You’ve heard of sinkholes, right? You know, those big soft spots in the ground that open up and swallow anything or anyone that dares to pass over them? Seems like we’ve been hearing a lot about them in the news lately. What’s up with that? For the first 40-some years of my life I never heard a word about sinkholes now all of a sudden they seem to be everywhere. Bizarre.
Well today I want to talk to you about thinkholes. (Yes, that’s a real thing. I just made it up.) You thought sinkholes were scary. Let me tell you, thinkholes are worse. They swallow up your heart and your mind and your soul. They take the joy right out of life and once you get down in one you tend to just dig yourself deeper and deeper into the abyss. I know, because I spent most of my life down in one and man was it dark in there.
What I’m talking about is the condition which, if you’ve spent anytime in therapy at all, you’ve probably heard referred to as “stinkin’ thinkin'”. Yesterday I told you that analyzing the thoughts behind my feelings is one of the best tools I have to stay out of the pit of depression. That’s because what I’ve come to learn is that feelings are not some mystical beings that just land in my body and take over. They are responses to something I am thinking and believing— usually not consciously and often buried deep beneath decades of pain and suffering– but if I dig deep enough I will find the thought.
If I’m feeling happy, the root thought/belief is that some need (or perceived need) I have is being met. But if I’m feeling hopeless, helpless, worthless, guilty, or any other possible brew of toxic emotions, there is always an underlying distorted thought that’s responsible for it. Now that I finally have my chemistry right through medications and folic acid (read about that here), I am in a place where I can start to recognize and tackle those thoughts. This is how I stay out of the thinkhole:
Step 1 – I feel a feeling. Really feel it. Allow myself to experience it in full, no matter how unpleasant it is.
Step 2 – After I have allowed myself to feel the feeling (and this is the hard part) I recognize it as toxic. This is the step I needed medication to get to. Without it, I was unable to recognize this and that’s when I would go tumbling into the deep, dark, thinkhole.
Step 3 – Once I acknowledge the toxic emotion I sit quietly, close my eyes and ask myself what I am believing that leads to the emotion. What’s the thought behind it?
Step 4 – When I have identified the destructive thought (I call them lies) I immediately replace the thought with factual information that disproves it (I call this truth). For me, this is almost always a scripture. You saw me do that in yesterday’s post, and it’s what I do in my lie journal (See my Pants on Fire Series).
This process keeps me out of the thinkhole. It’s crucial to my recovery. It seems like such a simple thing but for me it, along with practicing gratitude (read about that here and here), has been the key to breaking the bonds of depression.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. – Philippians 4:8