Tag Archive: thoughts

Jun 14

Criticism or Compassion?

Which do you prefer…criticism or compassion? Seems like an easy choice right? I mean…who would choose compassion over criticism? Criticism hurts, it arouses our defenses, and brings with it self-doubt and pain. So who would willingly choose criticism over compassion? No one right?

Well, maybe not from other people but many choose criticism over compassion toward ourselves on a regular basis. We each have a critical voice that develops over our lifetime. Some of us have a harsher, stronger critical voice than others. It speaks harsh criticism with words like “you should have” or “why didn’t you” or worse barraging us with words like “loser”, “failure”, “worthless”.

There are many reasons why this inner voice develops. Sometimes it is an internalized voice of a critical important person in our lives, like a parent. Sometimes it is the result of abuse and trauma we experience. Sometimes it develops to keep us achieving at a high level, which we call perfectionism. And, sometimes it develops to keep others in our life happy with us. Mostly, it exists because we are all sinners living in a broken, fallen world with other broken people and as a result we experience shame. The shame emotion says “there is something wrong with you”. Let’s face it, there is something wrong with us….it’s called sin. Shame didn’t exist prior to the fall (Genesis 3). And since then, we have lived under shame’s tyranny.

Now if someone were speaking shaming criticism to us on a regular basis, we would consider it abusive and it would create deep sadness, fear, and pain. If we heard someone speaking to a friend that way, we would rise to his or her defense. Yet, inner criticism gets free reign in our mind and heart. It impacts our emotions and relationships. Instead of questioning it, challenging it, or defending ourselves we try harder to be perfect, please others, or quiet/numb the voice through a variety of addictions.

Inner criticism gets free reign in our mind and heart impacting our emotions. Click To Tweet

Sadly we don’t even recognize it as criticism…it just becomes our inner dialogue. Yet with this strong inner critic come feelings of sadness and anxiety. That is the natural result of living under constant criticism.

So what is the solution? Compassion….self-compassion. We understand nurture and compassion for others but often are mystified on how to give it to ourselves. Learning self-compassion, giving ourselves permission to be human, and embracing our imperfections is the road to peace and freedom.

Learning self-compassion and giving ourselves permission to be human is the road to freedom. Click To Tweet

Beloved Jesus followers, let me share something incredible. God sent Jesus to die for all of our sin and shame. ALL of it was laid on Him on the cross. When we believe in Him…we not only have ALL of our past, present, and future sins paid for but we receive His perfection! That perfection we strive for is already ours. God sees us always and forever as covered by the blood of Christ, perfectly righteous. So embracing your imperfections allows Jesus to be glorified. Embracing this and laying down the slavery of abuse and perfectionism is good news!

God sees us always and forever as covered by the blood of Christ, perfectly righteous. Click To Tweet

“For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” Hebrews 10:14

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

Persmission to be Human is Self Compassion

 

For more on this topic check out Dr. Kristin Neff’s Self Compassion Website. Here you will find a great description of self-compassion and exercises to help you grow it. You can also check out a few of my previous blogs on the topic: Embracing Imperfection and Finding Freedom and Be a Friend to Yourself. Need more help, find a good counselor. There is always hope!

 

Permanent link to this article: http://counseling4hope.com/compassion/

Feb 25

3 Ways to Change Your Thoughts (and Your Life)

taking thoughts captive

Have you ever stopped to think about the number of thoughts you think a day? I mean, my mind is constantly going so the number has got to be high, right? So, I do what we all do when we have a question these days, I asked Google. A brief search revealed that apparently we think about 50,000-70,000 thoughts a day. Wow. That. Is. A. Big. Number. Now I cannot verify this with a scientific study and the social researcher in me is annoyed by that…. but we can all agree on this, we think A LOT! Which means! I guess that could be a good thing or bad thing depending on what we say to ourselves. Do we stop and consider the message, tone, and implication of our thoughts? Are our thoughts helping or hurting us? How accurate are our thoughts?
Here’s something I have observed as a therapist. Most of our thoughts are opinions and not facts.
This may not seem earth-shattering news to you but stick with me. Opinions are not facts…they are debatable…there is always another opposing opinion. The problem comes when we:
  1. Treat these opinion statements as facts
  2. Incorporate them into our identity.
Most of our thoughts are opinions and not facts. Click To Tweet
For example:
We might think, “I am unsafe in an airplane”. Now that is an opinion thought. Other people can tell me how safe airplanes are. Yet, I am going to listen to my opinion thought because I’m treating it as fact and it is reinforced by a strong fear emotion. Viewing this opinion thought as a fact keeps me from flying and limits my freedom to travel.
Now imagine if most of our 50,000 thoughts are opinion thoughts that we treat as fact. Seriously, consider this…consider each strong emotion….is there an opinion thought behind it?
How often do our own thoughts mislead and deceive us, leaving us overwhelmed? Perhaps part of “taking our thoughts captive” is this recognition of opinion thoughts and their influence over our emotions and perspective.
Perhaps part of “taking our thoughts captive” is this recognition of opinion thoughts. Click To Tweet
But HOW?

