Who You "Thnk" You Are Matters

In Fact, It Matters A Lot

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“What were you thinking!” shouts the angry parent as their child stands before them crestfallen. They had just discovered their child doing something foolish and now comes the third-degree interrogation.

“You weren’t thinking, right? Because if you were you wouldn’t have done something so stupid”

And so punishment is handed out and the child is sent to their room to “think” about what they did. And so there they sit trying to figure out what they were “thinking” but drawing a blank because they’re a kid and by definition, they often don’t think before they act.

Which begs the question; does thought proceed action? Are there some actions where thinking is not a prerequisite? It sure feels that way when we make a mistake or succumb to a “knee-jerk” reaction.

But it is a proven medical fact that thought proceeds all actions, even if these thoughts are unconscious.

For example, a solder on leave from the battlefield is walking down the street, he hears a car backfire and dives to the ground. Is he conscious of his thought at the time? No, he is reacting and his reactions are a logical consequence of the unconscious belief that he is in danger. Even though he is not aware of the thought it is still there. If you asked him he would say he did not choose to fall on his face in the middle of the sidewalk, still the thought of danger proceeded the action. Over time as he is exposed to the sounds of the city he will become more aware that no real danger exists and have a greater ability to choose so when he hears a similar sound he can ignore it.

Therefore our thoughts control our actions. Some thoughts promote health and cause us to act in a way that produces such emotions love, joy, and peace, and some thoughts produce anxiety, fear, and anger. Some thoughts propel us toward success and some are toxic and lead us toward failure and frustration. The challenge is these toxic thoughts often feel like they are a part of us – they become our dysfunctional normal. We are blind to them as they become the “operating system” that controls our everyday lives. Therefore it is critical that we make them visible so we can replace them with what will ultimately produce a more productive and happy life.

How do we know if our unconscious thoughts about ourselves are toxic? There are two ways:

  1. We experience toxic emotions – anxiety, phobia, depression, unreasonable fear and uncontrolled anger are examples of toxic emotions that are the result of toxic thoughts

  2. We experience repeated unwanted experiences – you have heard the old saying “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. When we continually experience failure in certain areas of our life it is a good indication that we have a toxic belief that is sabotaging our success.

A client once described to me a long series of failed relationships that she had experienced. At the end of her story of heartache and brokenness, I asked her this questions: “What do all those men in your life have in common?” She thought for a while and named a few of their worse attributes but then stopped and grew quiet. Finally, she said, “me”.

“Yes, that’s right” I responded, “so if you ever want to make a difference in your relationships you will need to make a difference in how you see yourself and how you understand healthy relationships”

Our actions and our emotions will lead us to our core beliefs as surely as a drug-sniffing dog leads its handler to a stash of illegal drugs. Follow the trail of toxic emotions and shattered dreams and they will lead to the doorstep of a toxic belief about ourselves and the world. The more you understand your core beliefs about yourself the more control you will have in the way you act. Your actions follow our thinking just as day follows night. And this is how we acquire our identity.

Our Identity is the sum total of our beliefs about ourselves that are confirmed and reinforced by our experience.

When believe something is true about ourselves, we act on that belief and that action then confirms and reinforces that belief. This becomes a powerful “feedback loop” that us gives us our identity.

Identity Feedback Loop

Identity Feedback Loop

So the question is what do you believe about yourself? Because that belief will ultimately determine your destiny.

Recently I met with a client who was struggling with what he called an addictive personality. He said he was susceptible to being addicted to pretty much everything, alcohol, drugs, extreme sports, gambling, he even said that he could be addicted to jeeps. So I went to the whiteboard and drew this illustration.

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I pointed to the middle circle and asked, who are you? He couldn’t answer that. So I explained that nature (and our psyche) abhors a vacuum. If we are unsure about our identity then we will fill it with whatever distracts us from the pain of living with that vacuum. The outer circles represent all the areas of our life and these too will be defined by the inner circle. So if we have labeled our self an addict then these other areas will be contorted to reflect that definition. The inner circle thinking will be expressed through the outer circles.

