What are you hiding?

eyes

As the old Eagles song says,

You can’t hide your lyin’ eyes And your smile is a thin disguise I thought by now you’d realize There ain’t no way to hide your lyin eyes

Do you ever try to hide your true feelings? Do you ever hide what’s going on inside. It might be harder than you think. In the same way, you can’t hide your lying eyes, we can’t really hide what’s going on in our hearts. The reason for this is revealed through the words of Jesus.

Jesus said in Luke 6:45, “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”

Have you ever said, “What are You looking at, What’s Your problem, or What’s wrong with him?” Do you roll your eyes, give an exaggerated sigh, or respond cynically to bad or unfavorable news? Do you tend to complain and argue? Are your friends or co-workers likely to categorize you as a pessimistic person? How about your family? Are you over all negative, critical, and judgmental?

Here is what you need to know. You have a heart problem and you can’t hide it. Out of the over flow of our hearts, our mouths speak. Think of it like a bank. You can only withdrawal what you put in. If what you are paying out in your attitude is negative, critical, and judgmental the ugly truth is that’s what’s in your heart.

You know the guy at the restaurant who is loud and obnoxious? He ruins your whole dinner and is blissfully unaware of how he is affecting others. Many of us are the same way. We are pessimistic, negative, critical, and judgmental and we don’t even realize how bad it is. The painful truth is that everyone else sees it all too well.

The good news is that we can change all of that. Like the old computer programming saying goes, “You put garbage in you get garbage out.” It is time we stop accepting negative input from the world around us. The culture says that you are only valuable if you drive the right car, live in the right neighborhood, and have the right job. The culture says you are only valuable if you look a certain way, and act a certain way. If we don’t fit into these cultural molds we are outcasts.

We also have to stop accepting negative input from others. We have to give up the notion that we must meet the standards of others at the expense of our God given dreams. A person might never meet the expectations of their earthly parents and still be in the center of God’s will. No one else can live our lives for us and we must be careful not to put too much weight on the expectations of others.

We also must be careful about the input we get from ourselves. We are sometimes guilty of negative self talk. We will tell ourselves things like, “I’m such an idiot, I could never do that, or I’m so crazy.” These lies pour garbage into our banks. When it comes time to interact with others we find ourselves paying out some pretty ugly stuff.

I recently posted an article about Positive Affirmations.  It is far better to make a practice of positive input. If you are a believer in God or follower of Jesus Christ, why not fill your heart with the truth of God?

According to the Bible:

I am blameless and free from accusation. (Colossians 1:22)

Christ Himself is in me. (Colossians 1:27)

I am firmly rooted in Christ and am now being built up in Him. (Col. 2:7)

I have been made complete in Christ. (Colossians 2:10)

I have been spiritually circumcised. My old unregenerate nature has been

removed. (Colossians 2:11)

I have been buried, raised, and made alive with Christ. (Colossians 2:12,13)

I died with Christ and I have been raised up with Christ. My life is now hidden

With Christ in God. Christ is now my life. (Colossians 1:1-4)

I am an expression of the life of Christ because He is my life. (Colossians 3:4)

I am chosen of God, holy and dearly loved. (Col. 3:12; 1 Thessalonians 1:4)

I am a son of light and not of darkness. (1 Thessalonians 5:5)

I have been given a spirit of power, love, and self-discipline. (2 Timothy 1:7)

I have been saved and set apart according to God’s doing.

(2 Timothy 1:9; Titus 3:5)

Because I am sanctified and am one with the Sanctifier, He is not ashamed

to call me brother. (Hebrews 2:11)

I am a holy partaker of a heavenly calling. (Hebrews 3:1)

I have the right to come boldly before the throne of God to find mercy and

grace in a time of need. (Hebrews4:16)

I have been born again. (1 Peter 1:23)

I am one of God’s living stones, being built up in Christ as a spiritual house.

(1 Peter 2:5)

I am a member of a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a

People for God’s own possession. (1 Peter 2:9,10)

I am an alien and stranger to this world in which I temporarily live.

(1 Peter 2:11)

I am an enemy of the devil. (1 Peter 2:11)

I have been given exceedingly great and precious promises by God by

Which I am a partaker of God’s divine nature. (2 Peter 1:4)

I am forgiven on the account of Jesus’ name. (1 John 2:12)

I am anointed by God. (1 John 2:27)

I am a child of God and I will resemble Christ when He returns. (1 John 3:1,2)

I am loved. (1 John 4:10)

I am like Christ. (1 John 4:10)

I have life. (1 John 5:12)

I am born of God, and the evil one…the devil…cannot touch me.