How to change your thoughts: pause

How to change your thoughts: zoom outHow to change your thoughts: share

 

 

 

 

PAUSE: Consider pressing the pause button when you feel a strong emotion. Stop. Take a few slow deep breaths. Invite God into the moment. Observe the world with your 5 senses.
ZOOM OUT: Zoom out to consider if there it is an opinion or fact thought. If it is an opinion, what are the absolute facts of the situation?
SHARE: Share your reflections with a safe friend. Talking out loud to helps your brain pause, zoom out, and reflect. Plus it helps you make sense of what seems overwhelming in the moment. No safe friends available, then write about it, maybe write to God.
Our thoughts are powerful. Click To Tweet
Our thoughts are powerful. How we speak to us matters….we often are more critical and harsh with ourselves than anyone else is. What if we pledged to think about our thoughts? What if by doing so we could change how we think? What if this changes our lives? As always, if you need help find a good counselor who can help you with this process. Hang on to hope!!
What if we pledged to think about our thoughts? What if this changes our lives? Click To Tweet
change your thoughts: opinion or fact?

 

Permanent link to this article: http://counseling4hope.com/change-your-thoughts/

Mar 18

Help! My Thoughts Won’t Stop!!

As a counselor, one of the common things people struggle with are what I call spinning or out of control thoughts.  The psychological term for this is rumination and we all struggle with this.  Usually we ruminate about a fear or worry.  We are worried and afraid, so we continually think about it to try and solve it or fix it.  Often we are trying to think our way out of a feeling!
Mindfulness is very big in psychology right now and has proven very helpful with rumination.  Mindfulness has personally helped a lot of clients.
Mindfulness Overview
Mindfulness has to do with the quality of awareness that we bring to what we are doing and experiencing, to being in the here and now.  It has to do with learning to focus on being in the present, to focusing our attention on what we are doing and what is happening in the present. We have to learn to control our attention. Many of us are distracted by images, thoughts and feelings of the past, perhaps dissociating, worrying about the future, negative moods and anxieties about the present.   It’s hard to put these things away and concentrate on the task at hand.
So the One-mindfulness skill is an effort to help us focus our attention on the here and now, to be able to absorb the DBT information and take part in the present. Please do not judge yourselves about this. This can be a difficult skill for people to learn. It requires lots of practice and willingness. Be patient with yourself.”
From DBT Self Help
Mindfulness is a Biblical Idea.  Although, these concepts are fairly new to psychology, the principles and concepts are found in scripture.
  • Be Fully Present in the Current Moment with God
    • “Be still, and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:9
    • “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him, fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices” Psalm 37:7
    • “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” Isaiah 46:8
  • In the present moment, notice how God cares for the world around you and for you in very practical ways! God wants our focus to be in the present of today’s moments!
    • “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?  And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin,  yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.  But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.  But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.  “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. Matthew 6: 25-34
    • When Jesus deals with his disciple’s anxiety, He points out what He observes in the present moment around them. Look at the birds, consider the flowers. Sometimes, just simply observing the world with our senses (smell, taste, touch, sight) can bring mental calm. If nothing else, counting your breaths and slowing them can bring physical calm. Jesus keeps them in the present moment by telling them to only focus on today.
  • Christian Mindfulness is Rest for your soul! In emotional distress, the Bible indicates that God wants us to come to Him and find rest. What specific activities keep you in the present moment with Jesus and give you rest?
    • “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28
    • “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:4-7
  • Don’t assume your judgment of your thoughts or feelings is truth (just observe your thoughts or feelings without judgment in the moment). Observe the thought and test it against God’s Word
    • Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered. Proverbs 28:26
    • “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2
    • “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthythink about such things.” Philippians 4:8
Mindfulness Examples
Mindfulness involves:
Awareness: What is going on around me, what do I see, what do I smell, what do I taste, how do things feel as I touch them?
Nonjudgmental View of Thoughts: Thoughts or feelings aren’t bad or good, normal or abnormal. They are  just thoughts and feelings.  They flow in and out like water.
Staying in the Moment: This may be the hardest part for those that focus on the past or worry about the future.
Takes Practice: This takes practice during non-emotional times so that it becomes easier to do during emotionally overwhelming times. Practice staying in the moment and observing what you notice with your senses during showers, brushing teeth, or during daily chores. Click Here for samples of mindfulness exercises.

