Bible Gateway interviewed Dr. Laurel Shaler (@DrLaurelShaler) about her book, Reclaiming Sanity: Hope and Healing for Trauma, Stress, and Overwhelming Life Events (David C. Cook, 2017).
What message does the title convey and for whom are you writing this book?
Dr. Laurel Shaler: “Am I going crazy?!?” I believe many women have asked themselves that question at some time or another. This nagging question is what sparked the title Reclaiming Sanity. I wanted women to know that even though they may feel like they’re losing it, they’re not—and they don’t have to. Instead, they can hang on to the hope and healing that can come from Jesus Christ. Through him, they can reclaim sanity despite the trauma, stress, or overwhelming life event they’ve faced or are currently facing.
You say people can experience “good stress” and “bad stress.” Please explain.
Dr. Laurel Shaler: Most of us are familiar with distress: those negative thoughts and feelings triggered by the bad things going on in our lives. But not everyone is familiar with eustress. This is when you experience something good or positive in your life that may be difficult to cope with emotionally. Some common examples would be getting married, buying a house, or having a baby. We can use the positive stress to energize and motivate us. At the same time, our bodies can’t always tell the difference.
In other words, sometimes stress is stress. So, when something “good” happens to you and you wonder why you feel tense or can’t eat, this may be the reason why. You can use many of the same techniques to counter the effects of bad versus good stress.
How do people’s past affect their present?
Dr. Laurel Shaler: Our past experiences can have real and serious consequences on our present living. For example, maybe in your husband’s family, apologies were never offered. It frustrates you that he never says he’s sorry, and expects you to just get over things. As a result, the two of you spend time arguing over this. His past experiences impact his present.
Many times, a single event can have life-long devastating consequences. For example, a woman who was sexually abused as a child may struggle with physical intimacy with her husband.
In order to reclaim our sanity, we have to explore the past experiences that are impacting our present, including the defense mechanisms and coping skills we learned in childhood.
What is godly anger versus ungodly anger?
Dr. Laurel Shaler: When we look at anger, it’s important to look at it through the eyes and hearts of the Father. Are we getting angry over things that break his heart too (such as child abuse and broken marriages) or we are allowing our emotions to get the better of us (such as getting angry when the driver in front of us isn’t going fast enough for our liking.)
Anger isn’t bad or wrong. In John 2, Jesus got angry with the moneychangers. His love for his Father and his Father’s house led to his righteous anger.
But even when our anger is righteous, are our actions? Are we behaving in a way that honors God? If not, it’s not godly. The Bible has a lot to say about anger, and the problems with untamed anger. Exodus 34:6 tells us that God is slow to anger, and James 1:19 tells us to do the same.
What role should the Bible play in a person’s desire to “reclaim sanity”?
Dr. Laurel Shaler: I love the words of 2 Corinthians 10:5, “…we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” The Bible is filled with the wisdom we need to focus our hearts, minds, and lives on Jesus. We cannot do anything without him. But with him and with the resources he’s provided to us, we can reclaim sanity.
What is a favorite Bible passage of yours and why?
Dr. Laurel Shaler: My favorite Bible verse is John 21:25, which reads, “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” This verse speaks to the power of Jesus Christ, and it’s a reminder of what he can do with me and through me if I allow him to.
What are your thoughts about Bible Gateway and the Bible Gateway App?
Dr. Laurel Shaler: I constantly use Bible Gateway to look up Scripture. One of my favorite uses is being able to see the same verse in many different translations. It helps bring clarity and deepens my understanding of God’s word!
Is there anything else you’d like to say?
Dr. Laurel Shaler: If you can’t sleep, if you worry all the time, or if you find yourself frequently frustrated; if you struggle to cope with a tough experience from the past; if you want to solve problems more effectively or improve your relationships—Reclaiming Sanity is for you. This book combines clinical applications with biblical insights. But, if you find that you need more help than this book can offer, please consider reaching out to a licensed mental health professional for further assistance.
Bio: Laurel Shaler, PhD, is a professor at Liberty University and a speaker on faith and emotional well-being. A national certified counselor and social worker, Dr. Shaler is a former psychotherapist for the Department of Veterans Affairs, where she specialized in treating trauma. She and her family live in Greenville, South Carolina.
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