Take thoughts captive – that will be our focus today. Let us start with a review first. If you missed my post from last week, you can read it here.
What is resilience?
Last week I talked about what resiliency is:
recovering readily from illness, depression, adversity, or the like; buoyant.
Or, in other words, having fortitude (mental and emotional strength in facing difficulty, adversity, danger, or temptation courageously: ) to not only recover readily, but to come out stronger. So many Scriptures support this view of adversity – that we, with Him, get through it and come out more resilient. Resiliency helps us in, through, and out of hardship.
However, it seems to me that we as a people have lost the art of communicating and teaching the steps of how we exactly grow. It is not magic. God is not magic. He works with us – but how exactly are we working, doing our part?
This is actually my ultimate goal – to teach and train Christians in the application steps, to give them tools for their tool chest, so that we can work alongside Him in all things He calls us to and through, coming out on the other side stronger, more like Him, better equipped for the next challenge! – as We Press On!!!
What holds us back from growing in resilience?
Last week I asked this question, and I answered it. Do you remember? The number one thing that holds us back from growing more resilient is our faulty thinking!
S1 Homework Review:
Last week I asked you to take time to think of a goal you set for yourself and accomplished. I asked you to take time to jot it down, along with the steps you took to reach that goal. Did you notice that there were many smaller steps along the way? Did you have any of those steps that had to be broken down even smaller? Did some of those steps take longer than others? Did you encounter obstacles, and if so, how did you overcome them? What thoughts and feelings were you experiencing along the way?
Pat yourself on the back for every bit of effort you put in to this homework, whether you finished, or answered all of the questions, or not! I applaud your effort! It can seem a daunting task.
Now let’s revisit those thoughts I asked you to become gently aware of. Did you begin to think more about thinking? 😉
Let’s take those thoughts captive!
I asked you last week to begin to notice your thoughts. Our thoughts are what trigger our feelings, which influence (and sometimes control) our actions. If, as Scripture encourages us to do, we learn to “take captive every thought” and evaluate it first, we can master some semblance of control over our emotions. In accomplishing this difficult task, we can then begin to experience increased positive, helpful emotion and choose positive, helpful actions. This is a slow process at first, but the more we practice it, the faster we get at it. So take heart, my friend. You CAN do this!
If you want or need the additional help of a coach, I am here for you. This is why retaining your own personal life coach is so beneficial – we can help you to slow down and examine those thoughts and walk you through the process until you begin to feel confident, and then we will walk alongside you while you grow towards mastery.
Today I am going to ask you to not only notice your thoughts, but to begin an exercise. It is sometimes called “ABC’s” or “ABCDE’s” or challenging dysfunctional thoughts.
(I want to give credit where credit is due, but it seems unclear to me who first coined each phrase. To the best of my immediate recollection, Aaron Beck first discussed challenging dysfunctional thoughts, Martin Seligman first coined “ABCDE’s”, and Karen Reivich & Andrew Shatte’ shortened this to “Learning Your ABC’s” in their book The Resiliency Factor, from which I am following their structure for these blog posts. I just love the way they structured these cognitive techniques and made them so applicable to anyone! I do love Martin Seligman’s work and have followed it for decades. If interested, you can do a search for his many books.)
Let’s add Tool #1 to our Tool Chest:
Beginning with our ABC’s… and touching on the D’s.
1. Bring to mind some time over the past week where you noticed feelings of sadness, or feelings of anxiousness, or some other unwelcomed feeling. Take a moment, grab a piece of paper, and then jot down what you were feeling.
I noticed I was feeling unusually agitated and irritated Monday morning.
2. Now think of what happened immediately prior. Let’s call this our “A”. It is our Activating event, or our Adversity.
before I started to notice these feelings, I found out that my son had not finished his homework as I had instructed him to do. This is my “A”.
3. Write an “A” on your paper, and list your activating event.
A: M’s homework was not completed, per my instruction.
