Taking every thought captive seems impossible given the thousands of thoughts plaguing us each day.
For those that have traits of ADD, or those so dysregulated that living with scattered thoughts are the norm, how can we possibly take all our thoughts captive?
In today’s post, I explain why taking every thought captive is essential to healing, and will talk you through 5 simple steps I personally take when overcoming hindering thoughts.
There are numerous posts out there on taking thoughts captive, so I hope you hear something today that is fresh and a little different.
First of all, take a read of last week’s post THE RENEWED MIND. 8 THINKING ERRORS (WITH SOLUTIONS)
TAKING EVERY THOUGHT CAPTIVE
We develop unconscious belief systems in childhood and from those other lies develop. Odd as it sounds, these belief systems had a benefit, they helped us survive.
Here are some of my toxic thoughts:
“I must remain small because I am inferior….Being nice to people means they will love me….I deserve to be unhappy”
Cognitively I know these beliefs are untrue but deep down they’re running the show.
They’re deep-rooted strongholds. See DEMOLISH STRONGHOLDS IN 5 SIMPLE STEPS
If our beliefs are lies, our brain then searches for evidence to reinforce the lie! and filters our contrary evidence. Those belief systems cause us to think and behave in certain ways.
As you can see from the above diagram, our beliefs result in patterns of behaviour which are not in alignment with who I am in Christ.
The good news is that our programming isn’t fixed but it does take effort and a willingness to change.
Taking every thought captive means renewing my mind to what Scripture says about me and choosing to reject the behaviour.
Have you seen a diagram like this before? Could you have a go at making up your own belief system trees?
WHY MUST WE TAKE EVERY THOUGHT CAPTIVE?
- God asks us to take captive thoughts which are contrary to His Word.
We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 2 Cor 10:5
If our thoughts are lies or not in alignment with Scripture, then there is likely to be a negative consequence. For example, the thoughts may not give God glory.
2. They dilute faith and therefore hinder God’s plan in our life.
The Bible tells us that ‘Without faith it is impossible to please God’ Heb 11:6 I don’t know about you, but I really want to please God with my faith.
As Joel Osteen says, we can’t expect victory if we’re speaking (or thinking) defeat! He wants to do immeasurably more in our lives but we limit him with our unbelief.
3. They cause stress, hurt, anger, distraction…….
If we ruminate long enough on toxic thoughts, unhealthy hormones like cortisol will drip into our bodies.
Life can be difficult enough without believing lies causing us distress. The Bible invites us to seek peace, which is near impossible if we’re listening to thoughts contrary to God’s Word.
4. They can contribute to sickness and disease, or hinder the healing process.
These are lies and cause toxicity to the nervous system. Our cells are listening to our thoughts all the time. Mind-body doctor Kim d’Eramo says this
“…the root cause of imbalance and disease begins in your thoughts and beliefs” Kim D’Eramo, The Mind/Body Toolkit.
If thoughts are stressful, then we’re operating within the survival states, like fight/flight
“The inflammatory stress state is a chemical war against our own cells…..Limiting ‘negative’ thoughts destroy you at the level of your cells and your DNA” Kim D’Eramo
5. If we don’t overcome our programmed thoughts, we will never be who we are created to be. In essence, the real us will never exist. How sad.
I’m sure you can think of your own reasons why sorting out our thought life is essential, not just to Christian living, but to the healing journey itself.
The scary thing is, that I’m not really referring to thoughts involved with unforgiveness, hatred, jealousy and the like (or though that may be relevant for some)
There are thoughts which appear ‘harmless’. Thoughts like ‘People are better than me…..I’m not good enough……I must be nice for people to love me…..’
5 STEPS TO TAKING
EVERY THOUGHT CAPTIVE
Hearing the Word of God repeatedly will help in taking every thought captive.
If these thinking patterns started in childhood, please remember self-compassion. They will not disappear overnight.
Neuroscientist Caroline Leaf says it takes 21 days to form a new habit, then 63 days to consolidate the new thought. (3 cycles of 21 days).
“the change in neural pathways and synapses that occurs due to certain factors, like behavior, environment, or neural processes. The brain engages in synaptic pruning, deleting the neural connections that are no longer necessary or useful, and strengthening the ones that are.” Caroline Leaf
Take a read of STANDING ON GOD’S PROMISES VERSES JUST PRAYING
1. EXPLORE THE THOUGHT
I keep a journal to track how my thinking or belief shows up in my life and look out for the specific triggers that cause me to engage with the thinking pattern.
Does the thought cause me anxiety, anger or depression?
Do I say and do things that don’t align with my inner truth due to the thought?
It is so important to remember that our thinking often follows our state. So if you’re already feeling stressed, the thought is more likely to appear.
Often we can’t stop the thought from coming, but we can choose to not engage in it. This is maybe the most challenging part of taking every thought captive.
Traditionally, CBT therapists teach that our thoughts determine our emotions. On one level this is accurate.
