129: How to Identify Toxic Thinking Patterns and Break Free from Negative Thoughts

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Today we’re talking about negative thoughts – and if you struggle with negative thoughts then you know that you cannot just get rid of them!  You have probably tried to stop them, but for whatever reason, they feel like they are stuck in your mind. 


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I want to help you understand why that is happening, and why it’s related to subconscious thought patterns you may be struggling with. 

We will be talking about some of those subconscious thought patterns, or core soundtracks, whether they are toxic or not, and determining if we want to keep them or if there is something we want to rewire and build up with the truths of God.

I’m going to walk you through a specific process of helping you to identify what some of those might be, and taking a first step to be able to find healing from it.

Obviously we can’t address everything about this topic because this is something that is way bigger than just one podcast episode, but I want you to know that if you are struggling with overcoming negative thoughts, you are not alone. 

All of us struggle with negative thoughts sometimes and I want you to understand why you may be stuck and how to find true freedom from negative thoughts. I also want to give you some practical tips to move forward.


  • [3:57] Brain Science 101: How a thought forms in the brain
  • [6:19] The brain’s job is to keep us alive and safe
  • [6:42] How our thoughts affect our actions
  • [10:07] Why we can have a thought in our logical mind and not believe it in our subconscious mind
  • [13:00] The three big questions that our brain answers in the late childhood/early teen years 
  • [17:13] The importance of self-compassion in overcoming toxic thought patterns
  • [20:45] Promises of God that give comfort as we break free from negative thought patterns

[3:57] Brain Science 101: How a thought forms in the brain

The brain is a very complex organ. While we don’t have time to talk about all the parts today, I want us to learn about two specific parts of the brain: the Prefrontal cortex and the subconscious brain.

These are the parts that are involved in the process of developing what I call “core soundtracks.”

So, first, the Prefrontal cortex (at the top of our heads) is the logic center or the executive functioning center. It’s where every thought comes through first and is analyzed. This is where we would think through things and decide: “Is this right?” “Is this wrong?” “Do I want to wear the blue dress or the green dress?” Things like that. We are making decisions all the time with our Prefrontal cortex. These are cognitive decisions.

On the other hand, the subconscious mind is incredible because it allows us to create these streamlined patterns, or highways of information that allow the brain to streamline a thought or a decision, or even a muscle function. Then, going forward, the brain knows exactly what to do because there has been a specific subconscious forming of the neurons in terms of how to act in a given situation.  

For example, if you wanted to ride a bike (and it had been a few years since you’d ridden), it would be much easier to ride a bike if you’ve already ridden compared to someone who had never ridden a bike before. That’s because your brain has already created specific subconscious programming to help streamline the “re-learning” process. 

When the Prefrontal cortex has a thought and is practicing it over and over, the subconscious mind says, “Okay, I know what is happening here. I’m going to streamline this process. I’m going to try to make it something that makes it as easy as possible for the brain to do this again.”

[6:19] The brain’s job is to keep us alive and safe

The brain’s number one job is to keep us alive and safe, and specifically to conserve our energy.  So, if the brain can cut down on the amount of energy by saying that it will run a “program” of that information versus having to analyze it and think through every decision, the brain will choose the streamlined option.  This is part of the beautiful way God structured our brains.

[6:42] How our thoughts affect our actions

Brain science demonstrates that if we want to change our actions we must first change our thoughts. If we want to change the results we're seeing, we have to go all the way back to the thought.

When we’re talking about core thoughts, we want to identify what is helpful and what is not helpful. As Christian women, we make that delineation based on what is in line with God’s truth and what is not in line with His truth because God’s truth and His promise are what we want to build our lives around. Here’s the ultimate question to ask ourselves: “Is it serving me anymore to have this pattern in my life, and is this pattern lining up with what God says about me?” That is the litmus test. and When these subconscious thoughts are repeated they become more embedded in our minds, so we really need to pay attention to these soundtracks because they are not going away.

In one-on-one coaching or in the Christian Mindset Makeover, we use brain priming to be able to rewire these core soundtracks. I will be explaining more about brain priming in a future episode, but for now just know that brain priming is a specific neurological process that we take clients through to create new thought patterns in the subconscious mind so that when a thought like “God loves me” comes through the Prefrontal cortex, the subconscious mind agrees with the thought because of the new programming.

[10:07] Why we can have a thought in our logical mind and not believe it in our subconscious mind

Before we go any further, let me explain why we get stuck sometimes and why we can have a certain thought in our logical mind (our Prefrontal cortex), and not believe it in the subconscious mind. For example, a very common thought that people will have is, “I know that God loves me but I just don’t feel loved. I’ve heard about God’s love my whole life as a church-goer, but I just don’t feel it.” 

Some important questions to ask in this situation are: “How has our brain determined what love is?” “How has it determined how to get love and how to feel loved?” “How has it figured out how to receive love, and how to give love?” 

The brain will default to whatever has been programmed into the subconscious mind. If you read a Bible verse about love, you can read it from a logical standpoint. But if there’s a neurological pattern running in the subconscious mind that is in conflict with that Bible verse (such as “I’m only loved if I do this, or if I say this, or I act a certain way,”) then the logical thought will be “believed” but not “stick” in a deeper way. Until we remove the disconnect the subconscious programming will win every time. 

So you can see why it is so important to be able to overcome negative thought patterns, because we want to be able to get past these things. We want to be able to grow in Christ and to believe God’s truth about us.  If we want to be able to absorb the goodness that God has for us and if we want to be a light for Him in this world, we have to get to the bottom of some of these negative thoughts.

