I was planning to launch into the facts and tools we need to begin the process of changing and controlling our thought process but then began to think about my own journey (and it is a journey!) toward having better control of my thoughts. When I talk about how our thoughts control our life I am not just talking about a bunch of skills and tools I have learned but I really have applied these to my life. I am still learning and always will be, I sometimes find myself slipping back into old thought patterns but compared to where I was - it's so much better. So I know this works!
So I want to start with the basics today. Where do we get these thoughts? Why do we think like we do? Well, for most of us a great deal of our thinking came from the way we were raised, the world around us (school, relationships, work, culture) and the evil spiritual forces at work in our world.
I want to take a moment to say a disclaimer, Although a part of the way we think comes from how we were raised I want to make clear that we are not blaming our parents for our negative thought process. I always tell my clients, we are not looking to our family background to blame anyone but to understand so we can move forward. Our parents had their family background that influenced them and if we are parents I can promise you our kids will be one day say how our parenting negatively influenced them in some way. :) So keep in mind anything I say about my parents is said in the context of love and understanding that they did the very best with what they had. My parents had a very difficult family background. My dad had 2 alcoholic parents and my mom had a alcoholic dad and lived in poverty. I am sure I don't know alot of things that probably happened in their lives as people of that generation didn't talk about such things.
I am 53 years old. I really only really began to get this in the last 10 years and really applying it in the last 6. I wish I could have understood while I was still raising my kids how important it is to get control of your thinking. I realize now that I can live a life in which circumstances do not determine whether I am happy or not and stress does not have to overwhelm me. I now realize that other peoples behavior or my perception of their behavior does not have to affect me negatively. In fact, I have no one to blame for my anger, depression, attitude or any other feeling I may have but myself. Now they may have caused me to feel a certain way but it is totally up to me what I do with those feelings.
I certainly am still working on this and I'm quite sure I always will be but I used to be a very angry, depressed, unhappy, discontent, negative person. Now, most people didn't know that about me because I worn a very nice happy mask most of the time. But my husband knew and I'm sure my kids were affected by it. And if you were one of those unfortunate people that got on my bad side you definitely saw that side of me! :-)
But the point is that this was where my thoughts were most of the time and it affected me in every way. It affected my self-esteem and how I viewed myself. It affected my relationship with God. It affected my relationships with the people in my life. For example I was very sensitive and easily offended. If someone said something or did something that I "perceived" as criticism or judging me or the way I did something, I would spend literally days playing it in my mind - what was said, what I should have said, how could they, would do they think they are? I would create whole situations in my mind that didn't even exist. I would either avoid or shun the person after that or finally find out my whole perception was wrong. I would feel overwhelmed emotionally - I would lose my temper, spend days and weeks feeling depressed and angry and felt like everyone was better than me. I could go on and on but all I can say is that these negative thoughts and perceptions would consume my life. I hate to think how my hours, days and months I spend in a place of unnecessary emotional turmoil.
I finally began to see that I do not have to passively meditate on whatever comes into my mind not matter what someone says or does. I have a choice on how I respond to these situations and more importantly how I allow these things to affect me emotionally. I threw away my "excuse bag" and took responsibly for my own thoughts, feelings and behavior.
Next post we will talk about how our childhood experiences have affected our thinking especially about ourselves.
"Even if it's not true and you believe it - it is true for you and you are believing a lie"
"Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think" Romans 12:2