Theology

"How to Win Over Depression" review: 192-211

Thankfully, I think we only have this week and next week and then we’ll be done with this book. One of my biggest complaints today is that this book wasn’t edited– only proofread. There’s not a lot of development to this book, and Tim has a tendency to repeat himself. This chapter– “Ten Steps to Victory Over Depression”– barely contributes anything new to the book.

A few interesting things happen, though. In a previous post I’d mentioned that Tim’s language surrounding his “self-pity” concept echoes how evangelicals typically talk about “bitterness.” However, in this chapter, he just comes right out and says it:

By gaining the ability from Him to forgive her parents, she removed the root of bitterness that had immobilized her for years. (193)

He spends a lot of time talking about bitterness in this chapter– all of the examples he gives are people he thinks of as “bitter,” but, once again, he completely and totally ignores the realities that abuse victims have to face every day. Infuriatingly, he even dismisses one woman’s experience as being imaginary. This woman says that her mother “smothered and dominated” her “every decision,” but Tim overrides that opinion and says her mother was just a struggling single mom who got a little over-protective and she’s just imagining her problems because some guy who took a psychology class told her she had them (200).

I’m not even shitting you. This woman came to him, described an extremely controlling home environment, and Tim says she made it up. I cannot even imagine the re-victimization and trauma that he has put these people through. He has an extremely misogynistic opinion of women: this chapter included examples of five women who were 1) vain, 2) a bad mother, 3) liars, 4) gossips, and 5) nags. He even praised a HR executive for basing his hiring decisions on the submissiveness and gentility of the men’s wives (203)!

The book might have gone flying a few times today, especially when I got to this:

If the individual is aware of your resentment or bitterness, apologize personally if possible or by mail. Admittedly, this is a very difficult gesture, but it is essential for emotional stability. (199)

Oh. My. God. Oh my god.

If I were being counseled by Tim, he’d tell me that I must contact my rapist and apologize to him or I’ll never have emotional stability and “spiritual maturity” (198). This shit is fucking dangerous. I go out of my way to make sure that he can’t find me. I don’t have my location anywhere– not on Facebook, not on Twitter, not on LinkedIn. I don’t connect any of my accounts to my phone number, no matter how much Google and Facebook pester me about it. I ask people who take pictures of me not to tag the location on Facebook. I not only blocked him on every platform I have, I also blocked everyone he knows. I maintain this blocking religiously. I have cut off contact with friends because they were still mutuals with him.

And Tim would tell me I’d have to undo all of that. Sweet mother of Abraham Lincoln.

But, the biggest problem with this chapter is that he emphasizes, once again, that all anyone really has to do to overcome depression is give thanks. If we just inculcate a “spirit of thanksgiving” and maintain a “thankful heart,” then everything will be fine and our depression will go away.

Except that’s just plain not true.

When my rapist ended our engagement three months before the wedding, one of the things he told me (besides “I can’t trust that you’ll be a submissive wife”) is that I am a “persistently negative person.” Believing my rapist to be a better judge of my character than I was, I made it my New Year’s Resolution to find something every day to be thankful for, no matter how small or big. I did this publicly; every day I would post a status update that began with “happiness is” and then finished it with something like “snickerdoodle coffee!” or “buying another bookcase!” or “being accepted to grad school!”

That year was the worst depression I’ve ever had.

This past winter was a struggle because of depression, as well. But Handsome could tell you that at the end of every day when I would be laying in his arms while we watched Gilmore Girls, drinking tea, that I would look up at him and say something about how blessed my life is, about how grateful I am for my life with him, that there were so many moments in my life to be thankful for– even in the midst of gut-wrenching despair and grief. I have never ceased being thankful, mostly for the small things. Vanilla beans and carmelized onions and buttermilk pancakes. Munchkin games. Moonlit strolls in the woods. Soft pine needles. Ocean spray. Swimming pools. Pride parades.

I’m still depressed, though. It’s getting better now that summer is here, finally (thankssomuch seasonal affective disorder), but all through this winter I was thankful, and it didn’t matter. It didn’t change how my body and mind responded to the darkness.

