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The Chaplain and Pastoral Counseling Ministry supports chaplains and pastoral counselors working within the Antiochian Archdiocese. Under the coordination of Fr. George Morelli, the department organizes retreats, workshops, and courses, as well as posting pertinent articles and web links on this page. Personal consultation by phone and e-mail is available for those seeking more specific, situational guidance as they practice in the fields of mental health and pastoral care.

Because ministry takes place in a complex, pluralistic world, this department provides clear archdiocesan guidelines to help Orthodox chaplains and pastoral counselors adhere to Orthodox teaching, spirituality, and healing traditions, while also knowing when and how to incorporate scientifically sound clinical interventions.

 

Chaplain's Corner + Undue Concern over Others' Problems

by Fr. George Morelli

There is a deep chasm between genuine and sincere concern for the problems that beset others versus undue personal disturbance. One of the major disaffirmative consequences of an undue concern for others problems is that we are not able focus on fostering our own healthy physical, psychological or spiritual functioning and wellbeing. This is often accompanied by our own emotional distress. Furthermore, this then leads to being ineffective in giving others the help they may deservedly need and that we might want to give to them. Irish author, poet and playwright, Oscar Wilde (1854-1900), put it this way: "Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others to live as one wishes to live."1

Sometimes there are situations in which others' problems do affect us. We may personalize the idea that others are not acting the way we want, taking it as a personal insult or slight. However, as cognitive clinical psychologist, Albert Ellis (1962)2 points out, it is our own "injustice-collecting ideas," or what I would label as our demanding expectations that we be 'justly treated,' that inflates our own feelings of annoyance. For example, if someone acts ill-manneredly towards us, it is our own 'self talk' about it that triggers our untoward feelings: "What rudeness he/she has! How dare he/she do that to me." We insist that others follow our own set of rules. We fail to perceive the reality that people are going to act the way they want, not the way we want them too. A psychological alternative is to stop focusing on our own irrational reaction to what others are doing or not doing so that we are able to focus on calmly and caringly help others in overcoming their impediments and challenges.

Chaplain's Corner + Fixation on Past History

by Fr. George Morelli

Sometimes we carry around the idea that what we have done in the past is a determiner of what we will do now and in the future. We become, so to speak, captives, prisoners or slaves of our past. A variation of this attitude is that if we have felt strongly about something that has occurred to us in the past, then we are bound to feel the same in the future. Cognitive clinical psychologist Albert Ellis (1962)1 considers such attitudes 'irrational beliefs.' Such attitudes can be subset under a superordinate automatic thought of generalization. (Burns, 19802, Morelli, 20063). That is to say, the thought that events and the way I respond to them will always be the same way and never change. Such attitudes propel a cascade of thought-behavioral scenarios that lead to inaction. For example, a person may focus on failing or performing poorly at a past endeavor, think that they will fail on a new task, and never even try to begin the new task. A functional approach to the difficulty would be to attempt to find a new, that is to say, alternate solution toward accomplishing the task or solving the problem. Many times individuals will simply repeat ineffectual ways of approaching the problem that have proved inadequate in the past and have led to failure. Previous failure becomes a vicious excuse to avoid real, effective problem solving.

Chaplain's Corner + Healthy Dependence

by Fr. George Morelli

An irrational belief: that is what cognitive clinical psychologists consider an attitude of desperate need to depend on others (Ellis, 1962). However, they distinguish between unhealthy dependence and psychologically and spiritually healthy dependence. The characteristic signs of unhealthy dependence are the high intensity of the emotional need, a sense of self worthlessness, and a lack of confidence and ensuing helplessness and hopelessness when not dependent on others. To discern between them in and for oneself, a good beginning would be a realistic assessment of one's strengths (talents) and weaknesses. It is important to know one's God-given strengths in the various domains of life, academic, cognitive, creative, social skill and sport. Then one can build on those gifts of strength, often by enhancing them with the aid of others who can guide because of their more advanced skills. If our weaknesses can be compensated for, then others may help us in this regard as well. Another way of looking at this is to say that we attain independence by recognizing our strengths and weaknesses while remaining open to guidance from others to attain even greater competence. Thus, we develop a healthy dependence. Many of those engaged in the most demanding professions, who demonstrate what we consider great personal acts of bravery and skill, may initially appear 'independent.' However, such individuals would be first to acknowledge their reliance on others around them. Frequently heard among those in the military and among emergency first-responders are: "I got your back," and "it was a team effort."

Dept. of Chaplain and Pastoral Counseling News Archive