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This microbook is a summary/original review based on the book: Get Out of Your Head: Stopping the Spiral of Toxic Thoughts
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Most of us are held captive by our thoughts: “I’m worthless,” “I’m helpless,” “I’m unlovable.” And these thoughts often spiral out into toxic patterns that affect our behavior, our character, and our relationships with other people. In “Get Out of Your Head,” Jennie Allen attempts to help her readers put an end to this. And she relies on Jesus as her ally and moral compass on this journey.
So, get ready to learn how to stop the spiral of toxic thoughts and prepare to allow God to do most of the hard work for you.
If a sparrow flew into your house, it would be easy to shoot it down with a BB gun, but nearly impossible to capture it. Thoughts are even wilder than sparrows: they come and go as they please, and they spiral out in every possible direction. And yet, the Bible – one of the most influential books ever written – says that one can only obey God if they are able to control all of them.
“The weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh,” writes Saint Paul in the Second Epistle to the Corinthians, “but we have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” But is that even possible? Can we really capture every one of our thoughts? And should we? Aren’t some of the most beautiful experiences – such as imagining and dreaming – the product of the very opposite? Well, let’s see what modern science has to say about this.
On average, we have about 30,000 thoughts a day. Unfortunately, the vast majority of them are negative. To make matters worse, “an estimated 60% to 80% of visits to primary care physicians have a stress-related component.” As a consequence, it is supposed that many of the mental, physical and behavioral illnesses that plague us today – anywhere between 75% and 98% – are “a direct result of a toxic thought life.”
The interesting thing is that none of this contradicts the many truths concerning our thought lives that are scattered in the Bible. It’s just that the Scripture might be talking about our mind and our mental emotions whenever it mentions the word “heart.” After all, most ancient civilizations used the word “heart” to mean “the center of all emotional life.” Modern science merely discovered that this is a better description of our brains than our hearts. The advice, however, doesn’t change one bit.
“The greatest spiritual battle of our generation is being fought between our ears,” writes Allen. “Learning to capture our thoughts matters. Because how we think shapes how we live.”
How many times have you stopped performing well on your job after being scolded by your immediate superior for your past behavior? How many times has noticing your partner ignoring you spiraled your thoughts in the direction of building a case against your relationship? And how many times have you started wondering whether you’re failing as a parent soon after losing your temper with your children?
It’s a pattern, isn’t it? Your negative emotions lead you to some wild thoughts, and these thoughts dictate your decisions, which, in turn, determine your future behavior. Of course, your behavior shapes not only who you are but also your relationships with other people – which is such an important part of life that it immediately takes you back to the beginning, producing a few additional unhealthy thoughts and some more negative emotions. “Round and round and round we go,” writes Allen, “spinning down, seemingly out of control, our lives becoming defined by this endless cycle.” Hopefully, there is something you can do to get out of this. And Allen learned this the hard way.
A few years ago, she was supposed to deliver two talks at a Baptist church in her hometown of Little Rock, Arkansas. She was “bold and clear” during the presentation of her first talk, stating out loud to the few thousand women gathered that there’s “a real enemy with demons at his beck and call” who wants to claim everyone’s faith. Soon after the talk ended – and before the beginning of the second talk – a strange woman approached Allen and said to her, in a chillingly urgent whisper, “We are coming for you. You need to quit talking about us. We are coming for you.” And lo and behold, the power in the auditorium suddenly went out.
At first, this terrifying incident made Allen “wild with faith”: after all, if the enemies of God were real (as this “undeniable manifestation of Satan’s work” had demonstrated), then God must be real as well. And that made everything fine. But then, just a few days later, this initial thought spiraled out in an 18-month-long plunge into darkness. Suddenly, dread and anxieties overcame her: what if it was all just a coincidence? What if the demons were nonexistent? What if God wasn’t real as well? Every negative thought led to an even more negative one – and the cycle went on and on, seemingly without an end. And then, Jenny remembered the words of Paul: “take every thought captive to obey Christ.” And she realized that there is a way out.
Unfortunately, we live most of our lives in captivity, entrapped by our very own lies. Thoughts such as “I’m helpless,” “I’m worthless” or “I’m unlovable” “shape our thinking, our emotions, and the way we respond to the world around us. They trap us in their cycle of distraction and distortion and pain, preventing us from recognizing the truth we should believe. Most detrimentally, they change how we view God. Every lie we buy into about ourselves is rooted in what we believe about God.”
Saint Paul makes this clear in the eighth chapter of his Epistle to the Romans: “a mind set on the flesh leads to sin and death, and a mind set on the Spirit leads to life and peace.” So, it’s all about shifting your mind to the latter. The good news? It is also all about you making the choice to do this. God is on your side. If you believe that he is all-powerful and you have decided to surrender yourself to him, then you have the power over your thoughts as well. And since everything else – even your behavior and relationships – is the byproduct of your thoughts, you also have control over your own fate and happiness.
This is what taking your thoughts captive means. Leave them be, and your demons, your wounds, your sins will inevitably take you in the wrong direction. You must counter them as soon as possible. And your battle against the spiral begins with one interrupting thought and one God-honoring consideration: “I have a choice” and “God has already won this for me.” The first thought should help you move the battle in your mind to a neutral ground: you need to understand that you are in control of your seemingly unfettered thoughts. And then, the second thought will help you make the right choice: if God is in you and exists for you – then you can choose to fight from a place of victory, confident that God (and, consequently, you) will eventually prevail.
So, stopping the spiral of toxic thoughts begins with the realization that you have a choice what to think. Afterward, it’s your job – with the help of God – to make seven right choices. And the process of retraining your mind to be sufficiently prepared for these choices starts right now:
Described as “a must-have resource for anyone looking to get control of their thoughts” by No. 1 New York Times bestselling author Lysa TerKreust, “Get Out of Your Head” is a wise and practical manual to happiness and peace.
Even nonbelievers might find some good advice in it.
When your thoughts take control of your mind – remember that it’s you who actually controls them. You have a choice to prevent them from spiraling into toxicity. Just thinking about them should help you enough.
Jennie Allen is an American bestselling author and the founder of IF:Gathering, a Christian organization aiming to “gather, equip and unleash the next generation of women to live out their purpose.” The ho... (Read more)
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