You didn’t have to be CRAZY
Where is he?
You have been waiting now for 40 minutes. Did he break up with you and not tell you? Is he mad at you?
This morning you were both excited, joking and talking about your dinner plans. Was he faking it? What could have gone wrong?? All your calls are going to voicemail….
Your mind starts to go somewhere…
You get a picture of a mangled car, the police standing over your boyfriend’s body, then later, the police coming to your house, telling you there has been an accident. Your eyes start to well with tears, your heart drops. You can see yourself on the day of the funeral wearing the same dress you wore on your first date. You get up to the podium to say some nice words when from the corner of your eye you see—-Your boyfriend talking to the waiter then making his way towards your table he says, “Thank God you are still here!”- My car broke down, I left my phone at the office! “As you embrace, relief, joy, and embarrassment wash over you and you realize once again: You didn’t have to be crazy. So why did you do it?
Why does your mind always go to the worst-case scenario? Crazy thoughts can be like a runaway train, out of control, destructive, and appearing to be unstoppable. Our thoughts can take us places we do not want to go, dark places where we will experience hopelessness, despair, and sorrow. God does not want us to lead such undisciplined thought life. He commands us to keep our mind on the things above (1). Why then do we engage in this type of thinking?
Reason #1: You suffer from vain imagination syndrome:
Remember when Dorothy from the wizard of Oz dreamed up a whole world in her mind? our brains are the same way. We possess a powerful imaging tool capable of “creating” reality. This can be defined both psychologically and spiritually:
As Christians, we are encouraged to not live life like the world does but are required to transform our minds but the renewing of our minds (4). This means changing our lives by changing how we think and what we think about.
Psychological definition: The more common definition for vain imaginations falls into the category of irrational beliefs coined by the Cognitive Psychologist (Albert Ellis). He believed that people sometimes held irrational, illogical beliefs and that holding on to those beliefs was the source of all human misery. In the category of irrational beliefs, catastrophizing is where you imagine the worst-case scenario with very little information. Most therapists are trained to assist their clients in dismantling these types of cognitive distortions through the use of Cognitive Therapy.
Reason #2: You have a history of Trauma (PTSD)
Photo by Daniel Reche (pexels)
Our brains are designed to perceive uncertainty as a threat to survival. Maybe you have experienced some bad things in your life and now whenever you face uncertainty your natural inclination is to prepare. You don’t want the bad things in life to “catch you by surprise” hence you are always on the alert, always looking for what can or will go wrong. You spend time looking at all possibilities and reviewing all worst-case scenarios. This state is defined as hypervigilance and it is one of the characteristics of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD.
Reason #3: You suffer from Amnesia
Remember how you read in the old testament about the Israelites delivered from Egypt and brought into the desert? Remember how every 10 miles in their journey through the desert it appeared they forgot who had delivered them from their oppressors against insurmountable odds? they would complain and be fearful of the hardships they endured, they would forget the God who had delivered them. Well, you are just like them. You forget how God has in the past shown up and delivered you from so many situations. You forget how last year when our car broke down, you made a new friend who was able to drive you back and forth to work at no cost to you or how God delivered you from a bad relationship 5 years ago. We all forget the good things and tend to focus on the negative, this tendency is called negativity bias (6).
Reason #4: You inherited it
When I was growing up my Abuela ( grandmother)would sit at the kitchen table and take paper napkins and tear little pieces off, then she would roll these tiny pieces with her index and thumb into little balls which she then placed side by side on the table, like soldiers in a battlefield. Abuela was not crazy but I am positive she suffered from some form of Anxiety as evidenced by her engagement in repetitive self-soothing behaviors. A recent study showed that anxiety is an inheritable trait (7). I have seen these same anxiety markers in my own mother, who in turn passed down her fears and insecurities to me. Learning to cope and overcome anxiety has been an amazing lifelong journey. Being able to share what I have learned is part of the reason for doing this blog. Ultimately no matter what the reasons for catastrophizing or engaging in vain imaginations this form of thinking is destructive. It ruins the relationships we have with people, ourselves, and even God. Therefore learning how to stop engaging in catastrophizing/vain imaginations is very important. Below are 4 Steps to do you can do to help you take control of your anxious thoughts!
Step #1 Pay Attention
top going on what I call “vacation”, a vacation is when you are physically present but by all other means have emotionally and mentally left the building. You are in a daze, disconnected, ungrounded, not present. Stop doing this, instead stay in the present. Understand the difference between your thinking mind and your imagination. Ask yourself the following questions:
- What is really happening right now?
- Am I setting my thoughts on things above?
- Are the thoughts I have right now helpful to me?
By answering these questions you can refocus yourself and get yourself back on track.
Step #2 DON’T LIVE IN THE FUTURE
We are not built to live in the future. We can only live in the present. Worry is the product of trying to tell the future or trying to live in the future. When you are worried, you are projecting some future disaster on your present condition. Worry is a sin. We are told over and over not to worry, in fact, there are 32 bible verses admonishing us to not engage in this activity. Here are a few: “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:34“casting all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you. 1 Peter 5-7Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Philippians 4:6“For this reason, I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Matthew 6:25If you want to look up all 32: (8).
Step # 3 Rebuke
Rebuke: to criticize sharply, to reprimand. Notice I did not say pray. Prayer is a request, when we rebuke we are engaging in spiritual combat with an unseen enemy. Remember that the enemy will whisper his lies into our mind, we can choose to believe the lie and get on the “crazy train” or we can choose to disagree– fight back. The word of God says: in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Eph 6:16 Jesus did this when he encountered the enemy and those who follow him will follow his example and do what he did. When we rebuke the enemy we are in obedience to the word of God that says: submit yourselves to God, resist the enemy and he will flee (9 ) .
Step #4 DO NOT CONTEMPLATE EVIL
But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! Mathew 6:23
In the movie Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief, a remake of the original Clash of the titans, Medusa is trying to force Percy to look at her. She knows that if he opens his eyes and looks into her evil face he will turn to stone and be rendered helpless and immobile. We suffer from the same vulnerability as Percy. We cannot contemplate evil and evil thoughts and not be changed by them. Therefore just as the truth changes us, so does the lie, so does what is evil.
As this world continues to become more profane and darker. We will need to develop the perfect skill of setting our minds to only what is right and true. We can remember that no matter what our outside
circumstances, real or imagined in this world, God still is on the throne. He is still in control. We can trust him and draw our strength from him and ask him to calm the storms of our minds. We can know that no matter what we will be okay. These last two years have been challenging, in what ways has God been there for you through your insecurities, anxiety and fears? Feel free to share here.