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Posts tagged ‘stinking thinking’

How to Stop Automatic Negative Thoughts

SOURCE:  Renee Jain, Contributor/The Huffington Post

All kids blow things out of proportion or jump to conclusions at times, but consistently distorting reality is not innocuous.

“I didn’t get invited to Julie’s party… I’m such a loser.”

“I missed the bus… nothing ever goes my way.”

“My science teacher wants to see me… I must be in trouble.”

These are the thoughts of a high school student named James. You wouldn’t know it from his thoughts, but James is actually pretty popular and gets decent grades.

Unfortunately, in the face of adversity, James makes a common error; he falls into what I like to call “thought holes.” Thought holes, or cognitive distortions, are skewed perceptions of reality. They are negative interpretations of a situation based on poor assumptions. For James, thought holes cause intense emotional distress.

Here’s the thing, all kids blow things out of proportion or jump to conclusions at times, but consistently distorting reality is not innocuous. Studies show self-defeating thoughts (i.e., “I’m a loser”) can trigger self-defeating emotions (i.e., pain, anxiety, malaise) that, in turn, cause self-defeating actions (i.e., acting out, skipping school). Left unchecked, this tendency can also lead to more severe conditions, such as depression and anxiety.

Fortunately, in a few steps, we can teach teens how to fill in their thought holes. It’s time to ditch the idea of positive thinking and introduce the tool of accurate thinking. The lesson begins with an understanding of what causes inaccurate thinking in the first place.

We Create Our Own (Often Distorted) Reality

One person walks down a busy street and notices graffiti on the wall, dirt on the pavement and a couple fighting. Another person walks down the same street and notices a refreshing breeze, an ice cream cart and a smile from a stranger. We each absorb select scenes in our environment through which we interpret a situation. In essence, we create our own reality by that to which we give attention.

Why don’t we just interpret situations based on all of the information? It’s not possible; there are simply too many stimuli to process. In fact, the subconscious mind can absorb 20 million bits of information through the five senses in a mere second. Data is then filtered down so that the conscious mind focuses on only 7 to 40 bits. This is a mental shortcut.

Shortcuts keep us sane by preventing sensory overload. Shortcuts help us judge situations quickly. Shortcuts also, however, leave us vulnerable to errors in perception. Because we perceive reality based on a tiny sliver of information, if that information is unbalanced (e.g., ignores the positive and focuses on the negative), we are left with a skewed perception of reality, or a thought hole.

Eight Common Thought Holes

Not only are we susceptible to errors in thinking, but we also tend to make the same errors over and over again. Seminal work by psychologist Aaron Beck, often referred to as the father of cognitive therapy, and his former student, David Burns, uncovered several common thought holes as seen below.

  • Jumping to conclusions: judging a situation based on assumptions as opposed to definitive facts
  • Mental filtering: paying attention to the negative details in a situation while ignoring the positive
  • Magnifying: magnifying negative aspects in a situation
  • Minimizing: minimizing positive aspects in a situation
  • Personalizing: assuming the blame for problems even when you are not primarily responsible
  • Externalizing: pushing the blame for problems onto others even when you are primarily responsible
  • Overgeneralizing: concluding that one bad incident will lead to a repeated pattern of defeat
  • Emotional reasoning: assuming your negative emotions translate into reality, or confusing feelings with facts

Going from Distorted Thinking to Accurate Thinking

Once teens understand why they fall into thought holes and that several common ones exist, they are ready to start filling them in by trying a method developed by GoZen! called the 3Cs:

  • Check for common thought holes
  • Collect evidence to paint an accurate picture
  • Challenge the original thoughts

Let’s run through the 3Cs using James as an example. James was recently asked by his science teacher to chat after class. He immediately thought, “I must be in trouble,” and began to feel distressed. Using the 3Cs, James should first check to see if he had fallen into one of the common thought holes. Based on the list above, it seems he jumped to a conclusion.

James’s next step is to collect as much data or evidence as possible to create a more accurate picture of the situation. His evidence may look something like the following statements:

“I usually get good grades in science class.”

“Teachers sometimes ask you to chat after class when something is wrong.”

“I’ve never been in trouble before.”

“The science teacher didn’t seem upset when he asked me to chat.”

With all the evidence at hand, James can now challenge his original thought. The best (and most entertaining) way to do this is for James to have a debate with himself.

On one side is the James who believes he is in big trouble with his science teacher; on the other side is the James who believes that nothing is really wrong. James could use the evidence he collected to duke it out with himself! In the end, this type of self-disputation increases accurate thinking and improves emotional well-being.

