David Morgan: Practical Tips for Developing Emotional Resilience
If you haven’t needed emotional resilience over the last two years, we would like to officially dub you a superhero. If, however, you are a mere mortal, this week’s episode is here to save the day. David Morgan has devoted a great deal of time to understanding practical ways we can develop emotional resilience in times of adversity and stress. Whether you are currently feeling overwhelmed or not, these are great skills to have in your arsenal.
You’re going to fail. And not only are you going to fail, but you’re going to fail a lot and sometimes you’re going to fail in a colossal fashion and that’s okay. When you think about it from a gospel perspective, that’s the whole point.
David Morgan's book: Enduring The Refiner's Fire
Elder Holland: Like a Broken Vessel
Jane Clayson Johnson's Silent Souls Weeping
2:18- Pressed To Our Limits
5:44- Attacks on Identity
8:28- Observers or Actors?
11:51- Roadblocks to Personal Competence
14:46- Tenacity and Endurance
19:16- Accepting Stress
24:06- Tolerating Negative Affect
26:47- Anxiety and Panic Attacks
33:52- Embracing Change
39:05- Spirituality’s Impact on Resilience
43:08- Beyond Help With Spirituality?
49:22- What Does It Mean To Be All In?
Morgan Jones 0:00
I'm not sure if there's ever been an interview as timely as the one you're about to listen to. It was around this time two years ago that we first began to hear the word "Coronavirus" or "COVID." And regardless of how you feel about masks or vaccines, it's impossible to deny the impact this virus has had on our world–how much impact it's had on us as individuals.
It is required a resilience we have never needed before. And we sometimes wonder if we'll ever feel normal again. But David Morgan is a big believer that the gospel has given us the tools to help us not only survive, but thrive, as we seek to cultivate emotional resilience. And that is what we're going to talk about together today.
David T. Morgan is a licensed psychologist with over 20 years of experience in the mental health field. He has a bachelor's degree in psychology, a master's in counseling and guidance and a PhD in counseling psychology, all from Brigham Young University. He is the author of multiple books, including his most recent book, Enduring the Refiners Fire: Emotional Resilience for Latter-day Saint Trials.
This is All In, an LDS Living podcast where we ask the question, what does it really mean to be all in the gospel of Jesus Christ? I'm Morgan Jones. And I am so excited to have David Morgan on the line with me today. David, welcome.
David Morgan 1:32
Thank you, Morgan. Thanks for having me. Great first name, by the way.
Morgan Jones 1:36
Oh, great last name, I really appreciate yours.
Well, I should start by telling listeners that this is kind of a funny moment, because David and I have emailed back and forth for years now and this is the first time that I've ever seen his face. So it's really kind of a magical moment that we're sharing here.
But I am so excited, I have to tell you, David, that even after having read your stuff for years, I was so, so impressed by this book that you've written. And I think that the topic of emotional resilience is more needed in our world today and just a really healthy approach to mental health.
So I wanted to start out, because in the book, you talk about–you open the book by talking about your personal response to COVID and the pandemic, and you write this– which I thought would kind of set the stage for this conversation overall–you said, "Why do I tell you this experience? This global contagion has created a veritable barometer to measure emotional strength in both myself and everyone I know. All of us have been pressed to our limits. Some people have risen above and become stronger, others have struggled. My own journey has varied between these two extremes."
And I think that everybody listening probably is like, "I know exactly what you're talking about." And we're entering year three, almost of a global pandemic that most of us in the beginning thought was going to last two weeks–
David Morgan 3:10
Two weeks to flatten the curve, right?
Morgan Jones 3:12
Exactly. Exactly. And here we are still curving.
David Morgan 3:15
Morgan Jones 3:16
But I wondered–to start us off, why would you say emotional resilience is so important for people in 2022?
David Morgan 3:24
Well it's just like you said, COVID-19 has kind of cast a spotlight on how we deal with stressors. And I don't–I mean, at least in living memory, there's nothing that's affected us so globally. I mean I guess you'd go back to last pandemic, you know, the Spanish flu, but that's been 100 years ago.
But everyone in the world is dealing with the same thing at the same time and that usually doesn't happen. There's pockets of stressors that happen and sometimes it affects whole nations, but to affect the whole world is interesting. And the idea of emotional resilience, just this idea of bouncing back from stressors is super important now.
Because really, up until maybe the last 75 years, your main concerns were food and shelter. And that's what you tried to get every single day, was "How do I get this?" "How do I build a hut that I can live in?" "How do I grow food and so that I can survive from day to day?"
And now all that stuff is accessible to pretty much everyone. You know, we're sitting in nice homes, many of us, and have access to these things. And so where are the stressors coming from? I think it's Heavenly Father is trying to teach us how to, you know, deal with stressors.
He's like, "Well, I love that you have iPhones. I love that you have Amazon Prime. I love that you have all these things. I don't want to take that away from you. So what can I give you and still let you have the rest of that stuff?" Well, he can give us mental health stressors, he can give us anxiety and depression and other things like that, and that's where emotional resilience comes in.
So I think our society has just changed to the point where Heavenly Father, in order to continue to bless us with challenges has had to shift those challenges anymore. It's no longer clearing your field and building a log cabin. Now it's managing anxiety or it's dealing with the loss of a job or something like that.
