Overview of C. Sybil Waldrop’s
Getting Good at Being You

by Chaplain Paul G. Durbin

Sybil Waldrop, a well-known speaker, conference leader, and author, received her B.A. degree from Centenary College, Shreveport, Louisiana, and the M.Ed. and Ed.D degrees from the University of North Texas, Denton. A former publications manager, university professor, public school teacher, and minister of education, she resides with her husband Fred in Brentwood, Tennessee.

C. Sybil Waldrop has revised her outstanding book Getting Good at Being You (New Revised Edition) [Monarch Press. Brentwood, TN:  2001] which was first published in 1989. The revised edition has a new chapter “Facing Problems, Expecting Opportunities”, with subtitle “Dancing in the Dark” which deals with her experience of caring for her husband who went through several years of depression. This chapter can be a help to anyone living with a person who is experience depression. This chapter was an article written at the request of The Journal of the California Alliance for the Menially Ill. The article was printed in a special issue for spouses of mentally depressed persons.

As I reread the book, I discovered that it is just as exciting and uplifting as it was the first time I read it. I had loaned my original copy to a client and it was never returned. Until the original version went out of print, I gave to book to people who identified themselves as Christian who came to me for counseling of a mental, emotional or spiritual problem. I am thankful that it is available again so that I can once again make it a part of the healing process for people who are hurting or just want to make a positive turn in their life. I am proud to share with you that C. Sybil Waldrop is my only sister and sibling. She finished high school when I finished the fourth grade. We saw each other and communicated by phone or letter on rare occasions over many years. In 1973, Sybil came to Washington, D.C. to present a workshop and stayed at our house for a few nights. We had a wonderful time and became closer than we had ever been. I told her how I resented her bossing me around and she told me how she resented having to do so as she often took care of me. When I read her book, I discovered that many of her ideas and opinions were very close to mine and her favorite authors were among my favorite. These came to us without our discussing them or recommend them to each other. Now we communicate several times a week thanks to our mutual love and respect for each other and the miracle of email.

Chapters include 1) Love Your Creator, 2) Love Yourself, 3) Love Others, 4) Enjoy and Appreciate Others, 5) Be Yourself, 6) Radiate Joy, 7) Be Genuine, 8) Listen to Yourself and Others, 9) Love Life: Savor the Moment, 10) Stop Nonproductive Behaviors, 11) Develop a Positive Attitude, 12) Face Problems as Opportunities, 13) Face Problems, Expect Opportunities (Dancing in the Dark: Revisiting the Depression of a Spouse)

Following are some excerpts from Getting Good at Being You (New Revised Edition) [2001] which I have found to be helpful in my life and hopefully for yours. Understand that you will find many topics that can be helpful to you that I have not printed. After all, I would like for C. Sybil Waldrop to sell many copies of the great book. If used properly, this book that can truly help you. (Ordering information follows these excerpts.)

Consider the question posed by the Psalmist, “When I consider your heavens [stretching to infinity], the work of your fingers, the moon [on which human feet recently walked] and the stars [billions of billions in number, ranging in distance from trillions of miles to mi1lions of light years, grouped by billions in galaxies which number millions of millions], which you have set in place; what is man [living on the infinitesimally small planet earth] that thou art mindful of him? ” (Psalm 8:3-4, NIV). (p 12)

Hear the psalmist answer his own question about the importance of man: “You have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings, and crowned him with glory and honor! You have made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet” (Psalm 8:5-6, NIV).

God communicates: “You are very special to Me. I love you. I made you. I made you in My image.

As a young child, the most delightful and memorable experience 1 had with God’s handiwork was watching tadpoles change into frogs. During my growing-up years, my father was pastor of several churches at a time. When he preached away from our hometown, we would spend the afternoon with a family who attended the local church. One of my favorite things to do was to find a glass jar and walk along the road in search of a puddle of water where I could find frog eggs-little black ba1ls-each protected by a coat of transparent je1ly. Carefu1ly, I would place the jar mouth beneath my wonderful discovery and gather the eggs into the jar. Day by day I watched as tiny black balls changed (p 13) into wiggling tadpoles which grew bigger and bigger. Long tails developed and gradually disappeared as legs formed. Soon tiny frogs emerged. Such a dramatic transformation !

