Why Did Randall Have A Nervous Breakdown?

January 30, 2019

One of my board members recently suggested I start watching This is Us, the television drama about a surprisingly relational family. She offered to help me get started by binge watching it with me during a snowstorm.

I am loving this show.

The show focuses on the interactions between the members of a nuclear family—mom, dad, and three children all born on the same day. The show goes back and forth in time and helps us understand why each one acts the way they do based on their past history.

As someone who does a whole lot of healing prayer, much of the show rings true. We all are influenced much more than we know by our past. As I work with our people, I begin to understand why they do what they do and my heart is filled with compassion.

So, what about Randall the adopted African-American child, now a 36-year-old adult (I’m in season one) with a wife and children of his own. In the first season Randall has a nervous breakdown. The show seems to imply that this was unavoidable. It’s part of who Randall is: it is the price one pays for being brilliant, hard-working, driven, and a bit of a perfectionist. On the show we also learned that Randall had a nervous breakdown before and struggled with panic as a child.

In one of the flashbacks, there is a beautiful scene where his father, Jack, helps Randall breathe by cupping Randall’s face in his hands, looking in his eyes and coaching him to breathe with him. It’s powerful.

But back to my question, was Randall’s breakdown inevitable?

I would argue that Randall could have taken steps to avoid the breakdown. Here me now. I am not blaming him because even though help is available it is rare. There aren’t many Jack Pearson’s out there, people who have enough relational skills and maturity to be able to attune to a less mature person and lead them back to shalom.

But in the hopes of helping someone, I want to talk about this because even if we are not pushed to the point of needing hospitalization, the incredibly strong performance-oriented culture we live in affects us all. Our culture demands that we deliver no matter what’s going on in our life. Even if our mother just died. People are compassionate for a few weeks or maybe a month. Then they want you to buck up and infer that there is something wrong with you because you are still in distress.

Our culture says we defined by what we do.

What could Randall have done? If I was coaching Randall, I would urge him to pay close attention to his body. Our bodies are God’s gift to us, our early warning system. Our bodies do not lie. When our heart is racing, our hands are shaking, and we can’t sleep, we need to notice, take it seriously and stop. In the book The Body Keeps the Score Bessel van der Kolk, M.D. talks about this in exquisite detail.

We all need to learn to pay attention to what’s going on in our bodies.

We need to learn how to calm ourselves.

I have a whole sequence of things I do to calm myself and regulate my emotions. Here’s the rub. I have to practice them on my good days so that I’m able to do them on my bad days.

It’s like going to the gym. If you go regularly and work hard, training your body, it will be strong when you have to lift something really heavy or climb to the top of a mountain—or the Grand Canyon.

In the same way, you can train your mind to quiet and calm. Dr. Schore, who has been called the Einstein of psychiatry has been quoted as saying that the ability to quiet ourselves is the strongest predictor of good mental health for a lifetime.

We often see Randall out running. I would love to see him devote as much time every day to his mental health by learning to progressively relax his body, breathe deeply and let go of his burdens.

But even more important than learning to quiet his body, it seems that Randall has some false beliefs that are driving him. Who is Randall? As a child, we see him in a panic because someone else might surpass him in school. I am sure that he learned at a pretty young age that praise and attention came his way when he astounded everyone with his brilliance. This is so human. We become addicted to praise and we keep jumping higher and running faster to try to get the euphoria we experienced as children when mom or dad looked at us with shining eyes.

Those false beliefs are a trap. When we are stuck in them we lose a sense of who we are. Randall, like all of us, is so much more than what he does. Randall is beloved by God. Yet, he is also human and as a human being he has weaknesses. Randall needs to interact with Jesus because Jesus is the only one who has the right to tell us who we are. We have to actually interact with him. Trying to imagine what he might say doesn’t work. You have to listen to him.

I have a very simple video on YouTube that lead you through relaxation and then helps you interact with Jesus. Our community is seeing profound healing come from learning to quiet ourselves so that we hear God clearly.

Some of the things I’ve been hearing are this: I have you. I have it all. You can surrender your burdens to me. It is not all up to you. You don’t have to be perfect to be safe or to be loved. I love you more than you can imagine and I’m always with you.

