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Prayer as Rational Self-Talk
Self-talk is what we tell ourselves in our thoughts. In fact, it is the words we tell ourselves about people, self, experiences, life, in general, God, the future, the past, the present. It is all the words that we say to ourselves all the time. Actually, if we regularly cultivate and entertain slights against us or the deeper personal affronts, it can lead to destructive depression, mood slumps, our self-worth plummeting, our body feeling sluggish, our will to accomplish even the tiniest of things is not to be realized, and our actions defeat us.
Intense negative thinking will always lead to at least a minor depressive episode or simple, painful emotion. Our thoughts based on a good mood will be entirely different from those based on our being upset. Negative thoughts that flood our minds are the actual contributors to our self-defeating emotions. These very thoughts are what keep us sluggish and contribute to our feeling frustrated, angry, or worthless. Therefore, this thinking is the key to your relief.
Every time we feel down about something, we need to attempt to locate the corresponding negative thought we had that led to this feeling down. It is these thoughts that have created our feelings of frustration, anger, or low self-worth. By learning to offset them and replace them with rational thoughts, we can actually change our mood. Remember the thoughts that move through our mind, with no effort, this is the easiest course to follow. It is so subconscious that they even go unnoticed.
The centerpiece of it all is the mind. Our moods, behaviors and body responses result from the way we view things. It is a proven fact that we cannot experience any event in any way, shape, or form unless we have processed it with our mind first. No event can depress us; it is our perception of that event that will depress us. If we are only sad over an event, our thoughts will be rational, but if we are depressed wrathful, or anxious about an event, our thinking will be bent and irrational, distorted and utterly wrong.
It may be difficult for each of us to wrap our mind around it, but we are superb at telling ourselves outright lies and half-truths, repeatedly throughout each day. In fact, some of us are so good at it that it has become our reality and led to annoyance, stress, irritation, anger, even depression, and anxiety. This section should be a beginning in helping us to start identifying these lies and half-truths.
Lies about Self
- I am dumb
- I am unattractive
- No one really likes me
- I have no talent
- I am miserable
- This always happens to me
- This is the story of my life
- Life is never going to change
- I am so lonely
- I am no good
Lies about Others
- He always makes dumb comments
- He is always saying things like that
- No one really likes him
- He has no respect
- He makes me miserable
- He always making me unhappy
- Why does he always do that
- He is never going to change
- He should …
- He is no good
I am so stupid
I never get anything right.
Everything I do seem to fail. Even when I do all I can to make someone love me; they just end up rejecting me.
- Situation Degrading:
Life is the same every day; I do not even know why I bother getting up!
Life just kicks me in the face every day―it stinks!
- Future Degrading:
I am never going to make it in life; I do not know why I even try. It is a waste of time!
- Degrading Others:
He is always saying rude things
He never goes a day without insulting me
Everything word out of his mouth seems to be meant for me. Even when I do all I can to make things right, he just keeps hurting my feelings.
- Situation Degrading:
He treats me the same every day; I do not even know why I bother trying to remain friends!
He makes life miserable for me–He is not worth my efforts!
- Future Degrading:
I am never going forgive him again; I do not know why I even try. It is a waste of time!
I will never talk with him again. Forgiveness, what is that!
I will avoid him like everyone else that mistreats me. Forgiveness? Never!
We must appreciate that our thoughts can deceive all of us, contributing to our belief that the negative mood, which has been created, because of our thinking, is reality, when it is not. If we have established a negative way of thinking, an irrational way of thinking, our mind will simply accept it as truth. Within a moment, we can alter our mood, and it is not even likely we notice it taking place. These negative feelings seem as though they are the real thing, which only reinforces the deceptive thinking.
If we are under mental distress, and we find ourselves having anger issues or mild depression and are unhappy much of the time, we need to be in prayer for Holy Spirit. However, we need to act on behalf of our prayers as well. It is likely that we can combine our spiritual pursuits with some self-help cognitive therapy. If things have become more involved, we may want to speak with the elder or pastor. However, if we are moderately depressed, where things feel unbearable because we are having feelings of despair, we need to get some professional help from a Christian counselor. Our recommendation of a placed to find an excellent Christian counselor is found in the footnote below.
Romans 15:13 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
13 Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Dr. David Burns wrote, “feelings are not facts!” Our own thinking can easily trick us. Regardless of what deception our depressed brain tells us, we will accept it as total truth. In fact, it does not take but a partial second to establish these irrational thoughts with ourselves. Therefore, in many cases, we are unlikely to notice it even happening. These negative thoughts feel so right and give credibility to the lie.
While many are well aware that self-defeating thoughts and behavior(s) are harmful to themselves, they also know that resisting and overcoming them is another story. Self-defeating thoughts and behaviors can become deeply rooted over the years and can be extremely resistant to efforts to change them. Trying to curb such thinking can be exhausting and even painful, spiraling into depression in and of itself.