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rest and hope in God

Permanent link to this article: http://counseling4hope.com/thoughts/

Oct 24

Be a Friend to Yourself

speak to yourself like a friend

We tend to be much harsher in our thoughts than we would ever be with a friend.  When we mess up or make a mistake or fall into temptation….most of us tend to then terrorize ourselves in our mind.
What kinds of things are you saying to yourself?  Does it fall into this category:  I should have done this…..I should have known better…..I’m the only one who is this bad…..what is wrong with me…..
These are mental habits we get into because of some situation or feedback we receive from other people at some point in our lives.  Whether these super critical or shaming messages are given to us intentionally or unintentionally, we internalize these terroist messages as TRUTH.
The problem is that anyone subjected to shaming, critical, or condemning messages over time starts to feel bad.  Often this is what is behind painful, intense emotions like anxiety and depression.  It’s not always what happened to us in the past that is making us sad or anxious but the messages that we tell ourselves about what happened.  We believe our inner terroist.
And since we think these terrible things about our selves, we would never share that message with anyone else.  I bet if you shared just one of those terrorist thoughts with a friend, they would tell you how hard you are being on yourself.  Friends are compassionate, understanding, encouraging, and supportive.  Friends let us be real.
What if for just one day, you pledged to speak to yourself no different than you would to a friend.  What if you decided to nurture yourself?  What if you decided to stand up for the you that the inner terrorist is beating up?
Now, I know habits are hard to break and this one requires some inner dialogue but what if it made a difference?  What if you eventually silenced the terroist and started believing the truth!
You are fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of God!
He knows every hair on your head!
He loves you with an everlasting love!
When you were still broken and sinful, He sent Christ to die for you.  For all your brokenness.  He took the shame that your inner terrorist is placing on you day after day!
IT IS FINISHED!

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Oct 10

The Six C’s for Managing Anxiety, Biblically

images-53

Looking for Biblical anxiety help?

Anxiety is a powerful emotion that can develop into a vicious cycle.  It may start for one reason but the cycle can continue for different reasons.  See my previous post on anxiety is a more detailed explanation of how this cycle starts and continues.

Now, understanding anxiety is helpful but what someone struggling with anxiety really needs is in the moment help!  The physical response to anxiety is so overwhelming that it feels extremely scary.  

When in the midst of anxiety, the natural response is to escape NOW whatever situation you’ve decided is causing this response.  For my son, the anxiety response was caused (he thought) by our separation.  It is not the same for everyone but regardless of who you are, you know what you think is the cause.  Unfortunately, escaping the situation only reinforces the anxiety response.  Remember the cycle:

anxiety cycle

So what can you do?  What does the Bible say?  What does the research say?  Is there hope?

YES!  There is HOPE for those brave people willing to try something different.  Let me tell you, I am serious about the word brave!  It takes incredible bravery to face any kind of fear head on and I am humbled by those I’ve seen take these steps.  To me, you are a real hero!  Below are scriptural methods for dealing with anxiety that are also backed up by psychological research.

The 6 C’s for Managing Anxiety 

  • Current moment presence:  This just means being fully present in the current moment.  The psychological term is mindfulness.  For the Christian, this has two parts:

    • Being fully present with yourself in the current moment.  This involves taking the focus off of your anxiety/fear and placing it onto the observable world around you.  Using your senses, evaluate what you hear, see, taste, touch, or smell.  Start describing you immediate present moment.  Sometimes just observing the world with our senses can bring mental calm.  When Jesus deals with his disciple’s anxiety, He points out what He observes in the present moment around them.

       “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on.  Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.  But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?   Matthew 6: 25-30

    • Being fully present in the current moment with God.  God is always with you no matter your experience.  Remembering that in the middle of panic is one of the ways the Bible instructs us to handle the difficult situations we encounter.  Jesus reminds his disciples of this in Matthew 6.  God calls us continually to come to Him for REST.

      •  “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”  Matthew 6: 31-34

      • Be still, and know that I am God.”   Psalm 46:9

      • Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him, fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices.”  Psalm 37:7

      • You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you because he trusts in you.  Isaiah 46:8

      •  Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28

      •  “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.Philippians 4:4-7

  • Connected with safe people:  Safe relationships soothe, bring security, and comfort.  Anxiety and fear is much easier to face when we are with a trusted person.  This is how God wired human beings to grow.  It is part of the way we image God because God is intrinsically relational.  Counselors who specialize in anxiety use this concept by utilizing the power of the therapeutic relationship to encourage clients to face fears in a safe environment. 

