Sunday, March 1, 2015

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

I worked with a young woman recently whose presenting problem was attraction to a younger co-worker.  Under normal circumstances, this wouldn't be such an issue, but this young woman was married with children, not to mention a devout Christian.  Her faith was very important to her, but no matter what she tried in prayer and study, she couldn't shake what were for her adulterous thought patterns towards this other man.  She sought intercessors, she cried, and she even confessed her growing attraction to her husband and a close friend.  Still, the feelings remained.  When she came to me, she was worn out from trying to overcome it all and sought more than anything to understand the why behind her attraction.  She was particularly hung up on something the object of her affections said to her at work one day.  She had openly disclosed to him that she found him attractive, but assured him (and likely herself as well) that she loved God more than she would ever be drawn to him. In fact, she told him "I'm cured of my attraction to you and no longer bound by it."  Her alleged hope was that by being transparent with him, she would strip the situation of its mystery and allure, for after all, she reasoned, "we're attracted to the forbidden fruit, so if he ceases to be a 'forbidden' through the confession of my attraction, then I'll simultaneously be delivered." It would have been a potentially successful feat had it not been drenched in the dishonesty of her unconscious motives. She professed John 8:32 that says "the truth will set you free," but what she was really aiming to do by informing him of her expired attraction was increase his attraction to her.  She had shared with me that she felt the attraction was at times reciprocal, but wasn't entirely sure.  He was, after all, seven years younger.  For her, this confession was a way of testing the waters to find out where he stood.  When she told him of her "cure" he responded by telling her that she felt that way simply because she had been out of the office for several days and her deliverance was merely a case of "out of sight, out of mind." Success.  His ego had been hit and she interpreted this response as his desire for her to remain attracted to him, which, in her mind meant he must also be attracted to her.  The question at this point was why?  Why did she need him to be attracted to her? Why was she attracted to him and could an out of sight, out of mind approach really work to free her from the increasingly tangled web of her feelings?

By the time she sought treatment with me, the aforementioned had already taken place.  Her confession was out and the hope for deliverance she claimed she wanted was short lived.  While temporarily she did feel free from the attraction, it didn't take long before the game with her co-worker re-commenced and she rode waves of guilt and shame all over again.  She went back and forth between avoiding him and seeking him, finding him and missing him, praying for help and then repenting when she perceived some failure in her thoughts or deeds.  Her feelings towards him intensified and her struggle ensued.  She longed to understand why she fell into such deep places of attraction to other men (this wasn't the first of situations like this for her) when she was married to someone she described as "wonderful and adoring." She wanted to break free, but a few steps had to take place before she could. 

First, if you've ever been in a situation like hers, understand that an attraction to someone is not inherently bad.  It's normal.  Give yourself permission to feel what you feel because our feelings are in us for a reason.  What you feel is neither good, nor bad, it simply is.  Problems don't arise until we make the decision to act on them, and even then the action can be positive or negative.  In her case, she had a few missteps involving deliberate flirtation, but ultimately she overcame.  It started with a step of acceptance.  She accepted that she felt the way she did and didn't beat herself up over it anymore.  The step after that, she confessed daily to God that she was attracted to another man and in need of His help.  Following that step, she climbed a little higher through regular prayer steps over her marriage.  Next, she began thanking God in advance for the victory she began to believe was hers through His power.  She cited verses like 2 Corinthians 12:9 that says "But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness'" and Romans 8:37 that says "No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us." Working through the deeper issues of why she frequently fell into this type of pattern was a more intensive work, but it all began with a first step.  You don't have to take every step perfectly and you may even take a step or two backwards, but your success awaits.  Keep stepping forward.  You don't have to have it all figured out, you just have to take the next step.

Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."
-Matthew 19:26

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