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How to control your thoughts? 4 sure ways to help you gain control.

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February 20, 2019

Controlling our thoughts and feelings can often be challenging and sometimes very frustrating but when we gain authority over our mind, our lives flourish. We develop a winning attitude and we can successfully overcome adversity. Gaining control over our mind keeps us from falling into sin and strengthens us against negative thoughts that ruin our day. In this video, we will share with you four efficient ways, if mastered, can surely help you gain control over your mind and feelings.

 

Before jumping into these four helpful tricks, we need to clearly set our long-term objective. The purpose of our Orthodox Christianity is for God to restore us to the fulness of our humanity, meaning being in the fulness of the image of Christ. As St. Irenaeus said: “The glory of God is a human being who is fully alive.” Unfortunately, as a consequence of the fall, this is not our current state. In the gospel of Mark, Christ said: “What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts…’” and then He lists a few sins. So evil thoughts could come from within us. And that is due to the corruption inside of us. But, the Son of Man’s incarnation was precisely to restore us once more. And this includes the restoration of our thoughts. And since thoughts lead to emotions. Controlling our thoughts will give us authority over our feelings as well. So it is vital to listen to St. Paul as he teaches us to be transformed by the renewing of our mind. This long-term transformation happens through the sacramental life of the Church as well as our daily efforts to control our thoughts. But there are also many short-term objectives, like peace of mind, or productivity, or creativity, etc. Sound thoughts directly dictate our achievements in life, whether spiritually or otherwise.

 

The first technique is actually straight forward and yet it so often remains unused. It is: face the problem at hand. For example, when we think that someone is trying to ruin our reputation because of a certain comment said in public. Or when someone else’s actions are bothering us because they seem to have a hidden agenda. When we let these thoughts grow, they fuel our minds with anger and consume our souls. St. John Climacus says: “Remembrance of wrongs is the consummation of anger, the keeper of sins, … , ruin of virtues, poison of the soul, worm of the mind, … , estrangement of love…” So, often, the devil being a slanderer and an accuser, tries to turn us against each other to break a family bond or a friendship bond or a coworker bond. And he does so by putting these thoughts in our minds although, in reality, there’s not much happening. It’s all in our minds. And the other person doesn’t even realize that we are bothered. The solution is to simply speak to the person in love and respect. Once we make this decision the devil is exposed, and the tension is diffused.

 

The second technique is probably the most important one. The Church Fathers called it Nepsis, which means the state of watchfulness. Or in other words, being sober or alert against evil or negative thoughts. So we need to recognize these thoughts and resist them. So our souls need to be consistently watching against the wiles of the devil who is trying to put us down at any cost—a lion seeking to devour us. As St. Paul said to the Thessalonians “But let us who are of the day be sober.” Meaning, we are not of those who belong to the night and to drunkenness. We belong to the day. To soberness. St. Pope Cyril the VI said the following: “if we do not stay alert, we will fall asleep; and if we sleep, the enemy will come and sow in us what he desires of tares. But prayer is the guard of the soul and the purifier of the spirit; it drives away strange thoughts. A heart without a guard… is a target for strange thoughts. Do not neglect yourself, nor let your watchfulness of spirit fall asleep, but be alert and active in prayer at all times.” The number one recommended tool that keeps one’s watchfulness is the Jesus Prayer. This beautiful and simple prayer is: “My Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, Have mercy on me a Sinner.” The purpose of continually repeating this prayer is not only to avoid bad thoughts but it also realigns our minds and lifts our hearts to God. In times of trials, it becomes indispensable. Fr. Anthony has explained this prayer beautifully so I will put the link to the video for those interested to learn more about it. One can also choose to pray a psalm rather than the Jesus prayer or to alternate between several prayers. Whatever prayer it may be, if it is done with focus, it will be effective.

 

The third technique is very important and it is: to think positively. We often underestimate the power that we have over our minds, but through practice, we can realize that we have more control than we think. When we are tackled with bad or negative thoughts, such as “I am good for nothing” or “I will never be able to get rid of this sin” or “God will never accept me,” whatever the thought may be, there are a few tricks that could help. First, we ought to realize that the first instances are crucial. I need to be watchful and catch on these negative thoughts from the get-go and replace them with positive ones. For example, we need to remember that we are created in the image of God and therefore it is not possible for us to be that bad because, that would ultimately mean, that God is bad. Which is untrue. So, in this case, we need to focus on our God-given strengths to rebalance ourselves. This is not pride. This is reality. We just need to remember that God is the Source of all goodness, and so whatever qualities we have, they are a gift from Him. It is important to point out that we should not just try to avoid the negative thought, it is crucial to replace the thought by a positive one. The second trick is to realize that God is a wise loving Father. He is not the type of Father that negatively puts down His children. He is the true archetypical Father who encourages, who lifts up. So if we have bad thoughts, God is not the Source of these thoughts, and therefore we must reject them. The third trick to keep positive is to not think about our past sins or past problems. It is not healthy in anyway. I would say that the only proper time to think about our past sins is when we are in a situation where we might fall into it again. At that time, it is proper to remind ourselves of the pain it caused us and use this strength to shut down the temptation by God’s Grace. It is proper then to say with David the Prophet “my sin is always before me.” Otherwise, we ought to be as positive as we can be. Actually, this is what St. Paul commands the Philippians to do, he says: “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate [think] on these things.” So, in summary, the first trick to remain positive is replacing negative thoughts with positive ones in the first instances of the struggle; (no 2) we remain positive by acknowledging that God is not the Source of these thoughts; and (no 3) to not dwell on past sins or problems, but focus on the positive.

 

The fourth technique is not my favorite, but it is very effective when needed. It is to do something that will captivate or attract or absorb our thoughts. Usually, it would be something exciting we like doing that will keep us away from temptation or from the bad thoughts. For example, someone can go to the gym or play his favorite sport or play a clean video game. Whatever is available and will captivate him, as long as it is clean of course. This technique is not my favorite since it does not really build the person, but is more a mode of escape. In other words, it doesn’t make you stronger; but at least, it avoids the fall. Another reason why it is not my favorite is because it cannot always be used. For example, if someone is at work or in class, he can’t go play sports. He will have to deal with the thoughts another way. But, for the person that is just starting spiritually and is still unable to use the other three techniques, this one could be very handy. It could also be very profitable for an experienced person who is being severely fought by the devil and urgently needs a way of escape. If needed, it could be used.

 

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