Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Is it possible to slay the Goliaths of negative thoughts in your mind? Yes, and here are two tools that work.

This would make a great FHE or two.

Today I woke up with a prompting. 

The Spirit told me to teach my seminary students a tool. Our class was about David and Goliath, how uplifting music pushes away darkness, and how to conquer negative thoughts in our minds. Even Goliath-like negative thoughts that seem bigger than life and make us feel smaller:
  • "I'm never good enough."
  • "I can't do this." 
  • "I'm not worthy to pray." 
  • "Nobody likes me."
In our lesson Saul was being influenced by an evil spirit, and David's harp music pushed out the darkness to help Saul feel the light again. (See 1 Samuel 16:14-23 and Quotes about the Power of Holy Music.) 

Guess who else is influenced by the dark side? You and me. Every day. It's part of the test of mortality. 

We've all seen cartoons or Studio C skits about a shoulder angel and shoulder devil. It seems so silly. But there is some truth to it. Remember the war in heaven where the devil and his followers were cast out of God's presence and sent to work on people living on the earth? 

Here's the deal. Not every thought in your mind is your own. 

Nope. You are receiving thoughts from both the light side — the Spirit and holy angels, and the dark side — the devil and his followers. 

I know a wonderful, influential man who was convinced by thoughts from the dark side years ago that his family would be better off if he were gone. Driving home one day, they had even helped him form a plan of how he would end his life when he got home. Sitting in his truck on the driveway ready to carry out the plan, he heard a voice. "Dad! Whatcha doing? Dad, come play with me! Come on Dad, let's go play!" My friend decided to go inside and play Legos with his young son. He sat there stunned, wondering how he had let those voices from the dark side convince him so thoroughly of such a lie. My friend's name is Kirk Duncan, and he gave me permission to post his story. Now he owns a multi-million dollar training and mentoring company dedicated to helping others find purpose and vision in life, achieve their goals, and improve their mind, communication, and relationships. Did Satan know this man had a mission to help God's children in a big way? Yep, and the devil tried to stop him through his thoughts. Let's call those mind bullies.  

You and I have also been sent to earth with missions from God (see more about that here). The devil and his followers know that, and they'll try to shut us down. One of their biggest weapons is through negative, mind bully thoughts. In fact, with bullying being such a problem today, wouldn't it make sense that if the bullies cleared out the mind bullies from their heads, they could be nice? If the devil and his followers can get into our thoughts, and especially our identity, wow, what a victory for them. Then they can ruin our relationships with God and family and friends, our character, our honesty, our life missions, our health, our finances, and every area of life. Thoughts are where things start. You better believe the dark side is trying to influence our thoughts. But the good news is I have two tools you can use to fight back. 

Here is the object lesson I used to show how dark and light thoughts work in the mind.

First I pushed in a few dark thoughts (dark cotton balls) into a "mind" (toilet paper roll), and showed that the only way to get them out is with light thoughts (white cotton balls). We discussed the light and power of uplifting music to push away darkness like temptations, a bad song that keeps playing in your mind, or a bad picture. Anything you do actions that invite in the Spirit like using holy music, praying sincerely, or feasting on the scriptures, the darkness will lessen or leave. 

Light and darkness don't like each other.
Here is how President Packer said it. “If you can control your thoughts, you can overcome habits, even degrading personal habits. If you can learn to master [your thoughts] you will have a happy life. ... Choose ... a favorite hymn. ... Go over it in your mind carefully. Memorize it. ... Now, use this hymn as the place for your thoughts to go. Make it your emergency channel. Whenever you find these shady actors have slipped from the sidelines of your thinking onto the stage of your mind, put on this record, as it were. As the music begins and as the words form in your thoughts, the unworthy ones will slip shamefully away. It will change the whole mood on the stage of your mind. Because it is uplifting and clean, the baser thoughts will disappear. For while virtue, by choice, will not associate with filth, evil cannot tolerate the presence of light" (“Inspiring Music—Worthy Thoughts,” Ensign, Jan. 1974, 28).

So the first tool is to choose a holy song to memorize and use to push away the darkness.