Morgan Jones 5:16
Well, and I love how you say in that quote that I read that all of us have been pressed to our limits. And I think that that is so true. I love too how you said "Very rarely in history have people been going through the same thing at the same time." And that's why I don't know about you, but I've had friends who have said, "It just feels like everybody's going through something right now."
And it's like, "Yes, everyone is going through something–a pandemic," and then plus some. So I wondered, if we could kind of start out–I thought it was interesting. So throughout this book you kind of offer ways to–you refer to a lot of roadblocks to emotional resiliency and ways to overcome those roadblocks.
But one of the very first things that I thought was fascinating, is you talk about attacks on our identity. And this is something that I am super passionate about, I think Satan tries more than just about anything to make us not understand who we are, and that if we understood who we were, it would change everything. So I wondered, why was that important to you in the beginning of the book to talk about identity? And how do we see Satan attacking identity now, more than ever before?
David Morgan 6:32
Well it was–it was several years ago, President Nelson was in a training with General Authorities, it was back before he was president the Church, he was president of the Quorom of the 12 Apostles, and one of the brother and asked him, "How do we deal–How do we help people deal with pornography issues, because that's become such a serious problem in the church, and without the church?"
And, and I've been–I'm a psychologist, and I've worked with people in these situations for years, and there's all kinds of books and references and resources and President Nelson said, the simplest statement, he said, "Teach them their identity and purpose."
And that encapsulates everything for me. It's this idea of who we are, and once you know who you are, then you can know kind of where to go from there. Sunday–this last Sunday–I was in Young Women's, a meeting with our young woman's class. And we recited the theme–"I am a beloved daughter of Heavenly Parents with a divine nature and eternal destiny."
And then the Young Men's theme is: "I am a beloved Son of God, and he has a work for me to do." It's that bedrock identity issue as to who you are, and not only just who you are, but that you are divine. You are a child of Heavenly Father, which automatically infers potential and potential assistance and all those sorts of things.
And if Satan can get us to not believe that, it's really just kind of–hacks away at the foundation of your house. You can take out a wall here and there or chop away at the roof to try to destroy the house, but the best way to destroy a house is to remove the foundation. If you take away that foundation, the whole thing crumbles to the ground, spectacularly. And so I think that's why Satan is really trying to get us to doubt who we are and what we're about. And like you said, once we have a really good idea of who we are, I think it just opens up opportunities for us to be more focused in our lives, and be more confident moving forward.
Morgan Jones 8:28
So well said. Another thing that you talk about kind of being an initial way that Satan tries to attack us is to make us feel like we can't change, and you write this, "Often I hear people lament that they cannot change certain negative personality characteristics, claiming, 'That's just the way I am.' This is a dangerous deception. Satan would love to have us believe that we cannot change. This belief cast us as observers instead of actors in our life story.
"If you believe you cannot change something, then your efforts to change will likely be less motivated than they otherwise could be. Sometimes people have very ingrained behaviors, even those that might be influenced by brain chemistry, and feel helpless to do anything about it. Usually, such feelings of helplessness come from repeated attempts to change while experiencing only limited progress. It is very important to remember that some trials persist despite our best efforts.
"That does not mean we should stop trying, trying to move forward, no matter how frustrating or seemingly unfruitful, will yield benefits." So I think that this is true. I think that a lot of times people feel like . . . kind of stuck, a little bit, and so I wondered what would you say are the first steps of that moving forward?
David Morgan 9:54
So the very first step of moving forward is believing that you can and it accepting the the idea that it is–that change is possible. I've dealt with so many people over the course of my career, and even people with very, very significant mental health issues like schizophrenia, where you know, people that are actively hallucinating and actively delusional–there's always something you can do.
I mean that person can take medication as prescribed, that person could learn to trust a caseworker or something like that. Now, that's not going to cure schizophrenia, but it is going to help that person move forward. Sometimes I think we have this idea that–"If I can't fix it all, then why fix any of it." And that's another deception of Satan as well that all or nothing thinking.
So we have to believe that we can do something about our situation. And then the next step is just to do something. Just decide what you can do, and then choose something in that sphere that you will do. Sometimes we focus on the things we can't do.
We say, "Well, because of my situation"–if it's a mental health issue–"My anxiety, my depression," whatever it is, "These are all the things I can't do." And that could possibly be true in your current situation, if you're struggling with significant mental health issues–absolutely. There may be some things that you can't do in the moment. But there are some things you can do. And that's where you start.
And so you have to identify those things. I can get up and make my bed today. Is that going to cure my depression? Absolutely not. It's not going to cure your depression, but it's going to move you in a positive direction. And we need to remember, this is a, like an ultra marathon that we're running here. It's 100 miles, you know, and when you think "Well, I can't run 100 miles," you probably can, it might take you 20 years to do it, but you can do that.
Morgan Jones 11:43
I completely agree. And it's amazing, like those little wins, how much they can help build confidence. You talk in the book about several ways that people get in their own way of personal competence. And I really loved those, I wondered if you could explain a little bit about some of those roadblocks to personal competence.
David Morgan 12:05
Sure. So personal competence is just the idea of believing that you're capable of doing something. And so it just kind of goes back to what we were just talking about. And it's one of the–there are, in the book, I talk about seven kind of pillars or tenets of emotional resilience, that as we increase our ability in each of these areas that we're going to increase our emotional resilience.