If you want to change your experience of life you must change the way you think about yourself.

So what beliefs should fill that inner circle? What is ultimately true of me? This depends on where you find your authority. If what you believe about yourself is solely a product of your own invention then you can pretty much make up any “truth” and put it in that inner circle. The problem with this method is we have no real assurance that what we are saying about ourselves is true and functional. In essence, we are making it up as we go along with no confidence that it will ultimately lead to a meaningful life. Another challenge is that many of us have been “programmed” with beliefs about ourselves that are decidedly dysfunctional and cause us a lot of pain. Separating ourselves from these toxic beliefs is very hard and made even more difficult if we don’t have an objective reference point to work from.

It is like the man said at the end of his life; “I have spent my whole life climbing the ladder of success only to find out it was leaning on the wrong building”.

An authoritative reference point is essential for developing an identity that will produce the best possible life. But what reference point should we choose? There are many religions and philosophies vying to become the prophet of truth to our generation but I propose that there is really only two at the present time that has risen to the top and is presently locked in mortal combat. This is the Judaeo Christian World View and the Humanistic/Autonomous World View. The latter worldview is grounded in Darwin’s theory and taught in our public schools and universities while the former worldview is the foundation for our nation and western culture. Let me briefly compare and contrast the two.

The Humanistic model is derived from Darwin’s theory and assigns value to an individual in proportion to their ability to adapt to their environment and successfully propagate. (Survival of the fittest) Success is measured by the ability to pass our DNA to another generation and therefore overcome rivals. If we lose this ability to adapt or help others adapt we decrease in value. There is no higher purpose or authority to which we can appeal and find our worth beyond the “law of the jungle”. Therefore, compassion, kindness, and empathy are not preferred traits unless they in some way serve to further the species and can be argued (and often is) a weakness that must be eliminated. (see Nietzsche) We ultimately are left to scratch and claw to the top of the value heap and hope we can remain there. But this is a tenuous philosophy because inevitably, someone stronger (and therefore with greater utilitarian value) comes up the other side to knock us off.

In contrast, the Judaeo Christian view is that worth is intrinsic to man because we were made in “God’s image” and therefore our value is independent of our utilitarian purpose. The smallest and weakest of us has as much value as the greatest and strongest. Our performance does not define our value, rather our performance is an expression of our value. If our performance ceases due to injury, mental incapacity, or any other circumstance it does not diminish our value one iota. Our country was founded on this premise – “All men are created equal”. It is the foundation of our jurist prudence and the cornerstone of our culture. Is it perfectly enforced? No. But it is the ideal with which we built a great and beautiful society. I believe it works because it is true, not it is true because it works. For there are times and places where the powerful seem to have greater value and societies have relegated groups of people to inferior status simply because they don’t conform to group norms or have the necessary qualifications for being a benefit to the community.

With what do I fill the inner circle?

If you accept the Judaeo Christian view of a human’s worth then that circle must be filled with truths that are derived from the revelation given to us by our Creator – the Bible. This is the only reliable and authoritative source for creating a true identity and it must supersede all other opinions, beliefs, feelings, thoughts or ideas. There are many “Christians” and “Jews” who give lip service to the Scriptures and choose to base their identities on other things such as money, power, public opinion, attractiveness, and a myriad of other qualities but all of these fail the most critical test. Do you still have value when they are gone? If you lose value when you grow old or become incapacitated then that is not a true foundation to derive your worth. If you cease to appreciate yourself if you become bankrupt then you have placed your worth in the wrong thing. Why is this important? Because of the first principle I referenced which is your actions will reflect your beliefs. If you think you think these external things are the basis for your worth then you will live in constant fear of losing them and desperately seek happiness in the pursuit of them. We were made for so much more! We were made to find our hope in the eternal unconditional love of God and experience ultimate security in the joy of being in a relationship with him. Every other pleasure pales in comparison with this great purpose.

There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of each man which cannot be satisfied by any created thing but only by God the Creator made known through Jesus Christ.
— Blaise Pascal


So who do you think you are … really?

