10 of Jennie Allen’s Beliefs From Get Out of Your Head

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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What are Jennie Allen’s beliefs? How have her personal experiences led to these beliefs?

Author Jennie Allen was inspired by her own experiences and beliefs while writing her book Get Out of Your Head. You may be able to resonate with someone of Jennie Allen’s beliefs and anecdotes.

Here’s a list of Jennie Allen’s beliefs, gained from her personal experiences. 

Jennie Allen: Beliefs and Anecdotes

In her book Get Out of Your Head, Jennie Allen offers advice for tackling inner spiritual and mental battles. Jennie Allen’s beliefs include the dangers of victimhood, the idea that people are made for community, and that religious doubt is the work of Satan.

Here’s a list of Jennie Allen’s beliefs, from Get Out of Your Head:

1) People Live as Victims of Their Own Mind

The first of Jennie Allen’s beliefs is that people generally live as victims of their own minds.

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.

The author found this confirmed at another women’s church meeting when she asked attendees to identify the thoughts playing in their minds as they arrived. Negative thoughts (worries about finances, feelings of low self-worth, and so on) dominated.

This is the spiritual war of our generation, a battle between you and the enemy of your mind (and soul). 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 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. 

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.

2) We Are Made for Community

Jennie Allen learned a critical lesson about God’s plan for community when she and her husband went through the process of adopting their son Cooper from an orphanage in Rwanda: For children to thrive, you have to make them feel seen and loved. Moreover, this insight applies to all of us. The old saying “it takes a village” applies to more than raising a child. We’re “village people,” built to thrive in communities that gather together and share each other’s lives.

The way you defeat your enemy of shame and its lie that you don’t need others is by choosing community. In other words, choose to know and be known by others. In this endeavor, it’s important to remember that God’s Spirit lives in you. Trust the Spirit to be with you in reaching out to others.

To illustrate this last point, the author relates a painful past experience from when she started her IF organization. A misunderstanding about her motivations brought public criticism from prominent women whom she admired. She reached out to them by phone, forged a relationship, apologized, and asked for their wisdom. They proved open and accepting. Allen’s risk in reaching out ended up bringing healing and new friends and allies.

Finally, share “the last 2 percent.” This refers to the final, deep thing that you tend to hold back from family and friends even when you’re otherwise being open and authentic. It could be a long-ago mistake, anger issues, or something else that you feel you need to conceal. Airing and sharing such things creates healing. Bringing your dark struggles into the light breaks their power.

A Christian friend of the author’s demonstrated this principle when she confided that she had been strongly attracted to another man (not her husband) at work and had even started texting him. She told Allen that when she shared that “last 2 percent” at an IF:Gathering, the attraction immediately evaporated.

3) Religious Doubt Is the Work of Satan

The author’s most striking personal example of religious doubt is her account of a demonic attack that launched her into an 18-month dark night of the soul. It began when she told a women’s gathering that there’s a real spiritual enemy opposing them, served by demons, who wants to steal their faith and make them useless to God. During a break, a woman approached her with a dark expression and said, “We’re coming for you. Stop talking about us.” Allen told one of the security guards.

Partway through the author’s final talk, shrieking erupted in the hallway outside. She later learned it was both the strange woman and her daughter. Then the church’s power went out. It was the most undeniable manifestation of a spiritual attack the author had ever seen.

Initially, she wasn’t terrified but on fire with faith. The day’s events overwhelmed her with their confirmation of the reality of God, Satan, and spiritual warfare. That night she told everybody she ran into about Jesus.

But immediately afterward, a downward spiral caught her off-guard. Starting that night, she woke up regularly every day at 3 a.m. in a panic, wondering about the laundry, her kids’ safety, and other things. This anxiety rapidly progressed to bigger fears about whether she was wasting her life serving a God who might not exist.

She remained outwardly faithful and productive, but inside she felt caught up in a war for her mind. When she tried to lean into her lifelong relationship with God, she found her very passion for God eroding under the weight of her toxic thought-spiral. She felt as if her life were crumbling to ash and blowing away like the characters in Avengers: Infinity Wars. She feared she and her life’s work would all vanish and be meaningless because if there’s no God, then nothing matters, and when you die, it’s the end.

She later realized that the whole crisis was an attack by the enemy, but in the midst of it, she couldn’t see that.

