On Anxiety and the Power of Thoughts

When I was in college I took Abnormal Psychology and in my textbook there was a case study for a particular condition that read just like a day in my life. I knew I had some struggles but I had never known that there was a formal diagnosis for what I was dealing with – Generalized Anxiety Disorder.

Since then I have done therapy on a few occasions when my anxiety got to the point that I was really struggling to get through my days. One modality I have found most helpful, and which the psychology research also supports for its efficacy with anxiety issues, is called “Cognitive Behavioral Therapy”.

The Wikipedia page for CBT describes it like this: “Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a psycho-social intervention that aims to improve mental health. CBT focuses on challenging and changing unhelpful cognitive distortions (e.g. thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes) and behaviors, improving emotional regulation, and the development of personal coping strategies that target solving current problems.”

CBT really started being developed in the 1960s based on the work and research of behaviorists like Pavlov (he of the famous salivating dog) and BF Skinner combined with the research and methods of cognitive therapy. Some point to ancient roots among the Greco-Roman stoics as well. But I think you can argue that Paul was an early proponent of CBT as well. His epistles have a couple of great passages on the power of thinking which have been scripture I turn to when I need grounding in the midst of anxious thought spirals.

In 2 Corinthians 10 Paul talks about taking thoughts captive as an act of spiritual warfare, “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

Then in his letter to the Philippians he give us instruction on what we can do to replace those lying thoughts with truth, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

What are some verses that really help refocus you when you’re struggling with difficult emotions and worries?

I am not a trained or licensed psychologist, but I am a big proponent of therapy and an advocate for mental health. Eventually I will do a whole post about mental health in the church, but for now, if you are interested in learning more, check the links below for more information on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy…

 

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