As we spend time with God we begin to see who we are from his gracious loving point of view and we stop driving ourselves.

Here are a couple resources that I use to help get you started.

Guided breathing exercise: https://www.godhealstoday.org/free-resources/

Appreciation: Think about something you are grateful for and focus on it for three minutes. Dwell on what you appreciate; savor the memory. Over time collect your appreciation moments on your phone or in a journal or three-ring-binder so that you can read them to yourself when you’re struggling.

Shalom for my Body: This silly-looking exercise resets your nervous system. When struggling try to do it three times a day. Yes, you can do it in the stall during the work day.

Immanuel: following along with this video will help you quiet your body and interact with God so you can get his perspective on your struggles. Hint: Jesus is not as advertised! He is not judgmental! Loves you! Feels what you feel yet is never overwhelmed by the intensity of your emotions. Is always glad to be with you. Being with him is the best thing ever. Even if you don’t believe in him. All you have to do is be willing to try.

It takes time to stop and do these things, but if you practice these steps to quieting it gets easier and easier because your brain develops new neural pathways that go from the area in your brain that is active when you are in distress to your prefrontal cortex where you know who you really are and can experience joy and peace.

Thanks to the folks at Life Model Works who have taught me so much over that last decade. Especially Jim and Kitty Wilder, Ed and Maritza Khouri and Jen and Chris Coursey.


A simple way to connect with God

March 29, 2016


The Story Behind the Train Passengers Singing Over the Rainbow!

August 29, 2015

Source: The Story Behind the Train Passengers Singing Over the Rainbow!

August 3, 2015


“O Lord, please send someone else to do it.”     Moses, Exodus 4:13 (NIV)

If you feel weak, limited, ordinary, you are the best material through which God can work.

Henry T. Blackaby and Claude V. King, Experiencing God

The last conversation I’d had with my neighbor, Frank, had been a disaster. So when the Lord told me to tell him how to fix his car, I couldn’t imagine a worse idea.

I was in my backyard, lugging a load of branches to the compost pile, when I saw Frank standing in his driveway, two houses away, leaning over the open hood of his Audi sedan. His fists gripped the edge of the car, his shoulders were hunched forward as he stared intently at the engine.

Go tell him it’s the fuse to his fuel pump. I shook my head. Where had that thought come from? Was it God? Or was I making it up? I couldn’t imagine telling Frank how to fix his car.

I dumped the load of brush on the compost pile and trudged, deep in thought, back to my front yard where Sam was cutting down an overgrown Leyland cypress.

As I watched my husband whack at the cypress, I thought back to my last conversation with Frank.

It had been six months ago, after a winter storm, Northern Virginia-style–four inches of snow, followed by rain, then freezing rain and more snow. The next morning, one look at our slick snow-filled driveway was enough to make my husband and me break out our sleds and cross-country skis, heat up the hot chocolate, and call our bosses.

But not Frank. He was determined to make it to work.

Our picturesque little street, which winds down and around a steep hill, is treacherous in winter. From our front yard, we have a perfect view of the steepest part of the hill, and our neighbors do their best to entertain us on snowy days. Their humorous attempts to escape from the snowbound neighborhood provide a welcome diversion while we shovel the driveway.

The hill is a formidable obstacle–even for macho men in four-wheel drive vehicles. Twisting and sputtering, cars slither their way up the hill, wheels spinning. Frank was usually one of the first to try, even though he had one of the least suitable vehicles–a long 12-passenger van.

I was skiing home when I saw him. His van was speeding along the flat section of the road, then turned to climb the hill. The van continued at top speed for about 20 feet, then slowed to a crawl, wheels spinning. Yielding to gravity, Frank carefully backed the van down the track his vehicle had made in the snow for another attempt. He repeated this routine at least ten times while I stood watching from a safe distance. Occasionally he advanced a few feet. This only tempted him to try again.

His final attempt began like the others. This time when the van stopped moving forward, it twisted and slid back against the curb, coming to rest against a huge mound of snow halfway up the hill. Now he was in a fix. The van was wedged with one of the back tires against the curb in snow so deep I could barely see the top of the van. And right on the steepest part of the hill.