And so one of them is the idea of personal competence–that "I can do something." And three of the roadblocks that I suggest were: misunderstanding our purpose, procrastination, and then lack of sustained effort. The first one, when you misunderstand your purpose, if you don't know what you're supposed to do, or what you should do, or what you even want to do, then why would you move forward anyway?
You know, you're just stuck because you don't know what you're about. And that goes back–Satan not only attacks our identity, he attacks our sense of purpose as well. And then those Young Men and Young Women statements we reviewed, both of them have statements of identity and purpose. They say that "Heavenly Father has a work for us to do," just like He told Moses thousands of years ago.
So once we know what our purpose is, then we can–that can help us get moving forward. Procrastination, that's a killer. I could be on the Olympic procrastination team. It's something I've been become very skilled at over the years. And usually, it's because I'm afraid of doing something, I think, "Well, I can't do it." And so doubting in myself leads me to not want to do that.
So procrastination can get you and also what I call "Lack of sustained effort." And this is the idea of–that you can do something that is effective, but if you don't do it long enough, then it has less effect. And so like if I'm trying to lose weight, and my doctor suggests diet and exercise, I say "Fantastic." So I come home, I don't eat for five minutes, I do five push ups, and then I get on the scale and see what happened, and there's no change. I'm exactly the same as I was five minutes ago.
And I could say, "Well, clearly diet and exercise don't work because it's been a whole five minutes and five push ups later and I'm still the same." The point is, if I engage in a healthy diet for a year and exercise regularly for a year, I'm probably–I'm very likely to see you know, positive changes in my health. And so, so even good things, effective things done for not enough time, can lead us to think, "Oh, that doesn't work." Big problems require big solutions and long standing problems require long standing solutions. It just takes time to get through this stuff.
Morgan Jones 14:46
Absolutely. I love–that kind of segues well into this idea of tenacity, which is something that you talk a lot about, you give several examples, including Thomas Edison. Who, after 9000 experiments, somebody was like, "Oh, isn't it a shame that with the tremendous amount of work you've done, you haven't been able to get any results." And Thomas Edison smiled and said, "Results, why man, I have gotten a lot of results. I know, several 1000 things that won't work."
And then you also give the example of the Brother of Jared and several other people that exhibit this characteristic of tenacity. So I wondered, why would you say that in confronting these challenges, tenacity is so important? And again, you offer some roadblocks that keep people from developing tenacity, and I wondered if you could speak to a few of those.
David Morgan 15:43
Absolutely. So tenacity is important–tenacity, which is this idea of just keep going, when it gets difficult, you keep going. Because the end destination really, in most cases, is less important than the journey you took to get there. I reflect back on my education and my education at BYU culminated in 1999, with me walking across the stage of the Marriott center to get my degree. That was, that's where it ended.
And then that was a great moment, but that wasn't the important moment, the important moment was the 10 years prior to that, that I spent learning and studying, and gaining knowledge that would prepare me for my career. And so that is the . . . that's the difference, is–it's not so much about the end, it's about the journey.
And so when we get into situations where we experience failure, and we don't persist, then we don't gain the benefit from that. Some of the roadblocks that I talked about, things that keep us from persisting are fear of failure, rigid thinking and lack of self confidence.
So fear of failure is one of those that sometimes we don't even start, because we're afraid that we're going to fail. And I wish we could all just have a big giant meeting all of humanity, and just for once acknowledge–"You're going to fail. Not only are you going to fail, but you're going to fail a lot. And sometimes you're going to fail in a colossal fashion, and that's okay."
When you think about it from a gospel perspective, that's the whole point. That's the whole point of the Savior's Atonement, right? It's not a backstop, in case we sin, he says, "You're going to sin. You're going to blow it time after time after time, and that's okay, because I've got this plan in place that's going to redeem you from that, you know, if you're repent and follow that process."
So if we can learn to kind of almost embrace failure, like Thomas Edison did, he says "I haven't failed 9000 times, I just learned 9000 times how not to make a light bulb." We get in trouble when we get too rigid in our thinking as well, when we think there's just one way to do things. And then when you try that, and that doesn't work out, then you're stuck.
I think I talk in the book about at Walt Disney World–we're big Disney fans in the Morgan family–and there is, they have a rain parade. They have a, it's called the Rainy Day Cavalcade, and it only comes out during the rain. And rigid thinking, we'll say, "Well, it's stinks in Orlando because it rains, you know, fairly frequently, and you can't have parades in the rain," . . . unless you can have parades in the rain, right?
And you can say, "Hey, what if we developed waterproof costumes? And what if we develop machinery that was protected from the elements? I bet we could do that." And so generally speaking, when you find yourself at the end of a road at a dead end, there's probably a few more ways out of that. You just have to kind of keep looking. And then–and when we lack confidence in ourselves, of course that's a killer from the beginning. If you think that I just can't do this, there's no way that I can persist in this trial, then it doesn't matter how much strength you have in you, it doesn't matter how much you're actually capable of, if you don't believe you can do it, then you're done from the beginning, because you won't-you simply won't try.
Morgan Jones 18:55
Right, that makes complete sense. I think, you know, the example of the Rainy Day Parade, it's like, that could be something that brings somebody in a role that's in charge of parades, a lot of stress, and I think all of us have had these things come up over the last couple of years that invites stress into our lives.
