When running my security program this morning it found two files containing malware. The message read: “Two threats blocked.” I was thankful there was no infection of my computer system. I did another security scan to make sure there were no further attempts to put harmful files on my laptop. It got me thinking about emotional malware. This term isn’t in any counseling book I’ve read. I made it up.
Emotional malware is the damage inflicted upon us by others or the emotional hurt we cause others and/or ourselves. It isn’t so easily fixed. A woman identified her problem with dealing with an issue as something that is deficient in her. She put a lot of self-blame upon herself. “I should have known better. How could I have been so stupid?” This precious soul loved by God was inflicting harm upon herself. She heaped upon herself a huge weight of judgment because of her sexual abuse as a child. At times I have said to her, “Could it be that you are judging yourself more than God or anyone else ever would?” She admitted the truth that she was in many instances her own worst enemy. I said to her, “What if you replaced your self-destructive tape with this one: “I’m not perfect. I mess up just like anyone else. If God forgives me and the one I spoke to unkindly forgives me, I should forgive myself.”
Whether you are of faith or not, you understand the terrible emotional damage we can cause to one another. A bully who beat you up in high school can cause a life-time of problems in your relationships. You carry this corroding hate from childhood into adult life that causes emotional harm to those you love. Like a car that is exposed to the elements such as rain and snow rusts with time, the mental harm we inflict or is done to us can leave lasting scars.
In order for me to live a richer life I had to let go of the hate I harbored in my heart towards my father. I had to come to see that his manic rages with his schizophrenia caused him to say hurtful things to me like “Why are you so stupid you can’t tie your own shoes?” A relative once said to me when I had difficulty understanding how her cable box worked, “Do you work at being stupid?” These were cutting and deeply painful words to me. In as difficult as it was I had to learn to forgive not only others but myself. I hadn’t done anything wrong. I wasn’t defective. I wasn’t dumb. I wouldn’t find out until I was 38 I have a learning challenge called dyspraxia. This means there are delays in understanding what people say and in dealing with task completion such as fixing electronics. In our new home I asked a friend to set up of our TV and stereo system. He’s really good at doing things like that. Believe me. You wouldn’t want me fixing any of your electronics or appliances. It would be carrying the concept of God’s providential care over you too far.
Have you said something to a relative, friend or colleague without thinking? In a stressful moment you spoke harshly. You would take it all back in a heartbeat if you could. You’re angry at yourself. You judge yourself. You say to yourself things like: “How could I have been so insensitive?” While the emotional pain you caused isn’t so easily repaired, you can go to that person and say, “I’m sorry. I won’t make any excuses for my actions. I’ve been under a lot of stress because…” No, it won’t always fix the emotional damage you caused. What it will do is show the other person while you blew it, you are doing your best to lessen the impact of what you said.
Now, if only there was a simple way to cure my allergies.
Kevin and Karen Osborne are Christian pastoral counsellors. Kevin is studying to become a chaplain and professor of Psychology specializing in Pastoral Theology. We have started You Can Hope Again Counselling. Karen enjoys doing cross-stitch while I like writing and singing songs. Karen makes me laugh when she sings the kitty bed-time song saying, “It’s that time. It’s the bestest kitty time of the day!” Kevin enjoys teasing the kitties and making them do kitty dances with music. Their kitty, Catherine, loves it when kitty daddeh sings All Things Bright and Beautiful. Kevin likes doing impressions. He tells children’s stories and helps others with their problems using his hand puppet, Dr. Teddy, who is a therapy bear. He is a partner with us in our counselling practice.We are available to assist with worship and preaching to give busy pastors and ministers a much-needed break. We offer in-office, and phone counselling to anyone in the world.
Co-author on Mind’s Seat, a Christian inspirational blog