Restoring the Soul with Michael John Cusick

Episode 282 - Ben Wilson, "From Infidelity to Intensives: Ben Wilson's Path to Healing and Helping Others"

October 13, 2023 Ben Wilson Season 12 Episode 282
Restoring the Soul with Michael John Cusick
Episode 282 - Ben Wilson, "From Infidelity to Intensives: Ben Wilson's Path to Healing and Helping Others"
Show Notes Transcript

Welcome to another episode of Restoring the Soul with Michael John Cusick. In today's episode, titled "From Infidelity to Intensives: Ben Wilson's Path to Healing and Helping Others," a special guest is joining us. Ben Wilson, a Restoring the Soul Intensive therapist and a longtime acquaintance of our host, Michael. Ben shares his journey and what led him to join the Restoring the Soul team and participate in their men's intensive programs. He also discusses his experience in working with couples dealing with infidelity and the book he wrote on the subject. 

Throughout the conversation, Ben emphasizes the importance of addressing deep longings and unhealthy strategies in our lives and the role of facing pain and suffering in true transformation. Ben's varied background, from being a golfer to completing the grueling Iron Man race, adds to the richness of his perspective. So, get ready to dive deep into the complexities of the human heart and discover how restoration is possible even in the midst of deep pain. 


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Thanks for listening!

MICHAEL CUSICK:

Ben Wilson, welcome to the restoring the soul podcast. Ah, thank you so much. It's good to be here. It's fun to have you here on the podcast as a restoring the soul intensive therapist, where in the past you've just been an acquaintance and a friend.

Ben Wilson:

Right, right. Yeah, we go back a little ways, huh? Yeah, we'll

MICHAEL CUSICK:

talk about that in a minute. But you've also been involved deeply with our restoring the soul men's intensive, which we'll unpack but I just want to tell everybody that the purpose of this podcast is to introduce you to the world, to our podcast listeners and friends. And to let people know that you're the newest addition to restoring the souls intensive programs. So talk a little bit about what led you to this moment of joining RTS and beginning to do intensives.

Ben Wilson:

Yeah, part of it is I've always had a heart for intensives. And, and, and I did a number of intensives, with other couples, and my wife, her situation changed and so we weren't doing those anymore. And in doing the men's and tests as with you the weekends of just seeing how you've continued to grow and evolve as a person and therapist and just began to grow in my heart to come and join you and to do intensives with you at restoring the soul. Yeah, you did marriage intensives primarily for couples that were experiencing infidelity. Is that right? That's correct. Yeah. And talk a little bit about the book that you wrote, as a result of that. Yeah, my wife and I experienced infidelity in our own marriage. And through moving through that, and having a healthy marriage, eventually, we both earned our counseling degrees. And then at that point, we were involved in different parts of ministry, but part of that was caring for other couples, as they experienced infidelity. And through all of that, we wrote a book called betrayed and betrayer rescuing your marriage after the affair. And where can people get that book? They can pick that up on Amazon or other online bookstores.

MICHAEL CUSICK:

Fantastic. So listeners, Ben and then Wilson betrayed and betrayer. So Ben, we met each other back in the mid 90s. I think it was 1996 that we met. That's correct. Yeah. That's yeah, you were student in the counseling program. I was teaching there. And we worked beside one another. And you graduated from the program with Larry Crabb and Dan allander. So those two men have influenced you talk a little bit about the approach that you have used for now two and a half decades in private practice before you've come to restoring the soul?