In Polyvagal theory, we recognise that there is something going on at the body level even prior to the thought. (See mind-body loop above).
There is a trigger – the nervous system responds by evaluating the trigger against past experiences – the mind translates this into a thought – we listen to the thought – reinforcing the emotions – behaviour
Knowing how the thought impacts my life helps me catch it.
Avoiding triggers isn’t helpful in the long run, but understanding the trigger and the thoughts give insight into where to seek God for help and healing.
And if my thoughts are a result of a trigger (and they usually are), I know I need to practise self-care and engage in nervous system regulation.
When I am calmer, I am in a position to tackle the thought.
2. REGULATE YOUR NERVOUS SYSTEM
This means, doing something to nourish your system. It could be sitting in nature, deep belly breathing or doing a mind-body exercise.
Remember, stress and trauma are sometimes stored in the body so working at the body level makes sense.
When I talk about a bottom-up approach, this is what I’m referring to, as opposed to the top-down approach which is what talk therapists would use.
(I believe we need both).
When we are in a survival state, our pre-frontal cortex tends to shut down. This makes it difficult to take our thoughts captive and replace them with the truth.
Developing a relationship with your body stops us from reinforcing those toxic unhelpful thoughts.
3. CHALLENGE THE THOUGHT
Taking every thought captive involves a degree of self-awareness
I believe it’s best to work on just one thought at a time. Which is the most destructive or the most obvious?
Before making any intentional changes, it’s important to identify and understand what needs to be changed.
I ask myself the following questions when taking a thought captive:
- Is the thought true?
- What evidence is there that the thought is true?
- Could there be a more realistic or opposing thought?
- What is the evidence of the new opposing or realistic thought?
The idea is that I show my brain that the thought I’m believing is distorted and that there are other options available to me.
The Work by Byron Katie is helpful here.
4. FIND RELEVANT BIBLE VERSES
With God’s guidance, find appropriate scriptures as you renew your mind. There are plenty to choose from.
Caroline Leaf suggests immersing yourself in God’s Word several times a day, allowing it to deeply penetrate your heart.
I have Scripture cards I sometimes use. They’re handy to put in my handbag or to scatter them around the house.
As I’m sure you know, the Bible tells us that we renew our minds by the washing of the water of the Word.
For me, selecting one verse a day to focus on is realistic. Whenever I find myself spiralling down into depression or anxiety, this is my cue to focus on Scripture.
I can’t say I do this every time, but I am much better now than ever before.
I heard someone once say, that when you’re in a dark room, you don’t get rid of the darkness, you turn on the light.
You may have heard about the power of visualisations. Visualising myself present during the miracle often helps me here.
For example, I picture touching the hem of His garment, being a fly on the wall when He raised Jairus’ daughter, or being the leper who Jesus touched.
5. ACT AS THOUGH THE NEW THOUGHT IS TRUE
Or in other words, step out of the programming. Ask Holy Spirit for His help.
For example, I’m in recovery from people-pleasing so I am now choosing to say no to things I always say yes to, not saying what people want to hear and voicing my opinion and needs far more.
This behaviour is a result of believing the lies ‘I must earn love…others are more important…I”m not good enough’
It’s really uncomfortable because the neuropathways aren’t well-established. Alan Gordon talks of deliberately taking the path less travelled which takes conscious effort.
Taking every thought captive is a commitment and a life-long process so keeping a journal or diary of progress is helpful for me.
and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.
As believers we have the mind of Christ, but we must choose to step into this identity.
Every time we choose the new thought, look for new evidence and step into new behaviour, we are aligning with our real identity in Christ.
If we do not see ourselves in Christ, our true identity, then we will continue operating from the Old Man. Taking every thought captive means deliberately choosing to deny those old thinking patterns.
As time moves on, the new evidence and behaviour will sink into your system and begin to override the former thoughts.
When we alter the script, it affects everyone around us. It’s like watching a play where one actor changes their lines; it has a ripple effect on all the other actors.
In my experience, healing causes us to change beyond all recognition. God loves us so much He wants our real authentic true selves to shine through.
Healing begins on the inside. If we see ourselves healed, we’ll believe we’re healed and our actions will follow. We’ll relate more to our identity in Christ, than to the natural world around us.
For as he thinks in his heart, so is he
I’m not quite there yet, at least not consistently.
Imagine how your life could be different if you were no longer held back by controlling patterns from childhood.
If you intentionally changed any thoughts that were never really yours to begin with. A greater level of freedom and healing.
We really have to want to change so understanding our ‘why’ will motivate us to keep going. It is so much easier to stay in the same comfortable patterns, even if they cause pain in the long run.
I will leave you with this challenging thought from Caroline Leaf:
The thought you are thinking right now is impacting every one of the 75 – 100 trillion cells of your body at quantum speeds!
Which thoughts are you believing? Are you actively taking every thought captive? How has today’s explanation helped you?
I hope this helps you a little.
If so, take a read of