Several neighbors who had paused from digging out their driveways to watch Frank’s dogged efforts grabbed their snow shovels and headed toward the van to help him dig it out.

This is ridiculous, I thought. Why can’t Frank wait until the street is plowed? Imagine! Trying to drive a van out! I didn’t know at the time that Frank drove a vanpool. Other people were depending on him to get them to work. No wonder he was trying so hard to get out of the neighborhood.

Then I made a terrible mistake. As I skied past the trapped vehicle, my thoughts rolled off of my tongue and out of my mouth.

My thoughtless comments upset Frank and, as I skied into my driveway, I wondered, When would I learn to keep my mouth shut?

Even though I’d gone back later that day to apologize, I still couldn’t imagine offering him more advice. As I carried another load back to the compost pile, I thought, I’ve already made a fool of myself once with Frank. I’d better keep quiet this time!

But I couldn’t escape the nagging voice. Tell Frank that the fuse is blown. Was God speaking to me or was I making this up? I was beginning to squirm. The turmoil in my heart grew. Finally, I turned from the compost pile and walked hesitantly across the lawn.

Frank was fiddling with something under the hood.

“Hey, Frank,” I said, trying to sound lighthearted and feeling idiotic, “having trouble with your car?”

He took a deep breath and turned to look at me. A smile froze on his face.   “Yes,” he said slowly, in an icy tone of voice, “it won’t start.”

I took a deep breath. “Have you checked the fuse for your fuel pump?”

“Yes, I have,” he said even more slowly, enunciating each word. “It’s not the fuse.”

Oh, great, I thought, now what, Lord?

“See,” he said, flipping the cover of the fuse box in my direction.

I looked down, bewildered. The diagram drawn on the inside of the fuse box lid looked complicated. My eye caught the phrase “fuel-pump.” It was listed in two places. I took another deep breath, “Did you know there are two fuses for the fuel pump?” I asked.

Frank was removing the distributor cap. “No, I didn’t,” he replied, so sharply that I jumped.

I turned and bolted.

About halfway across the lawn, I called back over my shoulder, “I hope you get it fixed. See you later!”

I ran back to my husband. While I was gone, he had reduced the cypress to a stump. As I told him about my conversation with Frank, tears began to roll down my cheeks. “Why do I always think I’m hearing from God, when I’m not?” I asked him.

He put a reassuring arm around my shoulders and hugged me. “You do hear from God a lot. You made a mistake this time. Let go of it, Betsy,” he said laughing. “It’s okay. You were only trying to help.”

I tried to put the conversation with Frank out of my mind and focus on helping my husband pry the stump out of the ground. But I felt wretched. Once again I had managed to irritate Frank.

About 20 minutes later I saw Frank drive off in the Audi, but it was a few days before I knew what had happened.

I was working in the garden when Frank’s wife, Jean, stopped by. I couldn’t resist asking her about the car.

“Oh, it was the fuse,” Jean, told me. “After you left, Frank replaced the fuse to the fuel pump and the car started.”

“Really?” I asked, stunned. My heart leaped. God had been speaking to me!

“It rattled him,” she continued. “He asked me how you knew it was the fuse.”

“What did you tell him?” I asked.

“I told him that I thought you were surrounded by angels,” Jean replied.

Angels!  I had prayed for Jean several times in the past year when she was sick. Each time God had answered those prayers. I could see that Jean’s heart was opening to God.

But what was happening with Frank? What was God doing the day he told me to tell Frank how to fix his car? And did he need to humiliate me to do it?

Looking back, I see that I needed to be reconciled to Frank. I was so embarrassed by the unkind remarks I made the day Frank’s van was stuck in the snow, that I kept my distance. I was content to wave from my driveway, never letting our relationship fully heal. But God was not content. He was not willing to let my shame over past mistakes get in the way of being reconciled to my neighbor. Talking to Frank about the fuse forced me to face my discomfort and this time my words brought help to a frustrating situation.

We all have people that we avoid. The neighbor who borrowed our rake and never returned it. The teacher who thought our kid was a brat. The former friend who made an insensitive jab. When we sin, or someone sins against us, we often avoid that person rather than taking our shame and hurt to Jesus and letting Him forgive us and cleanse the wound so we can be reconciled.* * * *

Who are you avoiding?