Ben Wilson:

Oh, gosh, it's involved a lot. I mean, coming out, what I learned most out of the program is still a concept that applies of just the deep longings and wrong strategies to meet those longings. I feel like that undergirds all that I do, and, and so even as people go directions that are ultimately harmful to themselves, or to their marriage, there's still a good longing underneath all that. And so I've seek to get to that longing and bring it out. And in the midst of all the pain and hurt that's there, to acknowledge that and to know that the person involved has a good heart, and they want to get to that good heart. And that's not to minimize the pain that the other person feels or that if it's an individual, just the pain that they've caused themselves and harm in their own lives. Yeah, so

MICHAEL CUSICK:

let's unpack that idea a little bit, because that's not always talked about this concisely and clearly as you stated it, but the idea of deep longings and wrong strategies, and if I can change that word, wrong strategy, just to unhealthy strategies. maladaptive strategies are what we call it, the men's weekend Miss handling our pain, right? So it's that there's these God given longings inside of me. And then in response to that, largely because we've never learned, we don't have the internal resources within like in our nervous system, or there's something addictive going on that we go in directions that actually cause more suffering, than give us what we want and need. Talk about how, just more about that in your work.

Ben Wilson:

Oh, that's a that's a, that's a great way to put it. Like a lot of times, there's so much shame to battle through that. It's tough for individuals to recognize that they have good longings, like they may spend a lot of times just beating themselves up that they can't quit something, or that something has such a hold on them, that it's tough for them to get to the good longing and believe that there's something good in their heart around this right. And oftentimes, the strategy that people use is they just want to cut it off. They just want God to take it away, that God can't take it away because he would have to take some really good parts. have that person to do that. And so that's, as you said, that continues to cause more suffering. But once you begin to face that head on and face your story head on, a person can move through the suffering, and move to the other side and experience more hope in their lives.

MICHAEL CUSICK:

There really is no change, deep change inside without facing some pain and suffering. Right.

Ben Wilson:

Exactly, exactly as we were going through our tough times. That's one thing I've out and one thing I realized that there was only so much pain to deal with. And I wanted to deal with as much as I could each

MICHAEL CUSICK:

day. And sometimes it's overwhelming. Absolutely, absolutely. You

Ben Wilson:

can't go out of the 100% every day, right because it can get so big and everybody needs to take a break and just go to the lake or do whatever they like to do for fun or just to relax and circle back around after after they get a break from that and have some renewed energy to dig in. Again.

MICHAEL CUSICK:

I want to talk a little bit about your your, your background, you've got a really varied background for a therapist. First first interesting thing is you went to college and you were a golfer during college and you went on to be a professional golfer. So talk a little bit about golf in your life just I mean, it's not directly related to counseling, but it's part of the richness of who you are.

Ben Wilson:

Yeah, Golf was a big part of my life. My dad introduced me to the game when I started playing at a young age and you know, as I hit double digits, it became more and more important to me and I could see that I had some talent there and I just loved to play and I love to be outdoors and so eventually won the state high school a couple times in Missouri and played for Missouri and college and we won the Big Eight kind of dating myself there. We won the Big Eight ended Oklahoma state's I think they had an 11 year win streak or something like that. So that was a great great deal to do that lots of fun and I was all big A my senior year and then moved on our professional ranks and high played people might know Brandel Chamblee, his name, he's a host on the Golf Channel and he played on tour and staying up late and guys named Duffy Waldorf played with John Daly and Steve Elkington is another major champion I played with from that era.

MICHAEL CUSICK:

Fantastic. And how often do you get out on the course these days with your busy life?

Ben Wilson:

Just depends on the year I think I got out there six or eight times this year, but few years ago, I played a little bit more and and that was lots of fun. I like to get out and ride my bike more now than I do like off.

MICHAEL CUSICK:

Let's talk about that. Because I think this is insane. And yet I have great respect for it. You have done the Ironman the full Ironman two times. Is that correct?

Ben Wilson:

That's correct. Yeah, did two times. For the uninitiated,

MICHAEL CUSICK:

we're not talking about a 10k and then riding your bike 10 miles and swimming a mile talk about what the actual Ironman is.

Ben Wilson:

The actual Ironman Distance is a 2.4 mile swim 112 mile bike ride. And then you run a marathon. All back to back to back back to back to back, right? You just go to transition. Switch your clothes if you need to switch your shoes if you need to, and head on out to the next thing.

MICHAEL CUSICK:

So a big question for me if I were listening fresh and not knowing you is why what inspired you to do that not once but twice.

