MIND ON THE MEND
Chapter Three–3 of 5
“…be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Romans 12:2b
The first thing to learn about anxiety or panic or any raging emotion is that they come from within. We are the source. They do not fall on us like pollen or come invisibly attached to the mail. We produce them. Since they originate with us, they should be easily managed by us. For those who are not afflicted it may seem simple. They say, “Get over it! Stop it! Pull yourself together.” If we could, if we knew how, we would! Managing our own emotions is not so easy.
The admonition to renew your mind is not about expanding your intellect. Reading this through the filter of mental health it means to renovate the process that triggers toxic mind activity. “Transform” is a heavy-duty word. It is the word that is used to describe Jesus on the Mt. of Transfiguration.
The American Psychological Association (APA) reports 90% of Gen Z experienced psychological or physical symptoms as a result of stress in the last year. Gen Z has been named the most anxious generation in history
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I am not a therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist. I am not licensed or trained to give mental or medical advice. I have studied emotions and taught from my research and personal experience and that is the platform I share with you. This series of blogs focus on the biblical teachings of Romans 12:1-2. I am a pastor/teacher with a vulnerability to anxiety. I’m sharing what I am learning, what I am experiencing and resources that are beneficial to me.
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A black and white-Water Spaniel dog came into our neighborhood. We saw that he was troubled, panicky, frantic, and not wanting to talk to us. He appeared to be lost or had been tossed. I knew almost immediately what he was feeling. He was feeling separation anxiety and feared he would not find his way home.
Not all kids suffer from separation-anxiety. One of the first fears for some young kids is that he or she will come home and mom and/or dad will not be there. Fear of abandonment. And then! What will I do?
Some of us carry agoraphobia. In our dark times, we feel best if we have our “safe person” with us so if we have a panic or anxiety attack or if we “lose control” that person will be there to drive us home or reassure us that we will be okay—“Don’t forget to breathe!”
What is the plan to renew your mind? If you want to embrace rather than avoid the feelings of anxiety in a crisis time, what will you train yourself to do when the dreaded begins to rachet up? A physician in one of our anger-management seminars told me I was talking about the people he sees every day. (It has been projected that 80% of doctor’s office visits can be traced to some form of anxiety.) The physician said, “People want something that can be done to them—some pill.” I am glad there are pills, meds, drugs, but they are not solutions. Drugs deal with symptoms so we can do the internal work to bring insight that empowers new habits and corrects negative mental habits.
I reference the conversation between Jesus and the Rich Young Ruler from Mark 10:17-34:
“‘You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come follow me.’ Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.”
Jesus did not attempt to convince him. He let him go. I mention this because there is no bait and switch in the Kingdom. Jesus honors our decisions. That is why Apostle Paul is adamant about the “pattern of this world,” and telling us that we are to “renew our minds.”
From my experience there are several basic pillars in our pre-renewed mind:
We are told to take control of our thoughts and train our minds/brains to think well. That is not instruction to think of one word and exchange it for a better one. The problem is that one word becomes a photo and a story that ignites our brain to nudge our body to prepare for fight-flight-freeze. Automatic-negative-thoughts come with a video and story line.
What are the automatic narratives that strike fear in you? Our mind/brain has a serious habit of following the signposts of former narratives. That is precisely why the mind needs to be renewed which means editing the stories our minds tell us. Psychologists call the editing “reframing.”
Holy Spirit is our paraclete—the helper who walks beside us to reveal the triggers that lead us into fear or negative thinking. He shows us how to replace narratives and then heals us of memories that led to the corrupt narrative, so that tormenting story and video can be renamed. The experience can be called “Restoring the Christian Soul.”
Leanne Payne, who wrote a book by that name, says,
“We need to recognize when this outward focus on Christ has been seriously blocked by our failure to accept ourselves. We need to recognize and do something about the diseased attitudinal patterns toward the self, those formed in the crucible of the various accidents and deprivations of our past.” (Leanne Payne, Restoring the Christian Soul, Baker Books, 1991) Page 27
Ms. Payne names three “Barriers to Wholeness in Christ.”
- Failure to accept oneself
- Failure to forgive others
- Failure to receive forgiveness
What is refused or buried may come out from the subterranean mind in the form of emotional explosions. If we have unforgiveness, or resentment something in us anticipates bad road ahead.
Dr. Tim Elmore says, “…remind you of the power of your personal narrative.” Dr. Brené Brown talks about “the story we are telling ourselves.” These reminders push us to examine our personal narratives with the question, “Is this true?” Or if it cannot be known whether true or not, we must reframe the stories. What is liable to happen? What do you anticipate happening if you do the dreaded?
