Ephesians 3:20 - Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.
You’re expecting company from out of town. They are driving from out of state to see you. You’re excited to have them arrive, but they are almost an hour late. You worry that they’ve been in a traffic accident, when in truth; they are only late due to road construction.
A family member is having a routine physical exam today, but even though it’s a yearly visit you worry that they might find something life-threatening. Yet, the doctor doesn’t find anything major wrong, just that they have to watch their salt intake.
You receive a call from your office manager asking you to come to his office. You automatically kick your thoughts into high gear believing this could be it, and you’re going to be fired. But in fact, the manager has called you in because you’re in line for a promotion.
Good news – bad news.
That’s how we live our lives. We can always believe the worst in a situation instead of looking for the best. Life is full of serious and possibly worst case scenarios, but for the most part, life is full of the best you could even imagine.
Which do you lean towards? Do you believe that the absolute worst in a situation is going to happen? It’s easy to travel down a slippery slope of thinking nothing good can come out of a situation. But all that worry is taxing on your mind and body. And not only that, people who are around you may begin to shut you down, because they don’t want to be around a person who always thinks the worst of a situation instead of believing the best.
Some people just seem to naturally look at the best in everything while there are others who are constantly catastrophizing every situation. Catastrophizing, if left on its own may spiral out of control and can turn into a mental disorder called cognitive distortion. This condition, if left unchecked, can affect all areas of our lives.
What can we do to help this condition? Medicalnewstoday.com posts the article, “How to Stop Catastrophizing.” The article provides us with the causes, related psychiatric conditions, pain catastrophizing and medical treatments. It also provides steps to manage catastrophic thinking such as recognizing when thoughts are irrational, and telling your mind to stop at the first signs of this line of thinking.
When you are tempted to think the worst is going to happen, remember that God has in store for us more good than we could ever imagine. Cling to that hope when things are tough, and cling to them when the best is just over the horizon.
Isaiah 65:2 - All day long I have held out my hands to an obstinate people, who walk in ways not good, pursuing their own imaginations.
It used to be thought, that only children create an imaginary world in their minds; one that can even bring to life an imaginary friend.
This was often helpful for children living in a stressful or abusive family situation to help them cope with the pain. With their imaginary friend beside them, they felt more secure and sometimes safer even if they weren’t.
But children aren’t the only ones who live in an imaginary world. Adults do also. This kind of imaginary world though isn’t just about your mind daydreaming or fantasizing. This kind of imaginary world draws the adult onto the landscape of escapism.
As life turns up a notch and you can’t let go of the way things are, onto the stage of your thoughts enter actors who do what you want them to do. This is different than relaxation sessions where you focus on a landscape in your mind to help release tension.
With escapism you start living in a world where things turning out the way you want them to become your reality in your mind. And the more time you spend in your altered reality, the harder it becomes to live in the real world.
And, sometimes you get to the point where you don’t know which world is the real one. This is the real danger.
What we all need in life is to not live in our minds but to be conscience of the present and live there. What can help ground you to your present moment is called mindfulness.
Mindfulness is living completely in the moment. You're aware of your thoughts, feelings, physical sensations and the environment around you. The article, “Getting Started with Mindfulness,” on greatergood.berkley.edu will provide you with information on mindfulness such as the benefits of practicing mindfulness, and a few components of mindfulness.
So the next time your mind turns to escapism, as the Bible verse above talks about, try using some of the suggestions above and give mindfulness a try to ground you to the present.
Hebrews 12:1 - Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.
We try to stay caught up on the clutter that grows in our homes, but what about the clutter in our minds?
So here’s one for you. What’s something that can clog up your mind every day without stepping outside your door?
Mail, with all of its ads, used to be a primary distraction. Now though, we don’t just have mail piling up on our countertops, we have an increase in things that clog up our minds.
First, the old fashioned distraction called TV. It’s easy to slip into becoming so fascinated by the drama of our favorite TV show that it becomes part of your life. You talk about it to your family. You pick up the phone and dial a friend who also watches the show and trade ideas of what will happen in the next episode.
And as far as doing anything else when you’re show is on. Probably not. That show seems to call your name and begs you to sit down on your couch and turn on the TV.