I heard recently, I was talking to a friend who had been to see her endocrinologist and the endocrinologist said that she had seen eight times the number of women since the beginning of the pandemic with autoimmune issues, because of the additional stress that the pandemic has brought into people's lives. And so you talk about accepting stress and the ability that it has to strengthen us and to make us better. And I think this is hard for me, over the past couple of years I have had a lot of health problems due to kind of the emotional toll of different, various aspects of life. So I wondered, how can we better manage stress and then turn it into a positive rather than a negative?
David Morgan 20:05
Right. Well, and stress is in just like most things, when it becomes extreme, then it does become damaging to us. And we know that about the chronic effects of stress, that stress and anxiety have a similar kind of physiological reaction in the body. And the systems that are designed to run for a very short period of time, it's kind of like, you know, flooring it in your car when you need to pass someone. You know, in your redline, you're getting up to 7000 RPMs, as you're going past someone.
Your car can do that for about, you know, 30 seconds to a minute at a time, if you run that engine at 8000 RPM all day long, that engine is not going to last very long, because it's not designed to run that way. And our bodies are the same way. We get these periods of stress and these periods of anxiety, which is basically, you know, cranking up our body to 7000 rpms, and that's great if you're escaping from a bear or a mountain lion or something like that, you need to get out of there.
But it's not designed to run like that long term. And that's when you start to see some of the physical health complications because of that. One of the things I tell people about stress and anxiety is that we just need to recognize that it's going to be part of our experience. And what happens sometimes is when we start to get stressed, then we say, "Oh, no, I'm stressed, I shouldn't be stressed." And then we have stress about being stressed.
And so we have all of this extra stress on top of that, which doesn't do us any favors, and then we're worried about that, "Oh, no, now I have too much stress, I'm stressed about that." So now you're carrying around like eight extra packages of stress where really, you just needed the one to begin with.
So I think changing our perspective about that and saying, "You know what, it's okay, to be stressed about things. Some situations are natively stressful. And that's okay to have that stress. I don't need to be worried about the fact that I'm stressed about something."
It reminds me when our oldest son was in Boy Scouts, back when the Church was doing Boy Scouts, and he had to pass his first class swim test, which I think was like he had to swim 50 yards or 100 yards or something. And he did not like swimming at all. He was not a very strong swimmer. And so–but he learned, he got swim lessons. And so I remember going there to the swim test for him. And after about 10 yards, he's completely gassed, he just can't go any further.
And the reason was, he's spending about 20% of his energy moving forward and 80% of his energy trying not to drown. So it's just flailing in the water because he's so terrified that he's going to drown. And so he spends all this energy doing that. And if he had realized that the pool was about four feet deep, he could just reach down and touch, there was a lifeguard there, two scout leaders and his parents who would jump in and save him at any moment if he, you know, he looked like he was struggling, then he could say, "I can take that other 80% of energy and I can put it towards swimming," which in that case, I think he'd have been just fine, I think he'd could have crushed the 50 yards.
Emotional energy is the same as physical energy. We have a limited amount of emotional energy on a daily basis. It's not unlimited. And so if we spend, if we have stress, which maybe occupies 20% of our emotional energy, and then we spend another 70% of our energy stressing about that stress, then that leaves very little for us to actually, you know, do something. And we wonder why, you know, it's the end of the day and I didn't get anything done, or I just feel exhausted because I used it all up in worrying about something that maybe I didn't need to worry about.
So I think that's–and I know, that's a very kind of general and generic way to describe that, but I think if we can recognize that these things are normal, then that automatically alleviates some of the stress from it. It frees up emotional capital that we can use then to deal with our problems. And then I wonder then if we'll find, "Oh, hey, I have more energy to deal with this than I thought I did. Just because I realized it's okay to go through this."
Morgan Jones 23:59
Well, David, I wish that we had talked a while ago, that would have been helpful to me, but hopefully this will be helpful to somebody.
Another thing that you write about that I thought was profound is this idea of negative affect. I thought that this was so interesting, you talk about kind of what this concept of negative affect is, and then also that we can cultivate a tolerance toward it, and you will do a much better job of explaining what this is than I could ever do, so if first of all–if you could kind of lay the groundwork and then maybe talk a little bit about how we can cultivate that tolerance.
David Morgan 24:37
Sure. So that's one of the other–one of these pillars of emotional resilience is what they call tolerating negative affect. And when we say negative affect, we just simply mean negative emotions. So things like depression, anxiety, anger, stress, fear, all those things. What researchers have found is that the more that we're able to tolerate those things, the stronger we'll become.
And I think if we can view those things as building blocks towards, you know, a healthier self, then they don't become something that we just try to avoid altogether. And again, just like we talked about before, we are going to have negative experiences, it's part of living in a fallen world. And I think it's part of our Heavenly Father's intention for us, especially in 2022, because we have fewer other challenges than our ancestors did.
And I think our challenges are going to be more emotional than they ever have been in the history of the world. And Heavenly Father's giving us tools to deal with this. It's kind–you could kind of view it, this tolerating negative emotions to tolerate negative affect, you kind of view it like an inoculation or an immunization. You're saying–I'm going to deal with a little bit of this so I learn how to experience it, I learn how to deal with it. And then so that when it comes to me again, I say, "Oh, yeah, I can deal with that," instead of just avoiding it altogether, which then leads to no strength. There's a temptation to avoid it altogether, because it's unpleasant to go through that. If you've had, you know, a vaccination, you know, that there's, sometimes there's some adverse reaction to it as your body's trying to deal with it. But then that usually provides some very long term health benefits.