[13:00] The three big questions that our brain answers in the late childhood/early teen years

The three questions are (1) Am I worthy?  (2) Am I enough?  (3) Am I loved?

What I love to do is help women figure out how some of these core questions may have been answered during that late childhood and early teen period. 

In the Christian Mindset Makeover, we give you lots of different exercises to help you understand and process how you have answered those questions. We also help you figure out how those answers could be the root of some of the negative thoughts you struggle with.

[17:13] The importance of self-compassion in overcoming toxic thought patterns

It is incredibly important to have self-compassion as we work through challenging emotions and toxic thought patterns. 

Our first instinct when we feel these negative thoughts or have an inner critic surface is to just to be like, “Oh, be quiet. I don’t want to talk about this. Sit down; that’s not true. God doesn’t believe that about me.” What if, instead of just telling it to be quiet, we looked at it with care, curiosity, and compassion? 

It’s also important that we feel safe in sharing these negative thought patterns. It can be unnerving to look at things in the past or to think about why we feel certain ways. It takes perseverance and it is vulnerable, so it is amazing that we have a God who sits with us and helps us process – who loves us in the brokenness. He is our refuge and our wonderful place that we can go to at any time to find hope and healing.

Before I read some specific scriptures about God and His ability to be a refuge, I want to encourage you to ask yourself: “Do I feel safe with God?” “Do I feel like I can bring these things before God and ask Him the difficult questions?” “Do I feel like He can hold them?”

The truth is that God is there, but any relationship involves two-way communication. If the two sides are not meshing together, there is going to be a disconnect and there may not be a sense of safety.  Maybe, due to your life experiences, God doesn’t feel trustworthy. That’s understandable depending on what you’ve gone through. As you ask yourself these questions, I want you to hear the promises of who God is. 

[20:45] Promises of God that give comfort as we break free from negative thought patterns

Psalm 62:8 says, “O my people, trust in Him at all times, pour out your heart to Him for God is our refuge.”

Psalm 9:9, “The Lord is a shelter for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble.”

We all go through things that are not fair or right, and that can feel heavy and difficult. Yet this is what God says: He is a shelter – not for those who are high and mighty, but for those who have suffered or those who are oppressed. He is a refuge in times of trouble.

Psalm 34:22, “But the Lord will redeem those who serve him. No one who takes refuge in Him will be condemned.”

Friends, I worry that if you come to Him with these thoughts that you believe God will be mad at you. That’s not God – He is not a condemning God. God offers conviction, meaning he wants to encourage us and teach us to live differently so that we can obey him and live the abundant life that he is calling us to. He will never condemn us or make us feel worthless. Our God is one who sits with us, understands, and helps to show us a different way.

Psalm 118:8, “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in people.”

Psalm 91:2, “This I declare about the Lord. He alone is my refuge, my place of safety.  He is my God and I trust Him.”

We can cultivate safety and refuge in God by remembering his character. And like any relationship, building trust with God happens a little at a time. It starts by being honest, open and vulnerable with Him as part of a daily communication in Bible time, prayer and/or journaling.

 [25:49]Questions to ask yourself as you process negative thoughts and find healing

I want to leave you with a few questions to consider:

First, how might your brain answer the three core questions (“Am I worthy?” “Am I loved?” “Am I enough?”)? Then, how might that answer give insight into the reasons behind the negative thoughts you’re struggling with? 

Second, what is a promise of God that you can use as a refuge or a place of safety as you process some of these core soundtracks? Consider the things you can remember about who He is and how that can cover you as you go to this place and work through some of these negative thoughts and challenging emotions.

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Next Step Resources if You Struggle with Negative Thoughts:

FREE WORKSHOP: Learn How to Transform Your Thoughts to Transform Your Life

Struggle with feeling you’re never enough? Find it hard to let go of people-pleasing? Stuck in comparison or feeling like you have to prove your worth

Or maybe you’re frustrated because you can’t let go of shame or past hurts.

ANY of these things will hinder your ability to believe God's promises and live the confident, peaceful life God has planned for you. 

But it doesn't have to be this way! You can change your life by getting to the root thoughts behind these behaviors.

Listen… both brain science AND scripture show that every action we take starts first with a thought.

If we change our thoughts, we can change our results. 

GREAT NEWS: I want to help you get started in changing these thoughts (using proven neuroscience and timeless biblical truth) with this FREE WORKSHOP! 

Sign up now at VibrantChristianLiving.com/mind


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At this FREE WORKSHOP you’ll learn: 

  • Why it makes sense you're stuck in toxic thinking and behaviors (+ how to stop!)  
  • 3 common myths that keep you imprisoned in lies (+ powerful truths to set you free!)
  • 3 life-changing reframes + step-by-step actions to break free from unwanted behaviors  (+ finally believe God's truth in your head AND your heart!)

Plus you’ll get an inside look at the Christian Mindset Makeover™–the life-changing course that leads Christian women through a powerful 7-step process based on science + the Bible to rewire the root thoughts behind overthinking, anxiety, perfectionism + other unwanted behaviors  for more peace, joy + confidence.

Go now to VibrantChristianLiving.com/mind right now to sign up for this amazing FREE WORKSHOP and take the first steps to freedom from perfectionism, people-pleasing and more by learning how to transform your thoughts to transform your life.