It is a hard battle to secure your identity in absolute truth. Our present culture has sold out to relative truth evidenced by emotions carrying more weight than facts and opinions based simply on feelings. We have all been infected by these lies that want to mold us into thinking we are lesser than we were meant to be. Our culture tells us if we don’t have this, possess that or are following the latest popular craze then something is wrong with us. Many of us grew up in homes where appreciation was only given to us when certain performance standards were met – or in some cases never at all. Maybe you were in a relationship where you were loved only when you met the other person’s needs. All of these examples are insidious lies undermining the absolute truth that you are worthy of being loved for who you are, regardless of performance or conformity to a set of standards. When this truth is absorbed into the fabric of our soul it changes us from the inside out and endues us with a power that not only transforms our thinking but also our actions.

I have created some affirmations that you can use to begin bringing about change in the way you think about yourself. All these affirmations are biblically based with Scriptural references that you can look up. If they don’t “feel” right that’s okay. Often the last bastion of the lies in our life is our emotions. Don’t make truth conform to your feelings. Rather, make your feelings conform to the truth.


Click here to download a 30 day affirmation calendar

If there is anything we at Total Wellness Resource Center can do for you don’t hesitate to reach out to us.

Harmed by Your Past? Five Steps to Start Healing.

WHEN OUR PAST GETS IN THE WAY OF OUR FUTURE.....IT IS TIME TO ADDRESS IT HEAD ON..

As a therapist, my job is to help people get unstuck from their problems and overcome the obstacles in their lives, and contrary to the prevailing belief, I do not enjoy talking about my client’s mothers. But I do have a passion for people experiencing freedom and joy in their lives so this is what I tell my clients:

When our past gets into our future we need to deal with it.

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Is your past in the way of  your future? 

The truth is, our past always gets into our future. Some of us were blessed with parents, teachers, and mentors that spoke into us beautiful life affirming truths that empower us to live full and prosperous lives. This is a positive example of having our past affect our future.

However, some of us did not get that kind of input when we were young. We were fed on a diet of lies and treated in a way that hindered our development. This is when we need to talk about mothers, as well as other influential people and experiences from our past.

But how do we know if our past is hanging us up? It’s not as if our parents are going to come to us and say; “you know that thing I said about you when you were five, I was wrong!” No, they are probably just as unconscious about how they injured you as you are about how you were injured. These kinds of wounds rarely reveal themselves plainly so they can be understood and dealt with. Rather, they stealthily sabotage our relationships, careers and emotional well-being. Sometimes we need to look backward to go forward.

So how do you know when you need to look backward to go forward? Here are some clues.

  • You have a recurring argument with your spouse that never resolves
  • You have an over reaction to something someone said or did.
  • You are anxious, depressed or fearful for no good reason
  • You can’t find the motivation to do the things you want to do

These are some symptoms of having a harmful past.  If so, here are five things you can do about it.

  1. Become aware: Don’t dismiss unexplained emotions or irrational feelings just because they are uncomfortable.
  2. Challenge the status quo: Our childhood experiences and programming often becomes our “dysfunctional normal”.  Challenge what is not working in your life.
  3. Ask yourself this question: What belief is at the core of this feeling or circumstance?
  4. Seek help: We often can’t see what we can’t see, a third party perspective can break us out this.
  5. Don’t give up: Replacing past harmful programming is often a long, slow process. Most of us have been living with these lies for years – they aren’t going to give up their stranglehold on us easily. Be persistent. What your mind learned it can also unlearn.

There is freedom if you choose to be courageous in seeking it. You’ve only got one life. Don’t let someone or something from your past keep you from living it to the fullest

 

With Love, 

James

If you are looking for a way to jump start feeling better about yourself. Check out

10 Days Toward Learning to Love Yourself. 

The Simplicity of being a Sheep

I do not come from an agrarian culture; I grew up in a stucco clad track home in a city where it was a novelty to find a building that was older than me.  That is why it is easy for me to idealize the idea of sheep. They are fluffy white creatures who live on grassy green hills with their flute playing shepherd gently lullabying them to sleep, Right?

