Perhaps you’ve heard the word detoxification, which refers to the process of removing toxins from the body to improve health and well-being. What many people may not realize is that the mind can become a gateway for toxic behavior, resulting in negative thoughts, beliefs and limiting behaviors that prevent you from moving forward in life.
First, let’s define what a toxic mind is: Do you ever feel powerless? Frustrated? Stuck? Pessimistic? Defeated? Fearful? Unproductive? Resentful? Even hopeless? While it’s normal to have all these feelings parked in the temporary loading and unloading zone while you remove your baggage, what is not normal is for these feelings to find a permanent space in long-term parking. Feelings such as these gone unaddressed are a sure sign that you’re teetering on the brink of toxin overload.
So how do you begin the process of detoxing your mind so you can have a positive outlook on life? I want to suggest two very important starting points: Living from choice, and letting go of your past.
Live from Choice
In the movie The Truman Show, Jim Carrey plays a guy who has no clue that his entire life — birth, marriage and career — has been rigged for one big television reality show broadcast daily for viewers to follow his every move. While Truman thinks he is making free personal choices, every aspect of his life is manipulated by the production team that is calling the shots from the control booth. Eventually, Truman figures out that his life has been a scam and tries to escape from the fake small town (the actual studio lot) he has never ventured beyond. At one point, an assistant in the control booth asks the producer, “Do you think he will be able to find his way out?” The producer responds, “If he was absolutely determined to leave, he could at anytime. The truth is that he prefers his world.”
And so it is with many of us. We choose our lives, marriages and careers as the ones that others preferred for us, rather than the ones that we prefer ourselves. Sometimes it seems easier to let other people — parents, spouses, bosses, and people of influence — decide for us. But if we make important life choices by default, we will never know who we are; we will never know what our unique God-given gifts are to give to the world.
While it may be safer and easier for some people to not rock the boat, the reality is we all need to take responsibility for choosing. Disowning our choices deceives us and makes us believe over the long run that we are not active agents in our decisions. We start to think other people are in control, thus relieving us of our duties to be responsible and whole.
Throughout Scripture, people are reminded of their choices and asked to take responsibility for them. The apostle Paul is pretty clear that if we choose to live by the Spirit, we will live; and if we choose to live by our sinful nature, we will die (Rom 8:13). Choosing to base our decisions on someone else’s approval, compulsion or the guilt we haven’t dealt with is the perfect recipe to breed resentment — a product of our sinful nature.
Speak the Truth
Living from choice means speaking into the truth that most matters to you. At some point, a person needs to break the cycle of swallowing his own voice to speaking into his truth faultlessly. When you are asked what you want, and you hear from deep down inside your gut, “This is what I want,” forgo the pat answer you’ve been rehearsing for years. Instead, pause, don’t speak for a moment, and tune into your honest response. What is your heart telling you? What is God’s voice telling you? What is your true desire? Find that place deep within you that honors your choice and verbalize it. Now you’re getting your power back, and living from choice.
You can start this process by practicing with the little things and mundane decisions of everyday life. How can you expect to know and live from truth about your purpose and passion if you don’t even speak the truth about where you want to eat for lunch? While the practice of asking for what you want may not get you what you want every time, you’re far better off by living true to yourself.
So take responsibility for your choices. You’re the only one who makes them! Get your power back; make the choices only you can be happy with.
Truth and Choice in Relationships
In my previous marriage, I was on the receiving end of a barrage of rage attacks by a spouse with an unresolved past. As these horrific episodes ensued throughout the marriage, it caused me to shut down emotionally, stripping me of my sense of self-worth as a husband and man. While you may sympathize with my situation as the poor victim of emotional and verbal abuse, the truth is, I committed my own list of crimes in the marriage. I was a husband not able to be completely transparent with my wife; not able to be in tune with her feelings; not able to be emotionally available for her. I would keep things to myself, internalize, withdraw and live in secrecy about who I was and what I wanted in a marriage that, unfortunately, was an unequally-yoked union between a Christian (me) and a secular agnostic. My “truth” was only skin deep. It came from a man wearing a fake husband mask; a man who had made all his decisions up to that point, including the decision to date and saying “I do,” with God as my witness, purely out of impulse, self-gratification and lust. This reckless behavior distorted the real truth, and made me blind since I could not tell whether I truly loved her or was acting on my self-gratification — the product of my sinful nature.
When the foundation for a relationship is built on deception and self-sabotage, as was mine, you are an actor in your own melodrama with a sensationally terrible ending. In my case, “Best Supporting Actor” went to “Husband with a Mask.” During our dating years, the man with the mask was not able to speak into the truth of what he really wanted, like getting back to the roots of his Seventh-Day Adventist upbringing, keeping the Sabbath and raising Godly children. Doing so would mean losing control of the false identity the flesh had established — the same false identity that covered up the truth and conquered a very attractive agnostic.
