To learn how to conscientiously cultivate affirming beliefs, we first have to manage negative beliefs that are locked into our belief system. Tracy Taris shares tools that will help you find out what those beliefs are and how to live by God’s Word as you clean out your mind of those harmful beliefs.
I also talked with Tracy on a recent episode of Your Hope-Filled Perspective podcast about how to stop thinking negative thoughts (listen here: How To Stop Thinking Negative Thoughts – Episode 208). If you struggle with taking your thoughts captive so you can control negative thinking, you’ll want to read the post below and listen to the podcast.
Be sure to read to the end for a book giveaway!
(If there are affiliate links in this post, meaning, if you click through and make a purchase, I may receive a commission (at no extra cost to you)).
Conscientiously Cultivating Affirming Beliefs
By Tracy Taris
Beliefs begin to form early on in life. We are told things about ourselves and we take them in, eventually make agreements, and are stuck with them for decades. Later, in our adult years, we wonder why we think the way we do and why we feel the way we feel. This starts from the time we are very, very young.
There is a developmental process called limbic imprinting. Imprinting may sound like something werewolves or some other supernatural creatures do in a paranormal teenage psychodrama. However, it is a real psychological process. Limbic imprinting occurs from birth to about 7-years-old. During that time, whatever we are told about ourselves, we take it in as true, without discrimination, even if it isn’t true. If we are told we are lovely, we believe it. If told we are worthless, we believe it. This process continues until about the age of 13. But, between 7 and 13, we also engage in a process called modeling whereby we imitate the adults around us. They teach us how to be in the world through their behaviors and actions.
By early adolescence, the views we’ve taken in are locked into our belief system. From then on, our brains subconsciously search for matches to the beliefs that are already there. When told something positive about us, like “you are a good person,” our brain will search for a match and either accept or reject that statement depending on whether the belief already exists. Conversely, if we are told something negative about ourselves that we’ve always felt good about, for instance, “you’re a terrible singer,” if there isn’t a match due to beliefs about our abilities that we’ve gathered over time, the brain will reject that also.
It’s not about positive or negative thinking. It’s about finding a match. The way to overcome destructive beliefs about yourself in later years is to first find out what those beliefs are. Then you can acknowledge and accept the power they’ve had, decide that you no longer want to think this way and choose to give more attention to thoughts that are true to who you are and who you want to be.
The truth about who we are is not defined by our family of origin or the world. God made us in His image. If we belong to Christ, we are part of a royal nation, holy and dearly loved. But how do we get statements like these ingrained into our minds, rather than some of the messages from our early lives? By the power of God’s Word and by paying attention to our thoughts.
3 Ways to live by the Word of God as you cultivate affirming beliefs and remove harmful beliefs
Here are three ways to live by the Word of God as we clean our minds of harmful beliefs:
- Capture your thoughts: “Take captive your thoughts and make them obedient to Christ.” — 2 Corinthians 10:5 (NIV). Negative thoughts come from a variety of places. In my book, Many Voices One Truth, I demonstrate in several chapters how to take your thoughts captive. If I were to sum up this process, it would be the following.
- Observe your thoughts. We need to begin developing a habit of thinking about what we are thinking about. Some of our thoughts fly through our minds unnoticed. Thinking about our thoughts requires mindfulness and asking questions like: “What was I just thinking?” when there is a change in how we are feeling. Most people notice their feelings before they notice what they are thinking. A feeling is never generated by what is going on around us, but actually generated by what we are thinking of what’s going on around us. The relationship between thoughts and feelings is a dance we practice all day. We can either make it a nice groove or be at the mercy of something spastic and chaotic.
- Speak to the thought. “Thoughts of unworthiness, I take you captive and make you obedient to Christ.”
- Think of a truth either in God’s Word or one you know about yourself or the situation. God says I’m dearly loved. Or, I’ve won awards for my singing capabilities.
- Replace the thought with that truth. Then substitute the thought of being unworthy with that truth, either to yourself or out loud: “I am chosen, part of a holy nation.” Or, “I know I am dearly loved by my family.” I personally prefer practicing this out loud.
