Get Out of Your Head: Book Overview and Key Ideas

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Get Out of Your Head" by Jennie Allen. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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In her book Get Out of Your Head, Jennie Allen uncovers Satan’s master plan for trapping you in a life of defeat by poisoning your mind with toxic thoughts. She draws on the Bible, personal examples, and the findings of modern brain science to teach you how to “put on the mind of Christ” by literally reprogramming your brain, resulting in a victorious life that fulfills God’s plan for you.

Keep reading for our Get Out of Your Head book overview.

Get Out of Your Head: Book Overview

Our Get Our of Your Head book overview covers the main ideas and lessons from the book. From identifying your personal spiritual battle to practicing gratitude, our Get Out of Your Head book overview is helpful for Christians who want to improve their mental health.

Many people live as victims of their own minds, consumed with negative thoughts that seem to control them. In this book, Jennie Allen, founder of the influential IF:Gathering discipleship conference for Christian women, presents a comprehensive strategy for winning the war for your mind.

The War for Your Mind

The first part of our Get Out of Your Head book overview will focus on the spiritual battle in your mind.

According to Jennie Allen, Satan is invested in your defeat, and his primary target is your mind. His mental attacks catapult you into downward spirals as negative emotions drive your thoughts, decisions, behaviors, and relationships. You live on autopilot, circling ever downward into dysfunction and misery.

The key to stopping these spirals is to interrupt them by learning to think about your thoughts, to “mind your mind.” Taking charge of your thoughts is in fact a biblical command, and it begins with the realization that your thoughts, not your emotions, determine your experience. This means you can change your whole life by reprogramming your mind with God’s thoughts.

For help, you can draw on the findings of modern neuroscience about the human brain and its plasticity. By remolding your brain with new thought patterns, you can literally grow more fully into the mind of Christ, since your brain-based thoughts and emotions correspond to what the Bible calls your “heart,” the center of your personal being.

Self-Lies, Toxic Thoughts, and Mental Strongholds

Satan’s attacks come as deceitful thoughts that convince you to believe lies about yourself. These lies fall into three general categories: “I’m helpless,” “I’m worthless,” and “I’m unlovable.” Behind each of these is the more fundamental lie that God’s love isn’t for you. Ultimately, these lies create their own alternate reality, a false mental state in which distorted reasoning seems true.

The author of this book experienced just such an attack on her thoughts after she told an audience of women at a church conference about demonic spiritual warfare. During a break, a woman approached her and warned her, “We’re coming for you. Stop talking about this.” Soon after this, the power went out at the church, and beginning that night, the author was plunged into an 18-month inner battle in which she felt estranged from God and feared that she was losing her faith.

The distorted thought life that Satan’s lies create about you and God is the deepest, darkest stronghold of evil inside you. The devil wants to keep you locked in there forever, and his intention is reflected in the psychological fact that up to 70 percent of all spontaneous thoughts are negative. Negativity appears to be our default setting.

The Key to Freedom

The key to liberation from this mental imprisonment is another thought, the “interrupting thought.” And it’s simply this: “I have a choice.” As a Christian with God’s Spirit living inside you, you have the power to interrupt negative thought spirals and choose the mind of Christ instead. You break free from Satan’s mental strongholds by using the interrupting thought (“I have a choice”) to identify, reject, and replace the toxic lies about yourself and God that are keeping you imprisoned.

In the author’s case, a friend helped her to realize that she had never really lost her faith at all, and that the very idea itself was a lie from Satan. She had merely stopped feeling her faith.

The apostle Paul’s conversion experience also illustrates the use of the interrupting thought. Paul had been trapped by the idea that Jesus wasn’t the messiah and that he (Paul) had the God-given duty to stamp out Christianity. But after the resurrected Christ appeared to him, he recognized the truth of Jesus’s identity and experienced a total spiritual and mental transformation that changed his life. He realized that he could choose to replace the lie in his mind with the truth of Jesus’s real identity and lordship.

Mental Story Maps

A mental story map is a tool that can help you use this key of the interrupting thought.

  • Step 1: Draw your map.
    • Write down your current primary emotion. Draw a circle around it.
    • Around the circle, write contributing factors. Unfinished work? A relationship? Money? Circle each and draw a line to the central emotion.
    • Near each smaller circle, list how it contributes to your current emotion.
  • Step 2: Talk to God.
    • Pray through each item.
    • Search the scriptures for relevant truths.
    • Ask God to reveal wrong thoughts about himself and yourself.
  • Step 3: Look for common patterns and themes in your map items (anxiety about things you can’t control? anger at insults? self-criticism?).
  • Step 4: Notice the storyline your thoughts build about God. Is it true or false? 

(Shortform note: To learn a similar approach to “minding your mind,” read our summary of Cognitive Behavior Therapy: Basics and Beyond.)

Fighting Battles

The second part of our Get Out of Your Head book overview covers some common mental battles people face.

