Thinking about thinking.
Therefore, think on these things…take every thought captive…as a man or woman thinks, so is he or she. There are so many places in God’s Word that we are instructed to pay attention to our thinking and now---as if we should be surprised—neuroscience confirms what the Bible has said all along. How we think matters. It matters a LOT!
Scientists and research folks now agree that how we think determines how our brain functions. How our brain functions determines how our body functions, how we process our emotions and how we live our lives. We can determine the constitution of our health, our relationships and our life. Dr. Caroline Leaf in “Switch on Your Brain;The Key to Peak Happiness,Thinking and Health", comments that current research affirms that what we think is even more powerful than our genetic disposition. She claims that we can “shut-off” unhealthy pre-dispositions to depression, alcoholism, cardio-vascular disease, many cancers and most other stress related diseases (which are most diseases) and that we can “turn-on” healthier DNA regulated pre-dispositions that lead to good health, good emotions and right living. We are pre-determined toward Joy and… we have a choice.
If this is really true—which research now strongly supports---then why is there so much self-loathing, negative thinking, poor relationships, cancers, violence and even a recent escalating rise in teen suicide? If we are able to think our way to better health, relationships and life, then why are we not doing it? You would think that we have enough information to do this! But information is not the key....keep reading.
In the years I have worked with women healing from destructive life styles -and have also been healing myself-I have noticed that the thought life is indeed powerful as well as a wild animal to tame. It can be done, but it is an ongoing battle that takes much determination, support and a deep faith in the God who loves us. People hold on to old protective thoughts that come from deep beliefs established early in childhood. We interpret situations, claim a negative identity and live it out day after day, month after month and year after year. These negative beliefs and thoughts make physical patterns in our brain and are difficult to shut down. But not impossible. God calls the attachment to these false beliefs, "Idols". We worship our own false thinking of how to navigate life, instead of trusting and thinking on His ways.
Examples of a false, destructive belief that turns into a habitual thought might be, “I am no good”, “no- one loves me”, “I don’t matter” or “no one cares”. These can give birth to thoughts that get in the way of relationships and cause defensiveness and critical behaviors. Thoughts like, “she would never like me” or “he doesn’t care about me anyway”. These thoughts produce emotions and feelings that give birth to reactions and behaviors that sabotage relationships and success which then further enforce the false beliefs that “I am no good, no one loves me, nobody cares”. It is very difficult to have a healthy friendship with a defensive person. At best we can “bear with him or her”, and try to love despite the biting or clawing that comes with a defensive personality.
How can a person change? Can a person change? It is not easy, but yes! The first step is to recognize and admit the need for change. Look at your own relationships and think about how it might have been to be “with you” today. Have you been critical? Have you been frustrated with the way others push away or draw their distance from you? Do you sense inside that you could have more vital and joyful relationships if only the other person would change? These are signals that there may be false beliefs and negative thought patterns that dwell in your own heart, mind and soul.
The next step is to get some support. A counselor, a coach, a ministry leader (preferably of the same sex),or a good healthy support group.. Doing the work of identifying your thoughts and beliefs is a process that takes courage, determination and help from the Holy Spirit. There are many processes that work well for this. There are three processes that I know of seem to have good success in helping a person identify, get to the root of the false thinking and belief, then begin to take steps to process what is true, change the thinking and begin to do new actions that are healthier for relationships and life. I am sure there are others, I am highlighting these- you can search out and see what might be a good fit for you in your life for this season.
First, The Genesis Process is an individual or group process that takes 6 months -2 years to work through with a trained counselor or facilitator. This process helps you discover what is “broken” and begin to take thoughts captive, generate real and healthy priorities, practice new behaviors and experience true transformation at the very core of your being. I have experienced working through the process my self and have taking many women and some men through the process toward recovery, restoration and a truly transformed life.
Next, Tim Clinton talks about attachment and relationship styles in his book, "Why You do the things you do and God Attachment, Why you believe, act and feel the way you do about God." “Spiritual Re-hab” is a process that a person can walk through with support to identify the deep abiding lies coming from the old wounds, and reformatting new beliefs, thoughts and responses according the truth of how we are made to know and be known. This work is intensive and not for the faint of heart. The old limbic lies are powerful and try to convince us that we need the protective, defensive behaviors to keep others away. We may have to suffer pain of loss, forgiveness, trying on relationships and risking being hurt again. The only way for healing in through the pain and taking the risk to love and be loved.
Thirdly, I have been exploring Dr. Caroline Leaf’s Brain Start-up research. Her 21-day Detox for the brain seems very similar to the Genesis Process and is research based. Her 5 steps to reflect, revisit, and revise our thinking to create new neuropathways that are healthy, positive and relationship building seem to be very effective! I have been practicing this process over the past 120 days- and have shared the process with others and have experienced very consistent results in clearer thinking and more joy. I have been more focused and able to stay on task with less scattered brain “fog”.
What do you notice about all of these processes? Getting to the Root AND Support! We do not find health in life with God and others, by ourselves. We were made for relationship! Michael Dye says, "we’ve been wounded by relationships and the only way to heal is through relationships!" Risky!
Do you want a good life? Do you want your best life? Then think on these things. Get some support and begin the work. Identify, reflect, challenge, and behave in a new way. You can reverse negative thinking and you can be healthy and enjoy good relationships with God and others, here on Earth as it is in Heaven.
“Finally, brothers (and sisters), whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, what ever is lovely, whatever is admirable- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” Philippians 4:8