Compass Therapy offers hope for transformative growth throughout the lifespan. That means you can have a happy life, no matter what you go through.
The Bible affirms this hope by assuring that God has a positive plan for each person’s life, “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope” (Jer 29:11).
Neuropsychology supports this hope by showing clearly that human personality is malleable. The brain can respond to new learning even into old age.
In the therapeutic alliance the counselor and client are not just working to solve presenting problems, but growing together as persons along life’s way. Through the counselor’s behavioral modeling of caring and courage, humility and esteem, the client comes to experience the interpersonal dimension of hope for fulfilling relationships, giving and receiving love, and if the client chooses, loving and trusting God.
This brings us to a diagram that helps inspire counselees with an overview for their lifetime growth in Christ: “The Actualizing Ascent.” Upon showing the diagram to a counselee, you might say, “This represents the human lifespan.”
You explain that the first half of the curve slopes upward, which represents human development the morning of life, from birth to midlife. The tasks of this phase of life include the acquisition of language and culture, education, experimentation with social roles, identity formation, employment, and marriage and
child-rearing if so chosen.
As shown by the curve’s peak, the middle vertical line designates the high noon of midlife, and sometimes precipitates an identity crisis as people shift from the morning to the afternoon of life. While ambition and ego satisfaction characterize the morning of human development, the afternoon of life requires a more interior search for meaning, wholeness, and interpersonal fulfillment.
Carl Jung reported that virtually all of his patients in the second half of life were grappling with religious concerns. Though an individual may get by the first half of life without cultivating actualizing virtues, the lack of development in the second half of life can lead to confusion, frustration and despair.
It’s almost as if God imbues aging with the power to arrest everyone’s attention -- to finally say, “Look. You really are finite and temporal! You’d better grow in me while there is still time, for without me, you will be nothing.” The down-sloped side of the lifespan curve shows the inexorable decline of bodily health and stamina. Wear and tear in the body shows up in wrinkling skin, slowed metabolism, sagging muscles, stiffened joints, vulnerability to disease, and eventually, diminished mental capacities.
For those who refuse to challenge their rigid personality trends during this time, these trends intensify and take a tragic toll.
Aggressive persons become crankier and more belligerent, ever more paranoid and chronically suspicious. Dependent persons feel more anxiety-ridden and scattered. Withdrawn people shrivel up like leather left out in the sun too long, adapting to marginal levels of subsistence, barely getting by, and isolating from human contact. Controlling people grow obsessively worried about the things they can’t control, raising their blood pressure and shortening their tempers.
The goods news, though, is that people can grow increasingly wise, patient, and mature in the second half of life. This is represented by the upward-sloped dotted curve, you explain, which shows a person’s potential for actualizing psychological and spiritual growth.
Indeed, Christians are blessed to know that Christ will help them become more whole through anything they face, and will personally welcome them to everlasting life at the moment of death.
Compass Therapy encourages continued growth and development throughout life. You explain to counselees that individuals who begin growing psychologically and spiritually in their thirties, forties, or fifties tend to keep growing in their sixties, seventies, and beyond.
Since the human personality is malleable, exercising the LAWS of personality (Love and Assertion; Weakness and Strength) and the compass virtues (caring and courage; humility and esteem) promote health and fulfillment even into old age.
Perhaps the single most important attitude that Compass Therapy seeks to impart is that change is normal and the need for growth common to all people. Equipped with an actualizing perspective, stagnation is forsaken in favor of the ongoing transformation of one’s personality and relationships, conjoined with a deepening trust in the Holy Spirit’s help and guidance.
When counselees internalize this health model for hope, grace, and transformation, they learn to face the coming years with increased flexibility and resourcefulness.
The Actualizing Ascent Diagram helps counselees see the importance of exchanging rigidity for rhythm, egocentricity for actualizing development, manipulation for authenticity, and personality idiosyncrasies for compass virtues.
In this way, the invitation of Christ, the witness of the counselor, and the vision of the counselee converge in the pursuit of a life lived gracefully, accruing in wholeness and purpose. Though there are quintessential tough times and challenging adversities, the overall direction is toward an actualizing ascent in Jesus Christ.