In my previous article, I outlined some foundational concepts regarding the mental and emotional development of bad relational thinking habits. In this second article in the two-part series, I provide some further examples of how our thinking influences our relationships, and discuss the concepts that they illustrate.
Seeking Approval through ManipulationLet us consider the example of Ted. Ted apologizes to his wife far too often and she finds it rather annoying. The reason for this is because Ted does not apologize out of a concern for her welfare, but rather because he is trying to get rid of his own unwanted feelings. He wants her to relieve him of his disappointment with himself so that he can regain his perceived loss of esteem. His apologizing is actually selfish. It sounds so altruistic and even spiritual – but he has continually used these apologies until they have dug him into a gigantic rut. After reflection, Ted decided to instead take responsibility for his actions and was able to pray outrageously, “Lord, forgive me of all of my apologies.” That brought him great relief and he felt like a car piled with mud that had been washed clean, leaving him completely intact.
To Repent is to Want Something Better
A real change of mind (“repentance”) includes a change of heart – your heart. Your heart is your “wanter.” Repentance means recognizing that you have been wanting one thing and deciding that you want something better. A number of habits involve the heart and some of these are what we call nervous habits.
Frank provides a somewhat unpleasant example. Although far beyond his teen years, Frank still has skin blemishes and some annoying hygienic habits that accompany those blemishes. He was rather embarrassed to recognize that he took a certain sensual pleasure in his problem. “Repentance” for him meant wanting something better, and was the first step he took in departing from the habit.
Betty has something that she likes that is far more common than you would imagine. Her husband has been abusing her for over 16 years – verbally and emotionally, and to a lesser degree physically. Yet she will not listen to the many friends, relatives, and counselors who advise her to do something about it, whether legally or otherwise. The reason is that she likes it. You might ask how that could be, but Betty has always thought of herself as “bad.” She learned this in many ways through comments made to her by significant people during her childhood. She even felt unwanted while being cradled in her mother’s womb. Betty agrees with what was told to her by those who have absolute credibility to a child. They defined her clearly to her little heart – she is bad. And, because she is bad, she deserves the abuse – abuse is appropriate and right for her. This means that she feels comfortable with abuse – and she feels uncomfortable when things are too perfect. Ponder this one: What are the changes in thinking she needs to start with? What are the changes of heart she needs to make? Best of all, what outrageous prayer can she voice for forgiveness of her complicity in this mistreatment?
Change Your Thought Patterns
Couples also get into ruts. Bickering often becomes a norm, a way of interacting, the mode that characterizes their family, and with which they have become comfortable as a couple. Although they would never say so, it can be enjoyable for them because it is emotionally and even physically stimulating. It can also give personal and emotional meaning to otherwise bland issues. “Might not be pretty but at least there is a battle to be fought ̶ sort of makes life exciting.” Like individuals, couples rarely allow their thinking to take them to the thoughts outlined in these articles. But, as with individuals, a couple can also recognize that God is very interested in their marriage. Indeed, repentance and forgiveness may be just the ticket they may need for a better marriage. There is no downside to this. They can explore their wrong desires in this way, set their hearts on better things, and voice outrageous prayers as a couple. That is a beautiful picture of a relational change of habits.
Christian Counseling Can Lead to a Change of Mind and Heart
If you have habits of thinking that you would like help in trouble-shooting, it would be good to speak to a trained Christian counselor. I would be honored to help you go in the direction of changes of mind and heart.
“Quarrels of Love,” by Claudio Gennari, Flickr CreativeCommons (CC BY 2.0);“The Feud,” by Quinn Dombrowski, Flickr CreativeCommons (CC BY-SA 2.0)