(1 John 5:`8)

I have been redeemed. (Revelation 5:9)

“Then you will know the truth and truth will set you FREE!”

 

 

 

Is this a good idea??

buggs

Bugs Bunny famously said, “if i dood it I get a whippin’…i dood it!”  Sometimes no matter the consequence we give into temptation and gratify our desire to say or do what brings us pleasure.  For many of us this mindset has caused great pain.  Some of us found ourselves in jail or prison.  Others have suffered divorce or damaged marriages.  Still others have found themselves broke and destitute.  This mindset has cost some their very lives.  In the end the consequences far outweigh the short term pleasure derived from our actions.  Yet, in the moment, like Bugs, we say with a smile, ““if i dood it I get a whippin’…i dood it!”

bugs2

If we hope to experience different outcomes in life we absolutely must change this way of thinking. To affect true lasting change in our lives we must be intentional about our thoughts. This is called, “Metacognition.”  Simply put we must think about what we think about.  The Apostle Paul wrote, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind,” (Romans 12:2a).  The Bible teaches this age old truth.  If we are to affect true life change it begins with our thinking.

One tool I use in counseling is an old Rational Behavioral Training technique taught by Washtenaw County Juvenile Detention Center in Michigan.  This tool requires us to give pause before making decisions that have the potential to negatively affect our lives.  This tool asks us to consider if our thoughts or the actions we are considering stand up to a frog.  A.F.R.O.G. is an acronym.  It stands for Alive, Feelings, Reality, Others, and Goals.

bb3

Alive

Here we ask ourselves the questions, “Do the thoughts I’m thinking about myself keep me alive? Will the things I’m considering doing affect my health in negative way, or possibly even kill me?  Does this thought or action threaten my safety in any way?” Whether we are considering giving someone a piece of our minds, doing drugs, or driving 100 mph on a motorcycle we need to ask ourselves the same question.  Is this choice I’m considering going to affect my health or safety?

Feelings

It is also important to take into account our emotions when considering our thoughts and actions. Although a thought might feel good at first, in the end it might negatively affect our emotions.  Have you ever been so angry with someone you daydreamed about how you would love to get even with them?  At first you might get pleasure in the thought of revenge.  However, as time goes on those hurts build up and you become a prisoner of your resentments.

The same can be true with our actions. What at first felt good can later have a negative effect on our emotions.  The drugs we used to feel a short term high can in the long run cause guilt and shame.  What started out as just something to do for fun can dominate and discourage us and begin to destroy our lives.

Reality

I think they are talking about me. He thinks I’m an idiot.  I’m the biggest loser in the world.  These thoughts are seldom rooted in reality.  We need to be careful how we perceive things.  If we are given to paranoia we are more prone to perceive people as being out to get us and generally negative toward us.

Another trap we can easily get caught up in is thinking the worst. Often we will consider what the worse possible outcome of a situation will be and then we focus all of our worry on that one scenario.  We can worry ourselves sick about something that may never actually occur.  It is vital when considering our thoughts and actions to ask ourselves if these thoughts and plans are rooted in the truth.

Others

How does this thought or action affect others? If what I’m about to do is going to have a negative impact on my spouse, children, other family members or friends, or if this is going to harm another individual physically or emotionally I should probably avoid it.  We are by in large a selfish culture.  We run roughshod over people without concern.  We do what we want to do to please ourselves without giving thought to those we may be hurting in the process.  Before we act we need to ask ourselves the question, “How might this action affect others?”

Goals

John was an accountant for a midsize firm in Chicago. He had his sights on going to an even bigger firm with a bigger office, and more importantly a much bigger paycheck.  John discovered a breakdown in the companies security and checks and balances system that would allow him to easily make off with a couple thousands extra dollars every month.  If John’s goal is to maintain a healthy and happy family, to get a better job, and be physically and emotionally healthy should he steel the money?

A great question to ask ourselves before we make any decision is simply, “Is this decision consistent with my goals?” By asking this one simple question many harmful comments would not be made, many letters and emails would not be sent, and many harmful self gratifying actions would not be taken.

You can help!

