thoughts that hurt and words that heal

“Our happiness depends on the habit of mind we cultivate.”   ― Norman Vincent Peale

When I was very young, I had a recurring nightmare about being trapped in a house on fire.  During the day, I found myself imagining what it would feel like to burn. I kept these thoughts to myself because as a Christian, I was supposed to have the kind of faith that silences such bad thoughts.  Once, spiraling into my worries after watching the news, I asked my mother if our house could ever catch on fire. She looked at me sideways, a habit of hers, and asked, Why would you ask that?  Do you want something bad to happen?

Not wanting to upset her, I said no.  Her approval, her smiles, were important to me. Underneath my practiced cheer,  I was hiding fear and confusion. Too sensitive — that’s what my family, teachers and classmates used to say.   It’s not that I wanted something bad to happen but something in me couldn't help but imagine the worst and feel the sadness of it.

My mother used to teach me to let go and let God. She’d quote Matthew 19:6 saying, “With men only this is possible, but with God all things are possible.”  Also Matthew 17:20 saying, “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

As an adult, I practiced saying positive affirmations to myself and redirecting negative, fearful thoughts.  But the positive words didn't feel true in my heart. I still looked out at the world and felt unsafe.  I didn't let go of the need to fix, control, judge and worry. I was not aligning my thoughts or my behavior with my beliefs, not because I didn’t want to, but because I didn’t know how.  My emotions and my empathy pulled me toward dread. With a family history of mental illness, I thought I was destined to struggle with distorted thoughts.

I remember the couple on the news who lost everything in a blaze — their parents and their children — while out for date night.  My mom’s friend who was shot in the head by her teenage daughter.  The school bus accident that killed five kids. Devastating, unimaginable loss, suffered by ordinary people, children.  Regular days turned into last days. I wondered when it would be my turn. My family. My friends. Thoughts of loss haunted me.

When anxiety creeps into the way you think, it tells you that there is much to fear and that bad things do happen. It starts as an occasional emotion and over time becomes a current of fear that pulls you under. When you know that your thoughts create your life, and you also know that you're thinking about awful things most of the time, you worry about what you’re attracting into your life.

 The world will offer us plenty of things to worry about. What we focus on will grow so we need practices that strengthen our good feelings and feed our hope.  That means when we stop giving energy to our fearful thoughts and start paying attention to what makes us feel good, we open ourselves up to blessings and guidance. 

We shouldn't underestimate the power of the words we think, say and absorb. They carry an energy that can support and elevate us or pull us down. We can change the momentum of our lives by changing the way we talk to ourselves. We can change the momentum of our fears by changing what we pay attention to, vibrating higher to attract new energy and ideas.

We have to heal the way we think, so we can heal the way we live. Changing your thoughts will take consistent, dedicated practice. Writing is a creative way to observe your feelings and actively choose where you want your energy to go.

This is an excerpt from my Words that Heal eBook. Words that Heal is based on the idea that the words we use can change the momentum of our lives.  If we truly believed this and aligned our actions with this belief, we would pay closer attention to what we say, how we talk about ourselves and others, and how we tell our stories.  If we fully appreciated the power of our thoughts, we would not entertain our inner critics the way we do. We would practice using high energy words that align with love not fear, possibility not limitation. This 21-page healing workbook is the foundation of my Writing to Heal workshop and it presents creative ways to heal your relationship with words from three angles — thought, memory and imagination.