Now there’s nothing wrong with enjoying a relaxing evening watching TV. It can even be a chance to talk to your teenage son or daughter, because in a way, you’re at the same level. Plus, it gives you something to talk about without trying to turn the conversation into a heated argument.
Second, your TV show is off and now it’s time to fill your mind with another kind of clutter – your computer and cell phone. Both of these items can connect you with people all around the world. You can find information on a topic that perks your interest and even find information on an upcoming procedure you’re having.
Once again, on the surface connecting online isn’t a bad thing. But when it takes all of your attention, and you come to the point of ignoring your family, then that’s bad news. After all, your phone makes a noise and you quickly grab it off your side table to see what someone else posted on Facebook. And should your internet go down or you lose cell service, it can feel like the end of the world.
Third, let’s take a look at your cell phone again. Here’s another way it can clog up your mind – phone calls. Plain. Ordinary. Phone calls. You know you’re in trouble when after you hang up you realized you just talked to your friend for over forty-five minutes.
And don’t forget texting. It used to be that we’d wait until we spoke to someone on the phone or saw them in person before finishing a conversation we’d started. But now as fast as a flash you can pick up where you left off.
It used to be that you could only access the internet on your computer, but now with Smart Phones, you can watch a YouTube video anytime you want whether your computer is on or not.
Fourth, both on your TV and on the internet we get delivered to our homes news almost instantly after something has happened in the world. We can watch the news all day now on our phones, not just the TV. The news tends to be negative and may make us angry or worried when something happens. We wonder how our lives will be changed and all of it is delivered right into our living rooms.
Fifth, there’s also an old fashioned almost outdated way to also get the news and along with its clutter – newspapers and magazines. These not only deliver world news, but the latest gossip on our favorite celebrities.
And then we step out the door and discover most of the clutter I mentioned earlier is following you on your way to work and even at work when you think no one is looking.
But here’s a problem – many times what we forget is that what we post on Facebook and Twitter can be read by anyone depending on your privacy settings. But even without those settings, whatever you post on the internet becomes fare game. It’s like what you wrote is floating on the “clouds”, because it is.
I’m sure there are many other ways that can clutter your mind. But one thing you can count on, if your mind is overly cluttered it can be a real distraction and you’ll be unable to bring all of your attention to the task at hand.
Like the Bible verse above says there are things that entangle us and keep us from finishing the race of life marked out for us. Let’s put down that phone and pick up our Bibles. In there we can find peace and ways to push out the clutter in our minds.
Job 11:16-18 - You will surely forget your trouble, recalling it only as waters gone by. Life will be brighter than noonday, and darkness will become like morning. You will be secure, because there is hope; you will look about you and take your rest in safety.
Most people forget something every once in a while. Perhaps work has been extra busy or family events are taking you from one place to the next. Whatever the reason, usually your mind will later come back to where your thoughts were and you’ll remember.
But it can be disconcerting, especially for those who are suffering with emotional pain, to forget things on a regular basis and your mind doesn’t bring itself around. You find yourself more than just forgetful.
This kind of forgetfulness is not just trying to figure out where you left your keys or forgetting what you needed to purchase at the store. This kind of forgetfulness runs deep. It throws you off course. The more you can’t remember the more stressed you become. The stress then causes you to forget something else and the cycle goes on.
Forgetfulness can also be a sign of a medical problem and needs to be addressed.
Find warning signs from the National Institute on Aging that may indicate a discussion with your physician in their article, “Forgetfulness: Knowing When to Ask for Help,” such as asking the same question or repeating the same story over and over.
Now that we’ve taken a look at the negative aspects of forgetfulness let’s talk about when forgetfulness can also be something desirable. An example would be when you want to forget the hurtful things you’ve gone through in the past. You want to forget the bad things, but your mind keeps bringing it back up again.
One of the reasons why we can’t forget may be because we haven’t forgiven those who have hurt us. Forgiving someone can seem like the opposite thing that you should do.
You may also believe that if you forgive it will mean that the person is getting off the hook. But they aren’t. What they did was still wrong and hurtful. And I’m not trying to make light of what’s happened to you. But forgiveness is not for the other person. It’s for you.
When we’re able to let go of the past then, just as the Bible verse above says, our pain will flow down the river towards peace. With time the light in our life will prevail and the darkness will be transformed into hope and rest.
