River Jordan talks to Dr. Steven Haymon, Ed. D. about Stress: Climbing out of the Pits with God

Dr. Steven HaymonA few weeks ago I was invited by SIBA to interview Dr. Haymon. It was necessarily the kind of thing I do. To be honest, Dr. Haymon’s book isn't the kind of book I read frequently. After all it’s about stress and I’m too stressed out to take time read something like that. And it’s about God and while I may delve into the history of the Christian Mystics and St. Francis, the prayer writings of E.M. Bounds, or the wonderful spiritual writings of yes, Flannery O’Conner that doesn’t mean I read every book that comes along that has God in the title. Get it? Ok, this is me – being real. But if Wanda and Nicki have a reason that they feel an interview of someone is worthy of time, then I know it is. Somehow. So I set out to discover a little bit about this Dr. Haymon.

Dr. Haymon is an extremely, busy man with a very packed schedule. In addition to having a full client load he is busy writing, traveling and speaking. So my people (that would be me) had to get with his people (who would be staff) to get hooked up for a conversation. Then we did and the rest as they say is history. 

Stress: Climbing Out of the Pits with GodWe spoke for over an hour. He is infectious and I mean that in the highest way possible. Even a short conversation with Dr. Haymon makes a person believe again – in themselves, in lost dreams, in possibilities. That there is a special place for hope and that healing from even the deepest, darkest issues is a Godsend. Dr. Haymon has a wondrous listening ear, an infectious laugh, and an electrifying joy of life that is tangible even through the distance of hundreds of miles over a phone line.

I invite you to get to know Dr. Steven Haymon a little better from the following questions and answers regarding his book. If you are indeed in need of counseling and are seeking someone who is inspired yet non-judgmental, I would recommend you find a way to connect with Dr. Haymon on a personal level. And if you get the opportunity to meet him in person in your city circle the date and time on your calendar and make it happen. Because we all need to warm a little in the light of those who are walking through life full of fire and God’s blessing.

River Jordan: Dr. Haymon, you spent many years in the business, if you will, of counseling others. In those years have you seen the issues, pressures, and stresses of your clients changing or have they pretty much stayed the same?

Dr. Steven Haymon: It may appear that because of the economy and the affairs of the world, stressors have changed; however, because stress is stress, the effects of it, has been and will always be the same. The wise man Solomon stated, “There is nothing new under the sun.” Although, we get information a lot faster than we did years ago—when we had to read the newspapers or only watch television to receive data. Sex abuses, substance addictions, murders, job losses, affairs, divorces, home foreclosures, pregnancies, and robberies have always existed. However, when these things have occurred to us; then, we have experienced the effects of stress. When we have experienced a plethora of pernicious circumstances, we have felt out of control; consequently, we have sought to relieve our unwanted feelings through avenues of familiarity. Our perceptions of stress have caused our bodies, minds, and emotions to react to it (ex: headaches, backaches, insomnia, food addictions, drugs abuse, anger, blaming, gambling, and even the use of religion, etc.). If we haven’t addressed it appropriately; then, it has sent us into depression. People have always experienced stress and depression. And, we will continually experience the ravaging effects of it, even with our modern day knowledge and science. 

River: In your book you have a chapter titled Carpe Diem. In it you tell us that, “Every situation we encounter is an opportunity to learn what we have refused to see and confront in ourselves.” Can you elaborate on that statement here for us a little?

Steven: It is our nature to avoid discomfort, especially mental and emotional pain, using whatever methods available. As we have attempted to circumvent those issues that have caused us agony, not only have we been anchored into time, we have also not matured as we should. We have chronologically aged; however, our mental and emotional abilities to handle the vicissitudes of life have abated in us. Until we ascertain the ability to confront those things we desire not to confront, we will never grow to handle life’s circumstances. We can be forty-, fifty- or sixty-years-old yet, with the mental and emotional maturity of a five, ten or fifteen-year-old. When a young child is sexually violated, he/she is encapsulated into the dispensation of time the rape occurred; unless, he/she received adroit professional help.  If the individual never receives the tools or instruments to overcome the ravaging effects of rape, he/she can chronologically age, but still view life at the age the victimization occurred. We witness the effects of this with individuals who participate in prostitution, pornography, or others lascivious activities. These people may never be able to develop healthy relationships until they recognize and confront their avoidance issues; and then, have a willingness to work through them. 

All of us have issues we need to see within ourselves that are keeping us anchored to our past. Therefore, we are stunted in our growth and will not have the ability to become all that we can; or, develop into all that God has instilled within us. How many books will not be written, businesses not birthed, songs not written or sang, or people not taught, because we have not recognized the gifts He has bestowed within us. 

To rise above our resistance, requires us to have the willingness to confront our fears, do the research, formulate a plan of action, and learn to rely upon God. These ingredients will help us to succeed and grow in all of our endeavors. Please note, every day we should be growing, even more so, while we are experiencing insurmountable challenges. This can only occur, when we understand, to accomplish this feat, requires our total dependency upon God, who has the power of determining our lives within His hands. We build our strength by accomplishing what we thought we couldn’t. These are positives in our life that we can build upon. The more we overcome, the more confidence we should acquire to face our unknowns. This is maturation at its best.
River: Have you ever felt like you had a client that really had lost all hope and that the chance of them climbing up out of the pits of depression or the mess they were in might not be in their future?