    • Before sin entered the world, God knew that we would need relationships, I mean, He created us that way!  “The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for man to be alone.  I will make a helper who is right for him.'”  Genesis 2:18

    • God designed children to receive comfort from their parents and this gives them a safe base from which to explore the world.  This same concept can be replicated in our relationship with God and other people. “I have made myself calm and content like a young child in its mother’s arms.  Deep down inside me, I am as content as a young child…put your hope in the Lord both now and forever.” Psalm 131:2-3

    • God intends the body of Christ to take this supportive and caring role for each other.  “Instead we speak the truth in love.  We will grow up into Christ in every way.  “He is the head.  He makes the whole body grow and build itself up in LOVE.  Under the control of Christ, each part of the body does its work.  It supports the other parts.”  Ephesians 4:15-16

  • Calming the physical body:

    “I have made myself calm and content like a young child in its mother’s arms. Deep down inside me, I am as content as a young child…put your hope in the Lord both now and forever.” Psalm 131:2-3  This verse indicates that we have within us the power to calm ourselves, so what are some practical tools for calming our physical anxiety symptoms.  If you are calming your physical body and refocusing your mind, the anxiety will start to lessen.

    • Slow deliberate deep breathing

    • Slowly contracting and relaxing each different muscle, starting at your toes and moving up to your head

    • Counting your slow deliberate breaths

    • Meditating on scripture, calming imagery, or present moment awareness

  • Change negative and false thinking patterns:  Thoughts are powerful and most of us believe whatever we think.  In addition, we develop thinking habits over time.  Do any of these habits sound familiar to you:

    • Negative thinking

    • Jumping to conclusions

    • Predicting an outcome

    • Comparing yourself to others

    • Reading other people’s minds

    • Critical internal voice

    • Catastrophizing

    • Harsh judgments of self and others

If you identify with any of these thinking patterns (and let’s be honest, we all do this on some level) then let’s start here.  Sometimes, just learning how to question our thoughts and change our internal dialogue will dramatically change our experience.  But how?  Start by:  1) Journaling your thoughts, 2) Questioning whether your thoughts are true or balanced, and 3) Consider alternative explanations.  If you struggle with this, find a good counselor who can help you.

Scripture tells us to:

Pay attention to our thoughts:  “For as a man thinks within himself, so is he” Proverbs 23:7

Renew our mind.  Do not conform 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  

Evaluate  and recognize truthful and beneficial thoughts.  “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  John 8:32  “Finally, my brothers and sisters, always think about what is true. Think about what is noble, right and pure. Think about what is lovely and worthy of respect. If anything is excellent or worthy of praise, think about those kinds of things.”  Phillippians 4:8

  • Consider your heart:  What we are anxious about reveals what we value and treasure.  I know that’s tough to hear but it’s truth.  Matthew 6:21 tells us that “for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  Jesus tells people this right before he instructs them not to worry.  Our worry reveals what we value.  For my son, he values his parents and the fear of something happening to them can send him into panic.  For some people, it is safety, for others control, and for others it’s the image other people have of them.  What is deep behind your fear?  What are you placing at higher value than God?  Do you really trust that God is good?  God is enough.  I’ve been following a beautiful story of a 13 year old boy who just lost his battle to cancer.  His witness of God being enough even in the struggle, even in the face of death was humbling.  I have heard this from more than one person in the midst of deep struggle.  God is enough!  God is in control!  God is good!  God is at work!

    “My soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is; so I say, “My endurance has perished; so has my hope from the Lord.”  Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall!  My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me.  But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:  The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,  “therefore I will hope in him.” Lamentations 3: 18-24

  • Cling to GRACE:  All of the above things will help you manage and deal with your anxiety.  After some consistent work, you will start to see your anxiety reactions decrease.  However, anxiety may still sneak up on you.  None of us are perfect nor will we achieve that status till God makes all things new.  You know what is awesome?  “There is no condemnation for those that are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1)  and your perfect record before God as a Christian is the anxiety-free life of Jesus!  Cling to that grace!  Give grace and patience to yourself.  Take a deep breath and start again!  There is always hope!

    Don’t be afraid.  Don’t give up.  The Lord your God is with you.  He is mighty enough to save you.  He will take great delight in you.  The quietness of his love will calm you down.  He will sing with joy because of you.”  Zephaniah 3:16-17

If you like what you read, please comment below or share on social media. ❤️

biblical anxiety help

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