Humans being in the state of imperfection should not expect perfection in this endeavor. Our genetic heritage, inherent weaknesses, and experiences make it impossible for us to avoid all self-defeating thoughts and behaviors. Therefore, lovingly, we do not demand perfection of ourselves, nor should we of others.
However, this consideration on our part does not absolve us of our responsibility to control our thinking and thus our feelings that lead to moods and behaviors. Behavioral scientists say that self-defeating thoughts, like good ones, are learned and developed over time. If that is correct, then self-defeating thoughts can just as surely be unlearned! Of course, ridding ourselves of self-defeating thoughts that may have dominated our lives for years will be difficult. We should not underestimate the struggle ahead of us. There will certainly be setbacks and failures. However, rest assured, things usually get easier with time. The more we work at it, the more our new behavior will become a part of us. How?
Life: Common everyday events, both positive and negative
Thoughts: Your thinking interprets each of these events throughout the day
Mood: It is developed not by the day’s events; no, it is developed by our perception of those events, by our thinking.
Every bad feeling that we have is a direct result of our bent thinking. If one finds themselves embedded in day-in-and-day-out of negative thinking, there is most certainly going to be an outburst of anger or some mild depressive episode follow. We will not be so bold as to use the word “cause,” but instead, we will say contribute. Thus, we will find that those continual negative thoughts will contribute to emotional spiral until it arrives at the bottom floor of a depressive episode.
Breaking Away From Bent Thinking
- Identify and own our bent thinking. We have to self-analyze our days. We must slow down and identify what thinking error we are having and write it down. This is called mental journaling. If we are careful and wisely analyze, we can keep track of the thinking stimulus that sets off our feelings, followed by our actions. In our prayerful conversations with God, we can identify the thinking error, and internally discuss the irrational thought with God. Why is it irrational thinking? What would be the rational thought?
- Replace the bent (irrational) thinking with rational thinking. We start self-branding ourselves: “I am no good,” “I am lazy.” Or we self-brand others: “he is always saying things like …” He is rude.” We should immediately stop and start to reason rationally with ourselves. “No I am not no good, this is doing nothing but making me feel worse, I am a good person who makes mistakes like everyone else.” Or, “Well, he isn’t always saying bad things, and we all slip in what we say at times.” Positive self-talk should be done at length, keeping it honest, and aloud if possible.
- Keep Records. Each day we need to write down the episodes of negative self-abuse, bent thinking that we go through, as well as the forms. In addition, the time spent in rationalizing with negative thoughts. At the end of the day, summarize it in a short paragraph. We should see a decrease almost immediately in our first week.
- Let others know. Keep our friends and family in the loop of what we are attempting to do. Periodically ask them if they notice a change in attitude and mood. Explain to them that it is best if they are honest with us. Also, prepare mentally for possible negative feedback. Simply use the feedback as an instrument and know that more work is needed.
- The most important key is to be practical and balanced. It took many years to achieve our way of thinking; it is not going to change overnight. In addition, if we put 50% into putting on a new person, we will get 50% out of it. If we put 100% in, we will get 100% out of it. We should notice a small difference in a week, but we should see tremendous changes in about a four months period, some may be six months to a year.
- Pray to God. We need to bring God into the picture, for him, nothing is impossible.–Psalm 55:22; Luke 18:27
Read the list below of Twelve Distorted Thoughts. These were developed with the idea of focusing on the culprit that is guilty of the distortion (self), and what it is (thinking). As we work our way through this book or any self-help book, we should have the Twelve Distorted Thoughts in front of us (mentally, i.e., memorized).
Twelve Distorted Thoughts
- SELF-ABSOLUTE (THINKING)
With this frame of mind, there is no middle ground. One who has a setback in life and sees it as nothing more than a life-ending result. To receive one bad mark on a work evaluation is the same as receiving all bad marks.
- SELF-SWEEPING (THINKING)
If a bad event happens to us, we say: “This is the story of my life.” We see our life as a never-ending series of negative events. For us, one bad event might as well be a thousand because we blow it up in our mind.
- SELF-BRANDED (THINKING)
We own every negative event that happens in our life as being our fault. We carry the weight of the world on our shoulders. If something positive happens it is a freak accident, because nothing good happens to us.
- SELF-CLASSIFYING (THINKING)
As these negative events unfold on us, we own those that are not even ours, we begin to classify ourselves as “losers,” “total failures,” “disappointments,” “let downs.” It is to the point that we even begin to question why we were even born.
- SELF-RATIONALIZING (THINKING)
We perceive life in a negative manner, even though, much of our lives may be just fine. We refuse to acknowledge the good in our lives or the possibility of it becoming good.
