Poison ivy is a pesky plant that causes agitated and itchy skin and is very hard to eliminate due to its intricate root system. The roots can grow up to 20 feet horizontally and a foot deep. This visual is a good representation of how deeply our thoughts can affect our emotional well-being. Just as the growth of poison ivy starts with one leaf, an attack on mental and emotional health can start with one negative thought and grow from there. Mental health professionals help clients understand and identify negative core beliefs that interfere with their day-to-day functioning. Therapist Aid (therapistaid.com) offers a good explanation of core beliefs:

“Core beliefs are a person’s most central ideas about themselves, others, and the world. These beliefs act like a lens through which every situation and life experience is seen. Because of this, people with different core beliefs might be in the same situation but think, feel, and behave very differently. Even if a core belief is inaccurate, it still shapes how a person sees the world. Harmful core beliefs lead to negative thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, whereas rational core beliefs lead to balanced reactions.”

Core beliefs take root in childhood and continue to develop throughout life. Negative core beliefs can cause extreme emotional distress and mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and low self-esteem. It is important to recognize that these negative thoughts do not come from God. They are from Satan, who comes to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). We keep our hearts by allowing the Holy Spirit to reveal the truth of our worth.

Though negative core beliefs tend to be longstanding and stubborn thoughts, they can be changed. To get rid of poison ivy, you have to cut it down to the base of the growth on the surface, and then you have to dig up the massive root systems from deep in the ground. Therapists can help their clients find the root of their core beliefs and assist the client in uprooting the negative beliefs, replacing them with new truth-based beliefs. This process includes asking questions like, “When was the first time you felt this way? What caused that feeling?” Understanding the negative beliefs and where they come from can help us uproot them and replace them with truth from God’s word about who He is and what He says about us. Just as it is vital to be proactive about digging up the deep roots of poison ivy, we must also keep our hearts and minds with the vigilance referenced in Proverbs 4:23. The work of uprooting the power of negative thoughts and replacing them with truth leads to a wellspring of life.

Reflection Questions:

  1. What steps can you take to guard your heart and mind against negative self-talk?
  2. How has negative self-talk affected your emotions in the past?
  3. What changes have you noticed as you begin to replace negative thoughts with God’s truth?