When I joined the chaplain’s staff at Hendrick Medical Center in 1990, part of my first assignment was to work with the patients on the Stress Unit, a non-lock up psychiatric floor. One of the terms used by various mental health professionals was “emotional focus.” In essence, it meant that a person becomes like what he or she thinks about.

MPatrick (1)

Mike Patrick

For example, a teenage boy moving toward becoming an independent person may despise his father. It is not uncommon for fathers and sons to have conflict. A friend of the family may tell the son that he is just like his dad. You probably could not make the son more angry. However, the more he thinks about his father (good or bad), the more he becomes like him.

Or, what about our behaviors? Perhaps emotional focus is one contributing factor to the addiction to pornography. The more you look, the more that becomes a part of your life and you want to see even more.

Through the years, people occasionally ask me what to do with unwanted thoughts. There are three steps to move toward change.

1) Recognize the negative thoughts. If you don’t recognize them as harmful, you will not change.
2) Resist the negative thoughts. Find some way to stop them in their tracks. Keep a rubber band on your wrist and snap it when the thoughts come. Pray aloud. Call a friend.
3) Refocus your mind. Use the negative thoughts as a trigger to focus on something you would rather become. Thoughts of irritation could become triggers for thinking about gratitude. Thoughts of immoral things could become a trigger to think about the Cross of Christ.

By the way, the Book of Proverbs also talked about emotional focus. The New King James Version reads: “For as a man thinks in his heart, so is he…” (Prov 23:7).

Mike Patrick retired as Chaplain and Ministry Education Coordinator after 27 years at Hendrick Medical Center.

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