Distracted Thinking as a Result of How We Think - Part II


Today Dr. Luke will continue reasons people have trouble with distracted thinking from poor thinking habits. Following is a story of a person with this problem and they way she developed help through from her problem.

Yu Xue was a 30 year old doctor living in a large city hospital in China. He had been in this hospital for five years. He was married and had been for five years and had a 3 year old daughter. Yu Xue enjoyed his work but noticed that over the past 6 months he was having increasing difficulties concentrating with his work. He did not know why just that he did. He wanted to do a good job at work as he wanted to start his doctorate in several years and needed good recommendations from the head of his department. He feared that his work was not so good.

Yu Xue even was beginning to think his department head did not like him as he had told Yu Xue that he needed to work harder. Yu Xue even told his wife that he might be asked to leave the current hospital he was working at. Yu Xue even began to think that he should be reading a full textbook in his field every few months. He even started wondering if he had caused the deaths of two patients who recently died under his care.

The problem is that Yu Xue did not know what to do. He had tried exercise, getting more sleep, buying books on how to think differently and still he was unhappy and his problem only got worse.  He just knew he was going to get fired.

A friend of his at work noticed that Yu Xue was more distracted at work. He asked Yu Xue why. Yu Xue knew that if his friend noticed the problem then others would as well. He also knew the department head would notice as well. Yu Xue’s friend was concerned about Yu Xue and they talked after work one day. Yu Xue told him his concerns. His friend though saying he was distracted otherwise thought he had done a good job. Yu Xue’s friend was knowledgeable about the problems people can have with stress. As they talked his friend listened carefully and after long while of talking Yu Xue’s friend asked him if he could offer some advice.

Yu Xue was glad to hear anything from his friend which he thought would help. Yu Xue’s friend started out by saying there are different types of thinking which we have which can affect our outlook on life. He said he would mention several but there were others.

First he said was what he called jumping to conclusions. Yu Xue’s friend stated the following about jumping to conclusions.

1.  Jumping To Conclusions:

This category actually involves two subcategories.  The first subcategory is called mind reading.  Mind reading is where we soon want someone else's thinking.  The reality is that we cannot read other's minds and so we don't actually know what they are thinking or how they are feeling, unless they tell us.  This type of thinking is very common as it causes a lot of difficulty for most people.  Most of the time, we assume that people are thinking negative things about us rather than positive things.  For example, imagine that you go into work tomorrow and someone that is usually very friendly toward you is particularly unfriendly and quiet.  You say hello, and they just speak briefly and walk away.  You think yourself "what is he mad at me about".  When this happens, you may feel tense or you may fail angry or sad that this person is upset with you.  Now, imagine that the same event happens, but that, instead of saying "what is he mad at me about", you think "I wonder if he is OK".  With this thought you would have a totally different emotional response or mood.  This thought that you choose in this situation tends to be based on your past experiences.  If you have learned to believe that other people get upset or angry with you, you'll tend to have the first thought.

The second subcategory is called the fortune teller error.  This happens whenever we anticipate some event occurring in the future as if it has already happened.  For example, a person may have a medical test and have to wait several days for the results.  They may imagine all the negative possible outcomes from that medical test, so much that their tension and grief occurs as if the negative results had already come back.  Of course, the reality is that we do not know what is going to happen in the future.  However much stress and anxiety is created by people anticipating the future.

Yu Xue knew that he was always jumping to conclusions and assuming that people were thinking the worse about him. Yu Xue’s friend then told him about another type of thinking called thinking about catastrophes.

2.  Catastrophes:

This type of thinking involves a person having an inaccurate perception of the significance of an event.  A negative event may have actually happened.  However, the individual will think about the event as if it is much more life changing or catastrophic then it really is.  For example, a person may think "My life is over if I lose this job".  The reality is that losing the job would be very difficult circumstance to endure.  However, people do live through the loss of the job.  They get another job and go on with their lives.  Even if the individual actually knows this truth, thinking to themselves that their life is over makes their emotional response much more negative.

Yu Xue knew that he thought like this. Some days he just knew his boss would walk up and fire him from his job. He did not know why he said this just that he did. Yu Xue’s friend went on to say that this type of thinking led to emotional reasoning which he described as follows.