You face three general barriers to victory in the war for your mind: the devil, your wounds, and your sin. These factor, in various ways, into the specific battles you’re called to fight against seven mental enemies. You must learn to fight against these enemies with the right weapons and strategies. As a Christian, you belong to an entirely separate reality. You’re primarily a citizen of the Kingdom of God instead of the kingdom of this world. In learning to think like it, you also have to learn to fight like it.

The Battle Against Distraction

Your enemy in this first battle is distraction, which keeps you from seeking God’s help to quiet the chaos in your mind. You can distract yourself with any number of things, from social media and busyness to playing music constantly and “doing things” for God without taking time to actually meet with him.

The enemy’s basic lie in this battle is that you’ll feel better if you remain distracted. The lie is fueled by your fear of facing yourself and being “found out” by God. This fear breaks down into three sub-fears: 

  • Fear of working (since quiet time with God brings up responsibilities for you to fulfill) 
  • Fear of having to change (since quiet times brings up awareness of your sins and bad habits) 
  • Fear of being alone (since you may be afraid that quiet time will reveal that God isn’t really there) 

Underlying all these fears is another lie: the idea that you can’t face God as you really are.

Defeating Distraction

The truth that explodes the lie of distraction is that God specifically built us for silent communion with him. This claim has extensive scriptural support, as well as scientific support in the form of evidence that quiet meditation and focused attention produce brain benefits such as relaxation and a younger, better-preserved brain. 

Your weapon against distraction is stillness, a state of silent rest in God’s presence from which you can recognize and combat your negative spirals. Stillness with God is the foundation for fighting all of the other battles in the war for your mind.

You use this weapon by choosing stillness and learning how to practice it deliberately. A primary technique for doing this is to reframe your negative thoughts, which have a basic pattern: [negative emotion] because [reason]. For example, “I’m overwhelmed because I have so many responsibilities.” 

You can choose to reframe these with a positive pattern: [negative emotion] and [reason], so I will [choice]. For example, “I’m overwhelmed and have many responsibilities, so I will pause to thank God for giving me the strength to accomplish what I need to do.” Use this technique to identify and understand your negative thoughts and then replace them with positive, empowering ones.

The Battle Against Shame

Your enemy in this second battle is shame, which leads you to behave self-protectively by generating an illusion of self-enclosed autonomy. The enemy’s basic lie in this battle is that you can “do it on your own,” that you can live your own life and solve your own problems. This lie is generated and fueled by your shame, your fear that other people would reject you and abandon you if they really knew your thoughts, actions, and true identity. Shame produces a dysfunctional behavioral pattern by leading you to act self-protectively, to push other people away, to refuse help, and thus to isolate yourself and feel worthless.

Defeating Shame

The truth that explodes the lie of shame is that God made you not to go it alone but to be seen, known, and loved. The fact that God made you for community reaches back to his own nature. Because of the Trinity, God himself is intrinsically a community. When we’re saved through Christ and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, we are adopted into this community. We can also see God’s design for community in the workings of our brain. The need for community is neurologically and psychologically hardwired into us, as evidenced by our “mirror neurons,” which fire when we interact with others, enabling us to share their feelings.

Your weapon against shame is community, a relationship of open, heartful connection with God and other people.

You use this weapon by choosing community, choosing to know and be known by others. You can choose community by seeking to embody Paul’s description of it, which shows itself in such things as comforting others, being kind and forgiving, being grateful, and denying your own sinful desires so that you can serve others.

To choose community, find and connect with emotionally healthy Christians. Confidently ask others for human connection. Learn to say “yes” to people. Show your real self early, “warts and all,” to find out who your real friends are. Learn to “bother” others with offers for help and a listening ear, and let them bother you. Be the friend you wish they’d be for you. Risk getting hurt. And be sure to share “the last 2 percent,” the final, deep thing that you tend to hold back from family and friends. Airing such things brings healing.

The Battle Against Fear

Your enemy in this third battle is fear, which leads you to believe that God isn’t actually in control of the world and your life. Fear’s lie is that you can’t trust God to take care of your future. This lie is fueled by the question “What if?” What if this person hurts me? What if my children die? The stress brought on by this fear is both psychologically and physically debilitating.

Defeating Fear

The truth that explodes the lie of fear is that God controls every day of your life. He always gives you what you need, when you need it. Some fears do come true, but this doesn’t change God or the fact that he’s your unfailing hope.

Your weapon against fear is surrender, an attitude of total trust in God’s goodness, power, and provision.

You use this weapon by surrendering your fears to God. Follow Paul’s detailed advice in Philippians 4:6-7 by replacing your anxieties with grateful prayers throughout the day. Choose to focus your thoughts on what’s true, noble, pure, and lovely. When you feel insecure and afraid, keep asking yourself, “What’s really real?” Keep returning to the fact that it’s God. Pay attention to your body and note any signs of anxiety, and let these guide you to the fear that you need to release.

You can also use the tool of the mental story map to uncover and identify your fears. For every one of the enemy’s lies, find a scripture that directly contradicts it and replaces it. Then ask yourself: Who am I going to believe? God or the lie? 