If your parents were/are afflicted with anxiety or depression, you are more apt to be also than someone whose parents or caregivers are not. I was surprised to learn that we adopt the worldviews of our parents and only a few people ever examine those views. We tend to “learn” reactions by observing the important people in our young lives. They need examination.
Our society has been berated, scolded, and alerted to impending doom. Many have been fired from jobs for disagreeing with the regime’s warnings. We have been told there are soon to come catastrophes if we did not stop raising beef and sheep—we are within minutes of the earth ceasing to exist because of Global Warning. That may or may not be true, but the prospects of any of that happening has stoked fear, angst and anxiety in millions. Expectations of entire nations have become dark. Those who print the warnings and cancel people who like hotdogs and filet have become The New Puritans.
Jeremiah Burroughs lived in Europe in the 1600s. He became the ultimate Puritan, that is, he filled the stereotype of the worst form. His theology was:
“I am nothing, and I deserve nothing.”
“I can do nothing.”
“I am so vile that I cannot of myself receive any good.”
“I am not only an empty vessel but a corrupt and unclean vessel.”
And: “If we perish, we will be no loss.”
“There will be no laughing and enjoyment is frowned upon—perhaps forbidden.”
To live in that atmosphere or in the fumes of that worldview teaches us to expect only the worst. Expectations inform our mind of reasons to hunker down physically and emotionally or saddle up for our next adventure.
Having a creative, sanctified imagination is an asset.
…although of course we lead normal human lives, the battle we are fighting is on the spiritual level. The very weapons we use are not those of human warfare but powerful in God’s warfare for the destruction of the enemy’s strongholds. Our battle is to bring down every deceptive fantasy and every imposing defense that men erect against the true knowledge of God. We even fight to capture every thought until it acknowledges the authority of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:4-5).
Where do satanic or demonic attacks and harassments fit in the battle for our minds? How is the tormenter recognized?
Someone I’ve read or listened to says if you want to get rid of rats, get rid of the garbage. Rats are attracted to garbage as a food source. No garbage—no interest. Negative spirits utilize negative thoughts, memories, hatreds, narratives. Dr. Charles Kraft says from his experiences of casting out demons or breaking down strongholds is first “battled” by ministering to the negative memories, thoughts and narratives which can be welcoming portals for dark spirits intent on harassing or controlling. Get rid of the garbage.
It seems to me—in our mind renewing—we are to scan our souls and minds: anticipation, expectations, imagination for the automatic triggers. We even fight to capture every thought until it acknowledges the authority of Christ.
Even though the emotions belong to us, therefore we control them, we cannot ignore or diminish satan’s work. Recently, I was anxious and recognized it as “egged on” by a dark spirit. I vocally told the entity or atmosphere to take a hike and then did what needed to be done. But what if the looped thoughts are accusations? Blaming? Scolding? Questioning about competence or a “You’ve always been like this…?” The Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit never blame, scold or accuse. God’s correction does not leave us diminished or shaking. Jesus calls us Friends. Jesus does not treat his friends that way. Therefore, rake through the stories that lead to serious negative feelings. If they suggest anything but growth toward maturity, question the source.
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John Eldridge said recently, “The world is in transition.” That word registered differently than it has before. Does that mean what used to be normal never will be again? Dutch Sheet’s “Give Him Fifteen” post today shook me. “Transition.” Is that what is happening? Can the 1984 trend be changed or averted?
A psychologist says that the world has been in trauma approaching three years. The physical, mental, emotional, spiritual reserves, and the margins of the American population have been spent. They are empty. We need RECOVERY—RESTORATION. Not for just a few anxious folks, but for most of us. We are in a season to “renew our minds” to repair and to prepare.
REPAIR AND PREPARE
Dr. Leaf and the majority of my resources are talking about two weight-bearing pillars to renew the mind:
We will look at these tools and resources in the next chapter. How are we to visualize “renewing the mind.”? Do we run our minds through a wood planner to carve off the top layer? Do we plunge our minds like a door into an acid to burn off the old paint? Do we pluck memories as if they are disliked spices in lunchmeat? Or delete, delete? Mindfulness and mindsets offer a process of healing and change.
©2022 D. Dean Benton
Primary resources for this chapter:
Think, Learn, Succeed, Carolyn Leaf, (Baker Books, 2018).
The Pandemic Population, Tim Elmore, (Poet Gardener Publishers, 2020)
Generation Z Unfiltered, Tim Elmore & Andrew McPeak, (Poet Gardener, 2019)