The resolution of Allen’s dark spiritual crisis illustrates this principle. With the help of a friend, she finally recognized the lie that had ensnared her: that she had lost her faith. In fact, such a thing had never happened.

This resolution occurred in connection with a trip the author took to Uganda with two friends to observe a hunger relief organization. At a devotional meeting, one of the Ugandan leaders of the relief organization read aloud the passage from Psalm 139 about God’s inescapable Spirit that Allen had been repeating to herself as a lifeline for months during her crisis. This astonished Allen and reconfirmed her faith that God has to be real. But it also shattered her and brought on an emotional meltdown. 

She later told her two friends (who witnessed her meltdown) about her months-long spiritual struggle. Her friend Ann responded with an observation that created a breakthrough: “This isn’t who you are.” Ann told Allen she hadn’t lost her faith at all, that the whole thing was actually an attack by the enemy. The statement pierced through Allen’s emotional chaos and set her free because it made her realize that she had a choice to disbelieve the lie and believe something different.

When the three women got back from Uganda, Allen’s two friends staged a 24-hour vigil to fast and pray for confidence and faith in Allen’s life. Her 3 a.m. wake-ups into panic stopped immediately afterward, when she became vigilant about minding her mind. She realized that she had never actually lost her faith. She had just stopped feeling it.

4) Reframe Hardship to Beat Victimhood

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, because of your situation, because of what other people have done to you or withheld from you, because of what you lack or can’t do, and so on.

This lie can use circumstances both major and relatively minor to perpetuate itself. The author shares several stories about people in her life who have encountered serious troubles, ranging from racism to terminal illness to disability, that presented potential points of access for the lie of victimhood. The next section below describes some of these stories.

A friend of the author’s actually bought the lie. This young woman worked as a clerk at a retail clothing store, and since the job didn’t line up with her ambition to use her skills and her college degree for something “better,” she was caught up in frustration and disillusionment. The circumstance was less serious than, say, a terminal illness, but it was still sufficient to allow the lie of victimhood to worm its way into the woman’s mind.

The author’s youngest daughter, Caroline, is dyslexic. This causes Caroline exhaustion and sometimes frustration. But she’s also persistent and tough. She hasn’t let her disability con her into adopting a victim identity.

After a time of frustration, the author’s friend at the clothing store began to learn the importance of gratitude. She realized that she could choose her attitude toward work. She began praying during her commute, using her interactions with customers and coworkers as opportunities to serve others, and recognizing her circumstances as a chance to advance God’s kingdom. The result? She came to love her job.

A married couple named Roddy and Dee experienced heartbreak when Dee was diagnosed with ALS, which is fatal. His condition rapidly degenerated until he could only communicate through a speech synthesizer. After he died, when the author asked Roddy if she had felt any anger toward God, Roddy found the idea unthinkable and said she and Dee had both viewed his illness from the start as something that God could use for good.

This principle also enables a powerfully God-affirming and life-affirming response to injustice. Christ enables us to call out and oppose real oppression—racism, sexism, cruelty toward women and children and minorities and immigrants and unborn children—without defining ourselves by other people’s wrongdoing. In Christ, you fight from a place of reconciliation and confidence instead of outrage and insecurity. You affirm God’s commitment to redeeming all things.

  • A friend of the author’s told a group at church about the racist attacks, both verbal and physical, that she has experienced in her life, including in a church. Instead of claiming victimhood, the woman joined this new church and launched a series of conversations on racial reconciliation.

5) Avoid Becoming Distracted From God

The author gives many real-life examples of distraction from God, and of its seductive gravitational pull:

  • A friend sought the author’s counsel over frantic and exhausting troubles with her marriage, children, friends, and a hectic life. The author recommended that she spend half an hour in solitude with God. A day later, the friend gave multiple excuses for not doing it.
  • The author describes her own tendency during her 18-month crisis to shy away from quiet time with God. She didn’t even know why she acted that way.
  • The author gives an account of a day when she compulsively socialized at her church and spent too much time on social media when she really wanted to spend some deep time alone with God.

6) It’s Important to Ask Others for Help

Learn to “bother” others, and let them bother you. Be the friend you wish they’d be for you. For example, if you notice that a friend or family member seems “off” or not herself, straightforwardly “bother” her until she opens up. Offer to pray, ask her to lunch. “Bug” her into community.

