Can TPM Result in a Bad Expereince?
This question was submitted to Dr. Ed Smith. His response is published here.
Question: "I received ministry from a person who said he was doing Theophostic Prayer Ministry but the outcome seems bad. The memories that surfaced have caused me much emotional discomfort and have alienated me from people with whom I once had a relationship. How is this possible if TPM is supposed to be a good thing and lead people to finding freedom and not more pain?"
Ed Smith's response to her letter.
Even though we have received thousands of positive reports from around the world by those who are benefiting from this ministry, occasionally we hear of some who's experience has not gone well. Our goal is to provide effective training so that those seeking help for their emotional pain will find God's peace in their lives when they receive ministry. The unfortunate truth is that what you have described is not only possible, but is a reality found in the context of every mental and medical health modality that exists; a person expects one thing but experiences something else. It is always regrettable when this occurs, because most people in the helping profession seek to help and not hurt people seeking care. It is also true that ministries, counseling practices and medical practices are usually judged and criticized by the standard set by the person doing it the practice the worse. This never excuses poorly executed service, but is the context in which I frame my response.
Please know that I am sorry that you had a bad expereince and do desire to know exactly what happened so that we might remedy the situation if possible.
To clarify, you stated that due to the surfacing of a memory you now feel bad and your relationship with another has been troubled as an outcome. I did not hear you say that the TPM facilitator created your memory, pain or conflict but rather as an outcome of the session you remembered something, now feel bad and suffer a relational rift. As far as memory goes, when a person goes to a cognitive therapist, psychotherapist, behavioral therapist or "you-name-it" therapist and discusses his or her emotional status, the focus often ends up in a painful childhood event. This is common and is a predictable experience in many counseling modalities. This occurs because much of the pain we carry as adults has been lugged around since childhood. Very little of the pain we carry is new (though often stirred and exposed by new events.) Remember the song "Cats and the Cradle?" The reason it was so popular was that it was so true and struck a painful cord in most of us at that time. It is a widely accepted fact that much of the emotional duress that many people carry from day to day has early roots. Even though there are a few people out there today seeking to dispute this premise, I believe the overwhelming majority accepts the obvious. I see this reality every time I am speaking before a group of people in any church, convention or training in any setting. As soon as I start talking about childhood woundedness the atmosphere in the room changes, out comes the facial tissue and the pain becomes obvious. People everywhere carry emotional pain that is rooted in historical painful places. All that really needs to happen to cause people to connect with the pain in their past is for something to happen in the present that is similar. How many times have we heard people describe the pain in their marriage and relate it to how one of their parents treated them. "You are just like my father/mother!" is a common statement. If a person comes for counseling or ministry with emotional pain all the counselor or minister has to ask is, "Have you ever felt this way before in your life?" and most people can quickly identify the earlier childhood expereince that was similar.
My point is simply this, Theophostic Prayer Ministry is not unlike any other form of ministry or counseling in that it is instrumental in people connecting with the emotional pain in their lives that is usually connected to unresolved childhood experience. When the source of our pain is surfaced and acknowledged, the initial outcome is usually emotional pain. However, there are several very important factors to examine in relation to the question you have asked. 1) You said that that the session resulted in a bad out come, 2) the memories that surfaced have caused you emotional discomfort, 3) and the content of the memories have alienated you in a particular relationship. Lets look at some possibilities that might help bring understanding to your situation.
1. The session resulted in a bad outcome.
This statement raises several questions in my mind. 1) Why did the session end without resolution? 2) What hindered you coming to a place of peace in the memory? 3) Was the content of this memory supplied by your own thinking alone? I believe that if the final outcome of your ministry session is lasting emotional pain then you did not get to the place that you should have arrived. You may have gone down the right path but it seems that you did not go far enough or something else was amiss. This is not to say that every session must end in complete resolution of all pain surfaced, but the ultimate goal is mind renewal and the peace of Christ at some juncture. The goal of a TPM session is that a person identify the falsehood they believe and expose this thinking to the Lord and receive His truth. The outcome of this should be resolution and complete peace and life transformation. If this is not the case, then something is missing. If the memories that surfaced are valid then pain may be the logical and appropriate initial response based upon what is believed in the memory. However, when truth replaces lies (which is a primary source of emotional pain in a memory) there should be the evidence of peace and eventual transformed life as the Holy Spirit displaces these lies with truth. If the outcome of your session was that you just feel bad then something is not complete. If the memory you surfaced was indeed a true event in which something painful occurred and as a result of your looking at this reality you felt emotional duress, then this present state may not be a "bad" result but rather a hard reality and a reflection of where you are in the process. Also know that this present pain (though initially necessary) should not have to be one's final resting place (nor is it God's intention you camp there). However, before we can be free of the emotional pain rooted in lie-based memories we have to come out of denial about their reality, own the emotional pain therein, identify the lies we have harbored and allow the Lord to reveal His truth to us.
