Take captive every thought

Yesterday at MOPS we were fortunate to have Meribeth Tenney come to share with us on the topic of managing our negative emotions.  Meribeth is a clinical psychologist with a private practice in Lincoln.  She is also a mom who has been there and done that.   She has two children, ages 16 and 20, and survived the preschool years.   She gave us mom-to-mom practical examples and a very practical and useful model to follow to help us to manage our emotions.

Meribeth started by telling us the purpose of emotions.  God designed us to have emotions, all of them, in order to intensify our lives, help us to communicate and identify problems we may be facing.  She reminded us that emotions are not our enemy.   You can’t get rid of your emotions.  They are vital to who you are.  However, you can learn to control the intensity of your reactions.   She pointed out that moms are often to referred to the barometer of the home. The old saying, “If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy,” certainly rings true.  If you are grumpy or on edge, your children feed off of your mood.

With that being said, there is a way to control the pressure build up in your home.  Knowing that anger, anxiety, frustration, and stress are all normal and valid emotions means that we have to look for ways to feel the emotion but not let is overtake our lives.   Meribeth gave us the following model to help us understand how critical our “self-talk” is to emotional management:

A           –         B          –      C

Activating Event                     Belief                         Consequence (emotional reaction)

In any situation where you have a strong emotional reaction, there is usually an activating event.  Your baby has a blowout just as you are walking out the door for an appointment when you are already running late.   Your husband takes your car and forgets to fill it with gas leaving you with a vehicle on empty on a day when the temperature reaches only two degrees.   Your three year old throws a massive fit in the grocery store.   All of these could justifiably throw your day into a tail spin and put you into a bad mood.

What makes the difference between a mom who loses her cool and one who keeps it together when life throws you a lemon is the B in the ABC model.   B stands for Belief or your thinking about the situation that occurred, your self-talk.   What did you tell yourself when your “lemon” moment occurred?  When your three year old had his fit, did you tell yourself, “I’m the worst mother in the world.  I can’t even control my own kid.  I’m not fit to be a mom.”   Or did you tell yourself, “I am angry and embarrassed but I can handle this.  Three year olds throw fits.  It will be okay.”   You can experience more emotional control if you base your reactions on truthful thinking.    It is obviously not true that you are the “worst mother in the world” if you child throws a fit in public.    If you base your emotional reaction on a misbelief  like that, your emotions will spin out of control.

Meribeth gave us these steps to get started using the ABC model.

  1. Think about a situation where you had a strong emotional reaction.
  2. Identify A (activating event) and C (your emotions).
  3. Try to identify B (your thinking or your self-talk)
    • Was your thinking truthful or filled with misbeliefs?
    • How could you change your self-talk to be more truthful?
  4. What long standing beliefs might you need to reevaluate?
  5. Do your long standing beliefs about yourself reflect what God says?

The bottom line is that what is going on inside your head, what you think about a situation, matters.  Think about what you can control and what you can’t control.   Take steps to fix what you can control.  Don’t let yourself stew over what you can’t control.   2 Corinthians 10:5 tell us that we should “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”  One excellent way to rid ourselves of the misbeliefs and outright lies that we might tell ourselves is to replace them with the truth that God gives us .  Meribeth left us with a handout that contrasts the untruths we tell ourselves with what God says.   That handout is reproduced below.

Remember, if you missed the meeting, you can still read the newsletter.   You will find our newsletter archives in the upper left corner of this site.   Our next meeting is February 10, 2011.  See you there!

You say: “It’s impossible.” God says: All things are possible. (Luke 18:27)
You say: “I’m too tired.” God says: I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28-30)
You say: “Nobody really loves me. God says: I love you. (John 3:16 & 3:34)
You say: “I can’t go on.” God says: My grace is sufficient. (2 Corinthians 12:9 & Psalm 91:15)
You say: “I can’t figure things out.” God says: I will direct your steps. (Proverbs 3:5-6
You say: “I can’t do it.” God says:  You can do all things. (Philippians 4:13)
You say: “I am not able.” God says: I am able. (2 Corinthians 9:8)
You say: “It’s not worth it.” God says: It will be worth it. (Romans 8:28)
You say: “I can’t forgive myself.” God says: I forgive you. (1 John 1:9 & Romans 8:1)
You say: “I can’t manage.” God says: I will supply all your needs. (Philippians 4:19)
You say: “I’m afraid.” God says: I have not given you a spirit of fear. (2 Timothy 1:7)
You say: “I’m always worried and frustrated.” God says: Cast all your cares on ME. (1 Peter 5:7)
You say: “I don’t have enough faith.” God says: I have given everyone a measure of faith. (Romans 12:3)
You say: “I’m not smart enough.” God says: I give you wisdom. (1 Corinthians 1:30)
You say: “I feel alone.” God says: I will never leave you or forsake you. (Hebrews 13:5)