The Battle Against Cynicism

Your enemy of cynicism makes you pessimistic about people and life in general. The enemy’s basic lie in this battle is twofold: that you can’t trust people and that life won’t work out. Below this lies a deeper lie: that you can’t trust God. The enemy attacks with this lie by flooding your mind with thoughts about everything that’s wrong with our broken, fallen world. Cynicism perverts your view of God and wears down your ability to see him correctly. Its source is emotional pain from your wounds and disappointments. 

Defeating Cynicism

The truth that overturns the lie of cynicism is that you can trust God without reservation. He will work all things together for good in the end. 

Your weapon against cynicism is delight, an awe-filled appreciation of God, his goodness, and the beauty of his creation.

You use this weapon by learning to delight in God and his goodness. You cultivate awe and appreciation of beauty. You meditate on the truth that all beauty—in nature, in art, in human relationships—speaks of God’s own beauty, power, and goodness. Doing this tears down your wall of cynicism and allows hope, trust, and worship to flood your life.

The Battle Against Self-Importance

Your enemy of self-importance or self-inflation tells you that you’re awesome, and that it’s important to dwell on this. The enemy’s basic lie in this battle is that self-esteem is your life-compass, your primary tool for navigating and achieving a good life. We’re easy prey for this lie, because in our fallen state we’re naturally self-absorbed, and our surrounding culture of narcissism caters to it.

Defeating Self-Importance

The truth opposing the lie of self-esteem is that real and lasting joy only comes from choosing God and other people over yourself. God didn’t create you to be the center of your own world.

Your weapon against self-importance is humility, a proper estimation of yourself through recognizing that only God is awesome and that your calling on earth is to serve other people.

You use this weapon by embracing humility through the choice to value and serve God and others instead of yourself. Emulate Christ’s servanthood. Replace the lie of your awesomeness with the truth of God’s. Ask God to kill your self-centeredness, realizing that you’re unable to become humble under your own power. Humility is a gift of grace.

The Battle Against Victimhood

Your enemy of victimhood traps you in an unhappy state of mind centered in self-pity over your painful experiences. The enemy’s basic lie in this battle is that you’re a victim of your circumstances. It tells you that you’re doomed to a life of misery because of the negative things that have happened to you or because of what’s been withheld from you. 

Defeating Victimhood

The truth that overturns the lie of victimhood is that your circumstances, far from being a trap and making you a victim, provide all the opportunities you need for experiencing God’s goodness. The Spirit enables you to acknowledge your frustration and pain without losing peace and joy. In Christ, you can fight pain and injustice from a place of reconciliation and confidence instead of outrage and insecurity, affirming God’s commitment to redeeming all things.

Your weapon against victimhood is gratitude, an encompassing attitude with an accompanying practice of thankful appreciation, no matter what happens.

You use this weapon by choosing to be grateful no matter what life brings. You can implement this strategy by meditating on scriptures about gratitude, practicing looking beyond your immediate situation to God’s long-range purposes, and looking for unexpected gifts in difficult circumstances. You can also learn and receive the neurological benefits of gratitude, including improved relationships, increased empathy, improved sleep, appreciation of other people’s achievements, and increased mental strength for overcoming trauma and enduring hardship.

The Battle Against Complacency

Your enemy of complacency traps you in a state of listless passivity in which you find comfort in mediocrity and the status quo while you indulge your own whims and lose your passion for God. The enemy’s basic lie in this battle is that you’re free to live for yourself, to do whatever you want to do. It leads you to focus on your needs, desires, and reputation, resulting in a dangerous addiction to your own comfort.

Defeating Complacency

The truth opposing the lie of complacency is that God has saved you and set you free not to indulge yourself but to serve others, to elevate them over yourself and seek their good. Jesus has saved you and set you free so that your life can point others to the joy found in him. Your purpose in this life is to steward the work God gives, which is to serve others for his glory.

Your weapon against complacency is intentional service, a choice to work for the good of other people instead of fixating on your own contentment. 

You use this weapon by choosing others over yourself, by seeking their good over your own comfort. You do this by setting your mind on heavenly things instead of earthly things, and by surrendering to God’s will and obeying him at all times. Choosing others over yourself sets in motion the ultimate positive, upward spiral. When you choose to serve, you take risks for Jesus and begin to see other people’s needs, which leads you to do things for God’s glory and lean on his strength, so you long to worship him more, and your enhanced worship makes you want even more of him, so you take more risks, and the spiral continues.

The above Get Out of Your Head book overview summarizes the key ideas of the book.

Get Out of Your Head: Book Overview and Key Ideas

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Here's what you'll find in our full Get Out of Your Head summary:

  • Satan’s master plan for poisoning your mind with toxic thoughts
  • How to replace ungodly lies with scriptural truths
  • How to “put on the mind of Christ” and fulfill God’s plan for you

Elizabeth Shaw

Elizabeth graduated from Newcastle University with a degree in English Literature. Growing up, she enjoyed reading fairy tales, Beatrix Potter stories, and The Wind in the Willows. As of today, her all-time favorite book is Wuthering Heights, with Jane Eyre as a close second. Elizabeth has branched out to non-fiction since graduating and particularly enjoys books relating to mindfulness, self-improvement, history, and philosophy.

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