ground.

Carrie: Good. So if we have some therapists or students or others that might be interested in attuned, systemic repair, where can they find out more information at the moment?

Aron: So I’m developing a lot of training materials. I’m hoping to have some training videos out later this year. We’ll walk people through that. So I’m still in the process of writing. I’m an approved supervisor. So if they want some they’re pre-licensed that can get supervision hours. If we can get enough people interested, I’d love to start some supervision groups for ASR. I don’t know, maybe about a dozen people that are practicing it right now. So it’s not out there a lot, but have a lot of writing and we’re looking for ways to kind of communicate that.

So I’m still starting to let the cat out of the bag a little bit through this podcast and saying it’s out there and letting people know. 

Carrie: Well, that’s very exciting. We can put the link to your counseling practice on there and they can contact you through there. I’m sure that’d be great if they’re interested.

Aron: Yeah. Awesome. 

Carrie: Because this podcast is called hope for anxiety and OCD. I like to ask our guests to share a story of hope, which is a time where you received hope from God or another person. 

Aron: Yeah. So I’ll mention that time shortly before I moved to Tennessee the church I was working at wasn’t as healthy as we had thought it was and could see that things weren’t going well.

And I had never expected to be out of ministry. I had never been as, I don’t know, I was just terrified. When you’re a pastor you have no marketable skills. I don’t know if you write a resume and say, I worked for a church and I’ve led hundreds of people in teams and volunteer teams and they say, “oh, in retail.” And you’re like, “no.”. And you’re like, “managed six-figure budgets.” And they’re like, “oh, in a warehouse.” And you’re like, “wow. no.” And so finding a job was really hard. And so there was a season of time when, um, I didn’t know what was next. I hadn’t come across therapy yet. I just needed a job.

And that fear of not knowing, I felt like I lost my purpose. I’d always felt called to ministry, felt scared. I’d moved my family across the country and then didn’t have a job to support them. I had some friends that were very encouraging and supportive that stayed with me through that process.

And it didn’t make it less difficult.  All of the journey to find just a job and kind of get through that. Just the beginning of that job, knowing that job was not going to be the rest of my life and figuring out grad school and all of that was still difficult, but having people around me, expressed concern, expressed care, offered encouragement was such a lifeline through that period. It helped me get through some very difficult seasons and it made in some ways survivable or helpful. And so I guess what I want people to know is that the relationships are the key to life. We are not made to function outside of relationships. I’m trying to find the source for this and I can’t find it, but I know I read it somewhere that it said that it takes 60% more glucose in your brain to comfort yourself than if someone helps you with it.

In social baseline theory, it’s a body of research that shows that we are not made to manage things alone. Our perception of difficulty, our experience of physical pain, our resources to engage difficulty are greatly increased by the access of social relationships. So social baseline theory says, add our baseline. We are designed to be social. We are designed for relationship. And I would say that if you have a lack of relationships in your life, you feel isolated, you feel alone. Oftentimes we try to solve that by being more alone, because if we feel like I get to choose my abandonment, then it feels less painful than if someone else has abandoned me. But then I’m still stuck alone and I’ve encouraged you that relationships are the key to life. And if you don’t have them, they’re accessible to you.

Start with therapy, find a small group, find a support group, find a place of people who know what it is to be like you, or have gone through similar experiences. Allow that to find hope that it’s survivable to know that you’re not in it alone, that people know how you feel. Everyone knows how you feel. Maybe not your context, but the feelings are universal. And when we share those feelings with each other, then suddenly, you know, we have on our wall, in our waiting room, we have a little chalkboard and we write little things there. And right now we are saying, “pain shared is pain divided, joy shared is joy multiplied.”

That’s the context of relationships and what they do. You’re made for relationship. And even if there’s not a human near you at the moment that feels safe, God loves you. He is for you. He created you. He sacrificed for you, and he wants to lead you to fullness to the person he’s created you to be that you have yet to fully realize because of the obstacles in your life. But God’s promises that he worked all those things for good, not the bad things are good. He’s a Redeemer and a restorer, and he can lead us through that. So there is hope because the God of the universe loves you and wants the best for you. We also have to be willing to participate in that process and take those risks.

And that’s hard and scary, but there’s always hope. 

Carrie: Good. Thank you for sharing all of that with us today. I think this is a really great thing for people to think about and process what are some ways that they can have healthier relationships with their feelings with God, with other people. It’s all interconnected together.

Aron: There’s a way that we’re called to live. There’s a way that life is designed to work. And when we’re outside of that, everything is really, really hard. But when we do it the way that God designed it to be, it feels easy. When couples or individuals end therapy, I’m like, who wants to go back to the old way?

And they’re just like, oh no, not at all. How much easier is this week? Oh, it’s so much easier, but it’s so hard to get to the easier way because it’s scary and risky and it takes a lot of hard work. But when you get to the other side, that journey is so worth the effort. The rewards are good.

And probably even greater because of the effort required to get there in the first place. 

Carrie: Absolutely. 


There are so many different ideas being circulated around about our feelings and how to deal with them. Some of those are healthy and some of them are unhealthy things that we’ve picked up maybe from our environment or family of origin. So it’s nice to have this conversation in the context of biblical Christianity. By the time this episode airs, I will have been on a recording blitz in the month of May. Recording all kinds of episodes to take us through the summer. I know that we’re going to be diving into things like emotional eating, body image, learning to see ourselves the way that God sees us in dealing with doubt, just to name a few. There are so many more interview topics that I have that I’m working tirelessly on finding guests for all the time. And if you have any suggestions for me, whether they be guest suggestions or topics suggestions that I can find guests for, I would love to hear from you.

And you can reach me via the contact page of our website any time www.hopeforanxietyandocd.com. 

Thank you for listening. Hope for anxiety and OCD is a production of by the world counseling in Smyrna, Tennessee. Our original music is by Brandon Mangrum and audio editing is completed by Benjamin Bynam.

Until next time. May you be comforted by God’s great love for you.