Paranoid…and a Saturn Minivan

“Just because you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean people aren’t out to get you.”

Funny, right? An ironic funny comment that I’ve laughed at and quoted over the years. But the reality is that in most situations people are not thinking about us nearly as much as we think they are. We say something and then we obsess over it, over-analyze it and wonder if the other person is upset, bothered, annoyed by what we’ve said or done when most of the time they don’t give it a second thought.

Usually, these over-analyzing thoughts are the result of negative self-chatter and so often it can lead to misunderstandings. I remember one day, years ago when I was watching the news and saw that Saturn was coming out with a minivan. My husband had worked for Saturn so I thought he would find it interesting. I said, “Hey, did you see that Saturn is coming out with a mini-van? Cool, huh?”

The Saturn Minivan…photo credit unknown.

We liked the Saturn brand and philosophy. My thoughts were simply that I was glad to hear they had one. I knew that at some point in the future we would probably look at mini-vans. I was glad to know Saturn would now be in the mix. That was the sum total of my thoughts on the subject and I immediately moved on to whatever was next in my brain, like “Geez, I have to come up with something for dinner, again?” or “I like coffee.” or “I wonder if tea tastes the same in England.” Some random grouping of thoughts occupied my brain (as usual).

But not my husband’s. No, his thoughts went something like this: “She wants a Saturn mini-van now. We can’t afford that. Why does she want things we can’t afford. She probably wishes she married someone who has more money. I can’t even provide the basics for my family, like a Saturn mini-van. I’m a terrible provider…” blah, blah, blah. (I can’t say these were his exact thoughts, of course. But we have talked about the “Saturn Minivan Incident” (as we now refer to it) and I know these thoughts are close.

He responded angrily, “We can’t get a minivan right now,” and he stalked off. I was brought out of my reverie on tea in England abruptly. I could have sworn I heard the squeal of said minivan tires interrupting my peaceful thoughts.

“What?” I was puzzled and starting to get ticked. Why was he yelling at me. I didn’t say I wanted a minivan. So I yelled back. “What are you talking about??”

You can picture the ensuing argument. “You said…” “No I didn’t, I said…” Etc. etc. etc. We worked it out because we eventually got to the bottom of things. What I said hit a nerve with him. He assumed I meant something I didn’t and was holding me accountable for things he assumed I was thinking. But I married a smart man. He realized quickly what had happened. He explained what he’d thought and I was able to assure him that I was thinking none of those things! It’s now something that we laugh about and reference whenever one of us is assuming things we shouldn’t.

I’m positive the shoe has been on the other foot at times in our marriage. I’m quite sure I have assumed his thoughts to be other than they are and I’ve responded out of hurt or anger. I just can’t think of a specific example right now (convenient ;)).

In her book, Unglued, Lysa TerKeurst sheds some light on the physiological effects of negative self-talk. Or as she puts it, “What some really smart people are saying about some really amazing stuff.” If I could, I’d quote the whole chapter entitled, “Negative Inside Chatter” here. But I think that would be frowned upon 😉 so you’ll have to purchase the book (which I highly recommend!!). But in this paragraph Lysa is quoting Dr. Caroline Leaf from her book, Who Switched Off My Brain:

“For instance, if you are anxious or worried about something, the hypothalamus responds to this anxiety with a flurry of stress chemicals. These chemicals engage the pituitary gland — the master gland of the endocrine system. The endocrine system in turn secretes hormones responsible for organizing trillions of cells in your body to deal with impending threats. Negative thoughts shift your endocrine system to focus on protection and limit your ability to think with wisdom or develop healthy thoughts.”

 

Whoa! Did you catch that last line? I’ll repeat it. Negative thoughts shift your endocrine system to focus on protection and limit your ability to think with wisdom or develop healthy thoughts.

I think that’s incredible. Not only do the silly things we tell ourselves cause misunderstandings and hurt feelings. They actually make it difficult for us to think in a healthy way. I almost think this is saying it makes us dumber. That’s totally my paraphrase. But it’s kind of true. The kind of negative self-chatter that we are talking about causes us to do and say stupid things. It makes us dumber.

So, STOP IT! Yes, I know it’s considered shouting when you use all caps. That’s why I did it. Cuz I mean it…and only cuz I love you…STOP IT! You know who you are. You know if you’re one of those people who over-analyze your conversations and wonder if people are upset with you because of what you said. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again here; If someone is upset by what you’ve said or done it is their responsibility to either let it go (best option…being easily offended is not healthy) or to kindly let you know you’ve upset them in some way.