Let’s teach our teens that thoughts, even distorted ones, affect their emotional well-being. Let’s teach them to forget positive thinking and try accurate thinking instead. Above all, let’s teach our teens that they have the power to choose their thoughts.

As the pioneering psychologist and philosopher, William James, once said, “The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.”

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Overcoming Thoughts of Spiritual Betrayal (by God)

SOURCE: Dr. Gregory Jantz/AACC

If you have faith in God, depression can be similar to a betrayal by him.

After all, you have trusted him to care for you, yet you are still depressed.  You may have heard from your childhood that, as a Christian, you were to experience and exhibit joy, peace, patience—all the fruit of the Spirit spoken of in Galatians 5:22-23.  This sense of betrayal may haunt your sleepless nights and invade your despairing thoughts.  Feeling forgotten by God, you may even be angry at him.

This anger at God can contribute to your depression by provoking feelings of guilt.  You don’t think you should be angry at God, or you don’t think you have the right to be angry at God, so you feel guilty when you pray, the more you are convinced that he could fix it, but he won’t .  You doubt his love.  But you’ve also memorized John 3:16, which begins, “For God so loved the world…” so you’ve been told he does love you.  Looking at all of this, you conclude he’s got a lousy way of showing his live, at least to you.

Or you may think, Perhaps I don’t deserve his love.  Maybe he doesn’t change my situation because I don’t deserve joy and peace in my life.  Possibly the things I’ve done are so bad that he wants to love me but can’t because of who I am.  And if God can’t love me, then I’m not really worthy to be loved by anyone.  And if my life is to be empty of love, hope is impossible.  If you look at it this way, depression is completely understandable.

Or is it?

Have you picked up the stream of thoughts in this line of reasoning?

It takes snippets of truth—God loves you, and Christians are to live lives of joy—and twists those around into something meant to injure you, not give you comfort.  This line of reasoning is not from God; it is from the Deceiver.  Rage is a deceiver.  False guilt is a deceiver.  Abject despair is a deceiver.  Depression is a deceiver.  That is why when you are in the midst of depression, you must replace your own negative self-talk with God-talk, which is based upon truth.  This God-talk will support your positive self-talk by agreeing with affirming statements, such as these:

  • I deserve love. (“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” – John 3:16)
  • I deserve joy. (“Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away” –Isaiah 51:11)
  • I am strong enough to learn and grow each day. (“It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect” – 2 Samuel 22:33)
  • I can experience contentment in my life. (“I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation” – Philippians 4:12)
  • I am able to respond to my circumstances, instead of react. (“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” – Romans 12:2)
  • I can look forward to tomorrow. (“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” –Lamentations 3:22-23)

How do you fill your life and your mind with God-talk?

The Bible is full of life-affirming messages.  It is, at its heart, a love story.  It is a story of a loving God, who created you to love you and to be loved by you.

Like every great story, there is a separation, which must be overcome by terrible sacrifice.  Through God’s sacrifice of his Son, Jesus, you are able to confidently say, “I can live happily ever after.”

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Authored by Dr. Gregory Jantz, founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE  and author of 35 books.

Doctors Say Your Word Choice Can Hugely Change Your Brain

SOURCE:  /Lifehack

Be careful because the next word you say could determine how your day is, or the rest of your life might pan out. Doctors at Thomas Jefferson University explained that the choice of our words could actually have more impact on our lives than we actually think. Think the words of “I can’t”, “I won’t” or “it’s tough”, are harmless? Use them long enough and it will literally change your brain and here’s why.

Positive words strengthens frontal lobe

Dr. Andrew Newberg and Mark Robert Waldmen, authors of life-changing book, “Words can change your brain”, wrote that “a single word has the power to influence the expression of genes that regulate physical and emotional stress.” By using more positive words in our daily lives, the areas of our frontal lobes are exercised, making it more effective.

By stimulating frontal lobe activity, you are developing an area that is in charge of telling you what is right from wrong and the ability to override and suppress socially unacceptable responses. As a result of frequent use of positive words, it will then give you the motivation to take charge of your life and your choices.

Negative words increase stress hormones

So what happens when we use too much negative words? The use of negative words activates the fear response in us which raises the levels of our stress hormones which the Amygdala is responsible for. Too much negativity and we become edgy as the stress hormones take over our body.

Although it might be true that a little stress is good for our bodies, but too much of it can cause many problems to our physical and mental health.

Changing the way we view ourselves and others

The doctors added further that the use of positive language can start to change the functions of the parietal lobe which is in charge of how we view ourselves and others. With a positive view of ourselves through the use of positive and encouraging words, it will make us lean towards seeing the good in others too.

However, a negative self-image brought about by negative use of language can fill us with suspicion and doubt causing us to be more wary of others which changes the way we behave socially.