3.  Emotional Reasoning:

We do emotional reasoning whenever we use her feelings to determine reality.  We may feel that someone doesn't like us and then think that because we feel that way, it must be true.  In fact, our emotional responses are not a very good gauge of reality.  Our emotions respond to our thoughts and, as we have discussed earlier, our thoughts respond to prior events and beliefs in our lives.

A final area of thinking problems is when we blame ourselves for the outcomes, which is called personalization. This is what happened when Yu Xue blamed for deaths n patients he had no control of.

4.  Personalization:

In personalization, the individual blames themselves, or takes responsibility for events that they really have no control over.  This is probably best exemplified by the many times that parents blamed themselves for failures or negative behaviors in their children.  While the parents have some responsibility and ability to determine things for their children, they did not control all factors which influence their children.  Blaming ourselves for events of which we actually have no control contributes significantly to a lowering of our self-esteem or our mood.

Yu Xue’s friend told him that chances are he used all of these in at least some of these types of thinking.  As Yu Xue’s indicated before, we all develop thinking patterns in our lives.   Each of these thinking patterns can lower our self-esteem, increase our anxiety and increase the chances that they will get depressed.  Watching your thinking patterns and trying to stop negative or dysfunctional thinking can help, but it takes a great deal of persistence and awareness of your thinking to make changes. Yu Xue’s friend asked him to order these in order of severity and then develop a plan to work on these and then they would review the plan.

Yu Xue’s friend told him that he had studied for many years about how we think. Yet he believed that more than knowledge a personal relationship with a person called Jesus Christ could change our mind and thinking more. Yu Xue was curious about this. His friend had just told him a lot about what he could do to change and now Yu Xue had a lot of insight. What more could another person give him.

Yu Xue’s doctor friend opened a Bible and turned to a place which said, ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?  But we have the mind of Christ (I Corinthians 2.16).’  He told Yu Xue that to have a changed mind we must have the mind of Jesus Christ; we must learn to think like he did. But how do we do that Yu Xue thought?

Yu Xue’s friend read in another place in the Bible, ‘my son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.  For the Lord gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.  He holds victory in store for the upright; he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, for he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones. Then you will understand what is right and just and fair-every good path. For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.  Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you. (Proverbs 2.1-11).’  This is exactly what Yu Xue needed. How could he get this wisdom he asked his friend?

Yu Xue’s friend told him that we must first see ourselves as sinners or wrongdoers before God. God is holy and does not tolerate sin. This sin of ours has separated us from God. Amongst many things our sin causes us to have faulty thinking. This faulty thinking can be changed if we have our sins cleansed and thus have a new conscience before God. His friend again opened up the Bible and read, ‘therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.  And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.  Not only so, we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that sufferings produce perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us (Romans 5.1-5).’ 

Yu Xue’s friend him that the right relationship we have through Jesus Christ with God gives us peace of heart and mind. Then the sufferings, perseverance, character and hope help us. That continues to give us good healthy thinking.

Again, Yu Xue asked his doctor friend how he could come to know this Jesus Christ. His friend continued to read in the same place in the Bible, ‘you see at just the right time, when we were still powerless,   Christ died for the ungodly.  Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this:  While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5.6-8).’  While we were still sinners, Yu Xue’s friend said, Christ died for us on the Cross to take our sins from us. It is this death of Christ on the cross and taking our sins from us in our place which provides for our salvation. Once we accept this then we can come to know Jesus Christ as our personal Savior and he will then bring change in our life.

Yu Xue’s friend showed him a further place which said, ‘if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead you will be saved (Romans 10.9).’  If we believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins and thus deserves to be called the Lord our lives and also believe that after he died he rose for our sins we have new life in Jesus Christ we will be saved both now and forever.

Yu Xue wanted this peace and meaning which only Jesus Christ could give. He prayed with his friend this prayer to receive eternal life with Jesus Christ. “Dear Lord Jesus Christ, I know that I am a sinner and that I have done wrong. I know that I do not deserve you forgiveness. I believe that you died on the Cross for my sins and that afterwards you rose from the dead to show you victory over sin and death. I know ask that you come into my life to save me and give me life now and forevermore. Thank you, amen.

Yu Xue received Jesus Christ into his life and found a new life with peace and meaning and a changed mind because of the person and power of Jesus Christ. You too can have this same new life if you will only ask Jesus into your life like Yu Xue did.