Morgan Jones 26:18
And we all know a little thing about vaccines right now, that's a very, very applicable analogy.
David Morgan 26:24
Morgan Jones 26:25
So one of those things that you mentioned is anxiety. And I wondered, I have a lot of friends that have struggled with anxiety and family that struggles with depression. So I wondered, how do you positively face things like anxiety? And then kind of as a follow up to that, I mentioned this to you before we got on the line, but I have a friend who has struggled since she was in her late teens with anxiety, and specifically panic attacks, and recently kind of had a resurgence of these panic attacks, and she said that she felt like, as a result, she was shutting down and kind of trying not to feel anything.
And so I wondered how you would respond in terms of, is that normal? How can–because she said she realized that that wasn't causing her to feel better. In fact, it was causing her not to feel anything. So how do we–how do we better respond to that kind of thing?
David Morgan 27:29
Well, I think your friends situation, you asked is that normal? And I think yeah, it's very normal to to want to do that. Anyone who's had a panic attack knows that it's a terrible, it's a terribly frightening experience. Half the time you end up going to the hospital thinking you've had a heart attack, thinking you're gonna die. And a lot of times, what happens is, you know, you can't tell the difference, except the doctor can, and she can say–she does an examination and says, "No, there's no enzymes," there's leftovers in your body when you've had a heart attack, and if those leftovers aren't there, then they say, "Well, that was probably a panic attack."
So they're very, very frightening experiences. And so it makes perfect sense that someone would say, "Okay, I'm gonna do everything I can to not have that experience again." And I think that's a very helpful approach. Trying to just avoid all feelings, I think is not super helpful, because number one, you can't. I mean, you can't just shut it off. Your feelings are bound to happen, no matter what you do.
And then number two, if we just avoid the things that terrify us, then we are–then we're not going to get stronger as a result of them. We have another son, not the one who was scared of drowning, this one was scared of public speaking. And he gets asked to speak in Church when he's like 12 or 13, right, his first talk, and he probably had a panic attack, he's freaking out the night before.
And my wife who really should be the psychologist, she's a genius, and she goes up there and she talked to him and she said, "Look, I don't care if you write it down, I don't care if you just get up there, say your name, and walk down," she says, "But you're gonna go, you're gonna do it, I want you to do this. And I'll stand next to you the whole time, I'll hold your hand, whatever you want to do. But if you don't do this, then it's just going to create more fear for the next time. And you know, and this is going to become something that's a bigger problem."
And so he said, "Okay, well, I'll try." He wrote a talk went up there, gave it fine. He was terrified the whole time. But he did a great job and now he's an amazing public speaker. He served a mission back East and he's an excellent teacher. And I think a lot of that started with him facing that fear of doing that.
So when it comes to issues of like anxiety and depression and like you said, cultivating a positive experience towards that, I think if we view it as, as part of the load that we have, part of our of the trials that we experience that can probably help. Elder Bednar talked a few years ago about a man who bought a four by four and got it stuck in the snow and then he was super embarrassed because his wife had told him not to buy the truck and he bought it anyway, and so, and he couldn't get it out.
But then he ended up cutting wood, which is what he went up there for in the first place, and he loads his truck with wood. And once the truck had another 1000 pounds in it he was able to pull out, he was able to have traction. And Elder Bednar, I'll misquote him here, but he said something like, "Sometimes we mistakenly believe that the absence of a load is kind of the preferred way through life," he said, "but that's not the case. We need to have a burden. We need to have something that gives us traction and helps us move forward."
So when I deal with people with mental health issues, I say, if you can view this as your heavenly Father's way of saying, "I'm putting something in your truck bed. I'm putting something in your handcart. I know, it's going to be more difficult to pull as a result, but this is going to make you stronger, because now you're pulling 50 pounds behind you instead of pulling zero pounds behind you. It's going to make you stronger, and it's going to make you more like me in the long run."
Now, does that erase depression or anxiety? Absolutely not. But I think it does–if we can change our perception on it, and say, "Well, maybe this is a blessing and an opportunity for me to get stronger," then maybe we approach it differently. And maybe again, we might free up more of that emotional energy to address and to move forward.
Morgan Jones 31:22
I love the way you put that because that same friend, we were talking and she said, "I feel like when these things happen, immediately my response is, what have I done wrong?"
David Morgan 31:36
Morgan Jones 31:37
"That makes Heavenly Father like do this to me, or this to happen to me." And, and so I think that that's a very natural response is to wonder what somebody has done wrong. So I love reframing that as you haven't done anything wrong, Heavenly Father's trying to bless you.
David Morgan 31:54
Right. And we just have to reconceptualize what that blessing is. Oftentimes we just think of blessings as very good, very immediate good things. Like, you know, an extra like a, you know, a pay raise, or something like that, or good health. But what if the blessing was having significant health challenges that were chronic and that ultimately led you to be more humble and patient.
And Heavenly Father says, "Oh, actually, this is a blessing to you, you just don't see it that way up front." I'm convinced that when we get to visit with our Heavenly Father, when all this is done, He's going to show us all the difficulties that we had–I picture on this, like this big whiteboard, and on the left hand side are all the challenges that we faced. And then He's got these lines that are drawn over to the right hand side, and on the right hand side are these Christlike characteristics, things like patience and tolerance and understanding and diligence.
