Wendy Warner is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) in private practice at Trinity Family Counseling Center. In addition to working with couples, children, and individuals, Wendy also enjoys teaching the premarital classes for all couples planning to marry at Immanuel Lutheran Church, Macomb.
We all have situations or relationships that at times prove so frustrating; it is hard to get them out of our head. When we feel betrayed by those closest to us, treated harshly or without justice, it can be difficult to stop replaying the scenes that hurt us. Our mind can become a closed room where we bounce off the walls with words we would like to shout at our betrayer. Our thoughts are a continuous loop of the sentiments we would like to write to those who hurt us. Perhaps you cannot sleep due to the constant pounding of angry thoughts, or you wake up thinking about what you want to say to those who have inflicted pain on you.
If you have ever found yourself in this continuous loop, it is important to know it can go on for a long time unless you consciously choose to think differently. Sure, it is healthy to process anger and recognize what is causing it. But after some time, it becomes more damaging to our spirit to hold on to our hurt and continue to nurse our angry thoughts like ripping open a wound instead of letting it heal.
How do we heal? How do we move on? How do we replace thoughts that seem to be in endless supply whether we want them in our head or not? In the counseling field it is recognized that our thoughts influence our feelings which then influence our behavior. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is based on the idea of discerning our thoughts which are leading to unhealthy behaviors and addressing those negative thoughts.
It is fascinating that long before the first Psychologist proposed a theory of right thinking, God provided guidelines in His word to help us with retraining our thoughts. Philippians 4:8 says, “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Interestingly this verse is sandwiched between verses that promise us peace. The verses before it urge us not to feel anxious about anything, but to pray about it with thanksgiving, and we will have a peace so strong, it defies our situation. The verse that follows Philippians 4:8 says if we make a regular practice of thinking on the things represented by the above list, the peace of God will be with us. So we are not only given instructions on what to focus on, we are promised the outcome of peace.
I was in a horrible mood yesterday, and I was struggling to clear my mind. Although I know the instructions in verse 4:8, I have not ever attempted to think of something for each adjective all at once. I proceeded to do it, and the results were nothing short of amazing. I went from my continuous loop of negative thoughts to singing at the top of my lungs as I drove into work. Talk about a transformation! It felt good to focus on such pleasant thoughts. I found myself picturing beautiful images to accompany the positive thoughts in my head. This informed my feelings to shift over to a better mood. That led to my behavior changing from being irritable to having patience with others. I was at peace.
Each of us will come up with different images or definitions. But what if we intentionally began our day thinking about these things? What if we treated ourselves to a daily run through of whatever comes to mind pertaining to the following words?
True – My husband’s love for me Noble – Standing up to a bully Right – Kindness Pure – A baby’s smile Lovely – a blooming flower with dew clinging to it Admirable – Encouragement from a friend Excellent – Treating others with dignity Praiseworthy – A couple celebrating their 60th anniversary still madly in love
Not only does this list bring wonderful thoughts and images to mind, but it forces us to take our focus off the thoughts that were ruining our mood. God knew the power of dwelling on those things that make us smile and bring us peace. Go ahead, give it a try.