How to Get Rid of Negative Thoughts Spiritually

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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Do you want to know how to get rid of negative thoughts spiritually? What advice can help Christians handle negative thinking?

Many of us are consumed with negative thoughts, and we’ve bought into the lie that we can’t control them. We live as victims of toxic thinking, trapped in depression and defeat. In her book Get Out of Your Head, Jennie Allen argues that this is the spiritual war of our generation, a battle between you and the enemy of your mind (and soul).

Keep reading to find out how to get rid of negative thoughts spiritually.

Getting Rid of Negative Thoughts Spiritually

In this article, we cover how to get rid of negative thoughts spiritually, according to Jennie Allen.

Allen argues that each person is struggling with a mental-spiritual battle. Your enemy in this war is Satan, whose objective is to prevent you from learning to take your thoughts captive. He wants you to waste your God-given life in feelings of helplessness, because this inner defeat will accomplish his overall goal: to prevent you from doing and becoming all that God wants.

The battleground is your mind. Satan attacks you there because he knows your thoughts determine how you live. This means the stakes are high, since taking control of your mind is the key to finding peace in other parts of your life as well. A famous line from the great Puritan theologian John Owen brings this home: “Be killing sin or it will be killing you.” Applied to the mind, this could be refashioned as, “Control your thoughts or they (and through them, the enemy) will control you and your life.”

Taking control of your mind is the key to discovering how to get rid of negative thoughts spiritually.

Negative Spirals

Understanding how negative spirals work is crucial for finding out how to get rid of negative thoughts spiritually.

The enemy’s attacks show up as negative mental spirals. Many people’s lives work like this: Emotions → Thoughts → Decisions → Behaviors → Relationships. Emotions drive everything else down the chain, with end results feeding back up the chain when consequences reinforce emotions and thoughts. When you live like this, your life is on autopilot, spiraling ever downward into dysfunction.

Here are some examples of negative spirals in action, to illustrate their deep grip on us:

  • An unexamined core emotion of inferiority will lead to dysfunctional thoughts, decisions, behaviors, and relationships, and these will reciprocally appear to “prove” the emotion’s validity.
  • Before writing this chapter, the author sat down for a quiet time with God, but her phone distracted her. Then a critical email discouraged her. She ended up on Instagram, where people’s images of apparent happiness and success made her feel depressed and inferior. Then she snapped at her husband, which made her feel even worse about herself. The problem was in her thoughts, which moved from suggesting a mild distraction (her phone) to telling her lies about her capability and self-worth.
  • The author says she’s seen many women who have experienced a true deepening of their Christian faith and discipleship through IF:Gathering (her discipleship organization for Christian women) fall back into negative thought patterns and associated life patterns—returning to toxic relationships, dwelling on old emotional wounds, indulging in bad habits (such as porn)—over time. 

The Solution: Take Charge of Your Thoughts

Your victory in this war comes from the fact that, contrary to popular belief, you can take charge of your thoughts and stop your negative spirals. Finding out how to get rid of negative thoughts spiritually involves interrupting your thoughts.

You must realize that emotions are not primary. Instead, they’re a by-product of thoughts. Therefore, interrupting your thoughts turns off the autopilot and allows you to intentionally reprogram your mind for creating positive spirals. (We’ll look more deeply at creating positive spirals in Chapters 4-6.)

Taking charge of your thoughts is in fact biblically commanded—which reinforces that it’s actually possible. This comes out clearly in the apostle Paul’s exhortations to “take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5) and to “be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2). When you act on this biblical command, you give God so much space in your thinking that your negative thoughts shrink by comparison.

Make no mistake, taking charge of your thoughts is challenging. At times it may feel like trying to catch a sparrow that flew into your house and is now flitting madly about. But you must catch your thoughts if you want to break free of negativity and lead the life God wants for you.

For deeply entrenched negative thought spirals, healing may take time. For other spirals, healing may be instantaneous. In either case, the applicable principles are still the same.

  • Disclaimer: The author doesn’t mean to suggest that if you have a mental illness, you can think your way out of it. Treatment through counseling and medications has its place. Learning to choose your thoughts can provide additional help.

Brain Science and the Biblical Heart

Modern brain science can help you to better understand and harness the power of changing your thoughts. You can employ your brain’s plasticity in the service of molding your brain, and therefore your whole life, to reflect the divine mind.

21st-century advances in our knowledge of the human brain have shown that, contrary to former beliefs, our brain is changing constantly throughout our lives. Neuroscience calls this phenomenon neuroplasticity and informs us that our thoughts critically impact its workings. We average 30,000 thoughts per day. So it’s critical that we learn to harness our thoughts to positive purposes, for producing positive brain change. 

Research shows that our thoughts may be the greatest determiner of physical, mental, and behavioral health. Thoughts produce concrete physiological effects, such as the well-known negative effects of mental-emotional stress on the body (headache, adrenal fatigue, and more).

These neurological facts mean that through disciplined effort, you can actually reshape your “heart-mind.” You can choose who you will become by choosing to think God’s thoughts. You can literally, physically grow more fully into the mind of Christ, since our brain-based thoughts and emotions may well be what the Bible means by “the heart,” the center of personal being.

In our summary of Get Out of Your Head, you’ll find an in-depth look at how to get rid of negative thoughts spiritually.

How to Get Rid of Negative Thoughts Spiritually

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Jennie Allen's "Get Out of Your Head" at Shortform.

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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