The counseling process has been around a long time, and there are a lot of different methods, theories and procedures that are as different as night and day. Many begin with how the therapist views the nature of mankind, others focus on:
- The psychoanalysis of Sigmund Freud, understanding the Id, Ego and Super-ego and the role of the subconscious in our mental functioning, and using dream analysis to discover both manifest and latent content (hidden symbolic disguised messages);
- The transactional-analysis of Eric Berne tells us that life and relationships are full of scripts that run through our minds and these transactions are sent and received by the scripts of the parent, adult, or the child inside of us;
- Or the use of behavior modification techniques to increase or decrease the likelihood of a certain behavior;
There are so many directions one can take:
- The Rational-Emotive Therapy of Albert Ellis which focuses on how beliefs influence our behavior;
- The Client Centered Therapy of Carl Rogers which focuses on the belief that all people possess a strong drive toward personal growth, health, and adjustment (which he calls self-actualization);
- The Reality Therapy of William Glasser which focuses on the three Rs of facing reality, doing right, and being responsible;
- The Logotherapy of Viktor Frankl which focuses on mankind’s search for meaning in life.
Dr. Page Huff would be able to tell story after story of people suffering through life and the need for help in coping with stresses, hurts, pain, self-image, neuroses, psychoses, relationships, decisions…
The passage in Romans 12:2 challenges us to have a renewed mind. We are human and live in a fallen world so when Paul tells us that anyone in Christ is a new creation, the old is passed away and all things become new, we wonder why we continue with the same struggles, experience the same pains, and give in to the same vices as we did before we were saved. We are desperately seeking for a renewed mind, but how can we do it?
That which was available in the first century is still available to us today. With all of the science, technology, and counseling theories to help explain our thoughts and behaviors, sometimes getting back to the basics of Scripture can help a huge percentage of what ails us. Psychology has a definite place in our society, and is a great tool for helping people gain insight and awareness into the reasons for their behavior and thinking, but if we can get back to the time of the Bible to see how the spiritual side of mankind can help us cope with developing a renewed mind.
Why is it so important to renew your mind? Because of Proverbs 23:7 – “As a man thinks within himself, so is he.” NASB
Skip has mentioned this before, but today I want to expand on the idea that emotions respond to a signal sent to them by the mind.
Here is a wife and mother: “Why do I feel so much resentment toward Harold every time he comes into the house?” Her life and marriage were being destroyed because of the powerful emotion of resentment. Her emotions were being produced by the thoughts within her mind.
Or how about you driving down highway when suddenly a glance into the rear-view mirror reveals that a highway patrol car is closing on you with its blue lights flashing. Your heart leaps into your throat. You feel nervous, uncertain, and the palms of your hands begin to sweat (perspire). You begin to pull over, all the time wondering what you did, and contemplating receiving a ticket. As you begin to pull over, the patrol car pulls on around you and keeps going. Then you realize that he is not after you and your emotions return to normal. What has just happened?
- You thought you were going to be stopped and issued a ticket.
- Your emotions responded to that thought.
You placed a wrong interpretation on one fact, the patrol car coming up behind you with its blue lights on. You did NOT think of other reasons why it was happening. (Maybe the car ahead of you was his target . . . maybe he had received a call and was being dispatched to an accident scene . . . Maybe the Krispy Kreme doughnut sign was flashing hot and ready . . .)
- Your distorted view and interpretation of that one fact produced your emotion.
- Your emotions responded to the signal that your mind sent them.
Listen Carefully: It is not the actual event but your perception of the event that results in changes in your moods . . . your emotions.
- You determine your emotions by the choice of thoughts you hold and believe. Something happens and then you THINK before your FEEL.
- Emotions are not external entities which enter our bodies arbitrarily like a germ. They are a part of our makeup form the very beginning and rise up within us because of what we THINK.
- So, your emotions, regardless of their nature, are the product of your thoughts.
- You re in the driver’s seat . . . You select your emotions when you select your thoughts.
- You feel the way you do right now because of the thoughts you are presently thinking.
- The bottom line: change your thinking and your will change your emotions.
The Five Senses: (Sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell) These are the doors to the mind . . . especially the eyes and the ears.
This is why we must be very careful as to what we allow to enter our minds through our eyes and ears. There is an old computer phrase that is very applicable to human beings… “GIGO” which stands for Garbage In Garbage Out.
The band Casting Crowns took that little children’s song and challenged the dads in our generation to stay pure by guarding ourselves from the negative things that enter our lives through the senses, “be careful little eyes what you see…” Garbage in, garbage out.
