1. You are a unity of body, soul and spirit
Normally, when we react, we do so either emotionally, or based on habits we have acquired, or using untested thoughts. This leads to much pain, unhappiness and inappropriate behaviour. In order for you to learn how to function more happily, it is important first to understand more abut your human nature and how it functions.
Human beings are complex creations. From a Biblical point of view, we are a combination of body, soul and spirit, which we can represent as follows:
1.1 Your body influences your thoughts and emotions.
When you are ill (for example with a bad case of flu, heart problems or stomach cramps), your emotions, thoughts and behaviour will be affected by your illness. Likewise, if you use hallucinogenic drugs such as LSD, dagga or cocaine, it will affect you psychologically. It is therefore important to take care of your body in order to function healthily, by for example eating healthily, getting enough sleep, exercising and avoiding any activity that may harm your body (including, for example, extra-marital relationships).
When you are emotionally dysfunctional due to physical causes (such as an under-active thyroid or high blood pressure), it is essential to get medical attention. In such instances, counselling alone will not help.
1.2 Your mind affects your body
Your thought-patterns also influence the functioning of your body. Anxious, negative or stressful thoughts can increase your heart-rate and cause your hypothalamus and pituitary gland to produce more adrenalin. Your muscles may contract, resulting in serious physical damage in the long term. On the other hand, if you laugh at a good joke (also a thought process), it releases endorphins, which in turn make you feel happy and relaxed. (There is currently a strong trend in medical and psychological circles towards teaching people to laugh more, in order to ensure greater physical and psychological health.)
1.3 Spiritually a completely new person, but also in a process of thought-renewal
The following starting points are very important here:
When you are a Christian, you are already spiritually a NEW PERSON (2 Cor. 5:17-18a) – “the old has gone, the new has come!”
Then you can change (undergo a metamorphosis) through “the renewing of your MIND” (Greek: nous = soul; that is, your thought-life, emotions and decision-making). When that happens, your life becomes increasingly renewed and more meaningful (Rom. 12:2-8).
How you think, determines how you feel (emotions). Scientifically, what you think and believe determines, to a great extent, the chemical functioning of your brain and this in turn determines how your feel, react and experience things.
Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.
– Dr Victor Frankl
2. A MIND-RENEWING MODEL
In today’s society, instances of emotional deviations and dysfunctional behaviour have increased dramatically.
The degree to which a stressful situation influences your life and your ability to be content, depends not so much on the situation itself, but more on your PERCEPTION / THOUGHTS on the matter.
God’s creation plan for us was not that we should be continually reacting to our circumstances and being controlled by them.
Rather, He wants you to RULE in the midst of your circumstances. This is the reason you were created (Gen. 1:28; Psalm. 8:6-7).
Your hypothalamus (a gland in your brain) secretes SERETONIN (when you experience or think of positive things) and ADRENALIN or Reserpin (when you are anxious, stressed, fearful or negative). These determine what emotions you experience.
What you think determines how you will feel, which in turn usually determines how you will act. You cannot control your emotions, but you can control your thinking patterns and the way in which you react to your emotions.
3. FOUR WAYS IN WHICH TO FUNCTION BETTER
One of the following ways, or a combination thereof, can be used to help you feel happier or better:
- Change the SITUATION – for example, don’t let your mother in law to dictate to you.
- Change your BEHAVIOUR and REACTIONS in the situations. If you keep on doing what you have always done, you will keep on getting what you always got. If you want something different, do something different!
- Get PSYCHIATRIC help – for example, treatment for chemical imbalance.
- Get COGNITIVE THERAPY that can help you to think and react differently to the situation – your brain will then produce better chemical substances of its own accord.
- Ask JESUS to come into your life and free you from old (sinful) ways of thinking and, in their place, to implement his new thought-life. You place your thoughts under the control of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:5-8). Wrong thoughts are “taken captive and made obedient to Christ” (2 Cor. 10:3-5).
4. THOUGHTS – ACTIONS – EMOTIONS
Most of the time, we react from our emotions, acquired habits or untested thoughts.
The new Biblical way of functioning is:
- New thought patterns, that
- Result in new deeds; which in turn lead to
- Healthy emotions and relationships.
It is a much more fulfilling and happy lifestyle, and far more honouring to God.
5. THE ABCDE OF MIND RENEWAL – JUST DO IT!
On the next page you will find the ABCDE diagram. You can copy this and practically take yourself from the left side (thinking and behaviour of the old selfish nature) to the right side (new thinking and behaviour under the control of the Holy Spirit).