No, they are pretty clueless creatures that if not for the protection and guidance of the shepherd would be dead. So when Jesus continually referred to his followers (a group of hearty fishermen and the like) as sheep I can imagine that they were just a little uncomfortable with that depiction. I imagine them squirming a bit and politely asking Jesus if he could maybe create another metaphor like eagles or lions.

But God referring to us as sheep has a rich tradition in Scripture and there is a good reason for that. We are sheep! We act foolishly, are vulnerable to predators and have but one quality; we know the shepherd, listen to him and we follow.

I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—
— John 10:14 NIV
The gatekeeper [shepherd] opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.
— John 10:3 NIV

When a sheep stops following that is when they are in greatest danger. The shepherd leads them to food, away from danger and protects them with his very life. If a sheep decides to starts believing it is a lion it would be laughable - and tragic. We need to accept our "sheepness". Humbling yes, but very, very real.

So in keeping with our sheep intellect let me brake this down into two parts; our job as a sheep is to:

  1. Listen to the Shepherd’s voice

  2. Follow it

Here is a poem I wrote from the perspective of a sheep …

I am a sheep
I am to listen for my Shepherd’s voice and follow him
I am a Sheep
I have no protection apart from the Shepherd
I am a Sheep
I will go hungry and die in the wilderness unless I follow the Shepherd
My Shepherd goes before me and calls me to himself with his voice
My job is to hear his voice and follow
There are other voices, those that do not belong to the Shepherd
I must not follow those voices for they are out to kill and destroy me
I have only one job, listen for my Master’s voice and follow Him
Often I will not see Him; He is hidden from my view
For I am but a sheep and my eyes are close to the ground
But I can listen and follow and go where He leads
There are times when the way is rough and far from green pastures
My heart grows faint in these places
But I am not to look about me and try to understand the way
For I have but a sheep’s understanding
I am to listen for my Shepherd’s voice and follow
That is what I do
I can do nothing else
Nothing else matters
It is the Shepherd who is my whole world and He is Good!
His voice is true
In Him is my whole existence
I am His sheep
He is my Shepherd and I will listen for His voice and
Follow Him.

 

We at Total Wellness Resource Center are committed to helping with the Spiritual, Mental, Physical and Occupational wellbeing of our clients. Please reach out to us if there is any way we can assist you on your journey.

Are You Sabotaging Your Life?

Take the FREE 360 Quiz Today

Some may wonder why we at Total Wellness Resource Center are so committed to our 360 degree philosophy.

It is because we are passionate about helping our clients find Total Wellness in every area of their lives. People come to us focusing on one area that is causing them the greatest concern often treating themselves as a combination of disconnected parts that have little or no connection with one another. And when they do, they end up playing a very dangerous game of whack-a-mole with their life. After bopping down one troublesome area they find there is usually another that pops up to sabotage their progress.

We can’t deny that our physical, relational, spiritual and professional lives affect each other?  I have sat in front of highly successful business professionals and heard them tell me how they would give up all their wealth and prestige to regain their heath. Or others, who realize too late that they have focused on their careers and neglected their relationships and now are experiencing deep regret and isolation.

Remember the poignant first scene from “Citizen Kane” when the last words from the billionaire’s lips were a cry from his soul for the simple peace and joy he had tragically abandoned.

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Neglecting the vital connection between all the parts of our life can lead to irreparable damage and greatly diminish our capacity to experience life in all its fullness.
— James Tillman

So how are you doing in the 360 degree care of your life? It may be a good time to stop and evaluate.

To help you get started we’ve developed a short quiz that evaluates these five areas:

  • Mental Health
  • Spiritual Health
  • Physical Health
  • Nutritional Health
  • Occupational Health

Take the quiz by clicking on this button

At the end of the quiz you will be given an overall 360 degree score as well how you scored in the individual areas. The quiz is a snap shot of your current condition and should not be seen as comprehensive, but it may help you identify an area that needs your attention.

Don’t sabotage your life through neglect.  Instead, commit to living the whole life you were created to live.

We at Total Wellness Resource Center want to be your partner in living a full and meaning life. If we can be of any service don’t hesitate to call or email us.