Say to yourself something different.

say to yourselfWe have private thoughts at the back of the mind all the time. Often these are unnoticed yet they have a profound affect on our feelings. Cognitive therapy shows that negative and fear-laden laden thoughts add to depression and anxiety.

The trouble with this approach is that often our inner thoughts are so well hidden that it is only through careful self-reflection that we can begin to identify them. Sometimes we remain unaware of them even if we are outwardly affected by them and behave as if they were true. That’s where the cognitive therapist comes in to help.

Here are nine harmful assumptions that can lie on the fringe of consciousness. Knowing about them can help identify any of them that might be active in yourself. If you are open to a religious perspective, you may also be interested in my  comments on each one based on the sayings and behaviour of Christ as recorded in the Gospels.

 1. If you were to say to yourself:  “To be happy one must be approved of by most people.”

then you are likely to be filled with social anxiety over-concerned about the impression you give others.

Christ associated with certain people knowing he would be disapproved of by others for his actions. Those he associated with included Pharisees, tax collectors and social outcasts.

Perhaps you need to be able to approve of yourself as someone who tries to follow your conscience even though others may disapprove of what you do or believe.

2. Similarly if you were you say to yourself: “To be happy, what I think and believe must be approved of by most people.”

then you will be anxious about how people respond to everything you say.

Christ’ followers commented that his teaching was hard to accept. In many cases Christ  stated his thoughts and left others to make their decisions even if a decision was rejection of himself.

3. If you were to say to yourself: “It is important to have my own way”

then there is a danger you will start to either bully or manipulate others into giving into your demands.

Christ taught a prayer to God which included the line ‘Thy will be done’ in contrast to doing what we want to do.

4. If you were to say to yourself: “It is intolerable when things go wrong”

then you will never try to live with personal setbacks.

Christ never said “I can’t stand it”, or “I can’t take it anymore”. Instead he accepted reality as it was, even when reality meant death if he were to fulfil his mission. In other words he was saying acceptance of hardship and trouble is a gift and an important thing to learn.

5. If you were to say to yourself: “I and others deserve condemnation when bad”

then, in the strict Jewish religious culture of two thousand years ago, you might have been stoned to death for sexual infidelity. A sexually unfaithful wife was brought to Christ but he did not condemn her but merely said ‘sin no more’. His message being it is bad behaviour that deserves condemnation not the person behaving badly. All of us need love and tolerance.

6. If you were to say to yourself: “I should be thoroughly competent, to consider myself worthwhile” 

then you will have low self-esteem because none of us have perfect skills.

Christ did not base a person’s worth on his or her competence but regarded all as valuable in their own right deserving love and support.

“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” (Matt 6:26)

7. If you were to say to yourself:  “Happiness comes from what happens to me”

then your mood will depend on everything around you rather than on yourself: things external to yourself such as social events, what other people say and do, even the weather.  However as the Greek philosopher Epictetus said

“People are not disturbed by things, but by the view they take of them.”

In line with this, Christ worked to get people to change their ways of thinking. His spiritual view was that happiness comes from the spirit of the divine when listened to within our inner being.

8. If you were to say to yourself: “Worry about the future can make a difference”

then you will end up being full of anxious worry. Yet no amount of worrying will change a jot anything beyond your control.

Christ said :

“Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matt 6:34)

9. If you were to say to yourself:  “Problems need to be avoided”

then you will never learn to deal with the difficulties life throws up. You can’t respond to a problem unless you face it.

Christ had many difficulties which he could have avoided for example speaking to his critics. Yet he faced them and dealt with them.

Finding out what you say to yourself and correcting unreasonable assumptions can be crucially important in personal growth and happiness.

Copyright 2013 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems

Putting things off – Why do I do it?

Putting things offI decided to write about the topic of putting things off. Yes, you’ve guessed right – I couldn’t get started, and kept delaying until the deadline almost passed me by. Of course I blamed this on ‘writers’ block’.

