“If the thoughts are wrong, the feelings will be wrong.”- Ellen Gould
I first knew that I had control over my thoughts in 2012. I had an unhealthy mindset, and this bothered me a lot. I wanted to change, but I didn’t know how to. I was tired of the heavy weight that I felt on my chest every day. My moods would get triggered so easily. It was annoying.
One Sunday afternoon, I stepped out after watching “Dr. Phil” on Family TV, and when I came back, another program had just started. I didn’t get the name of the program, but I got the name of the speaker. Her name was Dr. Caroline Leaf.
I was captivated by her words when she said that we have the power to switch on our brains. Anything about the mind gets my attention! So, I paused, sat down, folded my legs, and pulled an animal-print, pear green baby blanket to cover myself. Then I figured that I might forget what she was saying. I increased the volume of the television, dashed into my room, pulled a notebook, a pen, and my Bible, came back, lowered the volume of the television, and then I went back to my position.
I listened keenly. I’m glad there was no one at home to distract me. I still remember the glow in Dr. Leaf’s almond eyes as she spoke. I remember writing down the name of her website and purposed to check it out when I went to the office. The lessons I learnt from that presentation have contributed to my forgiveness journey. One that has stood with me this far is that my thinking controls my brain. Every time I learn a positive lesson, my brain grows new neurons. Every time I entertain a self-demeaning thought, the neurons wither. Herein lies the power to change our mindset.
In this layer, we’ll reflect on what to do when we’re flooded with unpleasant memories of the past, even after granting pardon. It’s normal for us to get unpleasant memories of how we were violated even years later because our body stores the memories. (Bessel Van Der Kolk gives evidence of this in his book “The Body Keeps the Score”).
When this happens, unpleasant emotions are awakened, and sometimes we may feel as though the offender didn’t deserve the pardon. Being aware of what you’re feeling is helpful. Choosing to engage your thoughts instead of fighting them is beneficial. Listening to your inner voice with curiosity and compassion will make your journey more bearable.
After I learnt that I have the power to control my thoughts, I began watching my thinking. And when bitter feelings of unforgiveness would creep in, I’d remind myself that I cleared that debt already, that nobody owes me, and that God is still healing me according to His perfect schedule. This was influenced by 2 Corinthians 10:5, “We are demolishing arguments and ideas, every high-and-mighty philosophy that pits itself against the knowledge of the one true God. We are taking prisoners of every thought, every emotion, and subduing them into obedience to the Anointed One.” (The Voice version)
Sometimes, I would win, but sometimes I would sadly give in to misery.
Imagine that your thoughts are like tiny flying messengers waiting for your direction. That means you are the boss here. So, you have the power to instruct, apply and dismiss your thoughts. Our thoughts are meant to serve us, not to control us. They play a big role in the decisions we make and the choices we take.
When we allow our thoughts to take control over us, then we’ll pay the price of living an impulsive life. How? Because our thoughts impact our feelings, which then impact our actions that form our habits, which again form our character and eventually determines our destiny. See how powerful our thoughts are?
Next time you have unpleasant emotions, check with your thoughts. Our feelings respond to our thinking.
So, what do we use to verify our thoughts? The Bible gives us a guide to this: “…whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things” Philippians 4:8 (NKJV). We can use this list to filter our thoughts. When a thought doesn’t pass this, we let it go and don’t allow it to occupy our mental space.
Painful memories are true and are to be attended to with patience, curiosity, and compassion. Bitter, unforgiving memories could be valid but may not serve us for the good, especially when we have peeled off the first layers and granted pardon. A memory of unforgiveness is to be addressed by an affirmation of forgiveness and then sent to God. He wants us to be free.
As you press on in your forgiveness journey, you’ll notice that when you take control of your thoughts, the pain that comes with the unpleasant memories will begin to reduce. God is with you in this. You are not alone.
Faith is a Children’s Content Creator at Learn & Grow enterprises, Storyteller and Mental Health Advocate. She tells her story to offer hope, help and healing to survivors of sexual trauma.