Ben Wilson:

Well, it started in my 40s I got way out of shape and overweight. And then a friend of mine was he was a bike rider. He got me out there riding the bike. And so I really enjoyed that we did the Ms. 150. So that included you know riding your bike 80 miles each day and I never dreamed I could have built up to that when I started riding. I thought riding six or seven miles was was a long way. And then there was a group of us in our town who decided to try a triathlon and somewhere through that I decided I'll do the shortest triathlon one year. The next step up is the Olympic. And then you do a half Ironman, and then an Ironman after that. And yeah, in that process, that's when we moved back to Colorado and did my first Ironman in 2014. And boulder.

MICHAEL CUSICK:

Oh, my goodness, you did your first one at 5000 feet a mile above sea level. Right? Right, right. Yeah. What was it like when you crossed the finish line on that marathon the first time?

Ben Wilson:

Oh, it was a thrill. It was a real thrill. Just finishing each one. It's kind of like getting through the swim. There's a deep sense of relief. Not a great swimmer. So getting through that my favorite part of it is riding the bike. And so getting out on the bike and I'm a kid having fun doing that. And then you know, who wants to run a marathon after running your bike 112 miles but you get out there and you do it and you're just in this river of people that you keep going and that energy fuels you and there was a time about when I was About a 10k out, I'm like, I don't know if I'm going to be able to finish this thing but kept moving, walked a little bit, and eventually latched on to a couple of people that went by me, but not by me too fast and just grabbed their coattails in their energy to help get to the finish line. So yeah, it was I had friends that are congratulating me, it was really euphoric to finish that.

MICHAEL CUSICK:

That's remarkable. You also have another little bit of a circuitous route to your counseling degree where we train together at Colorado Christian, you have a master's in business administration, an MBA, how did you get from MBA to licensed professional counselor?

Ben Wilson:

Good question, went for MBA, went out into the business world. And I wasn't sure really what I wanted to do with my MBA when I got it. And so I bounced around a little bit. And then I also struggle with addiction and struggle with drinking then and once getting sober began to get a little more clarity about moving forward with my life and being a part of serving others. And then my wife and I had all our problems at that point. And I had actually, I found out about her affair when I was just I was three weeks into seminary, and I had intended to go and be a full time pastor. Going through that leaning on my chaplain in the Army Reserves. He's the one who introduced me to Larry's books. And walking through that I knew at the end of that, I wanted to be there for other people like he was there for me. And so I knew that I wanted to be a counselor more than I wanted to be an upfront preacher in that at that point, and it was a lot better fit for me. And that's when you move to Colorado shortly thereafter, that's when we moved to Colorado. Yeah, it was a real fast process, once I decided that, to get out to come on out here, and I was born in southern Colorado. So there's always a sense of coming home.

MICHAEL CUSICK:

Then you mentioned that you had gone to seminary, because you wanted to be a pastor. But after you got your counseling degree, you actually were on staff at a couple of major churches, one in Denver and one in Missouri. Talk a little bit about what your involvement has been at church. And the reason why I think it's gonna be interesting for people to hear about this is that you can relate to a lot of different people, you can relate to the MBA type, you can relate to the golfer type, or the athlete based on your your success in golf in your professional golf experience. I didn't recall although I know this about you that you were in the Army Reserves. So you're also military from time to time we work with military leadership at restoring soul. So talk a little bit about your work at churches, what you did there as a counselor and and why you might see that intensive counseling is important in light of the kind of work that you did at churches.

Ben Wilson:

I was one of my titles was care ministry pastor. And I basically did the same thing at both churches. I trained lay ministers did counseling myself, and oversaw groups, recovery groups, whether it's divorce recovery, or Grief Recovery or, or addiction recovery groups. And then I also lead a number of different types of groups for sexual abuse, recovery and, and sexual addiction, recovery, those kinds of things. And just through all that, and moving around as a kid and military training, just encountered a lot of different people and learn to relate to a lot of different people with different backgrounds. And so that's been really helpful. And I think going through the anon staff at church, seeing the intensive model, I can see the need for that how the weekly counseling is helpful in certain situations. But other situations, there's just more that's required in a short period of time. And just like the weekend we just did of spending 66 hours with these men, right, that's equivalent to at least a year of counseling for people and just invaluable the new direction that the men and women can get by going through intensive counseling.

