Psychologists tell us that we can’t just get rid of a bad habit, including a negative thought pattern. We have to fill the vacated space with something new. Otherwise, our well-intentioned change won’t last; we will revert back to comfortable habits and well-worn patterns. So as you begin eliminating thoughts that don’t benefit you, you have to immediately replace those thoughts with new ones that do.
As you ship out the internal dialogue that keeps you depressed, shy, anxious, tired, and worried, you have to immediately fill the space in your mind that those thoughts occupied with a corresponding positive internal dialogue. It is not enough to think about true, positive, pure, and excellent things in general. Instead, connect them immediately to the vacated space of your captured thoughts. If you don’t, those old thoughts will creep right back in.
One leading author on the topic explains this concept by describing the mind as a mental apartment furnished with the things you think about yourself and the world around you.
[This furniture] is the old negative way of thinking that was handed down to us from our parents, our friends, our teachers. They gave us furniture which we have kept and which we use in our mental apartment. Now let’s say that I agree to come over and help you get rid of all the old furniture. We remove every piece, every dish, every rug, table, bed, sofa, and chair. We take out every old negative self-belief and store it away safely out of sight.
After I leave, you stand in the middle of your mental apartment. You look around and think, “This is great! I’ve gotten rid of all my old negative thinking.” …A little later that evening, after spending an hour or two with nothing but yourself and an empty apartment, what do you suppose you will do? You will go out to the garage where the old furniture is stored and get a chair! A little later, you will make another trip to the garage and bring in a table…One by one you will begin to bring your old trusted and time-worn negative thoughts back into your mental apartment! Why? Because when I helped you removed the old furniture I didn’t give you any new furniture to replace it with.
When you decide to stop thinking negatively and do not have an immediate, new positive vocabulary to replace the old, you will always return to the comfortable, old, negative self-talk of the past.
Think back to the relationship examples above. When negative, defeating thoughts about your parents, your spouse, your children, or anyone else pop up, it is not enough to simply say to yourself, Oh, I shouldn’t think such a thing. Instead, you have to shift your focus toward something good, as we discussed. The most effective way to do that is to immediately replace the unproductive thought with a corresponding positive one. Out with the old, in with the new.Don't just stop at getting rid of an unhealthy thought. Instead, put something new in its place. Click To Tweet
For example, if you catch yourself thinking something unconstructive, such as I can’t stand the way my children always second-guess me, capture that thought, get rid of it, and then immediately fill the space with a better thought, such as My children are learning to question and discern things for themselves. How can I nurture that?
Don’t just stop at getting rid of an unhealthy thought; if you do, it will come back again and again. Instead, put something new in its place.
– Nelson Searcy and Richard Jarman
The above excerpt is from p. 183-186 of The Renegade Pastor’s Guide to Managing the Stress of Ministry.
Pastors Nelson Searcy and Richard Jarman share their secrets to effective stress management with practical steps and insights that you can start implementing immediately! God wants you to be a fruitful, faithful minister of the gospel. He wants you, as a Renegade Pastor, to rise above average as you pursue God’s best for you, your family, and your ministry.
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