During my years as a mental health Therapist, I have counseled clients ranging anywhere between the ages of 5 and 75. I have heard stories from people who come from all walks of life and I have made many attempts to help them to the fullest of my capacity. Since I chose to quit my job as a full-time Therapist to stay home with my baby, I have had time to look back on some of my clients and their stories and I am beginning to notice a common thread that ran through many of the seemingly complex and tangled issues they faced. Many of these people didn’t have as much of an issue with the traumatic events that took place in their lives as they did with another problem they were dealing with on a daily basis. This problem was so severe in some cases that a client would suffer physical ailments due to this serious issue The problem I am talking about is negative thinking.
Negative thinking is a habit. Some people are more prone to do it than others, and most agree that it is a learned behavior. By learned behavior, I mean that a person is not simply born a negative thinker but he or she had to learn the habit from someone else. It usually starts early, in childhood, and goes on from there. The sequence of events usually goes the same way for most people. For example, one morning, you burn the biscuits. You then think to yourself “I have just burned the biscuits.” Now, where your thought process goes from here determines whether or not you are a negative thinker. If, after mentally acknowledging what has just happened, you think of something positive to say to yourself such as “ Oh well, I’ll do better tomorrow morning,” then that is good and healthy thinking. If, however, you think something like; “I’m horrible at cooking), then you suffer from negative thinking.
When I was in college, I was trained in what is known as Cognitive Behavior Therapy. That’s just a fancy way of saying “you are what you think.” In other words, if something bad happens, what we think about that event determines how we feel rather than the event itself determining how you feel. As was mentioned in the biscuit example, the more positive thought (I’ll try again tomorrow) would make you feel a lot better than thinking that you are a horrible cook. There are actually 10 recognized forms of negative thinking or “cognitive distortions.” I will explain those in more detail in future posts, Lord Willing.
So, what does the Bible say about negative thinking? 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says; “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost [which is] in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? “God gave us this body and wants us to treat it well. That not only pertains to our physical well-being but also to our mental and emotional well-being. What we think affects our feelings and can also affect us physically. In my experience as a therapist, clients who complained of negative thinking also complained of chest pain, high blood pressure and emotional issues such as depression and anxiety.
Relationships can also be affected. I had a case where a woman almost divorced her husband because she was afraid that he would treat her wrongfully as her ex-boyfriend did when her husband did not give her a reason to make her think this way. I worked with her on practicing positive thinking and a couple of months later; she reported that she and her husband were happier together.
Negative thinking can also hurt our relationship with God. A lack of faith and focusing on other things besides God is negative thinking. God wants us to focus on higher things than the challenges of this life, just as Romans 12:2 states; “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”
Perhaps the best verse, in my opinion, that shows how God wants us to think good and happy thoughts and not focus on the negative comes from the writing of Paul in Philippians 4:8; “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” This life on Earth is short, and we should focus more on going to Heaven rather than the small things that happen in this life.