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  • Writer's picturePatrick Norris


When I was in my early days of High School, I began a journey to figure me out.

  • What was driving my impulses?

  • How could I tame the parts of me that were incongruent with my godly values?

  • Why could I not regulate my emotional surges that ruminated deep below the surface?

  • Why do people I care about betray me and how can I prevent it in the future?

  • How can I make myself so appealing and desirable that no one would ever intentionally hurt me?

These were just a few of the questions that I churned from below. Some questions were just under the surface, and some were down in the deeper regions of the emotional subconscious.

Even from early in my childhood I can remember social anxiety storming through my soul. Today, I have learned through science that I inherited many of these anxious patterns from my family tree, and somehow those genes were turned on, probably before birth. These neuropathways were fast developed early in my life, and I projected social anxiety and my expectation of rejection and betrayal onto how I interpreted people.

It is very possible that my most intimate relationships didn’t actually wound me, but very plausibly, I may have simply interpreted them as such. However, the impact on my brain was the same.

I emotionally built on those genetic factors and predispositions with each social interaction. I have memories of those I so deeply longed to be seen by, nurtured, and celebrated by – ripping my emotions open as I felt distant, rejected and betrayed.

Keep in mind that my family of origin – parents and sibling – would do anything for me and celebrate me. I was never physically abused or overtly accosted, like people stereotypically think of in an abusive home. But my psychological template for rejection and betrayal was being built just the same.

Even as a grade school child, I had a written paper list in my desk drawer that had names of all those who recently betrayed me, and how I was never going to play with them again… even using the word “hate” to describe them. This was one of my coping mechanisms to deal with my grief. Then, knowing I had no other friends to play with, I anxiously went out to play with my betrayers, knowing it would only be a matter of time before another cycle of betrayal would happen.


Though I was raised in church and in a Christian family I was saddened by many of the compromising situations I had found myself in, choices I had made, and violations to my sense of self. Prior to high school we had moved to a rural town where everyone was lifelong family and friends. They all had grown up together. I desperately wanted to fit in. For a few years, no matter what I did I continued to feel like an outsider. And like a recording loop, my friends would easily betray me if someone older, more influential and more popular showed up.

To gain popularity and attention I had bullied the less popular… but only the easy picks. I had dabbled with alcohol and even became drunk a few times. I experienced my first exposure to pornography and was pushing boundaries with girls. While my moral resume may not feel too bad to some, it was a heavy burden to my conscience. I felt out of control. I didn’t like who I was becoming. My dysregulation emotionally had deeper root systems than just having some undesirable behaviors.

By the end of my freshman year, my faith in Christ began to have “first-time” experiences. These profound moments were so fresh, often simple, but very satisfying. I kept wanting more. I assumed if I could just get close enough to Christ, or if I could learn enough of the “secret” truths of Scripture that I would one day conquer the drivers that I had yet to identify. My hopes were fully awakened and now alive in Christ.

Early in my sophomore year, my parents' own internal struggles created marital fights, verbal battles, strivings and finally moral failings. My spiritual mentors had betrayed my deepest expectations and landed me with the deepest of disappointments. All of the nuances that went with this broke my heart with sadness. The pain was palpable, sitting on the sensitive edges of my emotions. Today I would call it “betrayal trauma.” But back then I didn’t know what that was. I just knew it hurt… really deep… and I knew I would never be able to control it. Emotionally I felt anxious, repressed rage and often depressed.

Jesus became my hope for freedom. It was that relationship, filled with both concepts and spiritual experiences that gave me reprieve that filled my heart with joy. This was the kind of joy that scripture speaks of: “joy unspeakable and full of glory.” I would invest intense times throughout the days, both at school and at home, worshipping, praying, declaring God’s Word, and digesting as many teaching resources as I could find. It turns out that these times became the bedrock of what has become my calling, assignments and ministry. It was the only refuge I had access to, and it was like refreshing cold water in a dry and thirsty land.

Yet, my heart still struggled with different parts of me in conflict. By far and away I was planted in desires to please God. However, there were these other impulses, hormones, compulsive hyper-reactions and more that would pop up when I least expected. Trying to make sense of these “parts” was confusing and very difficult. Without having the words to describe it, I was learning to compartmentalize these “parts,” which required that God was one part a