I’m always looking for new and different things to share with my clients. What are some tools, methods, or strategies you use to create or maintain healthy choices?  Leave your comments in the box below and thank you in advance.

Addiction and the Brain

brain

Addiction and the Brain

Dopamine is our brain’s natural fell good chemical.  We get a normal dose of dopamine when we do things that are pleasurable such as eating, playing, talking with friends, and making love.  When we use drugs, gamble, and binge eat, or view pornography we get an inordinate amount of dopamine.

When we use drugs or act out compulsive behaviors our brain remembers the circumstances surrounding the powerful rush of dopamine. The people we were with, the places we were and the things surrounding the compulsive behavior all get wrapped up and filed away together by our brains.   The next time our brains are reminded of the people, places, and things surrounding our compulsive behaviors our brain also remembers the powerful rush of dopamine.  Our brain then begins to say, “Go get that dopamine!”

Have you ever went to a movie and as you walked in the door you were assaulted with the smell of popcorn and immediately were thirsty for an ice cold Coke? The reason this happened is you have enjoyed a coke with popcorn before.  Your brain recorded the pleasurable event as a memory.  When the memory of the popcorn was triggered by the smell, the memory of the coke also fired.  Your brain immediately began saying, “Let’s do that again!” The same thing happens surrounding our compulsive behaviors leading us back to our addictions.

Now that we understand in part how our brains work in addiction, we understand more than ever the importance of avoiding triggers.  A great deal of recovery focuses on this vital step.

Often triggers are placed into three categories People, Places, and Things. A fourth more abstract category is also necessary.  I simply call this category, “Feelings”.  In the, “Feelings” category I place harder to define triggers like hunger, boredom, anger, anxiety, and depression.

Here is what’s going on in our brains during compulsive behaviors and or drug use:

#1. Pleasurable activities stimulate the VTA to make a normal amount of dopamine (Our brains natural pleasure, or feel good chemical).  Binge eating, Drug use, Gambling, Pornography, and other Compulsive behaviors produce extreme levels of Dopamine.

#2. The Nucleus Accumbens (Ventral Straiatum), pleasure center of the brain created to feel pleasure within normal ranges feels extreme amounts of pleasure when abused.  Excessive abuse causes, “Excitotoxicity” (Nerve cell damage from overactive receptors).

#3. Serotonin and GABA (Your body’s natural calming ability) are decreased.

#4.   Hippocampus: Remembers the details and context of our memories, the who, what, when, where, why, and how.”

#5. Amygdala: Connects emotions to memories.  The stronger the emotion (Good or bad) tied to the memory the more vivid it will be.  Also reinforces good memories and says, “Let’s do that again!”

#6. Locus Ceruleus: Alarm center of the Brain. Responds to Stress or Danger.  Tells the body to have a physical reaction if it does not get the dopamine rush.   (Believes we need the drug like we need food, water, air)

Matt Bulkley from starguideswilderness.com states, “When one uses drugs like cocaine, these pathways are tricked into releasing uncommonly high levels of dopamine in our brain without us having to do anything for it. The reaction of these pathways to viewing porn is exactly the same. These ‘pleasure’ pathways become permanent as the porn addict continues to go back to the activity – watching sexually explicit images – to experience the release of dopamine.”

 

On June 28 2012 counselingalliance.com stated, “The odd thing about chronic pornography users is that they generally began using porn as a result of the pleasure it brought them (dopamine’s role as discussed above). With continued use however, pleasure diminishes. The trap of pornography is that pleasure becomes an elusive prize. The more the user searches for pleasure, the less he/she finds it. Here’s why:

The repeated high doses of the “chemical bath” associated with orgasm result in the brain’s inability to process and enjoy those chemicals at the same level it so desperately craves. What was once like a jolt of electricity surging through the central nervous system is reduced to a point it is no longer satisfying. Addicts often report symptoms of depression, relational problems, and a general sense of the joy of life having been lost. Why? Because the natural balance and function of the brain’s neurochemicals have been replaced by frantic search for another “fix.”

Some refer to sex addiction as the ultimate attention deficit disorder (ADD). Like ADD, the addict is continually scanning and searching for a new and novel experience. One way this search for new and novel experience plays out in the lives of users is that their search leads them to web sites and areas that they would normally have no interest in. For example, some who consider themselves straight and traditional in their sexual preferences will find themselves looking at gay porn or sado/masochistic websites in an effort to discover something new. It is the brain’s search for novelty, and for a chemical fix that leads the person to such sites. This, coupled with the fact that the high resolution video often available in today’s Internet porn is more graphic and more violent than what was available even a few years ago, leads the user deeper and deeper into the trap of seeking a novel experience. The overall result is like the preverbal “carrot on a stick.” The satisfaction one seeks is always just out of reach and so the efforts to capture the experience continue on and on.”

