Catch yourself before your thoughts go down a painful path

Do you know how to catch yourself?

It's a skill every person should develop, but it's especially valuable for us singles. It can spare you a world of trouble if you learn how to cut harmful feelings off before they get out of control.

We singles are susceptible to obsessing. Something nasty happens at work and we spend the whole evening and even the rest of the week replaying it. Mild irritation grows to aggravation, then to frustration and anger, until we're losing sleep and getting headaches or indigestion. This is no way to live.

I know because I used to do it.

But with willpower, practice, and help from God, you can put the brakes on bad feelings before they go too far. Here’s how I finally got a grip on myself:

Catch yourself: Yes, it is possible

Emotions are wonderful--most of the time. Usually it's negative emotions that cause us problems, and over the years you may have concluded you're powerless to stop them, but that's another one of Satan's lies. Yeah, he is real. Jesus himself said so.

Many emotions have a biochemical component. Depression is a good example. Researchers have unquestionable proof that some forms of depression are caused by a chemical imbalance. That's why medication is so effective in treating it. I always advise people suffering from depression to talk to their doctor about it.

But whether it's anger, worry, or anxiety, you have more control than you give yourself credit for. You can catch yourself before the situation gets out of hand.

Look at it this way. You're filling the bathtub. As you watch the water rise to the top of the tub, you have a choice. You can reach down and shut off the faucet, or you can let the water overflow. Letting it overflow takes no effort, but what a mess it will make! And who will eventually have to clean up that mess? You.

Even though you may doubt it, you have just as much power to shut off the faucet of your emotions.

Catch yourself using these keys...

  • 1. Recognize the seriousness of uncontrolled emotions. When you allow your feelings to go unchecked, they wear on your body and nervous system to the point that you can become exhausted or sick. Not only that, but all your agonizing rarely ever solves your problem. It takes you in the opposite direction of a calm reasonable solution.
  • 2. Put a time limit on negativity. We often feel we have a "right" to stew over our hurts and grievances as long as we want, but the truth is that every minute you waste being negative is just that much less time you're feeling positive about yourself and your life. If you're tormented by something that happened, give yourself a half-hour or hour to think about it, then move on. Be strict with yourself. Don't cheat. When the subject comes up again--and it surely will--tell yourself you've got happier ways to spend your time.
  • 3. Engage your mind with something else. Whether it's anger, worry, fear, or any other "rabbit hole" emotion, you can catch yourself only when you give your mind something taxing to occupy it. Taking a walk or doing laundry or some other physical activity won't work. Even watching TV or listening to music still leaves your mind free to wander back to negativity. Do something that takes concentration, like reading, solving sodokus, or even playing video games. Remember that your mind can only think about one thing at a time. Keep it so busy that it's unable to return to your problem.
  • 4. Turn the situation over to God and leave it with him. This takes a high level of trust, but either we believe God is competent enough to help us or we don't. Jesus wasn't plagued by a troubled mind because he relied on his Father for justice. The first time you do this and God somehow resolves the situation, you'll wish you'd been doing this all your life, that's how amazing it is.
  • 5. Don't give up. If you can't catch yourself in time or your thoughts return to your problem, don't beat yourself up. Forgive yourself. Try again. This is a skill that takes time to learn. But I guarantee you that it will spare you so much grief over your lifetime that the quality of your life will improve radically. Keep at it. Strive for a little progress each time you try. Being able to catch yourself is one of the hallmarks of a spiritually mature person.

Learn other vital life-skills for singles in Jack's new paperback.

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