Let’s look at some biblical support for this concept:
- Proverbs 4:23 – “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.”
- Galatians 6:7 – “Don’t be deceived: God is not mocked. For whatever a man sows he will also reap.”
We must be diligent to lean toward purity, righteousness, and thinking, because sowing negative thoughts produce negative emotions, and negative behaviors and consequences.
Think Right to Feel Right:
Look at Proverbs 23:7 again – “As a man thinks within himself, so is he.” NASB
“How do you feel?” The answer to this question depends on what you are thinking at the moment.
- If you are thinking positive thoughts your response may be, “I feel great!” or “I have a positive outlook.”
- On the other hand, if your frame of mind is negative you may say:
- “I don’t feel so hot.” “I feel lousy.” Or “I’ve felt better.”
- Like the old song, “Everybody hates me, nobody likes me, I think I’ll go eat worms…”
If you think negative thoughts, you WILL reap a crop of negative emotions. If you think positive thoughts you will reap a crop of positive emotions. So, WHY do we dwell on the negative when there is an alternative?
Feelings Aren’t Facts!
In the police illustration at the beginning, the blue lights were NOT intended for you. You felt at the moment that they were, but the true fact was that they were NOT for you. Feeling they WERE for you did not make them be FOR you. Feeling are not facts.
Bill Bright, with Campus Crusade for Christ, developed a graphic called FACT, FAITH, FEELINGS Train. The fact is the engine, your faith is the coal car and the caboose is your feelings. Many times we reverse the order; we put our faith in our feelings. We say things like, “I just don’t feel saved” and we live in ambiguity and fear rather than conviction and assurance. The challenge is to change your thinking. Put your faith in the facts that we find in the Bible, and the fact that you have committed yourself to Christ. So when you don’t FEEL saved, it’s because of your improper thinking. Dwell on the FACTS so that you KNOW you are saved whether you feel like it or not.
Emotions respond to feelings whether the feeling is factual or not. Our minds will respond to the FACTS whether they feel like it or not.
Twisted thinking produces emotions that are also twisted. I worked with a fellow, a professional counselor, years ago and he told me about his philosophy of counseling. He mentioned that people with emotional problems will often listen to negative self-talk, which is rarely based on facts. They will play this tape over and over about how bad they are, how worthless they are, how trapped they are, how pointless life is for them. His goal was to help them to understand the truth (the facts) no matter how they feel. He needed them to get rid of their twisted thinking.
Twisted thinking is your mind processing thoughts, not actual facts or events, and producing emotional responses such as fatigue, nervousness, anxiety, depression, loss of appetite, and a host of others ailments.
Twisted thinking can create problems for people. We move out on what we FEEL is true rather than letting the facts guide us.
Ever heard the phrase, “Just follow your heart?” I sense that following your heart is the single worst piece of advice that someone can give to another person. Now that I have you thinking differently, and you have the emotional response to support it, let me explain. Check out Jeremiah 17:9, “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?” So, when you follow your heart, you will end up with heartache.
Failure and negative thoughts, which produce twisted thinking, need to be ejected from our mind. Let me give you a biblical example. Saul, before his conversion, is a great example of twisted thinking.
In his defense before King Agrippa, he acknowledged the results of his twisted thinking. Acts 26:9-10 – “So then, I thought to myself that I had to do many things hostile to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And this is just what I did in Jerusalem; not only did I lock up many of the saints in prisons, having received authority from the chief priests, but also when they were being put to death I cast my vote against them.”
The prime motivation behind Paul’s actions against the church, Christ and his followers, AND his emotions, according to his OWN confession, was his thinking. “I thought to myself that I had to do. . .”
He was the product of what he permitted to enter his mind, the negative and false teachings about Christ and Christianity.
- He thought both were wrong and needed to be eliminated.
- Later, through proper instruction which he accepted, he was able to straighten his twisted thinking.
Apply this principle to people in a denomination and you will better understand that their feelings and emotions are based on what they THINK is right, even if it isn’t according to biblical instruction. Churches may adopt unbiblical stances on hot topics and politically correct issues, but deep down that position cannot be condoned or supported through proper exegetical Bible investigation.
When people’s thinking is changed, their feelings and emotions will also be changed.
People’s thinking is NOT changed by dealing with feelings, but dealing honestly with their thinking. You are not going to change their feelings until you change their thinking . . . perceived facts. This is why it is so important to have a renewed mind (Romans 12:2).
My friend’s counseling goal was helping them to hear positive, rather than negative self-talk. Stop playing the tapes of the lies we tell ourselves about us, the world and other people, and the world around us. So, the discipline of counseling helps correct their stinkin’ thinkin’.