I’m reminded of the age old story of Satan in the garden tempting Adam and Eve to eat the forbidden fruit. The ancient serpent promised the first man and woman that they would be like God. He sold them the lie that there is something far greater for your life if you just partake of this forbidden fruit. For Adam and Eve of course the deception distracted them from a healthy pursuit of love, joy, and peace. They became discouraged, and dominated by their sin which lead down a path of destruction.

The same is true for us today. When we believe the lie that there is greater love, or joy, or peace in our addictions or compulsive behaviors the deception distracts us from a healthy pursuit of love, joy, and peace. We become discouraged as the high is never enough; we can never replicate that original euphoria. Our behavior begins to dominate more and more of our lives until we are ultimately destroyed. These are 5 D’s of Addiction.

Finding Freedom from STRESS -The 20/80 Rule

badday

Saturday afternoon I came home from a motorcycle ride to find that the wall in my bedroom was moldy. Upon further inspection I realized that the plumbing in the wall was leaking.  Already tired from a long day of riding with some friends I began working on the problem.  I cut out the moldy drywall to discover the problem was much worse than I had originally thought.  Mold had grown quite a way up the wall behind the shower in the adjoining room.  After tearing out quite a bit of my drywall, and spraying down the mold behind the shower with bleach water I headed to the hardware store to purchase the supplies I needed to fix the plumbing.  The first store I went to didn’t have the parts I needed so I headed across town to the hardware store only to find that it had closed just 40 minutes earlier.

That was Saturday. Saturday night my wife and I slept out on the couch (We have a large sectional).  Sunday we went to church then went to celebrate mother’s day in Chicago with our mom’s.  Last night we again slept out on the couch.  It is now Monday morning and I am back to work.   Any guesses as to what I will be doing when I get home from work today?

This could have ruined my day. In fact this could have ruined a whole week.  This is a big mess that put us out of our room and will end up being a costly repair.  Instead I chose to focus on the positive.  I’m so thankful we have a second shower we can use until I get this one fixed.  I’m grateful we can sleep in the living room and don’t have to get a hotel.  I’m grateful I have the ability to fix the plumbing and don’t have to pay someone.  This was not a fun experience and I hope I never have to do this again but I’m not going to let this ruin my day.

James said, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing,” (James 1:2-4 ESV).

You have heard it said before, “Life is 20% what happens to you and 80% how you handle it.” I’m reminded of a story of Ed and Fred who lived in the same neighborhood, worked at the same firm, and even had the same number of kids.  On the way to work one day both men got a flat tire.  It took them both about the same amount of time to change the tires and they both arrived to work just 10 minutes late.

At lunch a co-worker asked Ed how his day was going. Ed explained in no uncertain terms just how poorly his day had gone.  He went on and on about the pot hole in the road, and about getting his cloths dirty, about being late, and about how much it is going to cost him to replace the blown tire.  The flat tire had ruined his entire day.

The co-worker turned to Fred and asked him how his day was going. Fred explained that he too had hit a pot hole and had gotten a flat tire.  He explained that he too had gotten dirty changing the tire and that the incident had made him late for work.  Fred went on to say how thankful he was that he was able to pull off the road in a safe area to fix his tire.  He also said he was so thankful it had not been raining.  Fred told his co-worker that he had learned a few valuable lessons.  He said, “From now on I’m going to bring  a can of fix a flat with me in my car and I’m also going to start leaving work 10 minutes earlier just in case this happens again.”  Fred didn’t let the flat tire ruin the rest of his day.

There are many things that lead us to or keep us in addiction or compulsive behaviors. Many of life’s challenges keep us down and threaten to ruin our day.  Don’t let it.  Remember the 20/80 rule.  You have the power to choose what kind of day you will have.  Be like Fred.  He had a rough day but he chose to, “Count it all joy,” and he didn’t let it ruin his day.

The Pain of Addiction

Pain

If you have never struggled with addiction you must read this!  This short essay was written by an individual in throws of addiction.  Note the way the writer describes this struggle with addiction.  It is almost seen as a living breathing enemy.

