“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (I Peter 5: 8)
This is a “sober” scripture and worth considering seriously.
Most of us would say we do think soberly, but my experience suggests anything but that. Take the following scenario for example.
Jake and Priscilla came to their Marriage Intensive like most couples—weary and worn, tired and tenuous about their future.
“I can’t do much more like this,” Priscilla said. “This is our last effort. We’ve tried counseling in the past and things just keep going the way they’ve always gone.”
Jake jumped in.
“I feel just as hopeless. I don’t see things changing either. I’ll never get what I want in this marriage. You’re never going to change. I’m not sure this Intensive is even worth our effort.”
I listened for a few more minutes before making some introductory comments.
“Folks,” I said. “I can hear a lot of discouragement. No doubt you’ve had some bad experiences and perhaps counseling has failed to give you the results you’re looking for. But, I want you to be very mindful of the way you are thinking and the changes that you will need to make.”
“Like what?” Jake said.
“Well, you both sound like you’ve let discouragement rule your thinking. You’re like many couples who have had enough negative experiences to make you project those experiences into the future. This is not uncommon.”
I let my words sink in before moving forward.
“I’m going to ask you to ‘trust this process.’ I’m also going to ask you to critically look at how you are thinking and how that influences your feelings and actions.”
“Okay,” they both said simultaneously.
With that I shared the following with them on sober thinking. I taught them how to watch their thinking, the tendency to drift into using "thinking errors," and the impact that had on their feelings and actions. These words on "healthy thinking" apply to all of us as we strive to have ‘sober thinking.’
First, pay attention to the triggering situation. Our feelings are impacted by situations that trigger us. We rarely react out of "thin air." We have feelings about situation that trouble us.
Second, notice the subsequent emotions. How we perceive a situation, the meaning we make of it, sets us up for certain feelings. Since Jake and Priscilla have had discouraging experiences, they feel discouragement and project that into the future.
Third, notice the pattern of distorted thinking that contributes to your emotions. Many of our troubling feelings come as a result of distorted thinking. We must learn to critically examine our thinking, and subsequent feelings, in order to make an impact on both feelings, thinking and actions.
Some of the more common "thinking errors" that I’ve talked about in recent weeks include:
- Powering Over: This has also been called “Power Play,” when one forces their will on another;
- Scapegoating: Putting the burden of responsibility onto an innocent person and placing themselves in the favorable light;
- Minimizing: Treating another as a lesser individual or treating actions as less severe than they are;
- Playing the Victim: Making it seem as if the perpetrator is the one being wronged instead of the real victim;
- Blameshifting: Taking the onus off the perpetrator of harm and putting it onto the victim;
- Excuse-making: Making “rational” explanations for inexcusable actions, failing to take responsibility for misbehavior;
- Rage Reactions: Erupting in overt or covert anger—this could take the form of passive aggressive actions or outright rage;
- Stonewalling: Retreating into silence;
- Shunning: Intentionally discontinuing contact with a person because of dislike for their justifiable actions;
- Justification: Offering a “reasonable” excuse for inexcusable actions;
- Rewriting History: Disavowing knowledge for having done a harmful action they have done;
- Deception: Lying about an action to place themselves in a more favorable light.
Fourth, change the ‘thinking error’ to healthy, sober thinking. As we examine our ‘thinking errors,’ we can pray for sober thinking. We can ask the Lord to give us ‘sober thinking,’ changing our ‘thinking errors’ to where we see things clearly. As we see clearly we are able to make healthier decisions, leading to healthier relationships.
Finally, take responsibility for your part in the triggering situation, your "thinking errors" and change in emotion. Healthy, sober thinking leads to healthy emotions, leading to healthy actions, leading to wonderful connections to others. Sober thinking becomes attractive to our mate as we take responsibility for our actions and emotions. This leads to an emotional connection to our mate.
Can you see how unhealthy thinking leads to troubling emotions and future problems? Please read more about strategies for emotional growth and explore more about my Marriage Intensives at www.MarriageRecoveryCenter.com. Send comments to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Publication date: October 13, 2015