by ProfDave, ©2021
(May 11, 2021) — “Hang-ups are negative mental attitudes that are used to cope with people or adversity.” For example, anger, control, depression, fear, un-forgiveness, or my personal favorite: escape. In this broken world, when challenges come our way, we easily fall into counterproductive defense mechanisms, patterns of behavior and feeling that make things worse, long term, instead of better.
Blowing up at the traffic doesn’t make it go away. You are a wreck by the time you get to work – if you don’t have a wreck. The compulsive demand for control of the situations and people around you drives you – and others – nuts. Depression and fear are vicious cycles that lead to paralysis, isolation and physical illness. Resentment is a chain that binds you to the one who has offended you. No matter how deserving they are of your hatred, un-forgiveness only hurts you. You become your own victim. Envy and jealousy work the same way. Escapism eventually cripples, keeping us from solving problems. You can pretend the elephant isn’t there until it steps on you. I could go on and on.
Some, if not most hang-ups begin involuntarily. Some have physiological causes. My wife had clinical depression caused by a chemical imbalance, controlled by medication for more than 30 years. But denial led to a lot of suffering until she was finally diagnosed. Panic disorders are an epidemic out there. Fear and anger are appropriate when used correctly in their proper place, but not as a solution for problems. Likewise, imagination is the source of great art, enjoyment and problem solving, but not a place to hide from the real world. Insanity is when we repeat the same strategy over and over, expecting different results.
Real hang-ups don’t go away at the wave of a magic wand. You have to face them and find help – beyond yourself. We begin by stepping out of denial. This means recognizing our hang-up for what it is: something that stands between us and sanity, if not between us and God. We recognize that we are powerless to change. “I can quit tomorrow” is just another form of denial. We need the support of intimate, confidential friends. We need the help of a higher power that is real, not imaginary: God. I recommend Celebrate Recovery®. We may need professional help or medication, too, but they are no substitutes for friends and The Divine Friend.
David W. Heughins (“ProfDave”) is Adjunct Professor of History at Nazarene Bible College. He holds a BA from Eastern Nazarene College and a PhD in history from the University of Minnesota. He is the author of Holiness in 12 Steps (2020). He is a Vietnam veteran and is retired, living with his daughter and three grandchildren in Connecticut.