Join us for a conversation about unshelving negative thought patterns, so you can live with more freedom and wholeness. We talk with Trina McNeilly, author of “Unclutter Your Soul” and host of The Lovely Life. We discuss:
- Trina’s story of overcoming negative thought patterns
- Overcoming lies about ourselves with God’s Truth
- Partnership with the Holy Spirit in finding the root of our pain
- Trina’s story of coping with the Holy Spirit through her parent’s divorce as an adult
- The three O’s: observe, own, & overcome
- Replacing old lies with new thought patterns
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Overcoming Toxic Thought Patterns — With Trina McNeilly And Christie Myers
We’re back for part two of Decluttering Your Soul with Trina McNeilly. This is the second episode of a two-part series focused on creating a life of more spaciousness, peace, joy, and uncluttered internal life. In the last episode, we learned about what soul clutter is, the different types, the role of awareness, and the process of decluttering. In this episode, we’re going to dive deeper and talk about the role of our inner dialogues and the importance of addressing deep-rooted pain in order to move forward into more internal peace.
I’m so excited about this episode. The stuff that we’re going to be talking about is my jam. All of this is for all of you who are joining us. We’re so glad you’re here. Trina, you say this so well in your book, the whole purpose of this is to cultivate hearts where we want to dwell and where we can dwell with Jesus. This is not work that we’re doing alone. I love how you pointed that out as we started, so welcome back.
Thank you. I’m glad to be back.
Let’s dive right into the deep stuff. These internal dialogues, also known as sometimes old narratives, can hold us back from peace, joy, and all the things that we want. Can you start us by sharing from your own life how this has shown up for you and anything you want to share about how it showed up and how you’ve worked to flip the script?
It was internal dialogue before the word narrative became very popular. Nobody used that, but we always had stories going on in our heads. I am notorious for that because I like stories. I’ll make them up sometimes. We all do. We hear something and it starts something. It’s great using the word script, too, because it makes me think of if you go with that whole acting vibe, you’ve got the script, but you also have to rehearse.
Whatever these scripts are, we are rehearsing them over and over in our minds to the point that they can sometimes become false beliefs or thought patterns. I have lots of them. Observing was a great way to begin to start to name some of those. It’s not that you’re going to sit down with a pen and paper. You can try to pay attention to what’s there, but it’s going to be a process. You might come up with one and notice, “I’m thinking that a lot.”
We talked about this in the first episode, but the Holy Spirit is key in this process of uncluttering our souls. I look at it like submitting myself to this process and surrendering to it then he’ll begin to point things out. You’ll notice, “I am thinking that a lot. Where did that come from? When did I start thinking that? Why do I believe that? Did somebody say that to me when I was a child? Did I come up with that on my own?” This is going through my head often. Maybe when somebody says this and I think that. I’m noticing I’m doing that in conversation when other people are talking too.
As I went through the difficult years, I write about this in the book, the first couple of ones that I would catch myself thinking all the time are like, “I’m stuck. These things will never change. There are things always going to be complicated and difficult.” Some of it can be a self-protection mechanism too. It’s like you’re trying to protect yourself from disappointment, but it doesn’t work that way. You can’t, so you tell yourself things like that. “Things are always going to be difficult or hard.”
I start to constantly be like, “I don’t have a lot of energy.” I don’t think I am a very high-energy person compared to some of my friends, but I kept saying and thinking about it. It was working against me. One that we talked about in the last episode in the form of wishing for some rescue is, “I’m all alone.” If you looked at my life, you would say, “No, you’re not. You have a house full of people. You do have a lot of friends that are good people and family,” but I felt lonely because I felt lonely in the pain I was dealing with so that converted to, “I am alone.”
It’s interesting that you say if we repeat them, they become a false belief and an identity we take on. If you’re reading this now, the first episode that we did lay the groundwork for what is internal clutter and a lot of it is about dialogues and our internal narratives. If you miss that one, please go back and look at it in the archives. Fast forward now, here we are, part two, talking about the deeper layers. I had this false belief identity that I had taken on and it sounded like this to me. It would play over and over again in my head. “I’m tired,” and it was exhausting to hear it all the time.
That was my no-energy one.