Steven: Yes, often! When we are submerging into the depth of despair, we become more emotional and less aware of our options for resolution. Our raging emotions cancel our reasoning abilities. The more we are bombarded with things we perceive are painful and overwhelming, the deeper we fall into our abyss of emotions/darkness; which can vacuum us into depression. Once depression absorbs our essence, our mental acuity becomes more obscured. This mental blindness doesn’t allow us to see available options for resolution. Hope is gone. Suicidal and homicidal thoughts become prevalent. If still no help occurs, we will do something desperate. Taking our lives or another person’s life will seem rational. This is why it is important to seek professional help when we are being bombarded with stress.

River: All right, we have to discuss the fact that you are one of those ‘up’ people. By up we don’t mean happy all the time but that your outlook on life remains positive. What do you really attribute this to? Have you always been that way? And how do you recommend that others manage to do the same thing.

Steven: No! No! No! I have not always been a person who sees life as half full instead of half empty. Further, I am a person full of joy, or what you have indicated as a person full of laughter, no matter what has or is going on. Circumstances in my life have dictated I needed to see life differently. I have faced death, destitution, depression, and a host of challenges that cause me to seek the presence of God, because I had nowhere else to go. No matter how hard or loud I cried, no one, nobody, or nothing would or could help me—by God’s ordination. The people, places, and things, including my father, I thought would have been there to bail be out, all failed me. If it were not for God interceding and regulating my mind, I would have done what most of us would have d one in our desperation.  He is maturing me; a process, by which He is allowing me to see my weaknesses, which would impede my growth, if I were not willing to confront and work through them. And then, as He is developing and strengthening me, He allows me to minister to the people who need my adroit skills and spiritual insight.

I can be upbeat because I know, without doubt; my life is in His hands. Also, because I desire to please Him in everything I do, and I am therefore traveling the roads He has preordained for me. These travels will allow me to accomplish everything He has planned for me. As long as I am in Him, and He is in me, I can experience His peace, joy and contentment.

River: Some people seem to get bogged down in how their lives might have been better or different if they had only made those different choices in life whether those involve relationships, places to live, occupations and so forth. What is your opinion on that golden past? How do you help people resolve past issues and move forward into their future?

Steven: My life is as God designed. Even when I have decided to go contrary to His loving ways, He knew what I was going to do, and used it to orchestrate, for the good of everyone’s life that I would touch directly or indirectly.  In order for me to be who I am today, each intricate detail had to be fulfilled. I have no regrets, and I would not change anything, because I am please being who I am. I am the best me, I can be; further, I enjoy being me. Also, I am a firm believer, we do what we know, based upon the information we have available at that time.  Once I have more or different information, I can do differently. Why get bogged down with my decisions, after I made them. If they turn out wrong or right, I should have learned more about me. This acquired knowledge should help me make better of different decision in future my endeavors.  I have taught my patients/clients this information I have learned.

River: You also mention that the effects of stress are not so much about what is happening but how we ‘look’ at what is happening. How can changing our perspective change us and potentially our situations in the process?

Steven: If we are open to changing the way we think, then, without question, we will change our attitudes; thus, our behavior. Confronting our fears and uncertainties, helps us to view life differently. As we are maturing from learning from our life’s experiences, then when stressful things occur, we don’t have to become subjugated to them. If we learn to control our minds, with the help of God, then we will not allow circumstances dictate our mood, behavior or the outcome of our lives.

River: During a recent conversation we discussed how your book Stress, Climbing Out of the Pits with God, has had a deep, lasting impact on its readers. Please share with us how the books publication has had an impact on you and your life.

Steven: The books have afforded me opportunities to interact and minister to people I would not have had otherwise, if the books weren’t available. I personally believe; we grow when we interact with others, because each one of us is different. We don’t think the same or do things the same way. If we are open to exposing ourselves to others and their ideals, values, and beliefs; then, our lives can be greatly enriched, if we can see the values they have to offer. We should accept deposit into our lives from others, and we should be able to make positive deposits into the lives of others, by the way we live. My books have allowed me to grow in ways I could never fathom.

(You can find out more about Dr. Haymon, his books and his ministry at http://www.greaterinsight.net You can also listen for an upcoming, inspiring Clearstory Radio program this Spring featuring Dr. Haymon as the guest.

River JordanRiver Jordan is a critically acclaimed novelist of southern, mystical fiction and has been cast frequently in the company of Harper Lee, Flannery O'Conner and Stephen King. (Go figure.) Paste Magazine hailed her novel, Saints In Limbo, as a 'southern gothic masterpiece and The Miracle of Mercy Land, received a starred review from Publisher's Weekly. Jordan’s first non-fiction narrative, Praying for Strangers, An Adventure of the Human Spirit arrived in 2011 from Penguin/Berkley and has been moving hearts and changing lives everywhere. Jordan is a regular contributor to Psychology Today's Spirituality blog, speaks around the country on the “Power of Story,” and produces and hosts the radio program, Clearstory on 107.1 FM from Nashville, TN where she makes her home.

Praying for Strangers