Monday, October 22, 2012

How thought has the power to save or destroy youth

In a recent discussion with a group of youth we talked to them about the power of thought.  With the 60,000 plus thoughts that we generate each day, the overwhelming majority of them are negative.  Which is not really a surprise to you as you read this.  After all if you started cataloging all of your thoughts you would probably start to feel quite negative about yourself, the list you are writing, the government, the neighbors dog or whatever else bugs you. 

A lot of these thoughts are nearly in-perceivable in our day to day lives. We react emotionally to the thoughts before we even realize that we had the thought.  As teens go through their lives, they are bombarded by their own negative thoughts and many of them struggle with depression, anxiety and anger.

One of the things I talk about a lot with young people is the ability to take the thoughts captive - to grab on to them and filter out the lies from the truth.  For example a young girl may be watching TV when she suddenly feels depressed and makes herself throw up to feel better.  She is externalizing pain from emotion, but emotions cannot happen without guiding thoughts.  The thought could have been triggered from any internal stimulation from events of her day, seeing a unrealistic image of a woman on the TV, or simply just be a random though of disgust about herself.  It happens.

(On a side note: I take this concept of capturing thoughts from the Bible.  In 1 Corinthians 10, the writer known simply as Paul, talks about taking our thoughts and making them obedient to following in the pattern of Jesus.  This reinforces the idea that sometimes our thoughts work against us.  If a young person is a follower of Jesus or not they can be taught how to capture thoughts.  The helpful thing in remolding the thoughts towards the person of Jesus is that thoughts are easier to bridle then delete.)

The conversation that we had with these young people progressed into how the thoughts of others can influence us as well. In a world where we are exposed to so much sarcasm and cynicism in our relationships with others it is sometimes difficult to hear positive messages about ourselves even from the people who love and support us the most.  What we end up hearing are all the negative things broadcast by others, some audible - some not.  However they are communicated we perceive the negative very quickly.

One of the young people illustrated this is a piece of art that broke my heart.  Look at it and catch a glimpse of what life is life for this young person every day:

As a youth worker it is critical to help young people learn to think.  One of the most powerful ways is to simply be present in their lives and offer encouragement - encounter the lies they believe about themselves - and to model what it means to have healthy friendships and interactions with others.  That last one can be the hardest, and often times the most important.  Has sarcasm gotten out of control in your own life? 
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