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I was listening to the radio station KLOVE today as I was driving and heard a Christian singer talk about a time in his life when he was de...

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Is Your Thinking Twisted?

Lots of times, the way we think about things affects our moods, attitude, behaviors, etc.  Below is a list of different forms of 'twisted thinking'.  Do you recognize any of these in yourself?  Well, do not freak out if you see yourself in these 10 different forms of twisted thinking.  We all need to be aware of 'how' we think and 'why' we think--and in what manner.  Each form of twisted thinking is explained with an example following.

1.  All-or-Nothing Thinking: (Author's note:  I used to do this a lot and talked about it in an earlier blog message--check the archives--but now I recognize what it is and so therefore set a boundary in my mind to not go down that path of reasoning).  If you see things in black-or-white categories.  If a situation falls short of perfect, you see it as a total failure.  When a young woman on a diet ate a spoonful of ice cream, she told herself, "I've blown my diet completely."  This thought upset her so much that she gobbled down an entire quart of ice cream.

2.  Over-generalization: You see a single negative event, such as a romantic rejection or a career reversal, as a never-ending pattern of defeat by using words such as "always" or "never" when you think about it.  A depressed salesman became terribly upset when he noticed bird poo on the windshield of his car.  He told himself, "Just my luck!  Birds are always pooing on my car!"

3.  Mental Filter:  You pick out a single negative detail and dwell on it exclusively, so that your vision of all reality become darkened, like the drop of ink that discolors a beaker of water.  Example:  You receive many positive comments about your presentation to a group of associates at work, but one of them says something mildly critical.  You obsess about his reaction for days and ignore all the positive feedback.

4.  Discounting the Positive:  You reject positive experiences by insisting they "don't count."  If you do a good job, you may tell yourself that it wasn't good enough or that anyone could have done as well.  Discounting the positive takes the joy out of life and makes you feel inadequate and unrewarded.

5.  Jumping to Conclusions:  You interpret things negatively when there are no facts to support your conclusion.  Mind reading:  Without checking it out, you arbitrarily conclude that someone is reacting negative to you.  Fortune-telling:  You predict that things will turn out badly.  Before a test you may tell yourself, "I'm really going to blow it.  What if I flunk?"  If you're depressed you may tell yourself, "I'll never get better."

6.  Magnification:  You exaggerate the importance of your problems and shortcomings, or you minimize the importance of your desirable qualities.  This is also called the "binocular trick".

7.  Emotional Reasoning:  You assume that your negative emotions necessarily reflect the way things really are.  "I feel terrified about going on airplanes.  It must be very dangerous to fly." or "I feel quilty.  I must be a rotten person." or "I feel angry.  This proves I'm being treated unfairly." or "I feel so inferior.  This means I'm a second-rate person." or "I feel hopeless.  I must really be hopeless."

8.  Should Statements:  You tell yourself that things should be the way you hoped or expected them to be.  After playing a difficult piece on the piano, a gifted pianist told herself, "I shouldn't have made so many mistakes."  This made her feel so disgusted that she quit practicing for several days.  "Musts", "oughts", and "have-to's" are similar offenders.  "Should statements" that are directed against yourself lead to guilt and frustration.  Should statements that are directed against other people or the world in general lead to anger and frustration:  "He shouldn't be so stubborn and argumentative."  Many people try to motivate themselves with shoulds and shouldn'ts, as if they were delinquents who had to be punished before they could be expected to do anything.  "I shouldn't eat that donut."  This usually doesn't work because all these shoulds and musts make you feel rebellious and you get the urge to do just the opposite.  

 9.  Labeling:  Labeling is an extreme form of all-or-nothing thinking.  Instead of thinking, "I made a mistake.", you attach a negative label to yourself:  "I'm a loser."  You might also label yourself a "fool" or "a failure" or "a jerk."  Labeling is quite irrational because you are not the same as what you do.  Human beings exist, but "fools", "losers", and "jerks" do not.  These labels are just useless abstractions that lead to anger, anxiety, frustration, and low self-esteem.  You may also label others.  When someone does something that rubs you the wrong way, you may tell yourself:  "He's a snob."  Then you feel that the problem is with that person's character or essence instead of with their thinking or behavior.  You see them as totally bad.  This makes you feel hostile and hopeless about improving things and leaves little room for constructive communication.

10.  Personalization and Blame:  Personalization occurs when you hold yourself personally responsible for an event that isn't exactly under your control.  When a woman received a note that her child was having difficulties at school, she told herself, "This shows what a bad mother I am."--instead of trying to pinpoint the cause of the problem so that she could be helpful to her child.  When another woman's husband beat her, she told herself, "If only I were better in the bedroom he wouldn't beat me."  Personalization leads to guilt, shame, and feelings of inadequacy.  Some people do the opposite.  They blame other people or their circumstances for their problems, and they overlook ways that they might be contributing to the problem:  "The reason my marriage is so lousy is because my husband is totally unreasonable."  Blame usually doesn't work very well because other people will resent being scapegoated and they will just toss the blame right back in your lap.  It's like the game of hot potato--no one wants to get stuck with it. 