And there's going to be a line from every one of our trials to every one of these Christlike characteristics. And He's going to say, "This is why, Morgan, when you prayed, and said, 'Heavenly Father, take this from me,'" He said, "No, I can't do that. Because if I take this from you, then I have to erase this line, and you're not going to achieve this thing."
And I think that's why He just says, "Trust me." He says, "I know what I'm doing. Trust me here. And when we're on the path, we're on the covenant path and doing the best we can and striving our best, when we still experienced the significant issues, I think we can confidently say that this is part of Heavenly Father's plan to help us become more like Him.
Morgan Jones 33:25
I really appreciate that. Because it's funny that you said, you know, when you prayed and asked Heavenly Father to take this thing from you, because like I said, I've had these like health challenges. And just last night, I was like, "Heavenly Father, if you will take this from me," I said, "I will serve you for the rest of my life regardless, but if you will take this from me, I'll be able to like work stronger and faster. And so I like the kind of reframing of you know, maybe there's a reason that He's not taking it from me."
Another thing that you talk about David is embracing change. And this is something–I have this very distinct memory. I did Washington Seminar through BYU when I was in school and so I was interning in Washington, DC. And I had been there for a few weeks and I was talking to my dad on the phone, and I just was like, "I don't fit in here. I don't know what I'm doing here. I'm having a hard time making friends."
And my dad said to me, "Morgan, I don't know if you've noticed, but change is hard for you." He's like, "Every time that you have some big change in your life, the first little bit, you hate it." And he's like, "But then, it doesn't matter what it is, if you give it a little bit more time you end up loving it." And so he was like, "You just have to give it a little bit of time." And he was so right, like after those first few weeks, things got better. But I wondered–what is it, David, that keeps us from embracing change?
David Morgan 34:54
Yeah, and I don't think you're alone in your experience Morgan. And it must run in the name because I've got it too. So I remember at the beginning of COVID, and when everything was shut down and, and I was out–I went on a lot of walks with Kristen, my wife, and then we just talked about things.
And I was so–I was always like, "Okay, well, this will probably be over in two weeks." "It'll probably be over in four weeks" because it significantly impacted my business as well. It was, it was a bit of a tough time financially for us. And so I just kept thinking, "Okay, this is going to change," or "This change isn't going to last long," you know. It's going to get right back to normal.
And she would say, "Well, what if it doesn't?" And I didn't even want to hear it. I was like, "No, what are you talking about, we're gonna be done with this by May, we're gonna done this by June." And like you said earlier, here we are, literally in year three of this. It's amazing to think about, something we won't soon forget. And quite frankly, if we haven't learned our lesson by now, we probably won't learn it, I almost feel like going to Heavenly Father and saying, "Look, you can probably just take it now. It's fine. Because if we haven't learned yet, we're probably not going to learn."
W e've had plenty of time to sort this out, each of us. But we like consistency, as human beings. We like things that are predictable, that we can deal with. And I think that we don't like to think that we're wrong, either. When change happens, and you know, all of a sudden the script gets flipped, and we think, "Oh, well then was I wrong in the first place?" Which gets back to issues of self confidence. It's okay to be wrong.
Sometimes we don't feel like we can. I think I used an example in the book, which dates me from Happy Days. So some of the listeners will remember Happy Days, back in the 70s, I think. And Arthur Fonzarelli was the the coolest guy there. But he could never say he was wrong. And he literally couldn't even pronounce the word. When he was trying to say he was wrong, he would say, "I was w–." And he'd make the sound of a W but he couldn't actually say it.
And I remember thinking about that when I wrote that I thought you know, we can't be–there's a lot of ways we should be like the Fonz's but not like that. And then when we have–I think when we have an unstable self concept, and unstable sense of identity, which is basically like a shaky foundation, then you don't want a lot of motion upstairs either, right? Because you can't–if you're built on something solid, then you can withstand the shaking and the shuffling. But if it's something that's weak, you can't.
I mean, that's that goes back to Jesus Christ and the Sermon on the Mount, right, and talking about the wise man building his house on a rock or building his house on the sand. And when the rains came, it wasn't until then. The house stood until the adversity came. So they both built a house, but it was when the adversity came that you saw the true nature of that house.
And in Helaman chapter five, where Helaman encourages the sons to build their–to found themselves on the rock of Jesus Christ. And it says, "And then when the devil sends forth, his winds, his mighty winds, his shafts in the whirlwind," all those sorts of things, "He says then it will have no power over you, because of the foundation upon which you're built."
So, and I hear you, I don't like change either. But man, we've got to start thinking differently because just like you've experienced, and just as I've experienced, change is inevitable. And not only is it inevitable, it's good for us. And Heavenly Father knows that. So he's gonna throw some curveballs every once in a while.
And instead of getting out of the game, and throwing down our bat and getting on our knees and saying, "Heavenly Father, please, no more curveballs." We need to do like Elder Bednar counsels and says, "Teach me how to hit curveballs." And then Heavenly Father will say, "Okay, you bet. I'll show you how to do that. It's going to involve some work on your part, and some effort and you're gonna have to learn a different batting stance and your arm might hurt as you learn how to, you know, do these different swings, but I will teach you how to hit curveballs."
And then once you learn that, he throws a slider or something like that, right? I mean, he's always, and then you say, "Now teach me how to hit that one." And then by the end of your life, you can hit every ball that comes at you,
Morgan Jones 38:53
Babe Ruth by the end.