I think if I was ever Tim’s patient and I tried to take him seriously, I probably would have died.

~~~~~~~~~

In much happier news– remember the poll I did before I started How to Win Over Depression and Francine Rivers’ Redeeming Love was neck-and-neck with Tim’s book? Well, a good friend, Dani Kelley, decided to take on her own review series. Redeeming Love was one of her favorite books as a teen and young woman, so I’m very much interested in her perspective on the book now that she’s come out of purity culture and fundamentalist Christianity. I didn’t read it until after I was already a feminist and critical of purity culture, so I think Dani’s take on things will be more valuable than mine.

My plan is to cross-post her review series every Monday starting July 6th, and I’ll be reading along with her and adding some of my own thoughts. Comments will be closed on those posts so that we can keep the engagement in one place on her blog (which is fantastic and y’all should be reading it if you’re not already).

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  • I was sitting at my desk a few minutes ago, thinking, “Oh, I wonder if Sam has published another post on LeHaye’s book.” Billy Tap-Dancing Graham, this guy needs to go swimming. In an alligator pond. With concrete floaties.

  • He is so full of his male privilege that he forgot all about common decency and compassion.

  • John W. Baker

    Truly a dangerous book with the potential to do great harm. He really takes victim-bashing to new heights.

    In every post-resurrection appearance and even when exalted to the right hand of the Father, the risen Christ is identifiable as the Crucified, still bears the wounds of his crucifixion. And though forgiven, we are nonetheless accountable for the cross, for thr hurt we have caused God, and that is part of what transforms us. We are not meant to simply give thanks and forget!

    Part of what enabled the nine amazing family members to forgive Dylann Roof in Charleston was that, standing before them in shackles, he was already being held accountable by the law for the pain he had caused them by murdering their loved ones.

    God help anyone who is Tim’s patient.

  • Ideas like this have kept me from seeking the help I needed when I was depressed. Or stopping medication because I shouldn’t need “help” to be happy. I have finally, through this blog seen I can’t do it on my own anymore and I need to disregard this thought. It is damaging. I have also held on to a relationship with two family members that is toxic, because of these “ideals” I was raised on. No more. I have to take care of me. Thank you for this. Your blog has taught me many things and I appreciate it more then you can know.

  • Rebekah

    I shudder to think what he would say to people like me who have depression for no ‘real reason’. No traumatic past, no ptsd, no abuse, etc. Nothing to really be bitter about or towards, just seems to run in the family. So, what is bitterness in my DNA or something? How would he suggest I solve that I wonder? Something tells me I don’t want to know.

    • Depression is very real, is in the body the same way blood is…. it courses through us. But just because you cannot pin down a ’cause’. do not discount causes. After I read Janov’s Life Before Birth, I recognized that much of what I felt had very real beginnings. I was not looking for someone to blame; just wanted to understand how I could feel as I did… In effect, depression comes out of our histories, as far back as womb experience.
      Recent brain studies have confirmed that brain changes occur with regard to powerful experiences even as far back as womb experience.
      Your experience is very valid and important even if you cannot yet tract its origin. I think you are very brave and astute to honor what you feel.

  • I think the common Christian understanding of “forgiveness” is part of what goes wrong here, and there is a denial of the reality of “evil,” or at least persistent bad intent, as well.

    It is not clear to me what “forgiveness” is, but I’m pretty sure it is just saying to the person who abuses you, “Oh, that was OK then.” I do not see how it can require a victim expose themselves to further victimization. At least, it seems to me there has to be some sort of reparations, some sort of acknowledgement of abuse and settlement of debts. Without that, there seems no resolution—forgiveness—possible. In the spiritual context, I do not know what resolution is possible when irreversible harm is done. I suppose that is one of the mysteries of god.

    It is hard for me to believe that a minister is not aware that many “evil” people persist in “evil” conduct, despite all sense and deterrence, and that people need to be cautious of anyone with a history of malice and cruelty.

    • ako

      The word “forgiveness” tends to get used in a lot of different ways.

      Some people use it to mean not actively holding onto hatred.

      Some people use it to mean making the choice and the effort to let go of anger and resentment.

      Some people use it to mean letting go of the idea that they owe you anything for how they’ve wronged you.

      Some people use it to mean reconciliation and repairing the relationship.

      Which is why I think it’s a really bad idea for anyone to advise someone on the healthiness of forgiving unless they understand that particular individual’s situation and are prepared to clarify what they mean by forgiveness. Because casually throwing out “Everyone must forgive or you’ll be destroyed by festering bitterness!” without any specifics will be heard as telling people they aren’t allowed to feel anger, seek justice, set boundaries for their own safety, or walk away from someone who’s abusing them.

  • juulie

