Counseling Feature This Month.1.14.19

A Big Hug Just For You

Color image of a little girl giving herself a big Valentine hug with hearts in the background on yellow.


By Rev. Dr. Ronald Lehenbauer, LMFT, LCC Pastoral Counselor

We all know that good relationships are a very important part of life.  Close friendships and relationships, including our marriage relationship, make for much of the joy we experience in our lives.  A relationship that becomes conflicted, strained and disconnected can be the source of much unhappiness and misery.  Perhaps you’ve heard the well-known quotation of Nelson Mandela: “Holding onto resentment is like drinking poison and hoping it will kill your enemy.”

How good is your relationship with yourself?  How well do you know yourself?  This is also an important question to be asking ourselves.  And our answer has a lot to do with the quality of our relationships with others.    

There are a lot of invisible-but-real things in God’s creation.  Some that come to mind are joy, love, sadness, anger, electricity, energy, air, breath, thoughts, feelings.  These are all invisible – but they are real – they exist.  Can you think of any other invisible realities?

Your “self” is also real – it exists – even though you can’t see it.  Your “self”, your spirit, your core essence – the real you.  Who is the real you?  What is your relationship like with your “self”?  Do you like yourself?  Do you love yourself?  Are you caring for yourself?  Our inner self is very real and we all can know that inner world.  How well do you know yours – your inner self?  The quality of our life is only as good as the relationship we have with our self.  Do your thoughts and emotions control you?  Or are you in control of your thoughts and emotions?

It is estimated that the average human has approximately 60,000 thoughts a day, many of which come from our sub-conscious mind.  If these thoughts are filled with worry, fear, self-doubt, resentment, and negative thinking, and we allow those thoughts to dominate our mind much of the time, our relationship with our self will not be a happy one.

On the other hand, if we change our way of thinking – change our thoughts – get control of our thoughts – we can also have control of our feelings and emotions – and our actions and behaviors.  We can have a much better relationship with our self – and therefore better relationships with others.  The good news is that this is possible for all human beings.  It’s the way God created our brains.  Our brain chemistry can be changed.  Our inner life can be changed.  And relationships can be healed.

I’m finding that a powerful way of doing this is “mindfulness” meditation.  (There are a number of different mindfulness meditations one can easily learn and do.)  Someone’s called it ‘brain hygiene’. Practicing mindfulness regularly (a few minutes a day) can strengthen a person’s ability to focus.  Concentration is the ability to focus your mind and shape your own thoughts – a first step in controlling your thoughts and emotions.  You can be your own best friend.

Attunement with your inner world – mindfulness, knowing your self intimately – and having attunement with other people in your life – good relationship attachments – are basic human needs and essential ingredients for a happy, healthy, resilient life.  God bless your efforts and work at improving yourself and improving your relationships.

It can be helpful to talk with a counselor to explore and improve relationships with our self and with others. Call us at the Lutheran Counseling Center (1-800-317-1173) if you’d like to try sessions individually, as a couple or family. Visit our website at for information.


Ronald Lehenbauer, DMin, MDiv, LMFT, has served as pastor of congregations in Jenison, Michigan; Chicago, Illinois; and Flushing, New York, and as Circuit Counselor in both the English and Atlantic Districts, LCMS. He received his Doctorate of Ministry degree from NY Theological Seminary and holds Master of Divinity and Master of Sacred Theology degrees from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Mo. Dr. Lehenbauer completed certification in pastoral counseling at the Post-graduate Center for Mental Health in New York, NY and also is certified as an Imago Relationship Therapist. A member of the American Association of Pastoral Counselors and The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, Dr. Lehenbauer is a NY state licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, providing counseling for adults and couples