Thursday, April 12, 2012

Reality? Whose? Mine or yours?

I'm an old man who has known a great many problems, most of which never happened.
                                                                                          -Mark Twain

This quote from Mark Twain never fails to bring a smile to my face. Can anyone relate? A  portion of my troubles in my more recent past (adult years) have never even existed but I worried enough about them that they felt real.  It took me years to realize that my thought life was the big problem and even today I catch myself occasionally falling back into negative thinking patterns. It stemmed from my childhood when I lived under constant stress and continued into my adult years. I had no clue how to live without fear and anxiety as they had been my constant companions on my journey into adulthood. It's a big problem for those who have been raised in dysfunctional families - you still carry the baggage even after the stressors are gone. Kind of like living with chronic PTSD and always wondering when the next bomb will go off.

It wasn't until my late twenties that I realized that I was carrying a boatload of repressed anger. I had no clue what I was dealing with before then and even when I did realize it, I still had no idea what to do with it. I can tell you one thing though - if a child has enormous amounts of repressed anger and can't express it they can end up with a lot of phobias. Children from dysfunctional households cannot aim their anger at the very people that they depend on the most so they try to find "acceptable" ways of dispersing this internal turmoil a bit so they can function. I "hated" a lot of things when I was young for no good reason. After all, better to hate a thing than a person, right? This wasn't conscious by any means. As an adult I came to the conclusion that most of the things I hated and feared were not harmful to me. An example is milk - I loved milk as a young child but developed a great aversion to it as I got older. By the time I was a teenager I was allergic to it. A fluke you might say but I'm not convinced because the more anger I repressed the worst my milk allergy got. Oddly enough, as I worked through a lot of this anger as an adult the allergy improved to the point where eating and drinking dairy products rarely bother me much anymore. As laughable as it may sound, forgiving cured the allergy. The symbolism of a having a "milk" allergy didn't escape my notice either.

I wanted to put up this post before Kingdom of Light because it seems to lead up to it and also puts my post Kingdom of Darkness into perspective. I know many of you were wounded as children and this is something I can relate to very much. The "kingdom" I was raised in had little resemblance to the Lord's Kingdom. One of the consequences of living this way was "stinking thinking". This has always been the bane of my existence. 

In earlier posts I spoke about capturing our thoughts in Christ and renewing our mind with the help of his grace. It's an ongoing battle. The "shrew" would still  like to put in her two cents about everything. I still have to gag her to get her to shut up. The shrew likes to comment negatively on life in general, though she has mellowed with age. She was far more fierce in her younger years, I think she got burnt out. Still, she occasionally likes to butt her head into my thoughts.

All humor aside, our thought life has a lot to do with what we think of ourselves and how we think of and treat others. Unhampered, it can run ourselves and others into the muck if we let it. We have the grace to stop our thoughts and change their direction by gently moving our thoughts toward the Lord. For instance, if we find ourselves judging a person (not an action, it is okay to judge an action) our thoughts can carry us far away from truth. No one knows another person's heart but God. When we notice our thoughts bringing us into a direction we don't like, it's helpful to think of Jesus crucified. Takes the wind right out of our sails! Or say your thoughts about yourself are harmful (like cutting yourself down or digging into a painful past all the time), it's helpful to remember how much God loves you. I say do it gently because it needs to be done with love. You have to treat yourself with the same mercy that God treats you with. God is incredibly merciful to us and so, we too, must treat his creation lovingly...which includes ourselves. It takes many years to build up negative thought habits and it can take some time to change this. If you are too harsh with yourself - it is fighting negativity with negativity rather than the greater sword of God's love. Our greatest weapon is praise. Praising God leaves no room for the shrew :) I like to think of this not as positive thinking but rather....Christian thinking.There are times when our minds can greatly hold us back. We are told we are new creations in Christ... but our thoughts disagree. God's word is truth but sometimes things change over a period of time instead of instantly. Living in a world which idolizes instant gratification, we certainly have our work cut out for us. Plus, we can be our own worst enemies. The best advice I could ever give anyone is to capture their thoughts in Christ. Especially those who are troubled. Let me explain what I mean:

Even before my AHA! moment in the Lord's presence I was aware that my thinking was all messed up and that not everyone thought the way I did. My thought life reeked. Yes, "stinking thinking". This doesn't just happen to alcoholics, it happens to many, many people. As a matter of fact, I think most people have at least occasional problems in this area. I rarely drink (though I had my moments when I was younger as you may have read). People tend to connect this type of thinking with addictions only but I believe that most people have this; some more than others. I tried to overcome this through various means when I was younger but nothing stuck. Probably because I was not in a state of grace. After God removed the scales from my soul, I still had to work on my mind. I'll probably have to always do this. God has my hand now, so it is much easier.