Do any of these sound familiar?  I know I've done some of these myself.  Sometimes, we just need to set mental boundaries once we recognize the unhelpful thought patterns we possess.  When you notice it--dismiss it in your mind and think of something positive.  It takes practice to get better at it.  Keep trying and you'll get there.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Love & Discernment

I told myself I would not write about this subject unless I had experienced it myself.  And that happened recently.  People may mean well--at least we hope they do, but sometimes it only hurts the feelings, the thoughts of us, the sheep who struggle with things no one else does and understands unless they have been there and done thatLove is our ultimate commandment to follow to the fullest.  Words should be said in love to people, even when it's an exhortation.  Anything devoid of love is worthless and can do more harm than good, even though we may mean well.  It can be difficult to discern the meaning behind what people say--their true intent.  Just like a text message and emails have no tone of voice--they can be taken wrong in context when we assign a 'tone' to them.
People want to go to church to be healed.  They also need to go to be convicted of sin (in love), be shown the right path, experience God's love, love from each other in fellowship, etc.  But people are fallible--everyone, including the human shepherds that lead us in our houses of worship.  The shepherds have a particularly important position to uphold and are judged more by God because of this responsibility.  They are also attacked by Satan more than regular church goers because of the influence they have over people.  BUT, people should go to church for God; not for the people there--not to put pastors, deacons, elders, anyone up on a pedestal that is not fair to them or you.  It is just plain unhealthy spiritually.   

When someone in an authoritative position says something about people with any mental disorder and the treatment of such, when not experienced by themselves, that is negative and sometimes just not true--it stings.  I KNOW this happens, folks.  I know you're out there and experienced this because I hear from people who have.  You may have left a church because of it--because I know that happens too.  The cross is a refuge for us all--God is our refuge and will cover us with His wings (Psalm 91).  And we look to the shepherds in our life to help guide us spiritually to the cross and all that it means.

Jesus is the perfect Good Shepherd--Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father,  Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6).  I was going through the new testament and where Jesus healed people with various ailments, such as fevers, leprosy, blindness, being mute, woman with the issue of blood, paralytics, demon-possessed, various diseases and even death.  There are so many  incidents in the Bible of demon-possessed people who were healed by Jesus (Matt 8:16-17, Matt 4:24, Matt 12:22, Matt 8:28-33, Matt 17:14-20, Mark 1:21-27, Mark 1:32-34, Mark 5:1-20, Mark 5:25-34).  Now, don't get this thought mixed up in your mind by thinking that I'm saying people with mental disorders might be demon-possessed.  I AM NOT SAYING THAT AT ALL :-)  The point is that Jesus healed because He chose to impart His blessing and they had faith He could heal them.  It does not come down to the amount of faith a person has.  God does not hold back healing from those who don't have enough faith.  If you have been told that about your mental disorder in relation to God, then that is wrongI believe that the miracles back then are still 'in service' today because I've seen them, heard them.  I was completely healed from hypoglycemia, of which there is no cure.  I got a partial healing at one prayer session and the other half at a different place of worship.  And no one can explain why He chooses to heal one person with cancer, but another person with cancer is not healed.  No one can explain that.  Only God knows.  And He's not bad because He chooses to heal, or not.

You need to learn how to discern--or better yet, ask for God's wisdom and discernment when you hear anyone speaking on God's behalf, as a shepherd does.  We all, as Christians, need that discernment of anyone we listen to in God's name.  As I said before, people yearn to be healed in whatever way that may look to you--emotionally, mentally, spiritually, physically.  It is not alright to be told by a shepherd that your mental condition is not real, that you just need to turn to God, you don't have enough faith, that no Christian should be on medication to help treat their illness, that medicine is just a bandaid. "There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." (Romans 8:1).  You (who have a mental disorder, like me) know what's true and what's not.  And if you don't then I will help you understand it from a Christian's perspective.  I have dealt with this for 17 years!

We all have a testimony of how we accepted Jesus as our Savior, if we are a born-again Christian.  When you tell anyone your testimony--does anyone say, "No, that's not how it happened." or "That's wrong."  No one would do that because they didn't live it.  They were not there when you got saved.  No one can refute your testimonyWhy would it be any different with your testimony about your mental disorder experiences?  Why would someone say, "You don't have that."?  Why would anyone lie about suffering such experiences?  NO ONE knows what you experience, but you.  But you can certainly emphathize with people who have experienced the same things, for example medicine reactions--good or bad, the deep pit of being in a dark depression, the horrible feeling of knowing you're heading to that pit and there's nothing you can do to prevent it, that fear of horrible thoughts maybe even suicidal, the shame of thinking it's your fault for why you are like the way you are, etc.  I could go on.

I WILL ALWAYS be an advocate for anyone with mental disorders.  I will be that cheerleader when you feel rejected by your own kind, the one that will tell you what's right or wrong based on what I know.  I am fallible too, but I know God has my back.  And He's got yours too"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30).