Guest Post: Debra Fileta Counselors Network, licensed counselor BRI FRANKLIN, M.A., LMHC
Much like “red flags”, we can more easily spot unhealthy or self-critical thoughts but, like
“yellow flags”, toxic thoughts that can appear positive, helpful, or reasonable, can be more
difficult to detect. As a Licensed Counselor, I have heard these thoughts, which often contribute
to life challenges. I encourage you to review the following list and see what, if any, thoughts
ring true for you. These thoughts can often appear positive, encouraging, or affirming, at first
glance so, please know that I understand how normalized these are in our lives! That’s the
blessing and the challenge of being able to self-reflect and see how some of our thought
patterns can be causing more hurt than hope.
- “I should be further ahead by now.” Be careful when you use the word “should” when
engaging in self-talk. Ask yourself, “says who?” Be mindful of the standard you’re using
to compare your life to someone else’s (social media, celebrities, friends,
family/cultural/church expectations, etc.) Assess how you use these patterns of
comparison to criticize rather than encourage yourself.
- “I’ll be happy if I just had this (a spouse, a house, a promotion, etc.).” All these life
changes can contribute to happiness but, it is not a guarantee and often, things we
consider to be blessings can be a burden if we are not ready to properly steward them.
Even then, life comes with challenges that are unique to each stage of life and happiness
is not an automatic byproduct of status changes. Manufactured happiness is vastly
different than authentic contentment and joy. The Bible speaks about joy and
contentment at great lengths, none of which include the accumulation of accolades or
- “It’s in the past. I can’t change it anyways.” This reminds me of the teaching moment
between Rafiki and Simba in “The Lion King”! To quote Rafiki, “Oh yes, the past can hurt,
but the way I see it, you can either run from it or learn from it.” While we can’t literally
change our past, we must first feel the impact from it, in order to heal from it. Healing
does not happen without feeling. Jesus, Himself, knew that He could raise Lazarus from
the dead, after all, Lazarus’ death was in the past. However, this did not stop Jesus from
mourning and weeping. If Jesus can change the past and He still felt His feeling, how
much more are we able to honor our God-given emotions.
- “I shouldn’t feel….(sad, anxious, etc.).” There’s that “should” word again. Feelings are
distinct from logic and when you use logic to explain your feelings, it’s like using a brain
surgeon for your heart surgery. Yes, there is room for exploring the nature of your
thoughts and feelings but, often, feelings are not easily traced to a triggering event.
Have you ever told someone who was feeling anxious to “not worry”? I imagine it
wasn’t helpful because while you can disagree with your feeling, it doesn’t make the
emotion any less real.
- “I am who I am. Take it or leave it.” While at first glance, this can seem like a self-
empowering perspective, it usually reveals an unwillingness to engage in self-reflection
and change. We have an ability to change and even, re-wire our brains, so, we are not
doomed to be stuck in familiar patterns, mindsets, and behaviors. When we know
better, we do better. Self-awareness is unhelpful if it ultimately does not lead to change.
As is stated in Romans 12:2, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by
the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what
is good and acceptable and perfect.”
- “I don’t care what anyone thinks of me.” This is another tricky thought that can seem
like a healthy view of affirming your unique self. The problem comes in when you realize
that we’re all social beings. As the adage goes, “No man (or woman) is an island”. We all
need others and need, in this context, is not meant to imply an unhealthy dependence
on others for your happiness, fulfillment, or healing. Rather, it is an acknowledgment
that we were made for community and that naturally comes with an awareness of
others’ opinions of us. There can be a healthy awareness of others’ perceptions, which
can lead to accountability, behavior change, and opportunities for emotional growth.
- “People have it worse than me.” This is very well true for most of us. Do you know what
else is true? People have it better than you, too. Life is not a competition of struggles.