After my conversion I REALLY became aware of just how negative my thought life was. Removing this thinking (with God's grace) became a daily thing. At first I literally had to do this on a constant basis. It was like retraining the mind. Out with the old ...in with the new. Pay attention to your thoughts for a while. When you notice negative thoughts creeping in, call on the Lord. For those who were raised in very dysfunctional households, remember this:
You are not what others think you are, no one knows you but God. We become layered with other people's misconceptions of us until we cannot even see ourselves. Throw out everything that others have told you about yourself and ask the Lord to reveal your true self. It may be gradual (or not) but God will show you that only His perception of you is the true one. And you are His child. Counterattack your unloving thoughts about yourself with the knowledge that He loves you. He loves you with an infinite love. Believe in this. It is total truth. Let Him love you; you were created to live in this love.

 None are excluded from this love. He never walks away from us - we walk away from Him.

You are free in the name of Christ. Believe this. It sometimes just takes a bit of time for this truth to sink deeply into our hearts and minds.

"Do not conform yourself to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect." Romans 12:2

It pleases the Father to give us The Kingdom.


P.S. (This is a mixture of an old post and a new one. I thought they fit well together and would also be a good lead up to my next post.)

20 comments:

  1. Mary thank you so much for being transparent. I see where our two posts are similar.

    The milk issue makes total sense to me. I have been working on a more positive thought life these days. Especially when it comes to my health. I am confessing more and more that I am healed than confessing how terrible I feel.

    Yes, things are much easier when we do grasp our Savior's hand. I am beginning to let His love invade my heart.

    Much hugs to you dear one!

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  2. It's amazing how some peoples' past can affect their lives well after the original problems and difficulties have gone away.

    And by the grace of God, He usually finds a way to lead us to Him, if we want to.

    This is a great post Mary. Thanx.

    God bless.

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  3. I am so often amazed at the deepness of your understanding, Mary. I don't think I've really reflected on my thought processes before - it makes me wonder just how well I actually know myself.

    Thank you for sharing another great post. God bless:)

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  4. Hi JBR,
    I wasn't sure the milk issue would make sense to others :) It's true though!

    Thinking patterns are difficult to change, especially if we were trained to think in a manner that's negative. With God all things are possible though! I can see the changes over the years and I am very grateful for God's healing touch in this area.

    Hugs to you too, my friend :)

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  5. Victor,
    Yeah, it's strange. God has to heal the wounds of the past or they get carried into the present. It's not always conscious either.

    I am trying to teach my daughter to give all her hurts, sorrows, joys, and everything else to the Lord while she's young. I pray this will be a great help to her over the years.

    God bless you, Victor :)

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  6. Hi Vicky,
    Well, I had no choice but to think of my thought processes because they stunk (stank?) :) This is a difficult area for a lot of people. I may write more on this at some point because it is so critical for a healthy spiritual life.

    Thanks for commenting! I hope you and your family are well!

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  7. What I was told to do and have suggested to others to do, is to make new tapes in our head. We have tapes that run over and over in our minds - "I am no good, I am not lovable, I am bad, God does not love me.... etc...."
    So we need to change those tapes. tell ourselves over and over that God loves us just the way we are. I am a beautiful daughter of God. Someday we even begin to believe it. Those old tapes come back to me but not as often. I have grown a lot in confidence of God's love for me.
    Funny, but I was thinking of this just today. God-incidence!
    Thanks for this article. Very good.

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  8. I really needed to see this today, especially that last paragraph.Thank you for your wisdom and insight!

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  9. Mary,

    I'm honest and authentic? So are you!! Thank you for sharing.

    I find it can be very difficult sharing my childhood - so much pain there. But on the other hand, I don't feel such a need to write about it as I used to as I've moved on in many ways since then.

    I do remember being a young adult, and after I'd get together with friends, I would relive every conversation... How did I sound? Did everyone like me? What did I say? My thoughts used to drive me crazy. In time I was able to stop this way of thinking and I gained confidence. Perhaps I was an OK person after all. A big leap forward came when I discovered God. Yes, He sees us so differently and loves us so very much, yes, that infinite love you spoke about.

    God bless you, Mary!