Then I remembered what Bill Watterson wrote:

“You can’t just turn on creativity like a faucet. You have to be in the right mood.
What mood is that?
Last-minute panic.”

Anyway I do feel that writing is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration. Putting off things like getting started can be fatal.


Who hasn’t failed to take some action because they couldn’t be bothered ‘just now’? It’s so much nicer chatting with a friend on the phone or watching a tv programme than doing something that involves concentration and is a bit boring or unpleasant. When putting things off, it’s not really that you didn’t decide to do it – somehow it just didn’t happen.

Saying ‘I forgot’ to keep the important hospital appointment or ‘I never found the right time’ to renew the expired passport, starts to wear a bit thin and family members can get really exasperated. People tend to assume you are lazy or lack will power. So why can anyone be so tardy putting things off — even important things — when the disapproval of others is hard to take?

One possible reason might be that you have no updated ‘to do’ list.  Dealing with the complexity of life these days does require careful personal organisation: something like a personal planner to remind you what needs doing and by when. A stitch in time saves nine. You may not always have a pen to hand when you need one, so these days many people are using the organiser section of their mobile phone to make notes of names, times of buses, the name of the play group, a reminder to contact so and so about a booking, gifts you could buy etc. More difficult putting things off when you are better organised.

A reason for putting things off might also be because you find some tasks just add to your daily ration of stress and you are the sort of person who emotionally copes by not thinking about things that you don’t like. Put them out of mind and they may go away. Except that putting things off doesn’t mean they will go away, which you find out to your cost later.

“You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.”(Charles Dickens)

Another reason for putting things off might be a self-defeating mentality.  It is sometimes said ‘when the going gets tough, the tough get going’. But you don’t feel tough — just pretty hopeless and demoralised by the whole thing. The more one says to oneself – ‘it isn’t easy,’ ‘I don’t want to have to think about it,’ ‘it needs a lot of time’ then it’s a strange thing how the task can become a burden. What started off as a little molehill gradually turns into something bigger. You found that the more you put the job off the more a mountain it felt you had to climb to get it done.

“There’s nothing so fatiguing as an uncompleted task” (William James)

Many procrastinators overestimate the unpleasantness of a task. If they give something a try they often find it wasn’t as difficult as they thought.

Having said that, carrying out one’s pledges is a challenge for everyone. Whether it be athletes or dancers keeping to their training programme or parents following through consistently threats made to naughty children. It’s not just politicians who make broken promises.

Actually doing what we plan to do is an issue that also applies to bigger personal changes: like adopting better habits of eating, moderating alcohol intake, and regular physical exercise. In fact any personal or spiritual goal that challenges our resolve comes to mind. Such a needed change can be a prime candidate as a reason for putting things off; such as setting aside time and energy for one’s children, keeping to a new spiritual discipline, or contributing to a good charitable cause.

But isn’t this what our human existence is all about? Is not our determination and resolve to tackle personal challenge, always being tested by life? Set backs, disappointments, extra demands, and other unforeseen circumstances seem to conspire to defeat our good intentions.

“It happens time and again, putting things off that we convince ourselves might be better, more meaningful, more appropriate for another time. So often that better time either never comes or really isn’t better or more appropriate after all. And then, sadly, the window of opportunity — to do something great — closes.” (Tim Tebow, Through My Eyes)

It is one thing to write down in one’s diary an important task but when you are still putting things off, quite another thing to carry it through.

Many religiously-minded people have wanted to be saved from their sense of personal inadequacy. They believe they cannot just in their own strength withstand this sort of temptation: the selfish or worldly attractions to put off accomplishing spiritual tasks and give up following a moral path.

Have they not found something greater than themselves working in them and helping them to carry out their pledges, their personal goals and their desire to change their conduct? Like members of Alcoholics Anonymous they have turned to their concept of a higher divine power and there have found hope and encouragement. After all their God is no procrastinator!

Copyright 2013 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems