Creating Pathways in the Brain, Part 1
“… casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” – 2 Corinthians 10:5
(Chapter excerpt from Wendy’s new book, Victorious Emotions)
It has always bothered me that it was so easy to naturally produce negative emotions. I never had to exert myself to be negative – negative emotions seemingly just materialized! But when I began to study the brain, I discovered they did not just randomly materialize. Most of those negative emotions that came so easily were the result of a stronghold developed when I was younger.
Let me explain what I mean by a stronghold. We all have thoughts or events that produce a recurring emotion. Mentally reviewing and re-imagining them will create even stronger emotions about those thoughts or events. We give significance and authority to whatever we meditate or focus on. The more we focus on and experience the emotions produced by those thoughts, the greater the neural pathway we will develop in our brain. The more we can re-create the original emotion with the memory, the more deeply entrenched the neural pathway becomes. We cannot build a path in the forest by walking through it once. But if we walk it every day, a pathway will be created. It will become the easiest route through the forest, although it may not be the quickest. Deep neural pathways, or emotional beliefs, are not built by a single event or spoken word. In fact, if we are neutral about an event or thought, we are more likely to just forget the event or thought. It is as if the emotional re-enactment enhances the likelihood of a neural pathway being produced.
This rehearsing usually develops into a conclusion about ourselves, others, or a circumstance. These conclusions may or may not be correct, but because they were made while under pathway in the brain, which I call a stronghold. In the natural, a stronghold is a place that has already been taken and has prepared itself to defend its right to remain. A stronghold will always build up its resources and strength to remain in control of what it has possessed. The strongholds of our minds are very similar. They will cause our brains to constantly look for proof to defend the existing beliefs. These deeply-held beliefs are actually protected by the emotional response that helped create the belief. The brain will even feel compelled to repeatedly rehearse the event and the emotion to build up its strength against opposition. The reason the brain can use emotion to protect its conclusion or belief is because most of us tend to use emotion to validate whether something is true or not.
I am fascinated by how often science catches up with the truths in the Bible. An example of this is found in 2 Corinthians 10:4-5. These verses talk about pulling down strongholds and taking thoughts captive. It is inferring that the stronghold is caused by our thoughts! Experts on the brain, like Dr. Caroline Leaf, have proven that our brains do indeed have strongholds or pathways that are built by belief systems. The reason that scripture says to take thoughts captive is because they will not just surrender. They are trying to defend themselves. God knew how our brains would work, so He gave keys in the Bible to help us experience the victorious life He intended for us to live.
At first I thought if God was so good, why did He create our brains with this instinctive characteristic that seems to work against us as Christians? Then He began to reveal to me that He gave us this ability so we could build positive strongholds in our thinking that would cause happy, peaceful emotions without striving or effort. It is possible for victorious emotions to seem to randomly materialize just as negative emotions do.
The problem is that many of us tend to rehearse negative experiences more than positive ones, and they create emotionally-charged, negative strongholds. If we tend to only rehearse negative events in our lives, we are setting ourselves up for daily emotional tidal waves that will hinder us from having prosperous, happy lives.
I have noticed that although we may succeed at many things during the day, we will often use the one failure we had to determine our identity. We will begin to see ourselves as a failure, although it makes more sense to see ourselves as a success since that is what we experience more often. Some people will disagree and argue that they do not succeed at anything, but in reality people unknowingly succeed hundreds of times a day. Did you successfully walk, read, eat, or talk today? Did you push through tiredness and get out of bed this morning? Did you successfully resist responding in anger many times before you finally succumbed? Even reading this book means you successfully decided to grow in your life.
My point is that we tend to rehearse the negative events rather than the positive events. This means we build more negative emotional-inducing beliefs than positive ones. The more negative beliefs we have, the more emotional turmoil we will experience. And the more we dwell on those beliefs, the harder it becomes to take those thoughts or beliefs captive as 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 commands. It is mainly harder because we have built a strong emotional attachment to guard those wrong beliefs.
Because negative strongholds exist, I realized that I needed to commit to waging war against them. I knew the battle was to take every thought into captivity to the agreement of Christ. The conclusions I had developed about myself, the world, and others had to be sacrificed until they agreed with God and His Word.
Follow along next week, when Wendy Backlund will share part two of this chapter on “Creating Pathways in the Brain.” For more on Victorious Emotions, scroll below to purchase your copy of the book and corresponding journal.
***Blog content used with approval from Igniting Hope Ministries - click here for original post.***