“The pain of addiction can never be fully realized outside of the human soul so unfortunate to have found him or herself within the grasp of her ugly piercing teeth.  What metaphor is appropriate to describe addiction? How could one who has never experienced it ever understand the gravity of addiction on one’s life?   Perhaps it could be likened to a choking vine that grows up beautiful at first but soon is so wild and nu-tamable.   It wraps it’s self so completely around you that it is difficult to determine what part is you and what part is the addiction.  It has grown so fast and wild that it chokes out nearly every area of your life.   Perhaps addiction is best described as a demon inside you.  He fights for control of your thoughts and actions.  Although there are victories you are constantly aware of his presence and his power.  I think of addiction as a dragon.  He is fierce, unmerciful, and seeks to utterly destroy you.

Sometimes the addiction is so overwhelming that I can literally pray to God for strength to turn from the destructive beast only to go immediately after it.

(Anonymous)

Let’s pray for those caught in the dragon’s teeth.

Identity and Addiction

identity1

In my recovery groups we have been talking about the lies we believe that lead us to and keep us in our addictions. These are the same lies that most of us believe from time to time.  Although they don’t lead us all to addiction we can see the exact same pattern of destruction in all of us.

This morning I have been thinking about how our identity directs the course of our lives. The way we identify ourselves leads us toward or away from healthy choices, and our addictive and or compulsive behaviors.  It also occurred to me that our identity is not always consistent.

Let me explain. A friend of mine is a marathon runner.  She is not only built like a runner and trains like a runner, but she thinks like a runner.  Because she identifies herself as a runner there are certain things she will do and other things she will not do.  For example, most mornings she will go for a jog before work.   For lunch she will often eat some green leafy thing that doesn’t look all that appetizing to me.  She rarely eats sweets and never drinks coal.  All of these choices are directed by a single force, her identity.

Someone who is trying to maintain an image of a tough guy will make different choices. He will say and do certain things to sustain this tough guy identity.  Conversely, there will be things he will never do.  This guy wouldn’t be caught dead at a day spa having his nails done.  You will never find this guy crying over a particularly sad movie.  Why?  Because it goes against the way he identifies himself.

The challenge comes when two worlds collide. What happens when a person who previously identified himself with the drug and criminal lifestyle suddenly decides to get clean?  Let’s say this guy goes through recovery and is making some real progress.  He is minimizing his exposure to triggers and is using the tools he has learned to help him work through the challenges of life.  When he gets out of prison he is right back at his mother’s house, the place he grew up, and the center of his previous life of drugs and crime.  All goes well until a few of his old friends stop by.  Suddenly the new man is confronted with his old self.  Who is he going to be in front of his old friends?

Are we ever tempted to be one way in front of some people and another in front of others? This is a problem with identity.  In recovery and at meetings he may act one way and when he is with his old friends he may act another.  The truth is not that he is necessarily putting on a show.  He may just be struggling with his identity.

If we desire to live clean and sober lives we need to solidify our identity as clean and sober individuals. When we are secure in our identity we are free to be ourselves 100% of the time.  If you find yourself struggling with this here is a word of encouragement.  It takes time and it takes intentionality.  In other words this isn’t something that will just happen.  We need to work on it.  We need to draw the line in the sand today and say, “I am clean and sober.  This is who I am.”  When temptations come we need to remind ourselves that those choices are not consistent with who I am.  In the same way a runner would not eat ½ of a chocolate cake an hour before his or her run, we would no longer give in to the temptation to return to the drug and criminal lifestyle.  That is simply not who we are any longer.

I’m big on positive affirmations, and positive self talk. Why not choose 10 of these statements from the list below and write them down, or print them off.  Then read through them on a daily basis.  I have this list printed out and hanging up in my office right by my desk.  It only takes a minute or two to read through all 60 statements.  After reading through them I always, always feel better, more confident, and it solidifies my identity as a successful, confident, and powerful person who is at peace with God, myself, and others.

