Finally, learning how to rely on and depend on others can help people rely on and depend on God. The exercise teaches the value of trust and shows that we can depend on other people as well as God.
7. Body Outline: Drawing an outline of the body is a helpful exercise for people who have eating disorders. It can help people recognize that their body image does not match the reality of their physical form. In some cases, drawing the body can bring up strong emotions. For this exercise, drawing the body outline enables participants to explore self-image: the lies we tell ourselves and the negative self-talk we bombard ourselves with throughout our life. We can see how some of these lies were perpetuated by parents, by peers, by the media, and by society. By exploring these lies, we can hopefully begin to see the truth: to see our bodies, minds, and souls as they really are: in God's image.
The lies that we tell can be placed at certain parts of the drawing. For instance, if a person believes himself to be stupid he could write that by the head. If a woman thinks that she has a fat belly, she would write that by her belly. When participants write about the lies others have spoken to them, they often reveal interesting truths. For instance, if a person had been told by his mother that he was careless, he could write "careless" in big black letters across the chest. The strength of the lettering and the placement of the words both demonstrate the impact of the lies on the person.
Lies and negative self-image detract from our spiritual path and harm our relationship with God. The goal in this exercise is to develop a self-concept that is more in accordance with spiritual truth. We are created in His image and likeness and we should behold ourselves as a holy creation.
8. Sticks: Sticks are simple objects that can be used symbolically in a counseling setting. By associating one stick with a lifelong lie and another with a lie that continues to affect them, participants can explore their thoughts, feelings, and reactions. While discussing the lie that stemmed from childhood, the person may recall painful memories of verbal or even physical abuse. The counselor must be prepared to meet such painful emotions with compassion. Exploring pain can place the participant in closer contact with God and the true self. The stick that symbolizes the lie that still affects them today can help the participant understand the underlying cause for an addition or an emotional problem. Any means to externalize a lie using physical symbols can help to destroy the power of the lie. Too often, we become clouded by the false images that others have thrust upon us. Seeing how we have succumbed to such lies can be a powerful form of spiritual awakening.
9. Safe Place: We all need to seek places of refuge in times of stress. The church can serve as one safe place, but safe places do not have to be limited to manmade structures. Nature offers people a plethora of safe places to choose from. Each of us has our own special safe places, and we need to learn how to identify where they are so that we can go there in times of need. In the safe place, we can commune with God and release negative emotions.
Because each person has a different idea of what "safe" feels like and what a safe place constitutes, this exercise allows people to listen to their own truth to determine which places are safe for them. For example, people who do not like wide open spaces would not use the beach as a safe place, but would prefer a small chapel or a wooded area. On the other hand, someone who does not like confined places would not like being in the woods or in a church but would much prefer the top of a mountain or the open sea. Some people like being around a lot of other people; others prefer solitude. The exercise allows each person to draw a special and unique safe place. Furthermore, we don't have to allow anyone else to enter. Within the safety of the special place, we can release all our negativity without fear of reprisal. We can admit our deepest fears, secrets, and sins. Only God is with us in our safe place, and God always offers forgiveness and compassion. Drawing the safe place can offer the person an immense sense of relief, hope, and trust in God.
10. The Act of Forgiveness: Forgiveness is a lifelong lesson, one of the most difficult tasks of being human. Learning how to forgive others and learning how to forgive ourselves are similar acts, and this exercise can teach both aspects of forgiveness. The shield serves as a barrier between negative thoughts and the true self. The shield prevents resentment, ill will, and grudge holding to penetrate our deepest souls while at the same time helping us to honestly admit where we have gone wrong. Similarly, the shield can protect us from the negative acts of others and thereby help us to forgive those who have sinned against us.
Knowing we are safe helps us to forgive others because we realize that ordinary human beings are never entirely without sin. The shield allows us to develop compassion. Knowing that we are safe behind the shield also helps us to forgive ourselves for the sins we have committed. Behind the shield we are immune from the perpetual hatred that can stem from a small mistake we made. Standing behind the shield is an empowering symbolic act.
11. The Journey: Final reflections of the journey reveal some overarching themes. We learned how symbols serve as intermediaries between our inner selves and God; with symbols we can cut straight to our emotional being and cut out the cumbersome tool of language. We also learned how to develop faith and trust in both God and in other people. From trust and faith stem feelings of physical, emotional, and spiritual safety. The exercises on the journey can be repeated at intervals throughout an individual's life, to reaffirm his or her commitment to spiritual growth or to reestablish a connection with God. The…