CHANGES THAT HEAL— By Dr Henry Cloud
© 2003 Zondervan
Book Review by Shaun Allan, Dargaville Baptist Community Church
Dr Henry Cloud, a renowned clinical psychologist, and leadership consultant has put together his thoughts and understandings from many years of experience in the field of psychology, into the book “Changes that Heal”- the 4 shifts that make everything better….and that anyone can do.
In the Church/Christian community, there are many people who are suffering and hurting from a whole range of emotional problems; anxiety, loneliness, resentment and grief over broken relationships, and a feeling of inadequacy. In many cases these people have been struggling with these problems for many years. The debate in the church is how do we deal with these hurting people??
Some would say these emotionally dysfunctional people are heavily caught up in sin, and they don’t have enough faith, or they don’t pray or read the bible enough. Others would say God is simply ‘testing you’ or God is trying to teach you something.
Dr Cloud endeavors to evade the debate between psychology and theology and instead brings them together. He tries to show that there are biblical solutions for our struggles with depression, panic, anxiety, addictions and guilt, and that the answers lie in our understanding of certain basic human developmental tasks – tasks that may not have been completed when we were growing up and tasks that bring changes that heal.
Cloud does a very good job of explaining the actual root causes of many of these issues, to the point where those who suffer and those who have difficulty understanding and accepting them, can be hugely benefitted without having to discount or reject the truths of Christianity.
The reality we believe is that we were all created in the image of God, but due to Adam and Eve’s fall into sin, we have not developed into the likeness of God in important parts of our person, and we are not functioning as we were created to function……therefore, we are in pain. Dr Cloud has come up with four key areas that can help us develop as God-created people, and that will deal with the hurts and pains all of us live with day to day. He addresses the issues of:
- Bonding with Others
- Separation from Others
- Sorting out Issues of Good and Bad
- Take Charge as an Adult
Firstly he talks about the idea of bonding and the fact that God created us as humans to be in relation with others, and when this is not happening in a true and fulfilling way, we suffer emotionally. Bonding is the ability to make an emotional attachment to another person, and this is one of the most basic fundamental ideas in life.
When our ability to bond with others is lacking, our well-being suffers accordingly. Cloud talks about the benefits of bonding, or attachment to others, including being able to handle stress better, tolerating alone time, and having meaning for life’s accomplishments because you have people to share life’s milestones with.
He also looks at the symptoms of failing to bond, and the truth that people who cannot make emotional attachments, live in a state of constant hunger. They cry for a need that’s not being met--- and as a result become isolated.
Some of the symptoms of failing to bond include; depression, addiction, feelings of meaninglessness, distorted thinking and fears of intimacy. The barriers to being able to bond include; past injury to oneself, distorted thinking about yourself and devaluation.
Cloud says learning the ability to bond, is critical to one’s well-being, and some skills needed in order to bond would be recognizing the need, moving toward others, being a vulnerable person, take risks, and being empathetic.
The second area Dr Cloud discusses is separating from others, or the boundaries we have, or at least should have as individuals. The degree, to which we establish boundaries, has a significant effect on our emotional and mental well-being.
To maintain a good emotional state and be the fully developed person, God intends for us to be, we need to be careful of the words, attitudes, and actions of others directed towards us. We need to be mindful of not taking ownership for all negatives that come our way from others. Ultimately if we take responsibility for our own feelings, we can use those feelings to make our relationships better. “Our anger is often a signal that someone has sinned against us. If we feel that person who sinned against us is responsible for our anger, we are in trouble”.
Cloud suggests a big area for boundaries is thoughts, and that we need to be careful when we take ownership of the thoughts and words of others. We must own our own thinking, but at the same time not be responsible for the thoughts of others. If someone is thinking good or bad about us, we must just accept it.
Thirdly, Dr Cloud talks about sorting out good and bad, and that in life we tend to try and separate them, not realizing that we are all both good and bad. If we can grasp and fully understand the concept that we all have parts of us that are good, and parts of us that are bad, then we will begin to have a less distorted view of ourselves and of other people. We were all made in the image of God, yet we are all subject to our sinful nature that has been passed down from Adam and Eve.
Finally Cloud discusses the area of becoming an adult or ‘growing up’. He defines what is meant by the term adulthood, and talks about the responsibilities and power that come with the role of being an adult. He also discusses the implications on our lives when we ‘fail to grow up’, such as judgementalism, black and white thinking, superiority, hate for authority figures, depression, as well as a few others. He then finishes with some ideas on learning to become a mature adult.
Overall I found this book to be a very good read, and was very insightful, and I particularly enjoyed the personal stories that Dr Cloud uses to illustrate the ideas in the book. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to gain a better understanding of how we as humans work, in terms of our mind and emotions.