by James Rudy Gray
We take a large amount of drugs in this country. We abuse drugs in a variety of ways and we become dependent on drugs at an alarming rate. While some drugs seem to help some symptoms for a while, no drug is the ultimate answer. What is the answer? Right thinking!
Proverbs 23:7 reminds us that as a person thinks in his heart so he is. Romans 12:2 counsels us, "don't be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." Our emotions are the product of our beliefs and thoughts. John Milton wrote, "The mind is its own place, and in itself, can make heaven out of hell, a hell out of heaven."
William Glasser, MD, has noted that mental illness is basically unhappiness. He says that unhappiness is a time and place in one's life when it is not the way he would like it to be. Glasser is not an advocate of any drug therapy. He promotes thinking as the way to change our feelings. He states, "If you are capable of carrying on a conversation, you should seek counseling when you are unhappy." Please understand that he equates unhappiness with mental illness and stresses that a person cannot live in an unhappy state for four or five months without showing symptoms. He embraces the metaphor that happiness is mental health and unhappiness can never be mental health.
We cannot be happy all the time. Unhappiness is bound to come into our lives. But how does it get there? In the end, we are unhappy because of how we think. Our interpretation of circumstances, changes, etc., dictates how we respond, not what happens to us. When a person comes to us for counseling, what can we do? We need to listen to them so we can understand where they are coming from. We need to get some type of personal history from them and we need to determine what manifestations or symptoms they have. All of this is part of building trust and confidence. Once that foundation is established, the pathway to help is easier to navigate.
Psalm One is a description of a happy person. He or she is a person who avoids bad company and embraces a discipline of growing in God's Word. As a result, that person prospers. Archibald Hart has observed, "Reality thinking is positive. It stares truth in the eyes, allowing us to find constructive and liberating ways to deal with it. It refuses to deny the actual negatives of life." Accepting reality is one of the keys to good mental health. What a person is repressing, denying, or suppressing is often a major clue in understanding what is behind the client's manifested symptoms.
One of the greatest deceptions we use on ourselves is to immerse our thinking in unreality or fantasy. Imagination is a good gift from God, but becoming bound up in fantasy is a potential for disaster. How can we help a person change if he or she is living more in a fantasy world than reality? Help him to see that the first step in change is to think healthily. It has been suggested that the human mind easily falls prey to impulsive reactions that invariable lead to difficulty or regret. While some personalities are more prone to spontaneity than others, impulsivity is harmful. A client may swing from one thing to another and never really confront his core problem or face how he is feeding this kind of behavior through faulty thinking. Impulsiveness can often be a refusal to confront reality.
God's Word is truth. It is faith in His Son, the truth, and obedience to His Word, the truth, that can give a person the freedom to think clearly, realistically, and rightly. From that kind of thinking comes the ability to adjust, adapt, change, grow, and overcome the things that trouble us. Learning to think using God's truth is not a one-time experience but a lifetime of growth.
As counselors, we cannot change a person's way of thinking, but we can help him change. God Himself is the author of change in a person's heart and He uses means to accomplish that. Central to what God uses is His Word. When people learn to think truth, they will in turn learn to live truth.