Once when the author’s daughter Kate traveled out of town with a friend and the friend’s family, she called home, and it was obvious that she was upset about something. She said she wanted to enter counseling when she got back. Her mother affirmed this over the phone but also talked at length with her daughter, emphasizing her motherly love for her and drawing her out into healing conversation. This is an example of lovingly bothering someone to maintain community.

Also learn to accept the same bothering from others. Open up. Risk getting hurt. Allen says her closest girlfriends at various stages of her life have shaped her, elevated her goals, refused to let her “settle,” and helped her in all kinds of ways through their friendship.

7) Anxiety Is a Common Struggle

According to Jennie Allen’s beliefs, anxiety is the fear that God isn’t actually in control of the world and your life.

Some typical thoughts associated with fear include the following. Look for these in your own mind:

  • What if my worst nightmare comes true?
  • What will I do if [insert awful thing] happens?
  • Everything’s out of control.
  • I’m not good enough to handle this.
  • I probably said that the wrong way (or they took it the wrong way).

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

The effects of believing this lie aren’t just psychological. We actually suffer a negative, stress-filled physiological response to these mental-emotional “what if” fears, such as the panic attack that the author once experienced when she was safely at home with her family. To defeat it, she paid attention to her body (see the strategy section below) and let its distress—her chest felt so tight she couldn’t breathe—lead her to the buried “what if” from the enemy that was driving it: What if I fail in my ministry? What if I’m not enough?

Pay attention to your body, just like the author did to defuse her panic attack. Notice your body’s current state, especially any symptoms of anxiety, such as tension, a tight chest, a headache, or a racing pulse. Carefully trace these in your subjective experience to see if toxic thoughts might be causing them. Use any of the strategies and tools described above to reprogram these thoughts

8) Cynicism Is Damaging

Allen illustrates cynicism’s negative impact with a personal story. Not long after the end of her 18-month crisis, she attended a weekend leadership retreat. The leader, a psychiatrist friend, noted the author’s self-protective and unfriendly vibe: Allen held back emotionally, brushed off questions about how she was doing (“I’m good!”), and was generally distant. Over the weekend, her friend gently pressed her about this, but Allen didn’t see it and wouldn’t own it. She had become unknowingly infected with cynicism. The root of her cynicism, as she only recognized at the end of the retreat, was a lingering sense of estrangement from and mistrust of God because he had allowed her to hurt so badly for so long.

9) Delight in the Lord to Escape Negative Thinking

The way you defeat your enemy of cynicism with the truth of God’s trustworthiness is by learning to delight in God and his goodness. You implement this strategy by cultivating awe and appreciation of beauty.

More specifically, you meditate on the truth that all beauty speaks of God’s own beauty, power, and goodness. It speaks of a world yet to come, a world beyond this one, a world more spectacular than you can imagine, but that you’ll one day see and know and enjoy fully.

There are various ways of practicing this. One is to seek out beauty and grandeur in nature, art, and human relationships. 

Examples in nature might include snowy mountain peaks, sunsets, scenic vistas, seashells, thunderstorms, beautiful animals, the intricate structure of the human body, or whatever moves you personally. As Psalm 19:1 famously proclaims, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” The author used this approach once in college when she led a Bible study for fellow college sophomores and noticed that they were all discouraged and exhausted. She scrapped her prepared lesson, went outside, and brought back a leaf from a tree. Then she instructed her friends to pass it around and examine it closely to note God’s careful design.

10) Focusing on Self-Esteem leads to Impaired Relationships 

Obsession with self-esteem results in impaired relationships. For instance, the author once spoke sharply to an IF:Gathering colleague but then held off on apologizing because her mind rationalized away the sin. (“I wasn’t wrong. She probably didn’t care.”) Later it turned out the colleague did care, and so there was a fence to mend. The seductive desire for preserving her own self-esteem had prevented the author from remedying the situation by apologizing sooner.

Taking self-esteem as your life-guide also results in a life, both inner and outer, that’s based on egocentrism. The author’s ten-year-old son Cooper, for example, became obsessed with getting Air Jordan shoes because, as he put it, he “needed” them. What he actually needed them for was to look awesome to his middle school peers. His case calls out an important truth: We’re all a bit like middle schoolers. We’re all naturally obsessed with ourselves and inclined to do all we can to impress others and make ourselves the object of admiration and envy. This is a spiritually bankrupt way to live.

The above list of Jennie Allen’s beliefs will help you better understand the key ideas from her book Get Out of Your Head.

10 of Jennie Allen’s Beliefs From Get Out of Your Head

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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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