It was like an exhaustion identity that I was living into. One day I’m like, “Am I that tired, or do I keep telling myself over and over again?” The other one was far more dangerous for me. It was this, “What’s wrong with me?” I realized once I started paying attention, as you were talking about, to think about what you’re thinking about. This thought was one of the seven thoughts that governed my mind. There’s an exercise you can do if you’re reading this. I only got down to 3 or 4 that I was readily able to write down, but it was one of the top ones and it was, “What’s wrong with me?”
This is a thought that would play itself over and over again in my head every day. I was extremely insecure. I didn’t realize how much it was impacting me until I prayed with somebody and got to the heart of it, invited Jesus in, and went back to some childhood memories and the origin of that belief and got into, “I believe this as a little girl that there was something that was wrong with me.” It’s not true. The healing started from there and it was powerful.
I’ve had that thought too. What I want to shine a light on is that a lot of those thoughts are bad, like, “Something’s wrong with me,” that doesn’t come from God. It comes from the enemy. The enemy can’t create anything new. He spins things and uses lies and so forth. The thoughts you’re having are a lot of the same thoughts I’m having and have had. Many readers have had those same thoughts. You may be reading this and thinking, “That’s me.” It’s the enemy. He tries to work double time. The way that we have to switch these narratives, change them, design new patterns, and untangle ourselves from these bad beliefs is with the truth. That’s the only way. For me, and I’m going to guess for you too, the truth is God’s word.
When there are thoughts like, “What’s wrong with me? There’s something wrong with me. I’m all alone. I’m stuck. I’m tired, or whatever.” There is truth to every one of the thoughts that you think in God’s word. We have to do the work of getting into the word and looking and seeing what does God say about this? God says, “You’re fearfully and wonderfully made that he planned for you before the origins of the world or before he created anything. You were in his mind and his heart. He energizes souls in tired bodies. It’s in Isaiah and it’s probably the message version.
I love that because, in a season where I’m so tired and I have no energy, I can read that and be like, “God can energize me even when I’m weak. God is strong.” Weakness is not a bad place to be because then God’s strength can work and show out in my life. We have to go to God’s word and see what he says, meditate on those words, and begin to design new patterns and narratives. It can be tedious work. Sometimes it happens the way that you described and pray and there can be freedom, and other times it’s anytime that thought comes to mind, replacing it with a true thought from God’s word. Until that is on repeat in your mind more than the other thought.
It’s always both, to be honest, from my experience. Everybody has their own, but my experience has been healing is always a process and changing the script is always a process. It takes an act of the will combined with the participation with the spirit of God to transform our mind and live into our true identity to shed these false layers.
It makes me think of CS Lewis’s novel where there’s this kid who’s not very nice and he ends up in this dragon skin and he has to let Aslan, who represents God or Jesus in the novel, tear the dragon skin off of him so that his true self can emerge. It’s a painful process. He has to yield his will and be willing to be vulnerable and trust Aslan.
There is an aspect to getting past these narratives where we have to be willing to be vulnerable with the spirit of God. You’re saying it’s being willing to take him at his word through scripture. It’s also being willing to take him at his word through the Holy Spirit and trust him. This thought comes to mind, Jesus is a gentleman. He doesn’t knock down doors. He overturned ta
bles once when people were exploiting other people, but he’s a god of justice. In my own life, he has always shown up as a gentleman.
I agree with you. The word of God is an essential component and that ongoing work of, “There’s that thought again.” That’s not true. I came up with a visualization of, “This is from the Holy Spirit.” Whenever I would start to feel like, “What’s wrong with me?” It’ll be like, “No, there’s nothing wrong with you.” That was the line he gave me. There’s nothing wrong with me. God loves me. He made me the way he wanted me. I would have this picture of Jesus’ hands over my heart and calm my heart down.
I love that. I’m probably going to cry and then my mascara’s going to go again. I would love to add to that too. Anything that we keep in the dark grows. That goes against like plant life, but we have to bring things into the light. Anything that we need healing on or want to change, we have to bring into the light. If you have a trusted friend, maybe share the thought you’re having with them because friends are awesome for reminding you what is true. Sometimes we can be so in the thick of it that it’s hard to remind ourselves. If we can surround ourselves with people that can remind us of the truth and the good, that can be a real game-changer and power boost in the process. Don’t keep those things to yourself.