Dear Lord,

That was so embarrassing. Sometimes I just want to hide. I don’t want to admit, even to myself, that I did something wrong. Lord, forgive me! Show me how to be reconciled to those I have wronged as well as those who have wronged me. Help me to forgive myself when I do stupid things. Help me to see that the only way past these feelings of shame is to face what I did and receive your forgiveness. Move me past the places where I get stuck and take away my shame.

In Jesus’ name,


David and Goliath

October 7, 2014

David and Goliath: I Samuel 17:1-37

1.In this passage it says “Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified. Have you ever felt that way?

2.How did David see Goliath?

3.How did David’s older brother see him? Have you ever had a family member tear you down? How did you respond?

4.How did David’s commanding officer see him? Have you ever had a commanding officer tear you down? How did you respond?

5.How did David respond when Saul questioned his ability?

David, Mighty Warrior

October 4, 2014

David Mighty Warrior

Today I am going to start posting a Bible study about David. Please answer the questions in the comment area and I will do my best to respond.
Bless you,

David Anointed as King: I Samuel 16:1-13
Read this passage aloud. This is our first introduction to David who would later become a mighty warrior and a king.
1. What does this passage tell us about him? Write an answer in the space provided, share it with your group. Report back to the large group.

2. How did David’s family see him?

3. How did God see David?

4. How do you think David felt before he was anointed king? After he was anointed king?

5. Have you ever felt like this?

Processing pain using the Immanuel approach

September 9, 2014

It is a simple exercise, you simply say, “Lord, help me to perceive you,” then when you see where he is, you say, “Lord, help me to perceive you more clearly.”

Then you quiet yourself and enjoy being with him. After all, Jesus is always with us, even if we do not believe in him, so the sense that we are alone is a matter of our perception, not reality. He is there. With me. With you. All the time.

The other night I was watching a DVD with my family when a memory flooded back—losing my new red bike to my brother. Before you conclude that my parents are heartless, let me explain. I was the second of five children and had received a new bike, a rarity, for my birthday. I eyed the shiny wheels and frame and my heart sang.

Then a few months (or was it years?) later my older sister got a new bike for her birthday, so all the bikes bumped down the peaking order: I got her old one, a used blue heavy thing with fat, slow tires and my bike went to my younger brother. I remember well the sting, the sense of outrage. It was, after all, my bike!

So I prayed silently, Lord help me to perceive you. All at once I saw Jesus in the garage with us kids, he was sad, too. He understood. Then I saw myself on the red bike, my bike, and was astonished to see my arms and legs akimbo. Was I that big? Was the bike so small? In the next scene, Jesus and I were racing down the hill that was our driveway, side by side shooting out on to the street then cutting right then left over to the dead end where we kids often rode. The dead end! I had forgotten that the side street did not go through when I was young, but there it was! We were laughing out loud, ear-spilting grins plastered on our faces.

Where there had been sadness, now there was only peace and joy. I laid back, resting my head against the back of the chair, as my body relaxed and the tension and pain flowed out of me. There is nothing like connecting with Jesus to restore the soul.

But what if, when we ask Jesus to help us perceive him, we feel shame or anger?
I’ve seen this over and over again in my office when I ask someone to picture Jesus standing in front of them and then next thing I know they are sobbing. “I feel so unworthy,” they say. Or, “I feel so angry! Where was he when I was being abused? I cried out to him and he did not rescue me!”

The answer is ironically to turn to the very one you are angry with, to tell Jesus just how you feel. Once you vent, then ask him for his point of view. Listen with your heart. Ask him to help you identify any barriers and ask him what he wants you to know. He is very good at uncovering the lies that block our relationship with him.

We were meant to live in joy. The kind of joy that comes when we know we are the apple of someone’s eye. Jesus’ eye! Feeling blocked? Confused? Angry? Check out ways to connect to him such as Theophostic Prayer Ministry or the Immanuel Apporach here: Theophostic.com, especially the recording of a live session, or read my article in Charisma (http://www.charismamag.com/site-archives/511-features/inner-healing/2412-hope-for-the-wounded-soul-) Or go to http://www.immanuelapproach.com/ for more on the Immanuel approach.