For the past 6 months I have been working on training my mind. I have been practicing disallowing negative thoughts to dwell in my mind space; and redirecting all thoughts toward godliness. This is something I never even knew was possible. With a mind like mine all filled up with thoughts and so persuaded by emotion, I just didn’t think getting it all under my willful control was even a thing.
But, after watching Caroline Leaf, a neuroscientist and Christian woman, talk about the way our thoughts literally impact the shape of our brains, I felt inspired to do like God said and “take every thought captive and bring it into submission to the Lord”. And you guys, it works.
Not only does it work, but it is transformative.
One of the things I love about this journey with Jesus is how it really is a journey. It is a path to follow and pursue and do everyday. It’s a lifestyle. That probably sounds obvious, but for the longest time I thought it was only about what was in my heart. Just Jesus sitting in there twiddling his thumbs. But now, as I live this Christian thing out, I discover more and more what it means to be “doers of the word and not hearers only”.
I watched this TED talk by psychologist, Guy Winch, about the way our society undervalues mental wellness. We all know the steps to take if we receive a physical wound (call in the neosporin and bandaids) but most of us don’t know what procedures to follow when we receive an emotional wound. In fact, most of us have very negative and damaging rituals concerning our negative wounds.
Someone says a mean thing and we internally agree with them you’re right I am an imposter in this position. And then we keep poking the wound by reliving the incident.
For me it was all in my thoughts.
I would replay the incident over and over, I would imagine what I could have said instead, I would guess at what they were really thinking, and envision them making fun of me to their friends.
Remember that big thought-filled, emotion-fueled mind I mentioned before? Well, in these situations it was working against me.
I have become attuned to the Lord gently lifting things up for my attention. He will tease out the tangles in my heart and say “look right here, see that? It’s hurting you. Time for repairs”. I notice my emotions, my reactions, my intensity but I don’t let it have control (this coming from an INFJ). When I notice that God is helping me work out a kink, I get very intentional about the process.
I hone in and red flag the negative thoughts and then I tell them directly Truths about myself.
Like this, “I am working hard to learn new things. I am courageous. I am empowered by God and on the path He has for me. He is here with me. I am friendly and smart and skilled. Mean things happen, but I am in control of how they effect me. It’s important for me to experience conflict and process it in a positive way. I am doing good right now by redirecting my thoughts.” What I am doing is mulling over the Truth, rather than obsessing over my emotional judgements of the situation. And if course this is all very Biblical.
God says “mediate on my word day and night” (Joshua 1:8). That means mull it over, keep on thinking about it, obsess your mind with what God has said. It is the same mental process that gets misused as worrying. If you’re a “worrier” like I was the good news is that you are already particularly adept at the skill of capturing thoughts and meditating on them. Now, you just must train your mind to only give attention to the positive, healthy, nourishing god-thoughts.
Because “as a man thinketh in his heart so is he” (Proverbs 23:7) and as a woman thinketh so she will be… ok I made that last one up, but for real if you want to change the way you behave in times of conflict you must first change the way you think.