by Joanie Butman
Hooked on a Feeling is a favorite song from my youth. I played that 45 until it wore out. My kids would be horrified to learn that I actually had to sit by the record player and manually replay it. Of course, that was back when you had to get up to change the channel on the TV as well. Luckily, there were only a few channels so you could flip through the lineup quickly. The song was what used to be called Bubblegum Pop – catchy tune, not so deep lyrics. As an adult, however, I can appreciate the title on a deeper level as most of us do get hooked on a feeling. Sadly, the feelings we get hooked on aren’t necessarily the innocent ones of the Bubblegum Pop genre.
On the contrary, the feelings that trip us up the most are negative ones of inferiority, doubt, insecurity, fear, worry, guilt, shame, regret. The list is endless. It seems self-defeating, yet so many of us choose to replay them again and again. The recording never wears out. It just wears us down. As the first line of the song suggests, “I can’t stop this feeling deep inside of me…” No, I can’t, but I don’t have to agree with it. Just because you feel or think something DOESN’T make it true. My mind is my own worst enemy. Here’s an interesting observation supported by a 2005 study by the National Science Foundation.
“We humans, it seems, have anywhere from 12,000 to 60,00 thoughts per day. But according to some research, as many as 98 percent of them are exactly the same as we had the day before. Even more significant, 80 percent of our thoughts are negative.”*
What a relief! I thought there was something wrong with me. There is - I'm human. Unfortunately, there's no cure for that, which is why God sent Christ.
It’s a fact that negative thinking and negative feeling feed off each other. Joyce Meyer, author of Battlefield of the Mind, testifies, “Once I realized that right thinking is vital to victorious living, I got more serious about thinking about what I was thinking about, and choosing my thoughts carefully.” With her words echoing in my mind, I decided to spend Lent this year doing just that, by memorizing and concentrating on one uplifting scripture or adage per day. Whenever a negative thought or feeling pops into my mind (as they do repeatedly), I will let it pass through without giving it a place to land by replacing it with something positive. This exercise may seem simplistic, but controlling my thoughts is the hardest skill I’ve ever tried to master, and I’ve been at it a long time. I know I’m not alone or else anxiety/depression wouldn’t be a national epidemic. Nor would the growing mindfulness practices have gained so much popularity. It's funny that people think mindfulness is something "new." The Bible has been preaching it since the beginning of time.
Just last week following a preview of the documentary, Angst, the commentator asked if anyone had any questions. A young boy (maybe 11) raised his hand and inquired, “I go to Catholic school. Do you think Catholic guilt adds to my anxiety?” The room erupted in laughter, but it broke my heart. I don’t think the audience laughed because they considered his question funny or silly (and I made a point of telling him so later). I think they laughed because they could all relate. Believe me, Catholics don’t hold the monopoly on guilt and shame, even though they may have perfected it to an art form. Other religions can be just as accountable for instilling the guilt/shame paradigm. That said, you don’t need to come from a religious background to suffer from performance anxiety. Life has an endless supply of stress-inducing situations that are just as effective.
Whatever the case may be, my solution to negative thinking has always been to fix my thoughts on Jesus. It takes constant effort and discipline to keep them there though. My thought patrol has to be on duty 24/7 because it’s easy to get lazy and sink into old thinking patterns. Just like I had to manually get up to reset the record or change the channel on the TV, I have to intentionally reset what’s playing in my mind or change the channel to something more uplifting. Sometimes that does involve movement of some sort – exercise, change of scenery, change of company, getting out in nature, turning the news off, going to church, reading scripture, calling a friend – anything that refreshes my “screen.” Anne Lamott also offers some excellent advice in regard to the battle that wages in our head. She states, “My mind is a like a bad neighborhood. I try never to go there alone.” So true, which is why I choose to invite Christ to be my constant companion.
I like to dwell on the song's chorus when negativity is pounding on my door because it’s the feeling Jesus wants us to be hooked on.
I'm hooked on a feeling
I'm high on believing
That you're in love with me
With Valentine's Day and Ash Wednesday coinciding this week, what better thought to reflect on? When I choose to remember and embrace the truth of God’s love for me, it’s almost impossible not to feel positive regardless of my circumstances.
How do you choose to be a conqueror on the battlefield of the mind?