MICHAEL CUSICK:

Yeah, I appreciate that idea of a new direction, because we talk a lot about how a lot of healing is not about pushing down our desire but about reorienting our life to a really different goal and a really different approach and a different way of doing life. And I love when churches have Counseling Ministries, when church leadership, quote, buys in to counseling, there are still remnants of a lot of churches and they tend to be more conservative that say, psychology and Bible or psychology and Christianity don't mix. And I know both of the churches that you are part of and that you've really had a big impact there. Because the people attending those churches are wounded and broken. And here's the most obvious state men in the world, right? I wish this weren't true. But being a Christian and just going to church doesn't address the deep inner issues that we have the brokenness, the woundedness, the way that we miss handle our vulnerability, and trauma and things like that.

Ben Wilson:

Yeah, yeah, yeah, that's what I hope to do when I was on staff at church and still continue to do is just divine, invite people into a deeper look a deeper look at their own hearts a deeper look at their relationship with God a deeper look at their own story. I was fortunate enough in the last church I was at it was near a military base, it was near Whiteman Air Force Base. And so I got to meet with a lot of military folks there. And that was really a big learning experience for me and taught me all that they go through and really just honor the journey that they're on.

MICHAEL CUSICK:

And I think some of those guys, from when you were there, in the early days of our weekend intensive, I remember some of them coming through the weekend that you had referred if I'm not mistaken. Hey, Ben, talk a little bit about how others would describe you how your clients would describe what kind of counselor you are.

Ben Wilson:

I've heard lately, just the tenderness that I have when when I speak to people is helpful, that it's really inviting to them and helps them feel safe and comfortable. And that's not to say I'm not strong and direct, as well. And I think it's the combination of both of those that is helpful to be able to speak directly and named, they help help people name things for themselves, but also give them a place where they know they're accepted to know that they can share their story and it's going to be safe with me.

MICHAEL CUSICK:

Yeah. And because I just talked about your involvement at churches for somebody coming in with spiritual abuse, or maybe issues where pastors have been bullies, or worse. Are you a safe person for people with religious and spiritual wounds to sit with? I know the answer to that, but talk a little bit about that.

Ben Wilson:

Yeah, I think that's a strong area that I have in counseling of just having been in church and attended church, and also that on staff at church, just seeing the good and the bad, and the ugly of it all, you know, and had my own times where, where I probably heard other people, but there is a place where something doesn't feel right to somebody, but gee, I'm at church. So it must be right because the leadership is saying it's right, when it's absolutely wrong. And it ends up causing a lot of pain, causing a lot of hurt. And you know, it's not churches that abuse, its leadership at churches that sometimes abuse and I don't want to paint with too broad a brush, because there's a lot of great pastors out there and people on staff at churches that really do a great job of caring for the for their members.

MICHAEL CUSICK:

Yeah, and so often those issues include things like controlling and bullying in sometimes very subtle ways. Oftentimes, I think the thing I most see, with religious, spiritual and church abuse is a lot of shaming. And then of course, in more much more difficult situations, there's real boundary crossing with with sexual and emotional boundary crossing. And, of course, that's all part of what we do at restoring the soul. But the reason I asked the question is that it seems like those of us that were trained in the background with Dan allander, and perhaps lesser people know, Larry Crabb, now, but Dan elder is still working in teaching up in Seattle, and as a trauma expert, as he is He teaches at the Seattle school, that so many of us went through a process of being reoriented to a loving God, a merciful God, a God who is really about restoring and liberating our hearts to become who were meant to be, as opposed to a God that requires us first and foremost, to have an allegiance to Christianity, and to a particular set of rules and doctrines that it really reoriented us to Jesus and to seeing the kingdom through Jesus in the Trinity. Talk a little bit about how that has unfolded for you. I asked the question because I really have a deep respect for your faith and the way that you experience God.