  1. I am a person of immeasurable worth, inner greatness, and have unlimited potential.
  2. I am enjoying life free from the bondage of addiction.
  3. I am increasingly happy and healthy.
  4. I am calm, confident, and in control.
  5. I am deeply loved and I love deeply.
  6. I feel joy and contentment in this moment right now.
  7. I awaken in the morning feeling happy and enthusiastic about life.
  8. I can tap into a wellspring of inner happiness anytime I wish.
  9. By allowing myself to be happy, I inspire others to be happy as well.
  10. I have fun with all of my endeavors, even the most mundane.
  11. I look at the world around me and can’t help but smile and feel joy.
  12. I find joy and pleasure in the simple things in life.
  13. I have an active sense of humor and love to share laughter with others.
  14. My heart is overflowing with joy.
  15. I rest in happiness when I go to sleep, knowing all is well in my world.
  16. I expect to be successful in all of my endeavors. Success is my natural state.
  17. I easily find solutions to challenges and roadblocks and move past them quickly.
  18. Mistakes and setbacks are stepping stones to my success because I learn from them.
  19. Every day in every way, I am becoming more and more successful.
  20. I feel successful with my life right now, even as I work toward future success.
  21. I know exactly what I need to do to achieve success.
  22. I see fear as the fuel for my success and take bold action in spite of fear.
  23. I feel powerful, capable, confident, energetic, and on top of the world.
  24. I am a problem solver. I focus on solutions and always find the best solution.
  25. I love change and easily adjust myself to new situations.
  26. I live in the present and am confident of the future.
  27. I have an intention for success and know it is a reality awaiting my arrival.
  28. I approve of myself and love myself deeply and completely.
  29. I am unique. I feel good about being alive and being me.
  30. I have integrity. I am totally reliable. I do what I say.
  31. I act from a place of personal security.
  32. I fully accept myself and know that I am worthy of great things in life.
  33. I choose to be proud of myself.
  34. I find deep inner peace within myself as I am.
  35. I fill my mind with positive and nourishing thoughts.
  36. Every cell in my body vibrates with energy and health.
  37. I am completely pain free, and my body is full of energy.
  38. I nourish my body with healthy food.
  39. All of my body systems are functioning perfectly.
  40. My body is healing, and I feel better and better every day.
  41. I enjoy exercising my body and strengthening my muscles.
  42. My world is a peaceful, loving, and joy-filled place to live.
  43. I sow the seeds of peace wherever I go.
  44. I surround myself with peaceful people.
  45. My work environment is calm and peaceful.
  46. I breath in peace, I breath out chaos and disorder.
  47. My home is a peaceful sanctuary where I feel safe and happy.
  48. In all that I say and do, I choose peace.
  49. I release past anger and hurts and fill myself with serenity and peaceful thoughts.
  50. Peace descends all around me now and always.
  51. Calmness washes over me with every deep breath I take.
  52. Every day I am more and more at ease.
  53. Being calm and relaxed energizes my whole being.
  54. All the muscles in my body are releasing and relaxing.
  55. All negativity and stress are evaporating from my body and my mind.
  56. I breath in relaxation. I breath out stress.
  57. Even when there is chaos around me, I remain calm and centered.
  58. I transcend stress of any kind. I live in peace.
  59. I am free of anxiety, and a calm inner peace fills my mind and body.
  60. All is well in my world. I am calm, happy, and content.

Addicted to Lies

Lies

The first of the 5 D’s of addiction is Deception. Deception describes the lies we believe that lead us to and keep us in our addictions. The truth is we all believe lies. These lies are sometimes called, “Negative Core Beliefs.”  It can’t be overstated how dangerous it is to believe these lies. The lies we believe can have an absolutely devastating effect on our emotions and can lead us to or keep us in our addictions, ruin our marriages, and destroy relationships.  It is so important we discover and combat the lies we believe.

Belief

Earlier we discussed the fact that out of our beliefs come our emotions and out of our emotions come our actions.  When we look at the equation in reverse we can follow our emotions back to the beliefs that caused them.  By discovering our negative, or lie based beliefs we can begin work on healthier thinking leading to healthier emotions and actions.  One way to identify our lie based, or negative core beliefs is to discover the way we internalize things.  Internalization is the beliefs about ourselves based on the things we experience in life.

How we internalize both the negative and positive things we experience in life, directly affects the way we interact with people in every relationship. This means that the way we internalize things affects our marriages and families.  It effects our relationships at school, work, and in the community.  It affects the way we treat everyone from the gas station attendant to the police.  It affects the way we feel about people we see every day and people we may only meet once.

Perceptions, Emotions, and Internalization

To discover how we internalize things we must first understand our perceptions and emotions. When negative things are said, or done to us, and when we go through a negative experience we have certain perceptions, we respond emotionally, and often internalize the event in some way.