The second tool is the one I felt prompted to share in class today. It's simple and powerful. I've taught it to others and had amazing results with it myself. 

This tool just takes a piece of paper folded in half.  I like to call this "flip-it thoughts." You can do it anytime, anywhere in four simple steps: 

  1. First, write down some of the negative mind bully thoughts that the dark side tries to convince you about yourself. See if you can write ten of them. (See examples in the picture below.)
  2. Now write down an opposite, positive statement for each negative one. A bonus tip here is to add an extra positive statement about yourself each time. In math if you combine a negative one and a positive one you get a zero. But two positives against one negative means the positives are going to win. 
  3. Then you tear or cut off the negative side of the page and destroy it. You could crumple it up and throw it in the trash, or shred it, or even burn it in a safe place like the kitchen sink. (Some members of my family loved the idea of watching their crumpled up paper burn. Maybe you will too.)
  4. Now take your page of positive statements and read it aloud to yourself. If you can find a place where no one will hear you, say them loudly to convince your brain that you mean it. Another way to convince your brain is to smile and stand in a strong pose, not a weak one. (See more about that here.) As you say those positive statements about yourself aloud, you give the Holy Ghost the opportunity to bear witness to your soul that they are true. When the Spirit testifies of truth to you, it shifts you inside. It's a good idea to read aloud the list of positive statements each morning and night for several days, or even longer.  
These are just some ideas to get your mind going. You can click on the image to enlarge and make it easier to read. 

Since those negative thoughts are something you've been gathering for years, it's a good idea to do this exercise every day for a while, maybe a month. In fact, the mind bully thoughts often start in childhood from negative things others say about us, or experiences we have that form a limiting belief about ourselves. I think the dark side knows what negative things we already believe about ourselves and poke at those weak areas, or shoot "fiery darts of the adversary" at us. (See 1 Nephi 15:24.) This flip-it thoughts exercise is like helping us put up specific shields for the specific darts they aim at us, or that our own self-talk aims at our identity and how we see ourselves. 

After you've done this exercise for a while you can review your lists of positive statements and mark a handful of them that seem to jump out at you, then type that up as a list of declarations that you can read every morning and every night as a shield to protect your brain from negative thoughts. This list can change as new negative thoughts come. 

The subconscious part of our brain can take a while to update it's programming, kind of like when your computer software needs to update to a better version. You'll be amazed how much clearer your head is, how much more positive your mood, how much nicer you are to people, and and how much better the results in your life will be. Will it take all your problems away?  Some of them — the problems caused by your negative thinking. But even for the problems that aren't, will this tool help you feel more peaceful, calm, strong, and level-headed to find solutions? Absolutely.

Thank you, David and Goliath for helping us see that with God and positive tools from Him, we can slay the Goliaths of our own minds. 

The battle for our minds is real. Are you using one of these simple and powerful tools to slay those Goliath thoughts and fill your mind with truth?

To my seminary students: Here is the bribe, I mean treat, my daughter is making for you tomorrow if you do this tonight and bring back your "light" page. You want one, don't you?? :) 
P.S. Here is a next step you can take to battle those mind bullies: dial into what God's truth is about you.  
"Ask your Heavenly Father, in the name of Jesus Christ, how He feels about you and your mission here on earth. If you ask with real intent, over time the Spirit will whisper the life-changing truth to you. Record those impressions and review them often, and follow through with exactness. ... I promise you that when you begin to catch even a glimpse of how your Heavenly Father sees you and what He is counting on you to do for Him, your life will never be the same!" (President Nelson, Worldwide Devotional, Jan. 10, 2016). 


Shauna said...

Thank you for sharing. I love the visual lesson of the bad and good thoughts

Dona Russell said...

Thank you! We are getting ready to serve a senior mission and struggle with thought bullies still. 73 years old, not your usual students, but still willing to learn. We will take your new tool and inspiring words to better ourselves and better serve the lord! Thank you and we want a couple of those muffins!

Diane Hopkins said...

Wonderful and helpful ideas! Thanks, Becky!

Becky Edwards said...

You are so very welcome! I'm glad the post was helpful. It's one of the most simple and powerful tools I know. Very effective.