- Decide not to succumb to stress – People think of stress as a bad thing. It isn’t. Not necessarily. Stress has beneficial roles like being a temporary way for our mind and body to boost our performance. Managing stress requires deciding how you will handle it when it spills over longer than the mind and body need it. Here are three ways to get ahead of the stress response:
- Release. 1 Peter 5:7 tells us to cast our anxiety on the Lord. To cast something means to throw forcefully in a particular direction. When we focus on who God is rather than on who we are/aren’t or what we do/don’t have, we can experience peace. Anxiety causes us to ruminate on things we may or may not have any control over. “Give it to God” is more than a cliché, it’s an invitation from the Almighty Himself. What does this look like? A decision and a prayer. Decide to release it and let it go. Then, pray something like: “God, I can’t handle this any longer. I will give it to you. Your Word in 1 Peter says that I can. I’m at the point where I need to take you up on that.” The stress might not immediately dissipate, but now the mind has an anchor to keep coming back to. We just have to keep refocusing and choose to trust.
- Recycle. This is what we do after we release. Ask God to take that grievance and turn it into something useful. God sees potential in us that we can’t see because He is the one who made us. And, He is the one who can see from an eternal perspective. He knows what we are capable of. If we ask Him to Romans 828 something, to “use it for our or someone else’s good,” He will. Be on the lookout for where and how His hand is working and it’ll build faith that helps us know that He will always pull us through.
- Relate. We are relational beings. In times of undeniable stress, we can reach out to our support system so that we aren’t carrying our burdens alone. Though our instinct may be to push through on our own, God didn’t design us to go it alone. He meant for us to turn to Him and to the people He has put in our lives.
- Cultivate Solitude: “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place where he prayed.” – Mark 1:35 (NIV). If the Creator of the world needed solitude, how much more do we? Some of us are afraid of being alone. Solitude is not the same as being alone. Being alone means having no one. Solitude means choosing to not be around others for a certain amount of time and for a certain purpose. In Jesus’s case, given His mission here on Earth, connecting to the Father was probably the main reason but I believe it could have also been stress management or a modeling for us in how to start each day. In our case, taking time to be in solitude with God and His Word, trains our brain to absorb that Word more deeply. That which is deeply ingrained in our brain, informs our lives. Here is how we can practice solitude and implement God’s Word for the purpose of promoting more peace-filled neuro-pathways in our brains:
- Seek. Follow Jesus’s example by tuning into the Word and seeking God’s face early in the morning, before your day starts making its demands.
- Choose intentionality. Rethink how you see solitude by making it a spiritual discipline. Solitude is a decision to regularly pull away from the world and others for the sole purpose of deepening our connection with God. If you think of solitude in this way, guilty feelings of “I should be here or there instead…” diminish.
- Learn at Jesus’s feet. Take your bible, journal, a highlighter, and some pens with you. Read a passage. Identify one that stands out to you. Make it a short one that you can remember or turn over in your mind. Pause. Ask God what He wants you to learn about this passage. Sit quietly. Expectantly. Twenty minutes is a good rule of thumb but it isn’t a hard rule. Just as 20 minutes is a good amount of time to increase the heart rate when exercising, it is also a good amount of time to provide structure when developing a new discipline. Then write out what came to you as you were thinking about the stand-out passage. Pray for the awareness and ability to meditate on this part of God’s character or lesson throughout the day.
God made us mind, body and spirit. Getting a hold of and managing negative beliefs will positively impact all three parts of ourselves. Using some of the tools mentioned here can help during times of stress, but they are most helpful in cultivating more affirming beliefs daily.
What have you found helpful to combat negative thoughts? We’d love to hear in the comments below.
About Tracy Taris
Tracy Taris is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist. She is president and owner of Healing The Mind & Spirit, Inc. where she leads a team of counselors. Her group practice is located in Santa Clarita, California where psychotherapy services are provided in person and via telehealth in the form of couples, family, individual, adolescent and child therapy as well as coaching services that cover a variety of topics from creative blocks, nutritional problems, and women’s issues.
In conjunction with this post and the podcast interview, Tracy is giving away a free copy of her book, Many Voices, One Truth.
Leave a comment below sharing with us one thing you learned about removing harmful beliefs and cultivating affirming beliefs and you will be entered into the contest for your chance to win a copy of her book.
You could also share this blog post on Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter then comment here to tell us where you shared it and you’ll also be entered into the drawing.
The winner will be selected at random and announced next Monday, April 17, 2023. Continental United States only.