I’ve been feeling stressed lately. For over 3 years now, I have had to deal with a family member who is convinced that I am not family & who has been very vocal & aggressive about it. It has not been pretty. It has been pretty nerve-wracking & worrisome because their perception of reality does not coincide with mine. This situation has brought up a lot of fear in me that I’ve worked on pretty regularly for the last 3+ years through my prayer & emotional work. It has caused me to question my version of events, my truth, my beliefs, my perceptions. I have feared that I am creating negative consequences for myself & for others by my continuing to interact with & participate in this discord. Like Job, I have feared that I must have done something wrong since this is happening to me. I have feared that my version of events, my reality is wrong since someone else has such a different version. At times, I have feared that I am crazy. Believe me, there is nothing more crazy-making than having someone in your life who is convinced that what you think is reality is not real! I’m pretty sure I’ve seen more than one movie using this ploy in the script.
While this is an unusual example, you can probably think of times you have been anxious, worried or fearful when, like my situation, it was not due to an animal attack. I bring up animal attack because this is the classic example given when describing fear & the “fight or flight” stress response of the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS). The ANS triggers the “fight or flight” stress response which readies the body to fight or flee from danger. There aren’t too many animal attacks happening in the course of most people’s lives these days but we still seem to experience plenty of anxiety, worry, fear, stress & the resulting ANS activation. Most of us are not daily fighting or fleeing for our lives but rather dealing with long term, low level stress due to intractable people & situations such as my own example above.
Now you may be wondering why I am talking about fear & anxiety under the heading of “Our Mental Selves” rather than “Our Emotional Selves” so let me digress & explain where I’m coming from. While fear is an emotion & therefore more a part of our emotional self, anxiety can be thought of as a mental emotion or state arising from our mental self as can despair, probably. Generally, for the purpose of our discussion, consider that ideas, beliefs, perceptions, thoughts, words & some attitudes & emotions are a part of the mental self.
Today, people are more likely to experience unrelenting, long term worry & anxiety versus temporary outright fear for their lives. So, while the emotional self’s fear of impending doom can definitely trigger the “fight or flight” stress response of the ANS, so can the mental self’s experience of worry & anxiety. Worry is an activity of the mind & the mental self that often triggers anxiety & fear & therefore the stress response. What you may not realize is that worry & anxiety over something currently happening, something that has already happened or something that might happen in the future will all have the same effect. While you may realize that what you’re worrying about isn’t actually happening right now, this minute, your body does not & will activate the ANS as though you are being chased down the street by danger. This is what makes the long term, low level stress of the mental type especially destructive because there is no immediate resolution as there would be with a single, sudden, frightening event. The mental type of stress & resulting ANS activation could literally last for years instead of seconds. A lot has been made of the self-created stress of the “Type A” personality but I’m pretty certain that whether or not you are a “Type A” doesn’t matter nearly as much as the length of time you are stressed. A typical “Type A” blows up & moves on – the mental equivalent of being chased down the street by danger. As long as this isn’t happening on a daily basis, probably not beyond the ability of the body to recover. But what about the family members of this person? Not too many people can take the blow-ups of others & move on so they are left with stewing over the previous blow-ups & worrying about & dreading the next blow-up, walking on eggshells trying to prevent it.
So what is the solution? Quit worrying! The upsetting thoughts rattling around & movies playing over & over again in your mind/brain/mental self are completely unproductive & usually move you no closer to any sort of resolution. Instead, surrender them to the Holy Spirit in prayer each & every time you find yourself back in the rut of fretting & worrying. I have also in contemplation, gone before God with a basket or apron full of eggs & one by one handed them over naming the person, worry or upsetting situation that each represents, letting go & letting God. I figure putting all of your eggs in one basket is a good thing if you are handing it over to God. This technique works especially well at bedtime before falling asleep. Another thing you can do is forgive each thought as it occurs. Since your thoughts direct your energy (energy follows thought), by forgiving each & every thought you have that isn’t best, over time you create an energy of peace & quiet within yourself. The negative thoughts die down & what you are left with is your divine self that God created you to be. An amazing side effect of this is that you will have created the space within you in which the Holy Spirit can be present & communicate with you. This is infinitely more satisfying than the out of control fear, worry & anxiety & the resulting stress & ill health that thinking negative thoughts & scenarios creates. This is what will resolve the stressful problems in your life. This is what will move you forward into a better life.
Live, Love & Laugh in the Light of God
I have really had trouble reining my self in for each post that I’ve written in this series so far & “Our Mental Selves” is no exception. I may have to cycle through the “Our Selves” series multiple times in order to get to say everything I’d like. I was a little worried before starting that I wouldn’t have much to say with this one & the last one “Our Energetic Selves” but by the time I sat down, my mind was overflowing with thoughts & ideas. I guess my mental self has been called upon. For the purposes of this post today, our mental self includes our intelligence, intellect, thoughts, thought-forms, beliefs, ideas, words, mind, brain & thinking processes including abstract & concrete.