God can work in you (and me) this same dramatic transformation. God made you to become fully you. Consider the change that has occurred in you from birth. The outward transformations are striking. The inward transformations are and can be equally striking-even more so. You can become fully alive by discovering who you are, who you were meant to be, and the gifts which God has given you. If God can change a tadpole into a frog, just think what He can do with you, the highest of His creation. (p 14)

I find myself disagreeing with those who proclaim: “What’s wrong with the world is: ‘We love ourselves too much. The world is full of too much self-love,”‘ I listen and talk to myself; and I say, “No, what is wrong with the world is there is not enough self-love. People do not love themselves enough.” I think that we must mean different things when we use the words self-love. Perhaps they are trying to communicate that the world is too full of selfish people. Self-serving, selfish adults do not love themselves, They are falsely labeled, Actually, they are self-centered, Maybe those who condemn self-love are referring to an obsession with oneself which is described in Greek mythology. The young Narcissus was punished by being forced to “fall in love” with his own reflection in the water. This kind of love-stuck on oneself-is indeed punishment. A person impressed with his or her physical beauty has a false perception of what is really important. This person lacks love and real joy, (p 23)

You are able and capable. God made you that way. God gave you a free will the freedom to choose, to make choices. What trust He placed in you and me! When you believe you have a choice of spiritual, mental, and emotional health, you will stop self-defeating behaviors which injure and destroy your health. Begin now to think, feel, and act as a person of worth and value knowing that God wants His best for you. Take responsibility for what you think. When negative thoughts bombard or seem to sneak in, talk back to yourself. Instead of saying, “You make me so upset,” say, “I choose to get upset when. . .” Take responsibility for what you feel. “I choose to feel the way I feel. I feel happy (sad, glad, anxious, excited, overwhelmed).” Tell yourself how you feel, and own your feelings-take responsibility for them. If they are debilitating, choose to change them. (p 107)

Two summers ago when my husband, Fred was in major depression, we drove to Destin, Florida, for a week’s vacation. Our apartment overlooked the Gulf of Mexico. I was in desperate need of relaxation, rest, and a renewal of spirit. I took along several books to read. (The types of books you choose say much about your wants and needs.) My need was to get some control over my life, to think more positively, and gain control. First, I read a book Anatomy of an Illness by Norman Cousins. Cousins tested the therapeutic potential of laughter. His return to health from a crippling spinal disease he attributed to self-prescribed daily doses of humor.

Cousins likened physiology and psychological effects of laughing to that of jogging. Laughter is “internal jogging.”

Psychiatrists have said that laughing a hundred times a day is equivalent to about ten minutes of rowing. A great deal of research is being done in this area. Laughter apparently stimulates the reproduction of alertness hormones called catecholamines. These hormones in turn trigger the release of endorphins. These create a sense of relaxation and well-being and dull the perception of pain. During laughter heart rate, blood pressure, and muscular tension increase, and when laughter ceases, these levels drop below normal leaving one feeling relaxed. This relaxation can last 45 minutes after the last laugh and may be beneficial in reducing effects of heart disease, high blood pressure, and depression. Research is just now discovering to a greater extent what the writer of Proverbs knew so long ago, ” A merry heart doeth good like a medicine” (Proverbs 17:22). (p 109)

In the summer of 1969, Major Paul Guy Durbin, a chaplain in the United States Army, was assigned to a unit at Fort Hood, Texas. For his year and a half as an administrative chaplain, he received the merit service medal. Then he was transferred to another brigade to serve as assistant chaplain. Someone who rated his services for personnel put a derogatory remark on his Officers Efficiency Report (OER). Six months later while in training at Walter Reed Army Hospital, Major Durbin learned about the derogatory remark in his OER. He sent a disclaimer and requested that the unjust statement be removed. He was informed that the statement would remain, but the disclaimer would be part of the report.

In 1975 while serving in Bangkok, Thailand, Durbin received word that he had been passed over for promotion to lieutenant colonel- the derogatory (p 118) remark was the culprit. According to policy if he were passed over again in 1976, he would have to leave the army.