Your pain is unique and valid to your experiences and is not meant to be a weapon
against yourself or others because the nature of their pain is different. Some people
grew up in homes where their emotions were dismissed because they were expected to
be grateful for all they had (often, financial provisions) but, having your physical needs
met does transfer to your emotional needs being met. This can lead to emotional
invalidation because you’re constantly comparing your struggles to someone else.
- “I don’t want to be a burden to others.” I see this thought come up more often than I
can count. As a result, we limit moments of vulnerability and emotional connection with
others, because we feel unworthy to be supported. Often, this stems from childhoods in
which our needs/opinions/feelings were not affirmed, or we had to prioritize the
feelings of others over ourselves. See point #6 above to realize there is a healthy
acknowledgment of the role of other people in our life and there will be times when you
are the support for someone else and when they are the support for you. If you find
yourself always in the “helper” role, this could indicate an imbalance in your
- “God won’t give me more than I can handle.” While this seems well-intended, it can be
a form of spiritual bypassing. By that, I mean that we often struggle with learning to just
sit with, and feel our painful experiences so, we instead, come up with a “solution” to
bypass the pain. There is nothing that God can’t handle but, we, are limited beings, who
can give our pain to God and trusted friends/family for support but, we, ourselves, often
can’t handle things, and that’s okay (and actually, encouraged) to admit.
- “Time heals all wounds.” I wish this was the case! However, if it was, people would not
still struggle with the pain from being bullied, with the impact from their parents’
divorce, with the trauma they experienced years ago. Healing is not a passive but,
rather, an active process and it is not the default result of time. If you overcome an
illness or an injury, there might be reminders of that physical pain but, just because you
overcame it, does not mean that your pain is irrelevant. Emotional health, often unlike
physical health, is not binary. We are not either emotionally healthy or not; there is
nuance, which includes an “ebb and flow” of our healing, which includes triggers and
reminders of our pain. After Jesus rose from the dead, He still had his physical wounds from the crucifixion; reminders of our wounds can be both physical and psychological even if we’ve experienced spiritual transformation.
If you identified with this list, you are not alone! There are so many factors that contribute to
the development and acceptance of these thought patterns. The good news is we can begin to change the way we think about ourselves and others. Through community, counseling, prayer, and the renewing of your mind, your thoughts can be rewired in an authentic way! Remember the challenge and encouragement found in 2 Corinthians 10:5: “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”
Do you want to get healthy? To work through some of those toxic thoughts and other issues book an online individual or couples session with a Debra Fileta Counselors Network counselor and guest post author, BRI FRANKLIN, M.A., LMHC.
Bri’s Specialties: Singles and Singleness Issues, Dating Advice and Coaching, Marriage Strengthening, Premarital/ Engagement, College, Millennial Young Adult Issues, Life Transitions, Spirituality, Christianity, Faith Issues, Emotional Health, Self-Esteem, Shame, and Identity Issues, Family Issues or Conflict Help for Pastors/Ministry Leaders and Business/High Capacity Leaders. Book a Session with Bri Today!
Bri’s Availability: Mostly Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. Please Check Bri’s Calendar Here.
It can be overwhelming to find a therapist, who recognizes the role of faith while also acknowledging the unique nuances of mental health. Bri is proud to be able to integrate a faith perspective with research-based mental health practices. She offers a tailor-made approach to each of her clients. She graduated from a nationally-ranked, top ten graduate counseling program focusing on Marriage, Couple, and Family Therapy with a certification in Mental Health Counseling. She is Level 1 Gottman Method Couples Therapy trained. Bri has led counseling groups on topics of grief, anxiety, trauma, creative arts, and healthy relationships at a college counseling center. She is an Associate Certified Coach, certified by the International Coaching Federation and works as an Adult ADHD Executive Functioning Coach in addition to her role as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor. She has taken seminary courses on biblical and theological foundations. She is also enrolled in a two-year professional development course on psychodynamic psychoanalytic theory. Her primary ministry role focuses on pastoral care and mental health in the church. She offers a non-judgmental, insightful, and engaging approach to her sessions and looks forward to supporting you on your healing journey!