William D. Parham, Ph.D., ABPP, is a professor in the counseling program at LMU School of Education. His expertise in sport psychology, multicultural counseling, trauma counseling, and health psychology have made him widely known through his scholarship and conversations with domestic and international audiences. He is also director of mental health and wellness for the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA). In a series of columns for LMU This Week, Parham shares his thoughts on a range of wellness topics.
Refreshed and invigorated from the previous night’s playfulness and sleep, Abner sat comfortably at the kitchen table admiring Abigail’s exceptional talents at preparing a gourmet breakfast for the two of them to enjoy. The alluring smells of cinnamon flavored waffles, a medley of fresh fruits, and hot Sumatra dark roast coffee filled the dining area they occupied with teasing anticipation of enjoying a meal made with love. Abner and Abigail rarely deviated from their morning routine.
On a particular morning, while Abner continued to savor every bite of his meal Abigail dismissed herself from the table to place her dishes in the dishwasher. A simultaneous peek out of the kitchen window prompted Abigail to summon Abner saying, “Abner, honey, come look at Lucille trying to air dry her dingy and stained clothes and under garments on the clothesline. Abner finished his last bite, honored Abigail’s request, glanced out the window and said, “I see.”
Exactly one week later, following a divine breakfast meal, Abigail again went to place her dishes in the dishwasher and, lo and behold, Abigail saw Lucille hanging still-not-clean garments out to air dry. This time, Abigail not only summoned Abner to the window, but she asked that they hold hands and pray to the Creator to deliver some soap and hot water to Lucille’s home so that she can finally enjoy some clean clothes. Abner complied with his bride’s request.
Week three came and went with no visible change in Lucille’s circumstances. Seven days later, after finishing her morning meal, Abigail gave her customary glance out of her kitchen window. This time she shouted out a “Thank you, Jesus” prayer proclaiming to Abner that their prayers had been answered. Filled with the spirit, Abigail continued her praises shouting, “Hallelujah, Lucille finally has sparkling clean clothes to hang and air dry!” She added, “God is good.”
While basking in the holy moment of joy that her and Abner’s prayers were answered, Abigail asked Abner, “Sweetheart, what took God so long to honor our prayers?” Abner finished his last bite of another gourmet breakfast meal, rose from his seat, gracefully approached Abigail, and with a loving embrace, looked into her eyes and calmly and gently let her know, “Sweetheart, I got up early this morning and cleaned our kitchen windows!”
Lucille was always hanging out sparkling white clothes. Abigail’s concern and empathy for Lucille’s perceived plight had less to do with Lucille’s actual reality and more to do with Abigail’s distorted but believable perception that things were different than they really were. Perceptions don’t have to be true to be believable! They just have to be believable!
How much more clearly would we appreciate life, view circumstances, and really see persons who we allow into our inner circles without the smoke of faulty perceptions in our eyes clouding our vision? To what degree do peoples’ vulnerabilities to “fake news,” spreading false information with harmful intent, and confirmation bias create vapors of visual distortions that become rooted in soils of ignorance and blind allegiances? Does reconciliation of past baggage and traumas play a part in clearing the fog and seeing life differently and perhaps more honestly?
Who is the “Abner” in your life? Is there a person or persons on whom you can depend to receive unabashedly loving embraces that helps rinse away the dingy and stained perceptions of your inner “Abigail”? Is there a “Lucille” in your life who models pride in her abilities to launder soiled garments of erring and potentially offending suppositions and display garments scented with revitalized understandings, new-found insights, and fresh beginnings?
Opportunities for achieving mental and emotional clarity brought about by ongoing and honest self-reflection are as abundant as the incalculable number of circumstances and situations that provide portals for looking inward. The rewards for spending quiet moments in self-reflection are many. Turning inward in quiet contemplation stimulates emotional and mental clarity, it also kindles reminders captured in a few mantras, paraphrased, (1) I don’t live in the world. The world lives inside of me; (2) genius is the manifestation of the “you” that you were all along; (3) the past does not hold on to you. You hold onto the past; (4) emotional scars remind us where we have been. They do not tell us where we are going; (5) self-reflection does not stop persons from making mistakes. It allows them to learn from them!
Inward reflection also brings gifts in the form of strengthening intrapersonal resistances to succumb to obsessive ruminations and preoccupations, aka, worrying a lot! Implementing moments of quiet, silent self-reflection helps redirect and calm the emotional energy it takes to respond to the seemingly never-ending swirls of provocations to make decisions now relative to work, school, family concerns, relationship stressors, personal health, and the list goes on.
A calmer mind leads to clarity of thought and opens portals of insights and solutions that only needed a quiet nudge to be released. A tertiary spinoff of inducing a “chillaxin” vibe will be evident in improved efficiencies in work, play, academic pursuits, honoring fitness routines, building relational capital, and affirming faith-based practices. Learning the art of “chillaxin” is time well spent and implementing said learning on a consistent basis stimulates achievements beyond what is hoped, dreamed, and desired. Consider, if for only a moment, that the quickest way to get somewhere … is to slow down! Until next time …