• Marty Lythgoe

The Spirit of Your Mind

Your mind is the control center of your entire life. If you change your thinking, you can change your whole life. This can happen in either a positive or negative way. For those suffering with Substance Use Disorder, as your condition progressed your thinking changed. You developed great skill in justifying and rationalizing your behavior. Rather than setting out to do "wrong," you first made it "right" in your own mind. And then the denial system that accompanies any chronic illness prevented you from seeing the truth of your situation.

Most people who struggle with alcohol or other drug misuse attempt to change their behavior from time to time. They "go on the wagon." They get "scared straight." The AA Big Book documents "some of the methods we have tried: Drinking beer only, limiting the number of drinks, never drinking alone, never drinking in the morning, drinking only at home, never having it in the house, never drinking during business hours, drinking only at parties, switching from scotch to brandy, drinking only natural wines, agreeing to resign if ever drunk on the job, taking a trip, not taking a trip, swearing off forever (with and without a solemn oath), taking more physical exercise, reading inspirational books, going to health farms and sanitariums, accepting voluntary commitment to asylums -- we could increase the list ad infinitum."

Don't get me wrong. Behavioral change is important. But unless it is accompanied with and supported by some change in thinking, it will not last. The 12 Steps make this point very clearly -- only Step One mentions "alcohol." The other 11 Steps are about a process of internal change so that recovering people can live comfortably without alcohol. It is the same principle that accompanies any lifestyle change. A change in thinking is required to support the change in behavior. Why is this?

Even before you were born, your mind was being "programmed." You have existing programs in your mental "computer" that control the way you respond to daily activities and circumstances of your life. Most of the decisions you make aren't conscious decisions but are programmed, subconscious decisions. Most of the fights you get into with your spouse aren't started by a conscious choice. The fights start through a subconscious choice, a programmed thought that causes you to respond to circumstances in a certain way. We "get our buttons pushed." Then we often set out to change the outside circumstances, rather than renewing or renovating our memory banks where programmed behavior is stored.

The Bible calls this programmed behavior the spirit of your mind. The apostle Paul wrote about the need for reprogramming or renewing almost 2000 years ago:

"Put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind...." (Ephesians 4:22-24)

It is a normal part of development to store information in "the spirit of the mind." Before a child is even born he/she is gathering and storing data about the world he/she will enter. The child may ask, "Is my world peaceful, or is it troubled? Is my world happy, or is it sad? Is my world successful, or is it struggling?" In childhood the primary sources of input are parents. Their attitudes become the child's attitudes. Their lifestyle becomes the child's lifestyle. The spirit of their minds become part of the spirit of the child's mind. This direct influence may be positive if your parents were fulfilled, healthy, loving people. But it can be negative if your parents were unhappy, sick, unloving people.

As children go to school and expand the outside social input, other assumptions, beliefs, attitudes and thoughts begin to be fed into their minds. For the first twenty years of our lives, we put together this package of information called the "spirit of the mind." We may continue education and continue to gather information but the spirit of our mind, the attitudes of our life and the ways in which we generally approach life are usually established before we are twenty.

This is what makes change difficult. It is more than simply changing our behavior. A mental exchange needs to take place. You must remove some things from your thinking and replace them with new programming. Remember - you are the only one who can really make your life what you want it to be. You are always in control of the renewing process. Jesus said, "A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things; and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things" (Matthew 12:35). The external is always a manifestation of the internal. In AA they say, "It's an inside job."


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© 2018 Marty Lythgoe