Ben Wilson:

Thanks. Yeah, that was a big part of going through the counseling program at Colorado Christian have just the beginning of that reorientation of moving really taking seriously of leaning into Jesus and resting in Jesus verses a set of rules that you need to follow a set of do's and don'ts and one thing I've learned through the years that's is that the more black and white the environment, the MO are more prone you are to hiding and addiction and those sorts of things. And so for me, it's really It's been intuitive to move more in that direction of trusting God in significant ways more with myself, and just knowing that I want to spend time with him. And he's glad when I show up to spend time with Him and to be with them, and and then my direction in life comes out of that. Not following. Okay, these are the 20 do's and don'ts I need to deal with.

MICHAEL CUSICK:

Yeah, you talked about how the more black and white it is, the more hiddenness there is, and potentially more addiction. But, you know, what I'm also seeing is a lot of people that just have a deep ache in their heart, then they're lonely, and they're going to church, and they say, I feel worse when I go to church, because I feel so alone, and I feel so unknown. So yes, there's absolutely the addiction issues in the hiddenness. But just that sense of it's meant to be a place of vitality, and connection. And if people look beneath the surface of WoW, here's some awesome teaching or inspiring teaching or something, and how's my life internally changing? Or how connected do I feel, that oftentimes is just a lot of pain?

Ben Wilson:

Absolutely. And I think, Michael, that's one thing I really enjoyed about being on staff at church and in the environments that was able to help create was just the authenticity and vulnerability that was there. And right or wrong, people would say, hey, this feels more like church to me than church. And there's something really good in that statement. And something really sad in that statement as well.

MICHAEL CUSICK:

I think you may know some of these people, but I've actually done intensive counseling here at restoring soul with ministers, who had been on staff in the position of a care pastor, or care ministry or counseling. And because that's speaking to the real issues, where people are at all and certainly within a Jesus centered context, that that care pastor becomes, in many ways more successful than the church itself. And I've seen numerous situations where the Celebrate Recovery group grows larger or as large as the relatively small church of 250 people. And before you know it, that the person is pushed away, because there's an insecure, senior pastor who says, Hey, this is a whole other church, when in fact, people that are attending those car groups, and I'm using that as just an example are saying, well, this is church, which just, which just rounds out this idea of that that church is meant to be holistic, right, that it's not just the sermon on Sunday morning.

Ben Wilson:

Yeah, that's a good part of the church, but not necessarily all that that is meant to be there and misses a key aspect of the relational elements. And that recovery groups go into how connected people get it with other people in the recovery groups. It's really beautiful to see. And, of course, you know, this, but it takes relationship to heal and to grow.

MICHAEL CUSICK:

Yeah, right. We're wounded in relationship, we're hurting relationship. And so we can only heal in relationship, how I wish that we could all just listen to a couple podcasts and read a book, and then poof, we're healed. There we go, much less read the Bible, and we're healed. Hey, I want to just end with this. I've always said in the 20, some years that I've done restoring the soul as an intensive ministry, that I would only work alongside people and hire people that I would have my own family members sit and be counseled by, and you're somebody in that category, that I just have a deep confidence in your skill, your ability, your training, but mostly, I have a deep respect, and love and care for your personal journey and for your heart, that when you sit with people, they're going to be really deeply loved, that they're going to be safe, and that you are God's instrument of transformation. And people I've seen that again and again, including, as part of the training that you're doing here of transitioning from the private practice work you've done plus some of the intensive work you've done, which had a somewhat different structure. You've sat in with me, and it's just been so enjoyable and powerful to see you kind of come alongside and speak into the lives of people. It's we've done that together. So I want to say thank you for all of that. Thank you for your heart. Thank you that after all these many, many years of practicing and training that you're going to be able to experience I think a new level of freedom and joy and fruitfulness in what God's really equip you to do. So. I'm so excited to have you here and I'm really proud to have you on our staff.

Ben Wilson:

Thank you. I'm excited as well. I'm looking forward to spending more time there and serving people there and an expanded role at restoring the soul