In recovery, there’s the saying, “We’re only as sick as our secrets.” Our thought life is very much a secret life unless we share parts of it. Share those things. Don’t keep them hidden. When you talked about praying with someone, that’s a perfect example because we want to support each other. What you’ve shared with me has been helpful to me now. I hope what we’re both sharing is helpful to others. Don’t keep those narratives hidden.
I can see that you’re a writer, and all these great analogies and word pictures you paint are helpful. When you were sharing, that thing about everything seemed bigger in the dark. It’s this vivid picture like when we walk outside at night and it’s a bunny walking through the bushes, but it’s like, “What’s in the bushes?”
In the light of day, that wasn’t even a bunny. It was a lizard. It was the smallest little thing. It seemed so big and scary because it was dark and turned on a little bit of light. I think about how you can hold up a hand in the dark. There are when there’s only a little bit of light and the shadow can look so big. These small things cast these big shadows, but turn the light all the way up and you see it for what it is. It’s a great picture.
For women here with us who recognize that there are some narratives that they’re dealing with or maybe false identities even in the things that they’re telling themselves, we’ve talked about connected with childhood pain. Can you share any words of wisdom, insights on how Jesus has shown up for you, or anything you want to share regarding that?
As we do this work, God always takes us back, even if we’re like, “That’s not on my agenda.” As I said, I love to observe, analyze, and verbally process to the point of driving my husband insane, but part of my story that I share in both my books is that my parents divorced when I was an adult. We were living in my childhood home. It came out of nowhere. I wasn’t expecting it. There were a lot of addiction problems going on in my family then that imploded at the time then my grandparents started dying. It was one thing after the other. There was so much loss.
As I’m living in the home that I grew up in, which was like my safest place while my identity as I knew it was falling apart, it was difficult not to look back a lot. I was in this what I call a museum of memories. I was looking back a lot, but at that point, I was trying to survive it. I had little kids or babies at the time and I was in total survival mode. It was years of process. I wasn’t looking way back to the beginning, but that was a very healing point for me.
As we talk about the Holy Spirit and him being a gentleman, he so kindly will help you go back and look back even if that’s not your intention. I remember this happened while I was listening to a worship song. It might have been the Bethel one and it was a spontaneous one. Somehow, they mixed in some song from childhood or whatever. The Holy Spirit was enveloping, reminded, and gave me a word picture. I’m a writer and descriptive, but I am not always trying to go into my past and make all these things happen. I’m not that person. That’s my sister.
Later, I went on and I was at my computer doing work and I got this word picture of myself sitting under this desk all by myself in the first house I grew up in, not the one I described. When I go back, I look at being on my own a lot. I remember my parents fighting and then I’d be in my room all alone. I have memories of having deep thoughts. I’m probably a deep person sitting on the edge of my bed.
I picture myself in this room and I’m under this desk with shelves above it, so it’s a built-in desk and I have this imagery of Jesus sitting next to me that I was never in that room alone. He was always with me and sitting under there. I was probably hiding under there, but he was right there with me. It was so vivid that afterwards, I didn’t remember that desk being in the room. I remember the room, but I don’t remember that part.
I was caught off guard that I had called my mom and I was like, “Mom was there like a built-in desk in the corner of this room next to the green drapes.” I remember the green drapes because they were like the color of the Wicked Witch of the West’s face. I freaked out every night. She said, “There was in the corner. It was a bookshelf and then a built-in little desk thing.” I said, “Wow.” That, to me, was the kindness of God. I wasn’t digging and looking, but he was like, “We have to work on this thing where you always feel alone.” He keeps bringing me back to that image.
My response when I feel pain, hurt, argument, or something, I’ll feel immediate rejection, and then I want to retreat, which is always has been my room or my closet for a long time. I write a lot about the closet in my book. Now, I don’t have a big enough closet to go into, but I want to retreat. The other day I was thinking about that because God brought it up to me. It was showing me that’s because that was your first coping mechanism, you’re in a room alone and you had to learn to deal with things and you have a hard time dealing or responding to things. It’s emotionally regulating if you can’t go off and be in a room, but it originates from there.