- SELF-PROPHECY (THINKING)
We see everything as ending negatively, so we end up fulfilling our own negative thinking. An adverse event happens to us, and we have already mapped out in our mind the dreadful course, followed by a tragic ending. John calls to say he cannot make the dinner date tonight. At once, Lisa is offering reasons as to why he has broken off the date: ‘he doesn’t like me;’ ‘he has found someone else’ and on and on.
- SELF-PSYCHIC (THINKING)
We regularly have a feeling that someone is thinking badly of us, or talking badly about us without any evidence. We assume that bad things just always happen to us.
- SELF-AMPLIFYING (THINKING)
Small negative things, events that happen to each of us every day, are amplified (to become more marked or intense) to unrealistic measures by our overactive thinking. Maybe they spill something on their shirt, are rejected from a potential date, or lose their favorite pair of shoes, so they will think, “This always happens to me!”
- SELF-FOCUS (THINKING)
We focus in on the negative details, seeing nothing else. We refuse to see the bright side of any situation. If one attempts to point to some positive aspect of anything, we negate them and their audacity even to consider such a thing.
- SELF-PROJECTING (THINKING)
Jim should have done this. Jane should have said this. Mark should not have done that. This is simply projecting us on everyone else.
- SELF-LABELING (THINKING)
I am no good! I am not a good mother. I am a poor student. I am stupid.
12 SELF-PERSONALIZING (THINKING)
With no evidence, we make ourselves the scapegoat because we will always blame ourselves for everything. Lisa thinks, ‘If only I were a better wife!’ Lisa, as a verbally abused wife, thinks, ‘it’s my fault; I must be doing something wrong.’ On the other hand, Lisa may scream at her husband habitually, so much so that he loses his self-esteem, “I can never do anything right.’
Dealing with Our Imperfections
Mental distress is not a part of healthy living. The important aspect is that it can be overcome by learning some simple methods that will elevate our moods. The techniques of having rational self-talk with God and identifying our irrational thinking will reduce the symptoms of a variety of mental distresses (frustration, anger, jealousy, anxiety, etc.). The idea of how we think is how we feel has been in psychology books for over one hundred years. However, it has been in God’s Word, many Bible books, for about 2,000 – 3,000 years. God’s Word and cognitive therapy can help us control the symptoms that lead to mental distress and help us to recreate an entirely new personality. Paul calls it putting on the new person and removing the old person.
- Swift Improvement of Thinking Errors: For those suffering from a milder form of mental distresses such as depression or anxiety, control of thinking and the new personality can be achieved in as little as three to six months, depending on the level of effort placed into oneself.
- The Ability to Fully Grasp: In the end, by way of deep study in God’s Word, we will fully grasp exactly why our moods alter and have at our disposal, numerous principles to apply in controlling these mood swings. We will understand the difference between bent-thinking and rational thinking and be able to recognize the level of our mood.
- Control Not Removal: Our irrational thinking is a part of the person that is imperfect; it can only be controlled, not cured. However, there will be new life-skills that we will learn to cut off and control the distorted thinking and emotion before they consume us.
- New Person: This new person can be maintained, but we have to always be aware of the symptoms, events, and situations that can contribute to a setback.
First, one needs to recognize that ALL of their moods are brought on by our internal self-talk. This is based on the way one looks at something: perceptions, mental attitudes, and beliefs. The way we feel at this very moment is based on the self-talk that is going on between our ears.
Second, when one is distressed mentally, such as mild depressed frustration, anger, jealousy, or anxiety; really any negative mood, their thoughts are dominating the mood. We perceive not only ourselves but also the entire world in such a way that it regulates our moods. Moreover, we will buy into this false reality. If we have hit a low, we will move into the stage, believing that ‘this is who I am, and it has and will always been this way.’ As we reflect on the past, only those bad moments will surface. In addition, we will project this bad past as an ongoing reality for our future, creating a feeling of hopelessness.
Third, we must realize that this thinking that creates our moods are really a gross distortion of reality; this is why we are so affected by them. Although they appear valid at present, we will find that they are irrational and just downright wrong. Our mind is like a transmission in a car, where our thinking is a result of mental slippage and not an accurate perception. As we progress in rational thinking, and we begin to master methods that will help us identify this mental slippage, we will start to remove that way of thinking, and we will begin to feel better for longer periods of time until it is the norm.
Fourth, we will begin to use the Scriptures in an entirely new way. It is paramount that we take note of how the Scriptures offer us far more than the mere surface knowledge that we have grown accustomed to and see that by our having an accurate, deep understanding, with the application, we can begin to alter our old person into an entirely different person. It is highly recommended that the reader considers three other publications by this author as well.
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