Sometimes we need help to understand why we have this negative self-talk, or what triggers the negative thinking, but you know, all of us can search for the truth to know exactly what the Bible says about us, our behavior and the world around us. This is why the matter of biblical authority is so profoundly important.
- John 8:32 – “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
- John 17:17 – “Sanctify them by the truth; Your word is truth.”
What About the Truth?
- Romans 1:28 – The truth can be suppressed.
- Romans 1:25 – The truth can be exchanged for a lie.
- Romans 2:8 – Truth that is not obeyed leads to unrighteousness.
- Romans 9:1 – Truth can be told and taught to others with the authority of the Holy Spirit.
- 1 Corinthians 13:6 – Truth can be rejoiced in.
- Galatians 2:5 – The truth continues, remains or preserves.
- Galatians 3:1 – Truth will not be obeyed by foolish people.
- Colossians 1:5 – The truth is the gospel of Christ.
- 2 Thessalonians 2:12 – Condemnation comes where the truth is not believed.
- 2 Thessalonians 2:13 – The truth is involved in salvation.
- James 3:14 – People lie against or cover up the truth.
- 1 John 2:21 – The truth can be discerned from lies.
- 3 John 3 – The truth can be confirmed to others and people can live by the truth.
- 3 John 4 – The truth can be walked in . . . and lived.
It has been proven over and over again that the emotions do not know the difference between an established fact and an erroneous fact.
Illustration: Man received a phone call and thought the caller said his father was dying with a heart attack. He got into his car and drove as fast as he could to his father’s house, only to be greeted by his father at the door. The son almost had a heart attack himself. His emotions were responding to thoughts the mind were holding as true, but were not actually true. In his mind he believed his father was dying, thus his body acted accordingly. Later he learned the caller had said “John,” instead of “Don.” John was a friend of the family.
The Keys to Winning Over Stinkin’ Thinkin’ or the meat of the message, to Find God in Psychology.
We need to recognize that our thought patterns and habits can be changed for the better and we can experience release from twisted thinking, reactions and responses that eventually will defeat us.
1. Recognize that YOU are in control of your thoughts. God created you with this wonderful ability to take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5).
2. Don’t try to suppress your thoughts. Burying thoughts only reinforces the negative response demonstrated by your emotions. We must be alert to these thoughts as they come into our minds and say “NO” to them, and saying “YES” to a positive replacement.
3. When you are challenged by a twisted thought, ask yourself, “Why am I thinking this way? What has triggered this negative thought?” Determining the stimulus or root of the thought is a key to victory.
4. At the very suggestion of a defeating thought, eject it from your mind with a positive Bible verse. I don’t suggest this lightly, or because I’m a pastor. The New Living Translation of Philippians 4:8 reads: “And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”
Isn’t that a wonderful piece of advice . . . It came from God through the Holy Spirit as penned by the apostle Paul. As a matter of fact, I plan to preach this passage on Sunday October 13, How to Fortify Your Mind.
5. Changing your thinking is an act of the will.
- Colossians 3:2 – “Set your mind on things above.” Now are you beginning to see why the Bible teaches this? This imperative statement involves an act of the will . . . Who sets your mind . . . YOU set your mind.
- Colossians 3:5 – “Therefore, put to death whatever in you is worldly: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desire, and greed, which is idolatry.”
- Colossians 3:8 – “But now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language…“
- Colossians 3:12 – “Put on or clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.”
6. You cannot control what others say about you or think about you, but you can control how you react to it. If I’m having a bad day it is because I choose to allow the circumstance of that day to bring me down.
- Proverbs 25:28 – “A man who does not control his temper is like a city whose wall is broken down.” Question: What can happen to a city whose wall is broken down? It will be overrun by the enemy.
Our desire is not to rid ourselves of our emotions, but rather, learn how to control them with God’s help.
7. Pray to God for wisdom and strength.
We need to face life in the spirit of a man who lost his eyesight. He rushed to the doctor. The treatment by the physician made it possible for him to see again, but the return of his sight caused him to lose his memory. He returned to the doctor. This time he was treated for a loss of memory. The man regained his memory but lost his eyesight again. “Well,” said the physician, “we can’t cure both of them together, so you’ll have to choose between sight and memory. Which will it be?” The man answered, “Eyesight! I’d rather see where I’m going than to know where I’ve been.”
It doesn’t matter that you have been plagued in the past with twisted thinking or warped emotions; the next step you take to handle it is what counts.