It is not your job to constantly wonder if someone’s upset with you. That takes your focus of of Jesus and showing his love to the world and places it squarely on yourself. Is that really where you want your focus? It’s not where I want mine. I don’t want to be dumber. I want to be peace-filled and living out my mission which is to be an ambassador of God’s love with my life.

Lysa quotes Philippians 4: 6-9 and it’s one of my favorite passages of scripture:

 

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

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. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

That is the opposite of becoming dumber. That is putting your concerns on the shoulders of the One who can handle them and in exchange, he will give you PEACE. And with that peace, you will have more mental energy to think about noble, right, pure, admirable and lovely things. You will live the life that you are meant to live, tell the story you’re meant to tell. I’m feeling preachy…so I’m gonna sign off now. I hope this has been as enlightening for you as it was for me. And really…get the book. (click here) It’s sooo good!
Love,
rebekah
P.S. Check out other blogs on this subject at www.melissataylor.org

 

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The Voices In My Head

I was at a concert recently and while we were waiting for the band to come out on stage a friend was singing the equivalent of a college fight song, over and over again. It was actually very humorous. Every time there was a lull in the conversation, she started up again, “We’ve got banners on the wall…”

Now, I had never heard this song before but it ended up sticking in my head and a week later, it’s still popping up! It’s amazing how something can be repeating in your head over and over without you even realizing it. It’s not a big deal when it’s a college fight song but some of the thoughts that rattle around up there are not so innocuous. Most of the time, I don’t really pay much attention to the running dialogue in my head. It’s kind of like my fan at night. White noise.

But every so often I really listen and it disgusts me. I’m reminded of a fuzzy lyric from my childhood memory (it may not even be the actual lyric)…I think it’s from a Keith Green song. Something like, “I wanna thank you Lord for being patient with me, Oh it’s so hard to see, when my eyes are on me.”

Yes! How can I keep my eyes on Jesus when I’m so busy thinking about myself? Most of the time I’m beating myself up. I’m telling myself I really suck at certain things. I’m berating myself cuz I lack the willpower to make a real change. I’m wondering if people think I’m strange or too loud or annoying. Enough already! Who cares?

The ironic thing is that when I let myself go there…when I allow myself to be concerned about what others think of me, I miss the fact that they are probably in the same boat. They’re not thinking about me…they’re likely wondering what I think of them! It’s so silly. And it’s an effective strategy of the enemy. He would love to keep me so distracted by my failings that I’ll never be free to accept the grace that has already covered over those failings. Tricky devil!

“My grace is sufficient for you.” (2 Corinthians 12:9) If I believed that, I wouldn’t be so hung up on my hang ups. I would get out of God’s way and let him use me more. I say, “Enough!” I’m tired of the inward focus! If I’m looking inward all the time, I’m missing God. I’m missing the hurting mom at the next table who just needs an encouraging word. I’m missing the middle-schooler who thinks she’s not good enough. I’m missing the husband who works so hard that he doesn’t see his kids for three days and it’s eating him up. Well, no more. I’m done.

A friend wrote a song that has one of my all-time favorite lyrics in it. And this is my new anthem; “Yours will be the only name that matters to me. The only one who’s favor I seek. The only name that matters to me. Yours is the name, the name that has saved me. Your mercy and grace, power that forgave me and your love is all I’ve ever needed.” (The Only Name- find at iTunes here.)

And that is all I need. His love, His approval. Period. The rest will fall into place from there. How comforting it is to realize that. The beauty of it is that he is easier to please than people are. Because he goes straight to the heart. He never misunderstands or misjudges us. If I truly desire in my heart to please him, THAT pleases him. Even if I don’t do it perfectly…he applauds the motive and offers to help me with the execution.

And I don’t have to earn his love, he gives it freely and unconditionally. Really think about that. It’s amazing! Nothing you or I do can make him love us more or less. Don’t you find that incredibly freeing and refreshing?

I don’t know about you, but I constantly need to remind myself of this truth. It’s so easy to fall back into worrying about what others think. But seriously, I’m making a commitment to stop it. Next time I listen in on the thoughts in my brain, they had better be about someone else. Or the fight song…I guess that’s okay too. 🙂

 

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Acknowledgements: The Only Name- song by Benji Cowart