The Mind Manual – How a Life Skills Program is Changing Lives

There is a song titled, “Wounds in the Way” that is particularly haunting, describing the damage and hurt many women and men hold on to from their childhood. An especially poignant line goes: “As time passes by, they begin to multiply…. adding up secretly, like the rings of an old oak tree…”

So many of us have gone through devastating hurt and struggle at some point in our lives, even from our formative years. And yet, instead of dealing with those crises and the problems that result from them, we often sweep them under the mat, ignore them, even try to obliterate the memory of them, pretending they don’t exist. But the wounds remain. They scar our minds and souls and fester beneath the surface, deforming our lives and handicapping our relationships. Why is that?

The answer is simple yet profound. We learn to walk, to talk, to read, to drive. We learn how to do our jobs, play sports and do our hobbies. What most of us don’t learn is how to understand the inner workings of our brains and how to use that knowledge to take control of our behavior and, hence, our lives.

Let’s face it: even IKEA furniture comes with assembly instructions, as infuriating and oversimplified as those may be! We do ourselves a disservice if we don’t study the amazing instrument the Master has given us.

 

Renewing the mind

Many of us feel, perhaps unconsciously, that since we’ve given our lives and hearts to God, the majority of the work is over. Certainly, nothing can replace the power of the healing that happens in us when we accept Christ and live in Him. However, even Paul said, “… be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2).

So, is it God’s will that we have mastery over our brains, our minds? Resoundingly, yes. Many of us don’t even know why we do the things we do, have habits that are entrenched or use responses that are automatic. If we can come to understand why we are how we are, we can begin to understand who we are and what we can be.

 

Family life skills coaching

Enter Family Life Skills Coaching, a program that helps individuals break free from self-limiting behaviors and gain mastery over their lives and interpersonal relationships. Dr. Paul Hegstrom, an internationally recognized authority in attitude and behavioral changes, developed the program with special focus on abuse and anger issues. Dr. Hegstrom himself comes from a history of domestic abuse and rage, which led to him almost losing everything. He finally got help and turned his life around, subsequently spending over 18,000 hours in research into domestic violence and related issues. There is even a TV movie about his life, starring the late John Ritter, called “Unforgivable” (available on YouTube).

The essence of the Life Skills program is to give its students the tools to rebuild their lives and to understand their self-worth, thereby empowering them to achieve balanced, healthy relationships. The program is based on psychological principles, focusing on a deep understanding of how the brain works. It is built largely around Erik Erikson’s work on Psychosocial Stages of Development – the premise being that if you are stuck in any early developmental stage because of trauma, you are unable to move forward and achieve self-actualization until the issues are resolved.

Topics tackled throughout the 90-hour program include:

  • Identifying the 21 types of controlling behavior
  • Managing your anger
  • Breaking the bonds of shame
  • Understanding the effects of trauma on the brain
  • Accepting responsibility
  • Learning how to forgive

The teaching style is dynamic, with group discussions, videos of Dr. Hegstrom’s lectures and the sharing of personal experiences and struggles. Given the severity of issues that students are typically facing, it takes some time to open up and share with others, but when it does happen, the transformation is phenomenal. Students graduate from the program knowing who they are and what they and God want. In fact, quite a few students eventually teach the program themselves.

 

The benefits

One such former student and current facilitator, Michael Farneti – husband of co-owner Jacqui, found the information on anger management and taking time-outs particularly helpful. Another former student, Fazio, details the transition from the start to the end of the course: He went from frightened to relaxed then issues emerged and he was ultimately changed

A powerful part of the course is being able to share with others who have gone through similar situations and realizing everyone is in it together. One facilitator who took the class twice, Stephanie reiterated that it was a safe experience that really allowed room for healing. She felt that she could “let herself be known” without being judged by anyone.

Juan, a pastor and fellow facilitator, didn’t even believe in self-help before he took the course. But, “if you see it through, no matter how healthy or messed up you think you are, it helps!”

Classes are offered through at the Life Skills Coaching and Learning Center in South Florida. Anyone can take the course, which is held once a week in the evening for 30 consecutive weeks. The classes are currently being held in Davie with a new session starting in January. An Open House is being held on January 7. For more information, call 954-916-4818.

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