The experiment

Studies were conducted to see whether it is true that using uplifting words can help to rewire our brain and thought processes. A group of adults ranging from age 35 to 54 were tasked to write down three things every day for the next 3 months that make them the happiest and why they chose those three.

Three months into the study and it showed that these adults felt more happy and less depressed. The study was also able to tell us that we are all capable of rewiring our brains to become more positive by focusing on the events that make us happy instead of events that don’t.

Practical methods of using positive language

When we’re angry, there are many times when we use words which we regret using once we cool down. Experts say that this is because when angry words are used, they partially shut down the areas of logic and reasoning located in our frontal lobe. The amygdala which is our center for ‘fight or flight’ responses will then take over. This explains why most of us are not able to think before reacting when we are angry. Some experts term it, ‘amygdala hijacking’.

With the habit of using positive language, we can train our frontal lobes to be more effective even when we’re angry so that we become more logical when dealing with heated situations.

If you are currently unaware of whether you are using more positive words than negative words, start to pay attention to your word choice and write them down if you can. Also, to put yourself in a more positive frame of mind, try writing down 3 things that makes you happy every day and start to see that positive change in your life.

Letting God’s Truths Replace the Lies We Believe

SOURCE:  American Association of Christian Counselors

MIND GAMES

To renew your mind is to involve yourself in the process of allowing God to bring to the surface the lies you have mistakenly accepted and replace them with truth. -Charles Stanley

If your mind is filled with the Word of God, then it can’t be filled with impure thoughts. -David Jeremiah

Crazy thoughts… we all have them from time to time.

Consuming thoughts… those are the ones that won’t be denied.

Unrelenting thoughts… that won’t let you sleep.

Private thoughts… that stubbornly fuel emotions of lust, anger, fear, sorrow, and even hopelessness.

Infected thoughts… that are often destructive in relationships with those closest to us, even our relationship with God.

“Anxious thoughts (that) multiply within me…” (Psalm 94:19 NAS)

The scary part? When we start believing them. “For as a man thinks within himself, so is he.” (Proverbs 23:7 NAS)

The antidote? “…do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6 ESV)

However, we must not miss vs. 8 which begins with the word “Finally”— a word which could be translated “From this time forward”.

“Finally, (from this time forward) brothers, (and sisters) whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (ESV)

That’s a bunch of “whatevers” to think about.

What you fill your mind with will largely determine what type of thoughts you have. What you put in — comes out…

And there is a challenge; the “evil one”, known as the “father of lies”, constantly and consistently bombards our minds. And his mind games become a battlefield.

Paul said we should take “every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5 NAS) Knowing it and doing it are two different things.

Speaking of war, when Paul delineates and lists the “full armor of God” used to“stand firm against the schemes of the devil” in Ephesians 6, he only records one offensive weapon“And take…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (v. 17 NAS)

The spiritual weapon given to us by the Lord, to battle the formation of these debilitating and controlling thoughts, is God’s word.

Flip back a page to Ephesians 5. Paul says that Christ sanctifies and cleanses the body of Christ “by the washing of water by the word” (v. 26 ESV)

Our thought life can, and will be washed clean by soaking and meditating in His written word.

Spend time reading the Bible. Study it. Memorize it. Saturate your thoughts with it. Immerse your soul in it. Drink deeply of its truth. Let the word of God dwell in you richly.

As you do this, “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7 ESV)

It will turn your thought life around.

A Source of Why We Think and Do As We Do….

SOURCE:  John Eldredge

An Identity We Received

Identity is not something that falls on us out of the sky.

For better or for worse, identity is bestowed.

We are who we are in relation to others. But far more important, we draw our identity from our impact on those others—if and how we affect them. We long to know that we make a difference in the lives of others, to know that we matter, that our presence cannot be replaced by a pet, a possession, or even another person. The awful burden of the false self is that it must be constantly maintained.

We think we have to keep doing something in order to be desirable. Once we find something that will bring us some attention, we have to keep it going or risk the loss of the attention.

And so we live with the fear of not being chosen and the burden of maintaining whatever it is about us that might get us noticed and the commitment never to be seen for who we really are. We develop a functional self-image, even if it is a negative one.

The little boy paints his red wagon a speckled gray with whatever Father left in the can after putting a new coat on the backyard fence. “Look what I did!” he says, hoping for affirmation of the wonderful impact his presence has on the world. The angry father shames him: “What do you think you’re doing? You’ve ruined it.”