This may seem like an unreachable goal. It is on our own. But with the help of friends, family and God our forgetfulness can truly be a good thing.
Galatians 6:4, 5 - Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load.
When people talk about an unpleasant situation, some can always find that silver lining. But the rest of us. Well. When something unpleasant is happening, we don’t just see the glass half empty. We can’t even see that a glass exists in the first place!
No matter what may be happening, good or bad, the pessimist always looks at the bad and can’t believe that things will ever work out.
A lot depends on our past experiences. As children, we learn quickly whether we’re one of the “cool” kids or someone that gets stomped on.
As adults, pessimists try to overcompensate for their lack of “coolness” by finding shortcuts, cheating and lying their way through believing that they’ll get the next promotion instead of their coworkers. Pessimists still try to achieve that fame which will make them look cool. But they never quite get there. And this coping mechanism turns into pessimism.
It’s here that the pessimist learns to lower his expectations in life. After all, if we don’t expect that something good will happen then we won’t be disappointed. Right? I don’t think so.
Even in the dark valley of our broken hearts there still beats a longing for a different outcome in life. So how does one drop the pessimism and transform into an optimist?
First, let’s go back to the food chain and see what we can learn -- Even at the bottom of the food chain there’s still that silver lining. Pessimists discover that they’re not the only one down there. They learn that together they’re not a disappointment after all. And they don’t have to cheat and lie their way to the top.
Next, we can learn that it’s never too late to turn our life around. It may hurt when disappointment greets us at the door, but it doesn’t mean that it has to permanently live with us. Don’t drop your expectations. Believe that good is just around the corner. Keep your eyes and ears open looking for how you can grow through the situation.
Third, be aware of the affect other people can have on your attitude. There’s power in those pessimistic friends of yours. Have you ever noticed that when you’re around a pessimist that pretty soon you’re riding the same train to that cloudy sky?
Forth, get some help. There’s no shame in admitting we can’t get through a bad situation alone. Instead of worrying how bad you might look to your boss, ask for help. He might surprise you by commending you for not being afraid to get his advice. This will show him that you’re in it for the long haul.
Fifth, take a look at the Bible verses above. Stop comparing yourself to others. Just do the best you can do in a situation. If you give your best and turn the outcome over to God, he will surely make a way for you to carry your load and to carry it well. Don’t just see the glass half-empty or half-full. Your glass is always ready to become a full glass and to turn you from a pessimist into an optimist.
What do you tend to be -- a pessimist or an optimist? I look forward to hearing from you.
Philippians 4:8 - Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things.
In the beginning there was a thought. It wasn’t much really. Just thinking about what someone said to me that I thought was hurtful. All day I tried to push that thought away, but it kept knocking at my door.
Pretty soon a friend called and I told her about that thought. I thought just having someone else empathize with me would make me feel better and I could let the thought go. But it didn’t help.
Then a few days passed and someone else said something to me that I thought was hurtful. This time I skipped past talking to a friend about it. I took that thought and tied it around my neck, as if it were a necklace, with the two hurtful thoughts hanging down the front.
Yet, as I went through the next few days, I found myself avoiding people. I didn’t want anyone else to hurt me. I thought I was protecting myself. Soon it’s what I did every time I was around other people. A week or two later, with those thoughts around my neck, I found myself angry and resentful of other people walking around looking so happy.
Everything inside began to harden like cement. I stood there stuck. My heart became hard. No longer was I known as the person who smiled no matter what happened; who could find the bright side even in the darkness. What had happened to me? Well here’s a possible answer:
Watch your thoughts;
they become your words.
Watch your words;
they become your actions.
Watch your actions;
they become your habits.
Watch your habits;
they become your character.
Watch your character;
it becomes your destiny.
--- Chinese Proverb, author unknown
I did some soul searching and prayed that I would be released from who I had become. And though it still grieves my spirit when someone says something hurtful to me, I don’t let the thought take control of even one day. There’s so much in this world that is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy.
I can’t let negative thoughts take over my life. When something difficult happens, I acknowledge that it happened, but also try to see something else around me that can bring beauty to my life. I hope that you can, too.
To leave a comment just click on the blue "comments" below. I look forward to hearing from you.
Karen Dalske is a freelance writer, public speaker, is active in her church and writes her blogs out of her own experiences of pain, illness and loss.