Friday, April 11, 2014

Toxic Thoughts - Part 1

Toxic thoughts used to be the bane of my existence. Looking back, I can see just how much they affected my life. I wasn't really fully aware of them at the time. I thought my thinking was normal. The toxic thoughts were more like a background noise, subtle at times but almost always there if I payed attention. My thinking definitely leaned toward the negative side. Like a tape being played over and over again. These thoughts were like bloodthirsty leeches, slowly draining my energy, my peace, my joy. When I DID become aware of how problematic my thinking processes were I tried to do something to overcome them.

But kept failing.


Because I placed my focus on overcoming the bad thoughts without understanding that there were underlying issues feeding them. It was like trying to bail out a leaky boat with a straw. How can it work if you don't fix the leak first?

Fix the leak. Then you can bail out the water.

In my case, repressed/suppressed anger was one of the culprits fueling the toxic thoughts. I've spoken about this in numerous posts so I won't go into detail here except to say that you have a much better chance of conquering negative thinking if you deal with the underlying issue first. You can be mild-mannered on the surface and still have a lot of anger simmering deep inside. The surface mildness may just be saying that you have good control. Mine was rigid.

Even now, I have to be diligent in the area of my thought life because negative thoughts still like to creep in on occasion and if I am not careful they wreak havoc in a very short time. Anyone who has struggled with this knows how difficult it can be to overcome poisonous thinking processes. There aren't any "quick fixes", at least there weren't for me. I guess God could certainly cure a person of this in an instant but usually He doesn't work this way. It usually takes time, grace, and effort before we see lasting changes in this area.

In other words, He supplies the grace, you supply the effort. You work in tandem like a tag team.

So, the first way to deal with unwanted thoughts is to ask God to help you with the underlying issues lurking beneath the surface that may be helping to fuel the thoughts. Once these are addressed you can
start  actively working on getting rid of the thoughts themselves.

Some people may not even be aware that they struggle with toxic thoughts but it's not difficult to find out if you do. For a few days, pay attention to where your thoughts go. Don't dwell on them, just see if you can notice subtle poisonous thought patterns aimed at yourself or others. Thoughts such as:

"God doesn't really want to help me."

"I'm not good enough."

"I'll never be able to do this!"

"I can't lose weight! I'll always be fat and ugly."

These are just examples. Look for any patterns of cutting yourself or others down. Check for accusatory thoughts aimed at yourself or others. Note any patterns of despair:

"He/she (or I) will never change!"

"This is hopeless!"

"I hate my life!"

Remember, you are not looking for occasional bad thoughts that pop up, you are looking for recurrent patterns or themes. Thoughts that consistently come to mind when you aren't caught up in an activity that holds your attention. The good thing is that the thoughts themselves will give you an idea of the underlying issue.

For instance, some consistent patterns of thinking can point towards a particular Deadly Sin that may need to be worked on, so as frustrating as it may be to deal with such thoughts they can actually help you pinpoint certain areas of your life that may need work. To give you an example, if the thoughts tend toward:

God doesn't want to help me/ I am all alone and God doesn't care/ I'll probably go to hell, God doesn't love me/ God is always silent (thoughts that doubt the goodness of God) - it may be a good idea to look at sloth first.

If the thoughts tend toward:

I never do anything right/ I'm such a loser/ I can't keep up/ I hate myself (etc..) you can look for suppressed/repressed anger issues (and these thoughts may suggest that you have difficulty forgiving yourself so praying for humility may help as well).

If you DO find "negative brain tapes", don't worry.

God already knows about them and wants to open up this area to His grace.

In brief, step one is to come to terms with the underlying issue (or issues) such as anger, envy, unforgiveness, despair, (etc...) by admitting you have trouble in this area and asking for God to help you with it. Once you face the problem, you can tackle the thoughts themselves which I talk about in my next post.

Next post: Do not Feed the Bears



  1. This is a well-written article about a very serious condition affecting many people. Often such thoughts may originated from repressed experiences or past occurances which the body cannot shut out and in such cases professional help may be needed.

    However, thoughts as you suggest such as being unworthy to be loved and helped by God, and one is a failure could well be temptations by the devil to draw us away from God. One way of resisting such thoughts is by handing them over to God. Praying that He takes care of such troubling thoughts that obfuscate the way ahead and the path towards Him.

    Thank you Mary for a great article.

    God bless.

    1. Hi Victor,
      Thanks for commenting. I agree, recurring thoughts can be the result of OCD or scrupulosity in some people - this takes some discernment and professional help may be needed in these cases. The devil can certainly dump thoughts in our heads as well!

      I always hand my thoughts over to God. But sometimes He hands them back to "My grace is sufficient for thee!" Sometimes we need to address the underlying reason for persistent "toxic thoughts". In my case, they improved dramatically after I did this, as long as I never "fed" the strays ones lurking (which I bring up in my next post) and practiced "custody of the heart".

    2. Looking forward to your next post. This is an important subject to discuss.

      God bless you.

    3. Thanks, Victor. I know that some people have never had this problem but millions do and it's hard to deal with. I believe that we can best help others in the areas where we have been wounded and healed ourselves.

  2. Hi Mary! Solid, practical advice. I often am bombarded by negative thoughts, and I think it's evil trying to get me down about myself. Taking a minute and asking them to get lost in the name of Jesus helps a lot.

    It's interesting that you connect these thoughts with sin. I guess I never thought about it that way. Food for thought for sure.
    Have a blessed weekend,

    1. Hi Ceil,
      Sometimes it is satan just trying to harass someone. But sometimes, if we look below the surface, we can find out whether it's just general harassment or if it's a symptom of a spiritual problem that needs to be taken care of. In my second post, you'll see that I "fed the bears" often when I was

      In the case of persistent unwanted thoughts many people can find relief if they simply, "close the door" on the underlying problem, don't feed the thoughts and don't put new "junk" in there. A quick barrage of bad thoughts is probably nothing - a constant recurring theme may need a second look.

      Thanks for commenting, Ceil! I hope you have a great weekend too!

    2. I forgot to mention that praising God usually gets rid of the "bombardment" type but the other type usually comes back!

  3. So, so good, and I'm looking forward to (not?) feeding the bears. I'm also glad for your comment about praising God in bombardment... I absolutely needed to hear that right now, today. Thank you.

  4. Hi Nancy,
    Yeah, definitely do not feed the bears. You have to starve them ;)

    We all get bombarded from time to time - praise is a good way to get rid of it!

    Congratulations on getting Leibstered - your new blog is awesome!

  5. Great post, Mary, and YOU. ARE. RIGHT!

    1. Thanks, Mallory - I appreciate the feedback!

  6. Good post Mary. Looking forward to the next installment.

    1. Hi Esther,
      Thanks for commenting - I hope to have the next part up this weekend!