At GateWay of Hope, we have found journaling to be a wonderful process that leads us toward hope, healing and wholeness.
But sometimes, we need a new way to think about journaling and process our thoughts.
In his book, “The Listening Life,” Adam S. McHugh suggests the AHEN method.
AHEN is a simple yet wonderful acrostic for helping us find clarity about situations we find ourselves stuck in. As we process through the acrostic, it might also bring up other possibilities for clarity and growth we haven’t yet considered.
So how does this work?
A = ANGER:
We may hate to admit it, but most of us have some type of anger. We may have hidden it well through the years, or we may have masked it by calling it something else such as frustration, irritability or being ticked off at someone.
The tricky thing about anger is that if it isn’t acknowledged and worked through, it can bury itself so deep that it causes depression. Because depression has so many nasty side effects, it’s best to call anger what it is and deal with it.
So make a list in your journal of everything you’re angry about – then consider who you’re angry at. That might include yourself, a parent, a child, a church member – even God.
Once you start on your anger list, you may be surprised at the emotions that surface, but keep working on it. Acknowledge that anger and then move on to the next step of the acrostic.
H = HURT
When someone hurts us, we often develop anger toward that person or that situation. None of us likes to experience hurt, whether it’s emotional, mental, physical or spiritual.
But life is often filled with hurts and again – when we discover them and acknowledge the hurt – then we begin to deal with the effects of that hurt.
For example: are you isolating yourself from a certain person? Maybe that person hurt you and you don’t want to expose yourself to more hurt. That is self-protection, a valuable tool for setting healthy boundaries.
But is that isolation caused by the hurt someone did to you? And are you angry about it?
Journal through the hurts you may be feeling and consider how they might be connected to any anger you are experiencing.
Why does it hurt so much when people say things to us or do things to us? Because of the next piece in the acrostic….
E = EXPECTATIONS
We are hurt because we have certain expectations about people, about life, even about God. When those expectations are not met, we are hurt and that results in anger.
For example: when a woman dresses in her bridal gown and marches down the aisle toward her lover, she expects him to keep the vows – to love and cherish her until death parts them.
But if he breaks that commitment, that covenant, then her expectations have been shattered. She is deeply hurt and incredibly angry. She may carry that anger for several years, into divorce court and beyond – even to the point where she loses the ability to trust.
All because her expectations were not met.
What are some of the expectations that have failed in your life? How deeply did they hurt you? Did they result in any anger? Journal through these possibilities.
Why are expectations so important? Because they are based on the next phase of the acrostic.
N – NEED
We all have deep-felt needs, sometimes so deep we are not aware of them. Our needs then feed into our expectations.
In the above example, the expectations were not met for a lifetime of love and commitment. Why did that hurt so deeply?
Because women have a deep need to be loved. They crave strong arms around them, the security of a home and the presence of the man they fell in love with – all those years ago.
They need the intimacy of someone talking and listening to them at the breakfast table, a warm body to cuddle next to at night and the wisdom of a man who knows how to fix the flat tire and the leaking kitchen sink.
They long to be cared for, to be honored and cherished, to be the only person that man loves for a life-time.
When that need is not met, when that commitment is broken, then the hurt spawns other problems.
They may look for comfort in substances, even food. They may try to find intimacy in another relationship that ends in another tragedy or a lifetime of toxic communication.
Even worse – they may cover up the need so deeply that they become bitter and refuse to ever love again.
The expectations were not fulfilled, therefore the needs surface and become a stumbling block for the abundant life.
Do you recognize some needs that have not been met because expectations were shattered?
FINDING THE HEALING PLACE
Now that we’ve journaled and worked through this acrostic, let’s find how to work toward healing by starting backwards.
Our NEEDS are great and sometimes we are needier than we want to admit. But when we base the meeting of those needs on another human being, we will inevitably be disappointed.
Our deepest needs were made to be met by the God who created us. In fact, he promises, “I will meet all your needs according to my riches of glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).
So the healing place begins by taking those needs right back to God. No matter what your needs are, God is able to meet them.
Do you need some encouragement? Ask God for it and then watch for the amazing ways he chooses to meet that need.
Do you need some help with finances? Ask God to give you the name of someone who can help you.
Do you need something more concrete? Clothes, shelter, food? God knows all the resources available at all times. Tell him what you need, then be ready to receive his blessings.
When we place EXPECTATIONS on another human being, we may be disappointed. Sometimes we need to speak about what we expect so that person knows how to plan for that need.
Do you expect your children to go to college? Then begin a college fund, make sure they do their homework and talk about the value of education. Still, they may make other choices, so you may have to change some of your expectations.
Be realistic. Most of us experience some shattered dreams in life, but that doesn’t mean we have to live in despair. It just means we need to set new goals.
If you need help with expectations, consider the Coaching services at GateWay of Hope. We can help you set realistic expectations and then work toward meeting them.
All of us are going to be HURT sometime in life, because life is hard and some people tend to be cruel. That doesn’t mean we have to wallow in the hurt or surround ourselves with self-pity.
It just means we can expect hurts. But it’s what we do with the hurt that matters.
Again, God has a solution. “Cast all your cares on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).
We can bring those hurts to God and ask him to help us forgive so they don’t dig deeply into our souls and keep us from living in peace.
Some hurts ARE going to burrow deep, just because of how intense they are. If that is your experience because of abuse, then contact one of our Counselors at GateWay of Hope. They are skilled in dealing with many types of abuse.
So we’ve worked backward and now we’re at ANGER once again. But you may find that because you’ve journaled through this AHEN acrostic, some of the anger doesn’t seem so intense.
Now it’s time to let the anger go. Think of it as a visual – a box of yuck you’ve been carrying around. It’s become a burden and you don’t want it anymore.
Let it go. Bury it at the foot of the cross. Turn it over to Jesus and let him heal you in those deepest places of hurt.
Get rid of the anger so you can begin living in joy and peace. Then you’ll experience the abundant life and become the woman God has created you to be.
©2016 GateWay of Hope – Hope, Healing and Wholeness for Women