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  10. Hi Colleen,
    Yes, that's a wonderful idea! Do you know what I say each morning when I get up? "Today is the best day of my life because You are with me." Then, no matter, what happens during the day, I am reminded of God's presence. Sometimes, I simply repeat the word "Emmanuel" which is a great reminder of "God with us". Sometimes I will go for long, long periods of time without the "stinking thinking" but it creeps up on me when I am hurt in some way. These are the times I try to focus on how much God loves me, even if I have to tell myself one hundred times a day. Replacing the old tapes with new ones is a good idea. And we know focussing on God's love for us is an absolute truth that we can stand firmly in. Thanks for the great comment!

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  11. Hi Kathleen,
    I am glad it spoke to you :) We all have wounds and it's good to be reminded that we are loved. God bless!

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  12. Mary,
    This is a post so many of us need to see and one I think many of us can relate to. The whole anger issue is one I spent a lot of time and money dealing with in counseling. I never even knew I was angry and I was afraid to feel anger because I never felt I could as a child. Bringing that into adulthood is not a good thing.
    I like Colleen's comment about "changing the tapes". I still have to remind myself to do this.
    Once we do change them, we can see better the Kingdom God has prepared for us rather than the one we and others have made for us.
    Thanks for this and God bless.

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  13. Hi Sue,
    Thank you for your kind words :) I used to do that as a teenager and young adult too (replay the conversations I had with others in my head). The conversations always went much better the second time around ;)

    I had very poor self-esteem.
    I used to call myself God's "ugly one". Seriously, I used to always ask God to have mercy on His "ugly one". I didn't mean physically ugly but I thought there was something terribly wrong with me that made others incapable of loving me and back then I thought that maybe I was unlovable to Him too.

    It wasn't until He brought me before His Sacred Heart that I began to see that I was lovable. I owe a great deal to whoever obtained that great grace for me. This is why I am such an advocate of intercessory prayer - it can make an enormous difference in a lost soul's life. I bring them before the Throne of Mercy every single day. This is also why I have a special fondness for St. Faustina and the Divine Mercy Chaplet. We can carry souls and place them before the Mercy Seat and because of what I saw I know that this is really what happens. Though I don't get to "see" it like I did that one time I am utterly sure that the same thing happens to them that happened to me though it may not be made manifest to them in the same way.

    Though it may seem sad to some that a person would think of themself in such a way, in some ways it became a great blessing for me. I learned to be able to place myself before the Lord in all my fragility and his strength is made perfect in weakness. I speak about this in my post Kindom of the Light which is finished but just needs touching up.

    He truly brings good out of everything.

    And yes, you are very honest and authentic. Thank you for saying the same about me.

    God bless you too, Sue!

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  14. This lent I had struggled a lot with the old self-hatred. Why, I wondered, is it so easy to love others but so hard to love myself. I was horribly mean to me. Your post inspires me to remember to always be gentle with myself and like Colleen comments-change the tapes in my head! God loves me and He loves you! We are blessed!

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  15. Hi Karin,
    I can relate! Who knew that behind those smiling young faces such storms could be brewing? I was afraid to feel anger too. To top it off I added my own sinful garbage on top of all the other stuff. I can only say that I am thankful for God's mercy!

    God bless you too, Karin :)

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  16. Hi Anne,
    Yeah, it comes back on me too. I wonder how many people struggle with self-hatred? I know it's been a big problem in my life. And I agree, Colleen's comment is a good one!

    Yes, we are blessed :)

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  17. A Benedictine spiritual director once told me to put all the hurt I was carrying at the foot of the cross and leave it there. It was hard to leave it. I wanted to keep running back to pick it up again, it was so familiar. Fortunately, thanks to the grace of God, I was able to let go and just concentrate on Jesus - and to forgive.

    I agree that "stinkin' thinkin'" isn't limited to alcoholics. What's interesting is that nursing bad behavior is being totally self-centered. Until we let go of it at the foot of the cross, it's impossible to be a good neighbor and live the beatitudes.

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  18. Barb,
    You make a very good point here about the difficulty of leaving our hurts at the foot of the Cross - I knew how to live with hurts but I was clueless how to live without them. Strange, huh? Children can be trained to think a certain way only to find out at a later date that this way of thinking is harmful for them.

    I've realized for quite some time that my biggest cross is myself (that selfishness you speak of here). It was very difficult to admit this at first but got easier over time after I brought it to the Lord. I've been thinking about posting about it.

    Thank you for your comments on my posts, Barb. You always make me think.

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