Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Trained Negativity; Gratitude Journal

I think that sometimes when women are depressed, they think it has just "come upon" them. They don't realize if they've done anything to contribute to it. And they don't realize that they can do anything to change their circumstances. I am talking about taking real personal responsibility here. Not just going to the support group meeting at the hospital, but saying: "I am depressed because I think depressed thoughts. I have power over my own thoughts. I can choose not to think depressed thoughts".
Have you ever considered that? That you, yes you, have the authority, even over heaven and earth, to choose your own thoughts. Yes, it is so.
Matthew 16:23 says:
But He turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, satan! You are hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man."
Do you notice how He says setting your mind? That means that Peter was responsible for the thoughts that were running through his head over and over again. And they were satanic thoughts, because the Lord rebuked Peter for what the devil was saying through him. Now, we could get all messy with theology here, but the thing that thrills me, that I want to convey to you is:
1. Those depressed thoughts are your enemy. Your nemesis.
2. You don't have to set your mind on them.
In Matthew 21:29 Jesus tells a story about a man who had been asked by his father to go work in the family vineyard. The man refused, but it tells us that he later changed his mind and went. So this man changed his own mind. "A small instance", you say, "perhaps only his whim, and really nothing compared to what I am going through". Well, keep following this train of thought: In Matthew 21:32, a few verses later, Jesus condemns the local religeous leaders for having been sent a message from God and then not changing their minds and believing. So this time, we see Jesus requiring a change of mind of someone!
"Oh great, now I am required to be well?"
Not so. With God, things are always more of an invitation than a legislation. He really wants you well, and His word shows us how we can be. If the bible holds the keys to a sound mind, then we need to put our flesh aside, and really consider what it has to say.
Especially about our minds.
Most of depression takes place in the mind. Sure, depression is spiritual, but it probably entered through the mind at the outset. Yes, depression is very physical, but where is that physical depression manifesting? That's right, in your thoughts. You know this, because you've thought it yourself: "I'm too tired", "I can't handle this anymore", "I just want to die".
Well, you don't want to die, those are just thoughts. And you can choose which thoughts you will take.
So if the choice is all yours, what are you going to think about? After all, your mind and your brain have been in a habit for years of thinking the same negative things, and turning to the same coping mechanisms (maybe your bed, maybe your pills, maybe your beer). So, that in essence is trained negativity. It really takes a lot of work.
When I was young, many well meaning people said many well meaning things to start me off on the road to negativity: "If you keep making that face, it will stay like that", "What are you, Oscar the Grouch?", "Liberty, you are such an Eeyore". Was I? I guess I must have been, but to a child those words become identified with self, and a strangely pronounced prophecy that something in the child wants to live up to.
Then, there are all the things I did to train myself: all the TV shows I watched in which the heroines were perpetually rude, and in a constant state of tragedy; all the things I said, like: "life sucks", "I hate school", "I can't stand life". Did I feel like that? Well, I guess I must have, but there was no point in being so negative. It's just that I didn't know to RESIST negativity, and so it came naturally.
Can we train ourselves to HAVE A DIFFERENT MIND? Yes! And really it is so very simple. If your heart is to be well, and to get to know God, He will honor your every effort, no matter how small. One thing I did after my healing was to begin writing in my journal: things I was thankful for. At the end of the day, when I was most tired, and most inclined to feel negative, discouraged, or to think depressed thoughts, I would sit in bed and write down around five things that I was really thankful for that had happened that day. It changed my thinking. Whereas before, I would have gone to bed feeling beleaguered from my day with a toddler, I would now write down that I got a load of dishes done. No, it doesn't seem like much, but for me it was a victory, and it proved that my life had worth.
I also wrote down the main thoughts that had plagued me that day, and beside them (or under them) I would write what the bible said. For example, if I had felt that day like I "just couldn't do it anymore", I would write down beside that: "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me". I didn't feel it, but knowing that the bible said it gave me comfort, and new strength. I could feel God's presence with me, and the fact that He loved me, and that I wasn't alone was enough. I would sleep peacefully, without any fear of the next day. I knew that He would help me then too.
Often I prayed that way. I would feel tempted to get down, or I would feel a headache coming on, and I would just ask Him to turn my day around. To take hold of it, and make it better. And He would. The headache would go, and I would feel cheerful again. But I did make a choice. I chose to turn to Him, not to the depressed thoughts, or actions. You can choose Him too. Call on the name of Jesus, and trust Him to deliver you.
Mark 12:30 says "And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength..." This doesn't seem to me like a command from a harsh God, but rather the invitation of a loving Father, to enter onto the road to mental health.

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