David Morgan 38:55
Morgan Jones 38:56
Just crushing it. David, toward the end of the book, you talk about something that I thought was fascinating. You talk about how there was a study where these two researchers that researched resiliency, Connor and Davidson, they actually acknowledge the influence of spirituality on this emotional resilience and listed spiritual influences as the last of their main resilience factors.
And you wrote, "This is notable as spirituality has struggled to be recognized as a major factor in psychological studies. In many cases, it is seen as too ethereal and personal to be examined with scientific rigor. Yet as Connor and Davidson explored the outcomes of their research, they determined that one of the factors of resilience clearly aligned with the somewhat intangible concept." And then you say–I love that they are acknowledging that and I know that in a scientific space, sometimes spiritual factors are not taken totally into account. But I wondered, what difference would you say spirituality can make in somebody's emotional resilience?
David Morgan 40:11
Well, I think the reason that Connor and Davidson found that and I'm sure it probably drove them crazy when they were looking at that, because they're just going, "How do we quantify this? How do we describe this?" There's just this kind of strange phenomenon that seems to account for, you know, again, when you're talking about these foundational building blocks of emotional resilience, they said, "There's just this one right here that we know is there. And we're just having a hard time describing it."
And that's eventually what they ended up describing as these kind of spiritual influences. Everything is spiritual, Morgan. I mean, we are human beings living a–having a spiritual experience here. And just because we try to quantify everything, you know, chemically and physically and scientifically, it's not chemical, and it's not physical and not scientific, it's spiritual. This is Heavenly Father's plan for us. And so I think that's why we keep coming back to that.
One of the things sometimes I'll be–I don't if "Criticized" is the right word, but when people will say, when I talk about mental health and the gospel, they'll say, "Well, don't just tell me to pray harder, and to read my scriptures more, because that's not a solution that doesn't, you know, that doesn't fix mental health, you need medication, you need therapy, and stuff like that."
And I say, "Absolutely. Heavenly Father has given us those tools to help us improve." But that doesn't mean that addressing things from a spiritual perspective is not part of the equation. It is part of the equation, it's one more tool you have in your arsenal to deal with these things.
And so I would, I think it was Elder Holland, when he talked about years ago, when he did his "Like a Broken Vessel" talk, which was kind of the watershed talk on on mental health, probably one of the first times it's been addressed at depth in general conference, and the Church has dramatically increased its reach and resources for mental health, some awesome stuff in Gospel Library, and on the Church's website for mental health resources.
But he said, you know, if you broke your arm, you would ask for a priesthood blessing, and you'd also go to a doctor. You know, and the same thing with mental health. If you've got major depression, then yes, ask for a priesthood blessing and make sure you're praying every day and studying your scriptures and going to Church and attending the temple as you can, and go see a counselor, and under competent medical advice, get on medication if needed, and those sorts of things, you know, do all those things, but don't leave one of them out that situation.
So it's not a question of . . . It's not the only answer, but it is definitely part of the answer. And so I just don't think that is something that should be ignored anytime we're struggling with anything emotionally, and trying to increase our emotional capacities to deal with things we need to involve the Lord in that process. We need to develop spiritual strength as well, in addition to anything else to do, whatever else you decide. Books you can read or things you should do, or people you should talk to whatever that is, you do all those things together.
Morgan Jones 43:04
Okay, David, I have one last question for you before we get to our all in question. And I think everybody listening probably falls under one of two camps–either you know someone who feels like they are past help, or the person themselves feels like their past help as far as spirituality goes.
And you have a quote that I think applies to this. It says, "What if you find yourself nowhere close to the rod of iron? Perhaps you feel you have been deceived by those in the great and spacious building, and are inching your way toward that edifice? Perhaps you have begun to wander along strange roads feeling lost, what can you do? Is the rod and the resilience that comes from holding fast beyond your grasp? No, we can always change direction. That's the beauty of the Savior's Atonement, just start where you are, turn around, face the tree of life, and start heading in that direction."
I know for me, David, there have been people in my life that I really love and care about. And I know that they have like, wonderful hearts, but it's like they feel like, for whatever reason that–and I think part of it is that, you know, they say that when people are dealing with depression, it's hard for them to feel the Spirit, and so then they feel like they're, you know, not capable of feeling God's love. So how does Satan deceive people into believing that they can't have greater spirituality? And how have you seen that in those that you've worked with?
David Morgan 44:38
Right. Well, and I–you're absolutely right, Morgan, I think this is something that's probably touched all of us at one point. And we certainly know people who are kind of stuck in that situation where they just feel like . . . like they can't change or that God has checked out on them. And they're just beyond hope, and all of those things are just completely satanic, it's his deception, that somehow we've gotten beyond the Savior's grasp, and we aren't.
There's, sometimes there's issues of worthiness, right? If we intentionally do things that we shouldn't, and we've commit sin, and in those cases we can repent, but a lot of times, like you talked about, people with feelings of depression, oftentimes they describe a difficulty being able to feel the Spirit. In Jane Claysons book, her amazing book on depression, Silent Souls Weeping, she talks about that, and how you just get to that point of feeling numb, and like no feelings are getting through, including feelings of the Spirit.