Our mental selves are a little like our physical selves in that they both receive more of our attention & acceptance compared to the other aspects of our selves, being of a more tangible nature than say, the energetic self. So, for example, even though you can’t exactly put a finger on your thoughts, they appear to originate from the physical construct of the brain which gives them an aura of concrete reality & realness. You could locate the mental self in the brain, for it’s apparent from our physical biology that much of our “mentality” is located in the brain but I don’t recommend this. It’s probably more accurate to perceive your mental self as a body permeating your physical body. Viewed in this way, you can see that your mental self, intelligence & mind are not limited to just your brain. Every part of your body is intelligent.
The mental self can cause or contribute to problems in our lives & bodies just as any of our other aspects can & since “energy follows thought,” the potential is great for our mental self to cause a great deal of problems for us through our thinking & our thoughts. Since we usually assume that our thoughts originate with us, we then proceed to buy into everything we think without discernment, believing all that we think. You’ve heard the saying “don’t believe everything you hear”? To this, I would add “or think” because your thoughts are not always just your own. Some thoughts that arise unbidden in your mind are from God but some are from unhealed, wounded parts of your self, some from others in spirit whether of a pure nature or a wounded nature. In the same way that you would weigh & measure the words of others, I would suggest that you weigh & measure your own thoughts. Are they true? clarifying? accurate? compassionate? peaceful? loving? reasonable? logical? Do they lead you to make improvements in your life, body & relationships? Or do they tear you or others down? criticize? attack? judge? condemn? Do they stir up hate? unforgiveness? revenge? anger? Do they dwell on temporary negative conditions? things out of your control? what others are doing? or have done? The quality of your thoughts can indicate the source of them. Needless to say, the loving thoughts of God feel very different from the wounded thoughts of others or of other parts of your self. Don’t believe that you hear any thoughts but your own? This is possibly true if you continuously occupy your mind with ongoing active thinking, although, I have heard Spirit talk to me right over the top of my own thinking so I know that active thinking is no actual impediment. The best example I can think of, demonstrating that we can hear Spirit as our own thoughts, was one time that I was out of my body (OOBE) but heading back. Usually, coming back into my body is instantaneous but this was one of those times that it wasn’t. I was moving through a space similar to a hallway & up ahead of me & off to the left, I could hear a woman talking as if she were in a room off this hallway. She continued talking as I moved past her & I continued to hear her voice as I moved away. Gradually, as I merged with my body, her voice changed from it’s own distinct sound to the sound of my own thinking & continued on, sounding & feeling exactly like my own thoughts. This experience, among others, confirmed for me that we have the ability to “hear” those in spirit in our minds as our thoughts.
The difficulty with “hearing” spirit in this way is learning to discern which thoughts are your own & which are not. To this end, I would suggest a few things.
Forgiveness Work or Emotional Work mentioned in a previous post “Our Emotional Selves” is also very effective with clearing & healing the mental self. For myself, I found that as I did my “work,” I enjoyed greater & greater periods of time without any chatter in my mind. A quiet mind can be key for many, as it was for me, to enable the voice of Spirit to be discerned. Once you develop the ability to be quiet in your mind, the voice of Spirit is quite obvious.
Meditation works for some people by training the mind to be quiet & cease the chatter. This training can then be used to listen to Spirit. This technique has the benefit that it is available to anyone, there are many self-help books on the subject & it doesn’t require having access to a therapist. It does require daily commitment though & it lacks the depth of healing & overall healing benefit offered by forgiveness work.
Practicing the Presence: Choosing to practice the presence of God involves your willingness to be open to God, stated with intent & then sitting quietly, letting go of everything else. It looks like meditation but is not because you are not focusing your attention on anything in the physical, you are not trying to stop thinking, you are not required to hold any particular position, chant any word or phrases or accomplish any goal other than being with God. The Presence of God has the power to overcome all of your resistance, woundedness, fear & negative mental constructs, thoughts, beliefs, disordered & faulty thinking & rigid mind. One of my mentors has developed a wonderful version of this technique that I am going to try to share here. This can be done anytime but bedtime is especially good. Say out loud or in your mind, “I choose to fill myself with the Divine Presence of God.” This is the basic statement or intent to which more can be added such as “I choose to fill my bones, muscles, connective tissue”, etc. Alternately you could start with your feet & move up adding your legs, etc. You could go through the list of body systems such as pulmonary system, skeletal system or body organs & glands such as heart, etc. You can expand this idea by choosing to fill your relationships, your different aspects such as your subconscious, emotions, emotional self, field, soul, spirit, mind, will, etc. I always take a deep breath after each stated intent because I want to let go of all resistance to God & to receiving what I am asking. Once you feel that you are done, then just lie there enjoying the feeling of being filled with God. Sweet Dreams!