4. Write a “B” on your paper on the next line. Then skip about 5 lines and write a “C” down. There, write your feeling down that you had jotted initially. This “C” stands for the consequence of … well, we are getting there.
C: Irritated, agitated, discouraged
5. Now let’s revisit that “B”. It stands for “Belief”. Here you will take time to sit quietly and ask the Holy Spirit to come and sift your heart and mind as you search for those underlying beliefs, or thoughts, that led to the consequential feelings. These are those thoughts that ran through your mind immediately upon activation of the event (or adversity). Those suckers may be fast! Time to slow down – even if you have to stick your foot out and trip them.
[Psa 139:23 NIV] 23 Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.
What were those thoughts running through your mind? Jot them down as they are brought to remembrance.
(This, too, is a place where a Life Coach is helpful to have. Learning to stop and examine our thoughts can be very difficult at first. It helps to have someone who can coach you through the process.)
This is why I ask you to sit down and do this exercise every day for the next week – and beyond: Eventually, with practice, you will be able to take those thoughts captive.
B: He never listens to me. He totally disregards my feelings. He is terrible at time management. I should be working on that with him. Maybe it is my fault, since I have not been working more on that with him. (and so on)
I simply cannot leave you hanging with only your ABC’s, so let’s do a little bit of D. Disputation. We will be working on this, and E, in more detail over the next few weeks. However, now that I have told you D is for disputation, or debate, let’s just take a moment to do that.
D: Is that true that he never listens to me? What evidence do I have that will support this belief? He listened to me when I asked him to finish his chores before I got back from work. He listened to me when I asked him to set his alarm. He listened to me when I said no his request to spend the night at his friends and be home by 8. (and I can continue to list specific evidence that shows me that it is not true that he NEVER listens to me).
Truth: Sometimes he doesn’t listen to me.
Take next thought and repeat.
It is important to take a step back and honestly debate each thought with specific evidence. There may be some truth in the thought, and this must be acknowledged. However, there is usually more evidence against these thoughts that led to negative feelings than there are to support it. And when there is sufficient evidence to support a thought, let’s be less emotional and more methodical. In other words, less adjectives, please.
For example: “He is terrible at time management.” What specific evidence do I have that will support my belief?
He did not finish his homework. He was late turning in his rough draft. He ran out of time to present his speech.
Truth: M needs to work on time management.
However, having taken a step back to examine evidence has reduced my negative feelings (They are not necessarily gone yet, but they are not so muddied and strong.) Having taken my thoughts captive, and having my thoughts organized into something that looks more like truth, I can now move forward into problem solving and formulating an action plan.
But… I am getting ahead of myself. Our thoughts are usually more complicated that that. For now, for this next week and beyond,
Homework: Tool #1 – ABCD
Take 30 minutes each day to practice your ABC’s and a bit of D’s on paper or in a journal. Remember to invite the Holy Spirit to come and join you in the process of sifting through your thoughts and feelings. Wrap up your time by asking the Lord God to protect you and this exercise surrounding and shielding you with His favor.
Surely, LORD, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield.
[Psa 5:12 NIV]
As we look inward and begin to know ourselves better, we grow in understanding and discernment. This understanding helps us to understand others better as well, and to have compassion for them, as we grow to recognize that we are subject to the same weaknesses. This helps us to connect with others more genuinely, and it helps us to connect with God. Our Teacher, our Counselor, our Guide, … and our Intercessor, Advocate, and Savior.
As we practice – diligently, intentionally – taking our thoughts captive and examining them critically, with moral excellence, we grow in knowledge, self-control, perseverance (resiliently), and so on.
5 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, 6 and in your knowledge, self- control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, 7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. [2Pe 1:5-8 NASB]
I will continue to break down resilience into bit-sized pieces and dive deeper into our thinking habits. I will offer you another tool to add to your tool chest. I hope to “see” you then. Feel free to message me on FB or email if you need to share. I will do my very best to respond, but please forgive me if I am unable to. Real person, real life, real work.