And of course, Satan's going to capitalize on that and say, "Well, yeah, see, because you're not doing what you're supposed to. See all these other people that feel the spirit? They're going to church, they feel the Spirit. You don't feel the Spirit, there's something wrong with you." And I don't know how all that shakes out. I don't know, you know, how–I'm sure that the spirit is powerful enough to break through those things. I don't know if that's part of the difficulties people need to experience in order to become more like their father in heaven, but just this idea that we are not worthy, we need to lose that idea.
We need to lose that idea that we are these kind of unworthy creatures. And this is–I'm sure, probably way too colloquial. But if you've seen Toy Story 4 you remember, Bonnie makes Forky, right? You know, she makes Forky out of a fork and some other things and that's her new toy. And but Forky believes he's garbage, and he keeps trying to jump into the garbage can. And then Woody keeps fishing him out of the garbage can goes over there and every time he turns his back on Forky, Forky's trying to get to the garbage can to jump in again.
Because he says, "I'm trash." He says, "I am garbage." And Woody says, "You're not garbage, you used to be garbage. But now you are Bonnie's toy." And so you have a different place you belong up here on the counter, instead of in the garbage can. I think that's what we need to understand as human beings, we need to know who we are, we're back to the beginning of our discussion about identity, we are children of our heavenly Father, and He loves us, and we have 100% immense potential, and he's gonna help us reach that we don't have to do it on our own, we were never expected to do it on our own.
He gives us liability so that we will turn to Him and so that we say, "Heavenly Father, help me through this difficulty. Teach me how to do this." And then we act. And then as He helps us along, we become better.
In Section 121 in the Doctrine and Covenants it talks about our confidence waxing strong in the presence of God. And I love that idea. Because so often, we have the opposite experience. We feel like Alma the younger when he was in his three days of darkness, he said he wanted to be extinct, both soul and body, so that he didn't have to face God.
That's how bad he wanted, you know, just a big mountain to come crush him and crush him out of existence. And yet here in the Doctrine and Covenants, it talks about the complete opposite of that experience, that our confidence is strong in the presence of God that we walk in there.
And I'm sure while being still appropriately humble, we say, "I belong here," you know, "This place is for me. I've done what I needed to do. And the Savior, you know, has redeemed me to the point, He's, you know, taken away the rest of my sin and blemish so that I can be here." And that we feel like we're back home, which is where we belong. That's where we came from. It's where we're destined to go again.
But we need to . . . need to develop that confidence in ourselves. And I think if you lack confidence in that, I think one of the best things you can do is to pray your Heavenly Father and just say, "Heavenly Father, will you help me feel the way about myself that you feel about me?" And you may not get an answer that moment, but I'm confident if you continually ask for that, if you're regularly ask for that, you are bound to have a tremendous spiritual experience where you feel Heavenly Father's love for you.
And I've had that experience on occasion. And it is profound it is, your body just feels completely full of His love and it lasted for like 10 seconds. You know, it didn't last the rest of my life, but I remember it. And I know that's the way He still feels about me. And so when I have days where I feel down and depressed and you know that I am not worthy or whatever, I try to remember that feeling. And say, "You know what, He still feels that way about me so I can get up off the dirt and do something about it."
Morgan Jones 49:19
I love that. Thank you very, very much. David, my last question for you is what does it mean to you to be all in the gospel of Jesus Christ?
David Morgan 49:30
I love that question. And I love that you ask everyone and it was the one I was the most prepared for. Because you know, because you listen to so many podcasts–
Morgan Jones 49:37
Long time coming.
David Morgan 49:38
Exactly. And I'm glad to answer it. To me it means to . . . Well, it comes from–once I understood kind of more fully the purpose of life and that I'm not here just to, just to barely clear the bar into the celestial kingdom or to you know, squeak in you know, through as the doors closing, but that I'm here to become the best person I can be. That all of the skills and talents that I develop here in this life I'll take with me when I leave.
And the more diligent, the more, you know, patient and understanding and tolerant I become in this life, all that that'll be to my advantage in the world to come. That means to me that being all in means giving it everything.
Doing everything and taking advantage of every opportunity that I have when the Lord says, "Here's another chance to grow," instead of saying, "Well, that sounds really hard. I don't know if I want to do that. That sounds uncomfortable." Saying, "Yes, I want to do that. I want to become the best I can be."
And it leads me to act proactively instead of just being acted upon. So being all in is, it's an actionable word on my part, it's saying, this is my opportunity to be the best I can to do the best with what Heavenly Father has given me, and then to return to Him confidently and saying, "Here's what I did. I hope that was, I hope that is great." And I have every confidence that He's going to say, "That was fantastic. Thanks for everything, and welcome home."
Morgan Jones 51:06
Thank you so much, David. That's a beautiful answer. And I love what you said, I think it was earlier when you talked about, you know, being appropriately humble, but also feeling like you belong. And I think that's what you described. And I completely agree that that's how Heavenly Father hopes that we will feel and that's what He wants for us. So, thank you so much for taking the time to be with me and for writing this great book. I really, really appreciated it myself.
David Morgan 51:35
My pleasure. Thank you very, very much.
Morgan Jones 51:39
Big thanks to David Morgan for joining me on today's episode. You can read more from David on LDSpsychologist.com, and in his new book Enduring the Refiners Fire: Emotional Resilience for Latter-day Trials, which you can find on DeseretBook.com now. Thanks to Derek Campbell for his help with this episode. And thank you so much for spending your time with us. We'll be with you again next week.