The boy forms an identity: “My impact is awful; I foul good things up. I am a fouler.”  And he forms a commitment never to be in a place where he can foul things up again. Years later, his colleagues wonder why he turned down an attractive promotion. The answer lies in his identity, an identity he received from the impact he had on the most important person in his world and his fear of ever being in such a place again.

Five (5) Ways to Stop Discouragement from Getting the Best of You

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

Discouragement and disappointment are normal emotions we all experience, even as Christians.

Peter felt discouraged with himself when he realized that he wasn’t as courageous as he thought he was, even though Jesus had warned him that he would deny him before the rooster crowed (Matthew 26:31 and 74,75). We too can feel discouraged and even depressed when we fail to live up to our own or other’s expectations.

Job felt discouraged and frustrated with his wife and friends. They didn’t get it. Trying to be helpful, they only heaped more shame and blame on Job for his afflictions. We also can feel let down by our friends and family. They don’t understand what we’re going through or don’t offer to help as we wish they would. (Read through the biblical book of Job for the story.)

We can get discouraged with life’s circumstances. Things don’t always turn out the way we’d hoped despite our persistent prayers. Elijah hoped that, after all the miracles the Israelites saw performed on Mount Carmel, they would finally repent and put God first, but they did not. King Ahab and Jezebel were as stubborn and hard hearted as always and Elijah felt discouraged, exhausted and believed his entire ministry was a waste (1 Kings 19).

Jeremiah felt angry and discouraged with God, when he believed God was against him, and temporarily lost hope in God (Lamentations 3). The disciples too felt discouraged after Jesus was crucified, before he rose from the dead. They said “We were hoping that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.” (Luke 24:21) They couldn’t see the bigger picture and felt that their life’s work was a waste.

Discouragement happens, even to the strongest and best of people. Here are five (5) things you can do when you start to feel the black cloud of discouragement swallow you up.

1.  Be honest.  It does you no good to pretend you don’t feel what you feel. You can’t take action against a negative feeling until you first admit you have it. A strong Christian is not someone who never experiences negative feelings. It’s someone who has learned what to do with them when he or she has them and how to process them biblically.

2.  Take care of your body.  If your body isn’t working, your mind, emotions and will are also weakened. I love how God tended to Elijah’s body first, before addressing anything else, and provided ravens to feed him. Sometimes the circumstances of life drain us dry and we need to press pause, stop doing, and simply rest and refresh.

3.  Pay attention to your thought life.  Maturing as believers means we learn to think truthfully (Philippians 4:8) and to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5)

All of us attempt to make sense of the things that happen in our lives. We try to figure out why they happen and what it all means. It’s crucial that we pay attention to what stories we are telling ourselves about ourselves, about others, about God, or about a particular situation and whether or not those stories are actually true. For example, if you look at what Elijah was telling himself after he became discouraged, much of it was not true. Yet, because he thought it, it added to his misery (read 1 Kings 19).

Jeremiah was also telling himself things about God that were not true, but because his mind believed his version of reality instead of God’s, he lost his hope. Read through Lamentations 3. Notice in verse 21 that Jeremiah begins to have a change of mind and heart. He says, “This I recall to mind, therefore I have hope.” When his thoughts changed, his negative emotions also lifted even though his circumstances stayed the same.

4.  Train yourself to “see” life out of two lenses at the same time.  When the apostle Paul counsels us to be transformed by the renewing of our mind (Romans 12:2), he is telling us that our mind needs to be trained to think differently than we have in the past. Part of this training is to learn to see both the temporal (life is hard) and the eternal (God has a purpose here) at the same time.

Paul speaks honestly of his temporal pain when he says he is hard pressed on every side, perplexed, persecuted and struck down. Yet, he did not become crushed, despairing, abandoned or destroyed. Why not? Because he learned to firmly fix the eternal perspective on his spiritual eyes. He says, “Therefore we do not lose heart. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, for what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal (2 Corinthians 4:8-18).

Paul never minimized the pain of the temporal, yet discouragement didn’t win because he knew that God’s purposes were at work. (See Philippians 1:12-14 for another example.)

5.  Press close into God.  The truth is life is hard, people do disappoint and hurt us and we don’t always understand God or his ways. The prophet Naham talks about a day of trouble and reminds us “The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble, he knows those who trust in him” (Naham 1:7). If we’re not in close trusting relationship with God, life’s troubles can become unbearable. The psalmist cried out, “I would have despaired unless I had believed I would see God in the land of the living” (Psalm 27).

One final tip:  The best way to chase out a negative feeling is with another feeling. The Bible teaches us “In everything give thanks for this is the will of God” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Gratitude is a powerful antidote for discouragement. We may not be able to give God thanks for the difficult situation that we find ourselves in, but we can learn to look for things we can be thankful for in the midst of it.

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