Durbin’s clinical training at Walter Reed Hospital prepared him emotionally for what otherwise would have been a grave disappointment. Prior to his clinical training, Major Durbin confessed that he had an inferiority complex which he described as a feeling of “low self-worth masked with an outgoing personality.” He had what he called a conversion experience. His motivation for ministry changed from fear to love. He developed a feeling of self-worth and dignity within himself which was not dependent upon verification from others although, admittedly, that helped and still does.

Major Durbin shared his plight with the Bishop of the Louisiana Conference of the United Methodist Church. In June of 1976, while attending the annual conference, Major Durbin was asked if he were interested in an opening at Pendleton Memorial Methodist Hospital in New Orleans beginning September I. His clinical training at Walter Reed had prepared him for the work of hospital chaplain. Then Major Durbin received word that the military had declared that two boards had been illegally convened, and all the officers passed over in 1975 and 1976 could stay on active duty until January, at which time their records would be reviewed again. Now he had a choice. Durbin chose to accept the position at Pendleton. In December of 1976, the army promotion board promoted Major Durbin to lieutenant colonel. He was to return to duty with his promotion date retroactive to 1975. He chose to remain at Pendleton Hospital.

While continuing his work at Pendleton Hospital, Major Durbin became the chaplain of the Louisiana National Guard and was promoted to lieutenant colonel. After attending staff school, he was promoted to full colonel in 1984.

In February 1986, Colonel Durbin was informed that he was being considered for a new position as Army National Guard special assistant to the Army Chief of Chaplains which carried the rank of brigadier general. In June Durbin was selected, but he could not wear the rank until federal recognition by Congress. He had the honor of becoming the first brigadier general chaplain in the Army National Guard.

In telling me his story, the chaplain recalled the story of Joseph. Joseph ‘s brothers sold him into slavery and told their father that Joseph had been killed. Years passed, and a famine prompted Joseph’s brothers to travel to Egypt to get grain. Unknowing to the brothers, Joseph was in charge of Egypt’s grain. The chaplain found solace in these words: “But Joseph said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, for am I in God’s place? And as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present resu14 to preserve many people alive”‘ (Genesis 50:19-20). (p 119)

WHAT I LEARNED THAT HELPED ME COPE: (while living with a depressed spouse) [The below list are the main points and many have additional information.]

* Life is a precious and fragile gift. Savor every moment.
* Some things are more important than others. People are more important than things.
* The mind has a powerful influence over the body.
* The spouse of a depressed person may be equally as needy as the patient.
* I can be independent if and when I need to be.
* Marriage vows are more than sentimental words spoken (p 124) during moments of high joy. Sickness can test our commitment to those vows.
* Butter cookies and milk are so comforting. But they have adverse side effects. My dress size went from 12 to 18. Finally, I am back to size 12.
* Books are therapeutic. David Burns’ Feeling Good (The New Mood Therapy) was recommended early on by the psychiatrist. To lift my spirits and help me focus on the positive, I read the Bible along with books by such authors as Norman Vincent Peale, Robert Schuller, Bernie Siegel, Paul Guy Durbin (hypnosis), Bruce Larson, and M. Scott Peck.
* Having fun (enjoyment) is a necessity, not a luxury.
* Walking is good for the body and the spirit.
* Meditation and silence before GOD are vital to mental health.

Revisiting our experience with depression enables us to look on it as a good catastrophe. I grew up, and Fred’s mental health is-believe it or not better than ever. He is on no medication. He suffered no noticeable memory loss.

For ten full years Fred was free of depression and medication. Over two years ago he announced, “Sybil, I would rather die than tell you this but I am in depression.” I had no clue. One day he was well and the next day he was in clinical depression. Could the time to dance be nigh? (Durbin: As of this writing, Fred is still in depression. It has not been as bad as before because he does have his good days as well as his bad days. One of the messages of Getting Good at Being You is that one can still maintain faith even in difficult times. Perhaps the greatest illustration of faith is to have faith when there are no logical reasons to have faith. The Old Testament Prophet Habakkuk (3:17-19a) wrote many yeas ago, “Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labor of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet will I rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength.” I highly recommend this book for living a happier life in times of joy and sorrow.