A couple years ago, Audrey a mild mannered Christian girl from Massachusetts, realized she had a problem. She was becoming stressed with her meditation practice as a result of her recent breakup from her fiance and additional debt preparing for the big day.
In addition, she was feeling low self esteem and it would take her sometimes an hour to get out of bed in the morning. Audrey decided to do a test with two Bible verses found here at Christ Audio, John 14:23 and Philippians 4:8 to see if that could help.
As soon as she started the practice she began to feel a difference. Her stress began to decrease and her meditations got better. Audrey also started to feel better about herself and getting up in the morning was no longer a problem. As a result, her performance and creativity at work improved which opened the door to a promotion.
Audrey's problem is not unique. In fact, all people have a Though Suppression Rebound. This is when we try to stop from thinking about something, but the brain rebounds with more thought about the suppressed topic. In extreme cases it's diagnosed as obsessive–compulsive disorder or OCD.
In Audrey's case it was her boyfriend's shocking announcement over the wedding cancellation. Heart-broken Audrey was left alone, broke, and in debt. The harder she tried to suppress thoughts of the fiasco the more intense they became. It disturbed her meditation, sleep, performance, and creativity. This magnified feelings of inadequacy and soon it became a self esteem issue.
What Is Thought Rebound
In 1987 Professor Daniel Wegner and a team of researchers investigated the effects of thought suppression (Wegner et al., 1987). In his published study called "Paradoxical Effects of Thought Suppression", he reveals how study subjects were instructed not to think about a white bear for 5 minutes. The same participants were then asked to think about a white bear for 5 minutes. Throughout the experiment participants were prompted to verbalize any thoughts they had.
Results showed that thought suppression triggered thoughts of the white bear twice as often as participants in a control group. The result indicates that trying to suppress a thought makes it stronger.
The same results were found in an experiment conducted by Wenzlaff & Wegner, in 2000. In the report Wenzlaff & Wegner state, "Although thought suppression is a popular form of mental control, research has indicated that it can be counterproductive, helping assure the very state of mind one had hoped to avoid." So trying to suppress a memory can be counterproductive and actually stimulate the state of mind one hopes to avoid like stress, or anxiety.
It should come as no surprise that emotionally laden thoughts, like a loved one leaving you before your wedding, are particularly vulnerable to the rebound effect. Since the discovery of the rebound effect scientists have probed deeper into the emotional dimension of thought rebound.
In a landmark study by Petrie et al., 1998, it was thought with emotional connections that were the hardest for participants to suppress. Emotional thought has a more drastic rebound effect than non-emotional thought, like a white bear, so Audrey had little chance of success. The greatest surprised was when blood samples were analyzed.
"Results showed a significant increase in circulating total lymphocytes and CD4 (helper cells) T lymphocyte levels in the emotional writing groups. Thought suppression resulted in a significant decrease in CD3 T lymphocyte levels."
So lab research shows that recognizing and just allowing emotional thoughts helps our immune system, while trying to suppress them also suppresses our immune system.
The lesson is clear! If we have a terrible experience that affects us emotionally we should not try to suppress the thought. Instead it's okay to just recognize it and move on. This allows our brain to neurologically connect with healthier thought which promotes health in our body. When Audrey discovered the Christian meditation techniques of John 14:23 and Philippians 4:8 she stumbled upon what researchers discovered.
God's Instruction About This Topic
Lets start with Philippians 4:8...
"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things."
This verse is about how to improve the mind, and therefore life. Notice that it advises to think about the lofty truths of God. It doesn't advise to suppress thought. It clearly states that we should train the mind to think in a certain way. Inevitable thought will come and go as we train the mind in this way but the instruction calls to keep focusing on God.
Taking this advise will produce the same effect discovered by Wenzlaff & Wegner. If we simply recognize a disturbing thought, or memory, we can more easily move on toward other thought. Suppression is not needed, but willful training is. (Philippians 4:8)
By implication, this verse teaches that we should accept things as they are and then train our mind with new patterns. And the best thought patterns are created by studying and meditating on God's word.
John 14:23 states that if anyone loves Jesus they will retain His word as the though of the mind. This exercise can only occur if we deeply and reverently meditate on God's word until it becomes the natural thought of the mind.
In John 14:23 Jesus also states that the result of following His advise will be the increased presence of God. Audrey found restoration, peace of mind, health, and promotion because she fulfilled this principle.
Christian Meditation Advice
Are you having a hard time with thought during Christian meditation practice? Maybe your experiencing thought rebound. It's time to let go. Let your thought just be and move on with your practice.
Supplement your discipline with daily study of God's word. This will keep your mind on holy, true, and pure.
Take some time to pray. Prayer has a cleansing effect on the mind. When you pray, take your time, don't rush it. Take a few long deep breaths as you pray and release any thought and emotion toward God, your Father.
Practice what you read in this article and you will live a happier healthier life. Just like Audrey, you too will move ahead with love, hope, and health. Naturally, if you have pressing health issue you should consult with a doctor right away. God bless you see you in the kingdom.
We'd love to hear from you. Type how you overcome rebound thinking during your meditation in the space below.