    Regarding forgiveness when the “evil” person is not repentant, and would even do it again. A pastor told me one time that in that situation one must hold oneself ready to forgive, if the time ever comes. He also said that it is loving toward that person to protect oneself from further harm, to prevent that person from being able to hurt you again. These two ideas have helped me a great deal in getting past some of the things that hurt , although even then, it also required a lot of time.

  • Funny, what helped my “emotional stability” was saying to my rapist “You’re dead to me” before hanging up on him. And then emailing his friends to warn them. And then having a few people come forward and tell me they thought there was something creepy about him all along, but they couldn’t put their finger on it. I wasn’t the only person manipulated by him, and if I effing apologized by email, other people might still be thinking they “made it up” too.

    • Exactly – my experience was similar in that I had to be free from my ex’s influence before I had the space to heal. I was fortunate that the Army took him 3k miles away.

      From that safe space I could work on my emotional health, including resentment and learning (re-learning?) how to be positive, but only if I knew I was safe from being hurt by him again.

      Before he got stationed somewhere else, my walls and defenses HAD to be up and there was no way I could have worked on myself. Tim clearly knows nothing about how to heal from trauma.

  • Crystal

    “But Handsome could tell you that at the end of every day when I would be laying in his arms while we watched Gilmore Girls, drinking tea, that I would look up at him and say something about how blessed my life is, about how grateful I am for my life with him, that there were so many moments in my life to be thankful for– even in the midst of gut-wrenching despair and grief.” Crowning moments of awesome and heartwarming! It would be so lovely if I ever found a hubby as kind as yours 🙂

    “I have never ceased being thankful, mostly for the small things. … Moonlit strolls in the woods. Soft pine needles. Ocean spray. …” That is the way, eh! I apologise for picking those three particularly, but part of the reasons was the following: earth has a way of healing us, and those are all natural 🙂 and I especially loved those 🙂

    My heart goes out to all those in horrible pain activising for freedom or just being hunted down and killed like animals. I know I am so lucky to be alive 🙂

    You have the right attitude Samantha. You are doing just fine without that blasted book influencing your life. I think you are positive, not negative.

    I believe what you are going through now is the fire. You will feel healing streams purifying and inspiring you later, but for now, walk through the fire bravely and you will not be burned!

  • oh, gods, I meant, “I’m pretty sure it is not just saying to the person who abuses you…”

    Sorry, folks.

  • I constantly get told by my family. “It wasn’t that bad.” “You hold a lot of bitterness against your mother.” And it wasn’t that bad for my brother. But my mother was a narcissist and he was a golden child. Leaving me to be the scapegoat. And let’s not forget the gaslighting and the minimization of my pain and hurt by my actual mother. I can’t tell you the times I’ve been told that I have an overactive imagination when I was upset about something. Tim can go take a bath in battery acid for that one.

    • Alena Belleque

      I now exactly what you mean. My mother is the same, and out of five kids, only two have contact (though I know recently two of the others got sucked back in at least temporarily when our grandma died). There used to be two golden children, but one wised up amazingly, watching her interact with me when I began standing my ground, and she got tossed out on her rear the second she began to object. The other golden child wised up, again, amazingly, this winter, but is playing her game for now until they can get out of the house. The only one actively defending her is one of my fellow scapegoats, oddly. I had custody of her when she was 15 because of how bad the neglect had become, and how miserable she was. She insisted on going back after 8 months because she felt guilty for liking life away from our mother, and couldn’t handle it. A few months ago she apologized to me for siding against me, but then did it again when her circumstances made her move home again. I get it, but it sucks, and kind of worries me. My struggle now is trying to figure out how to reconcile in my head and emotions a mother who is a covert narcissist, makes me absolutely miserable, but sometimes does things that are actually kind and even loving. I don’t know how that works.

  • “I don’t connect any of my accounts to my phone number, no matter how much Google and Facebook pester me about it.”

    Ha! That bugs you, too? I freakin’ hate that.

    For serious, this guy really fails to understand what types of issues these people have and how they are best addressed. You may remember a bit about my self-directed therapy, but years later I did some reading on actual, professional-directed therapy, and the lights went on for me about WHY things worked the way they did and how I was able to heal.

    Knowing what I know now about how trauma actually damages your brain and what it takes to fix it, it’s horrifying to me that there are actually people out there who don’t know what to do and are stuck with “treatment” like this.

  • I hate to do it… but damn if he doesn’t deserve the line.

    “You know nothing, Tim LaHaye…”

  • Alena Belleque

    This man is insane, and dangerous. Is it terrible that I’m actually a little grateful my grandma passed away (2 months, now)? She blindly followed guys like this, and I feel a need to at least have the freedom to speak out, but would have hated to make her sad or confused (dementia, meant well, very loving, very deceived and easily led). I’m sad she’s gone, but her passing made me realize how much I’ve censored myself for her sake.