2. "TPM is supposed to be a good thing and lead people to finding freedom and not more pain."
To be certain, not everything that goes by the name Theophostic is indeed Theophostic. There are people who do things thye call TPM under the banner of Theophostic Prayer Ministry when in fact it is other things that they are practicing. Just because a person attends a training seminar and reads the seminar manual does not guarantee what he or she administers in a ministry session will be consistent with the teaching. This is one of the reasons that we have developed the TPM Ministry Session Guidelines as a gauge for discerning what is happening in a ministry session. We have posted these guidelines as well as a Ministry Facilitator questionnaire and other indicators on our website that the ministry recipient can use to determine what they are receiving in a ministry session. I honestly cannot say what you received and whether or not the person was following the Ministry Guidelines but I do encourage you to determine this for yourself. We have worked hard over the last many years to try to equip the ministry recipient with the tools to evaluate what they are getting in a ministry session. We offer the minister what we believe to be very good training in the TPM approach and strongly encourage ministering under supervision, within the context of a local church, counseling center or other authority structure but still realize that people will do whatever they choose to do. We encourage every ministry recipient to read the book "Healing Life's Hurts Through Theophostic Prayer" to get a basic understanding before they ever seek out a minister. Nevertheless, when something goes wrong some people assume the process is flawed and do not consider other possible explanations. This is not to say that there are not people offering ministry that is having bad outcomes and then Theophostic Prayer Ministry being identified as the tool being used. It is possible that the facilitator ministering in the session you described above may have been following protocol but yet you simply did not reach the place you needed to be due to termination before resolution (for whatever reason). I do encourage you and others seeking ministry to take control of your healing journey, educate yourself in this ministry process and discontinue any ministry relationship with which you are not completely satisfied.
3) There may be a question of procedure.
Another question that relates to procedure comes to my mind. I would want to know how the memories you remembered surfaced during your session? Did the facilitator do anything that led you to believe any aspect of what surfaced? Did he make any suggestions as to your memory content? Did he ask leading questions that caused you to come to any of your conclusions? Did he diagnose your condition or share opinions as to what he thought might be in your past? If anything such as this occurred then you were NOT receiving Theophostic Prayer Ministry. Here is where I would encourage you to read carefully the TPM Ministry Session Guidelines.
4) Was what you remembered valid?
Memory is not totally accurate in all detail. Never assume that what surfaces is a video copy of what actually happened. We only remember what we remember. This memory information is made up of personal interpretations, other life experiences, other people's interpretation and input, and what passes through our five senses. For the most part I believe people's memories are generally accurate in essence of what occurred and therein fundamentally valid. However, careful evaluation is needed as we seek to sort out our past painful experiences since we never know anything other than what has been reported. This is never more true than when we suspect another party may be guilty of rendering harm or abuse. Move slowly as you come to your final conclusions as to what happened to who and by whom. You the ministry recipient need to apply careful investigative work following the ministry session looking for corroborating witnesses and supportive evidence before you fully embrace what you have surfaced. Ask your ministry facilitator to participate in this investigative process if you desire but do not make it his or her responsibility to sort out your past. Always approach people in question from a heart of compassion, and forgiveness if you choose to confront or seek clarification. If you cannot do this in genuine compassion, grace and peace then there is still more ministry needed in your heart and mind so that you can. The presence of anger, revenge or bitterness is evidence of more work that the Lord needs to do in you.
4. The content of the memories have alienated you in a particular relationship.
If you discover that what you have remembered is true and as a consequence you can no longer maintain the same relationship with the other party this may be the reality of knowing the truth. If in fact what you have surfaced is the truth and it feels bad, this is not because of the ministry instrument being used but rather because what has been remembered is bad. Unless the party in question is willing to come clean before the Lord and take responsibility for his or her choices and behavior there is no room for reconciliation (this is of course assuming they are indeed guilty). However, forgiveness can be granted no matter the person's position or response, but reconciliation is based upon the wounder doing the right thing. (Read the chapter on forgiveness I wrote in the book "Healing Life's Hurts" for more information on this matter.) Also keep in mind that the one who hurt you needs release as well and may only find this freedom as he or she is willing to own what they have done and come clean. It may be that your willingness to deal with the truth may result in his or her making the same choice. Understand that some people never own up to what they have done and simply deny it forfeiting any hope of reconciliation. If this occurs then this may be a relationship lost. As the Apostle Paul stated, "if possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men" (Rom. 12:18). If you are willing to search out your pain to its true source and allow the Lord to give you His truth and if all others in the relationship are willing to do the same your relationship can become deeper and stronger. If what you have remembered is true and you are no longer able to have the
same relationship you had before remembering, then what you had was not based upon what was true.
I pray that you are able to go with Jesus to the full and complete resolution of this and that you will soon know the "peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 4:7). If you are uncomfortable with working with the person you have been seeing, search out someone else to continue your journey toward freedom. God wants you to walk in peace and be free of the lies that you harbor in the painful memory you have surfaced.