The most immediate change post-divorce was the shift of perception — how I perceived myself and my existence as a failed husband. I experienced a shift that focused away from the crimes of my former spouse to the plans God had in store for me; to build me into the man He wanted me to become. The focus was now on chasing God, and the reinventing of self through the power of the Holy Spirit.
You see, each of us is responsible (with the help of God’s power and grace in our lives) to change our behavior in conformance with behavior that will please God. Essentially, this involves the putting off of old sin habits and the putting on of new Christian habits. God wantsus to live from choice according to His purpose for each one of us.
This is the best part! And it doesn’t have to be intimidating. It helps to remind us where we have come from — that we can now dump all those ugly habits, negative and lustful thoughts of the past, and look forward, in Christ, to godly, upright behavior patterns. It is totally for our benefit because thoughts — impulsive thoughts — not under God’s control lead to impulsive action. This was the story of my first marriage. And I had to learn to stop dictating my life from the narrow view of an immense ego that only cared about me, me, me.
Living from Choice Is Choosing Wisely
In practical terms, living from choice is the most empowering thing you can do as a Christian. It means consciously giving up places, people and things that have a stranglehold on you; it means seeing the warning signs a mile ahead, and knowing the triggers of your temptations; it means, if you’re struggling with lust, having the spiritual intuition to avoid the Playboy channel in the hotel room on your business trip — because you know it will later become a battle waged right in your own home or office, beckoning you to click on a porno link in an email late at night while your wife is asleep; it means avoiding places where men gamble their money, cars, homes and marriages away; or places of the heart where men isolate from their spouses and choose work, hobbies and television to avoid intimacy and spiritual headship.
Don’t Get Stuck in the Past
Another very important starting point to detoxing your mind is to release yourself from the grips of your past. To a great degree, our peace of mind is largely dependent on how often we are able to live in the present. Regardless of what happened yesterday or last year, and what may or may not happen tomorrow or next year, the present is where you are — always!
The present is the only time we have any control over. When our attention is focused in the here and now, we are free to release guilt from the past and fear of the future from our minds. We do that by bringing our attention back to the present. The truth is that the past, and all the things that have haunted us, have no grasp on us unless we give it power to control us.
The formula to remember is this: keep bringing up your past in conversation or thought, and it will keep bringing you down. Guilt is the repeated offender in the equation because it resists the love that only God can give to heal your past. This guilt business can be dangerous because it manifests itself into self-persecution, which then restricts forgiveness from setting in. If you want to remove guilt’s hold on you, seek hope and understanding by asking questions like, “Have I learned through the experience?” “Am I stronger, wiser, deeper, more compassionate or Christ-like?” Change your perspective by shifting from judgment and guilt to compassion and acceptance. It gets you one step closer to becoming whole again.
As you reflect on the pains of your past that may still haunt you, let these words spoken often by Mother Teresa cleanse your spirit: “I come to you, Jesus, to take your touch before I begin my day. Let your eyes rest upon my eyes for awhile. Let me take to my work in the assurance of your friendship. Fill my mind to the last, through the desert of noise. Let your blessed sunshine fill my thoughts, and give me strength for those who need me.”
Write out the following eight powerful affirmations. Have them visible and accessible wherever you go, and review them several times a day for a period of one month. This helps you get into the habit of breaking old patterns or developing new habits. Consider these daily affirmations as a way to track your progress as you rid yourself of the past.
1. Because I’m dealing with my past, I am enjoying the freedom to feel great about myself today.
2. Because I’m dealing with my past, I am enjoying the freedom to have healthy relationships.
3. Because I’m dealing with my past, I have the freedom to live at peace with God.
4. Because I’m dealing with my past, I am giving myself the freedom to enjoy vibrant health.
5. Because I’m dealing with my past, I am free to live apart from others’ abuse.
6. Because I’m dealing with my past, I am giving myself the freedom to have fun as never before.
7. Because I’m dealing with my past, I have the freedom to be a healthy giver because I have adopted an attitude of gratitude.
8. Because I’m dealing with my past, I can now echo the words of the promise of God’s Word, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32).
Source: How to De-stress Your Life, Gregory Jantz, PhD
Tips for Getting Over Your Past
1. Agree that you have a painful past.
Key ingredient: Don’t be in denial; admit that it exists.
2. Include others in your healing process.
Key ingredient: Be open to grieving and pouring out your hurt so others may comfort and pray for you.
3. Receive forgiveness.
Key ingredient: Humble confession about your wrongdoings to those you’ve wronged.
4. Forgive others.
Key ingredient: Release those who have wronged you from all grudges and retribution.
5. Examine your patterns.
Key ingredient: Take a close look at what’s limiting your relationships and trapping you in the past.
6. See yourself through new eyes.
Key ingredient: See yourself realistically through the eyes of those who really love you.