Let’s look at this simple example. Suppose you called a good friend or family member on the phone and invited them out to lunch on the following day.  Your friend or family member replied in a harsh tone, “You know I don’t have time for that!”  What would your perception of your friend or family members comment be?

Your perception could be one of many things. You might simply think that they are busy and don’t have time.  You might think perhaps they are having a bad day. It is important to note that our perception may or may not be right and true.  We might perceive a person’s harsh response to our simple question as a personal dislike for us.  The truth may be that the person is just having a real hard day.  On the other hand we might think they are just having a hard day when in fact they really don’t much care for us.  The point I’m trying to make here is this, our perceptions are not always accurate.

When bad things are said or done to us our perception might be one of the following statements.

They think I’m an idiot.

They think I’m not good enough.

They think I’m worthless.

They think I’m garbage.

They don’t respect me.

They don’t obey me.

They don’t listen to me.

They don’t understand that my way is best.

They are trying to control me.

I deserved that.

I had it coming to me.

I should be better so this kind of thing doesn’t happen again.

Emotion

How we feel about what was said or done depends on our perception. Let’s go back to the example of a loved one being rude on the phone.  How would that make you feel?  If your perception was that he or she was just having a bad day and it was nothing personal you would probably feel OK.  If your perception was that they really do think you are pretty stupid for even asking such a question knowing that they are so busy you might feel a bit angry or upset.

Some of the emotions we might feel are:

Anger: Raise my voice, Punch something, Throw something, Swear, Put the person down, Flee the situation in rage.

Anxiety (have Fear or Worry):  Fear the worst, What if this is the end?  What if I can’t make it through this?  What if I die?  What if they never come back?  What if they think less of me?  What if I fail?  What if they don’t respect me?  What if they laugh at me?

Depressed: Things are never going to change.  It will never end.  It will always be this way.  It is absolutely hopeless.

Internalization

This is the area where we can really get ourselves into trouble. When trying to discover how we are internalizing something it is helpful to ask ourselves a couple of questions.  Ask yourself, “How did what he said or did make me feel about myself?”  Another question you can ask is this, “By what he said or did he was basically saying what about me?”  This will help us discover how we have internalized what was said or done.  Here are some examples of how we sometimes internalize things people have said or done to us.

I’m worthless.

I have no value.

I’m a piece of garbage.

I’m out of control.

If I’m not in control I can’t have peace.

I’m tainted.

I’m too polluted to be any good.

I’m so dirty after what I have done or what has been done to me that I don’t deserve anything good.  I’m ruined, stained, and defiled.

So why are these so dangerous and what’s the answer to all of this? As stated previously, out of our beliefs come our emotions, and out of our emotions come our actions.

If you believe you are worthless you are likely to feel angry or depressed. If you are feeling angry or depressed you are more likely to turn toward an unhealthy pursuit of love, joy, and peace such as addiction and compulsive behaviors.  You are also more likely to mistreat others.  That is why these negative core, and lie based beliefs are so dangerous.

Replace

In recovery we must learn to replace the lies we believe with the truth. Jesus said that the truth will set you free.

My prayer is that if you are reading these words you won’t be put off by my use of God and the Bible. Here’s why.  I’m not talking about the God of Judgmental Christians who say you are going to hell because you use drugs.  I’m not talking about some fairy tale, or some old outdated book that has no relevance for today.  I’m talking about the Creator of all things.  I’m talking about the message of the cross that is foolishness to so many but to me is the very power of God to free me from addiction, compulsive behaviors, and sin habits.  I’m talking about the God of all grace who looked down on me in all my fears and failures, and when the whole world sees me for the terrible things I have done God sees me through the eyes of grace and for the man He is molding me into.  It is the God of grace and mercy, the God of power and renewed purpose for our lives of whom I speak!

The truth is you were created for God’s pleasure and for His unique purpose. “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.  And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together,” (Colossians 1:16-17 ESV). You were created by God and for His pleasure and purpose!

The truth is God thought so highly of you that even before you knew Him God knew a relationship with you was worth giving His life for. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him,” (John 3:16-17 ESV).

“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed,” (1 Peter 2:24 ESV).   A relationship with you was worth God giving His life for!

The lies we believe lead us to and keep us in our addictions. The truth brings freedom!  Let’s focus on and celebrate the truth.