That was a long story, but I want to let people know that God is so kind. Our origin stories very much play into where we are now and in our emotional maturity. I have a whole chapter on that because your emotional age has nothing to do with your chronological age and has been a whole process of me growing up. The great news is that God is a parent. He is patient and he parents us through the whole process.Our origin stories play a very important role in where we are now and in our emotional maturity. Click To Tweet
Thank you for sharing that story. That’s sacred space. I appreciate you sharing that sacred space. I love that you ended on God as a parent because there are so many of us here. That’s what we need. We need to know that God is our parent. I remember a day I was feeling pretty heartbroken and had some harsh words with somebody in my family, and I was driving. I was on my way to moving to a new city. I had taken a job in a nonprofit. It was like tears and tears, and the Holy Spirit said to me, “Christie, it’s always been me and you. That’s a painful thing. Don’t worry about that right now. You need to know that I’m here. It’s always been me and you and it’s always going to be me and you.” That’s what our hearts need so much.
It can be tricky by saying God is a parent or God is a father. A lot of times, how we view God as a father has so much to do with our earthly fathers. Many people, especially women, have had difficult situations with their fathers and have father wounds. That can make it difficult. My grandma, who was a hero of mine, not long before she died, said to me, “Trina, God is everything that you have ever wished for in a father and more.” Whatever ideas we may have about God, we have to try not to link them to how our earthly fathers might have behaved towards us, ignored us, treated us wrongly, or whatever the issue is.
God is not that. He is patient and he is kind. He calls us to do hard things, obey, and make changes in our lives to be fully functioning sons or daughters in his kingdom. He’s a father. It’s not all puppies and rainbows and all of that, but he’s so kind, thoughtful, smart, and wise in the way that he parents us. I want to encourage anyone. Maybe those words that my grandma shared with me might resonate with you. Maybe your heart needs to hear that anything you ever wished for in a father God is that and much more.
When thinking about how to discern God’s voice, God has said some things to me that were a little hard to hear, never been discouraged or walked away from the conversation. It’s not God’s voice if you feel so condemned, discouraged, and all this stuff. You might feel convicted, but you’re always going to feel encouraged at the same time.
That is a good word.
We do have an episode called Healing from Father Wounds. If you’re reading this and have father wounds, you can go back to the archives and read that. Last question, if you were to give your younger self some words of encouragement, what old would she be and what would you tell her?
She would be the younger one that I described in that room. She was too little to know anything going on. It’d probably have to be my junior high going into high school years, 8th grade or 9th grade probably. I would tell her that you might feel lonely often, but to learn to be at home with yourself at that age or stage to learn to be at home with yourself and with God. God makes his home in you and has made you the way he’s made you for a purpose. Don’t try to fight that and be present.
I was always the little girl trying to be older and go on to the next stage and the next, and my mom always warned me, even when I had little babies, “You’re going to miss this and then there’s this and that.” Now, it’s finally hit. It took me a long time to realize that now is the day that we live in and the past is a place you can visit and tomorrow we don’t know, so live in the present and be at home with yourself.Now is the day that we live in, the past is a place you can visit, and tomorrow we don't know. So live in the present and be at home with yourself. Click To Tweet
We’re talking about change in this book is not a self-help book. I come from a long line of self-help readers. I love self-help books, but I describe it as spiritual growth. You can spend so much time trying so hard to work on yourself, but it’s not the same as letting God work in you. I hope that if anyone gets a book and reads it or reads this conversation you take any pressure off yourself. You don’t have to try so hard. You have to participate and have a willing heart and soul and let God do the work in you. You get to do it together.
It’s not about trying so hard, mustering up, and hustling. It’s not about that. It’s more about rest. The thing we didn’t talk about, but I want to add this too, in this Uncluttering Your Soul process, there’s no timeline. You’re on your own journey. I’m on my own journey. The only one that should be concerned about how long it’s taking you to heal from certain things and grow in certain areas is the Lord. Nobody else might understand your timeline, but he does and it’s perfect, so participate with him.
Unclutter Your Soul: Overcome What Overwhelms You. Thank you, Trina McNeilly, for being with us.
Thank you, Christie.
- Trina McNeilly
- Last episode – Part 1 of this episode
- Healing from Father Wounds – Past episode
- Unclutter Your Soul: Overcome What Overwhelms You
- YouTube – Wonderfully Made
- @AllieMarieSmith – Instagram
- @ChristieCadence – Instagram
About Trina McNeilly
Trina McNeilly is the author and founder of La La Lovely, where she has been writing and building community online for thirteen years, sharing matters of the heart and design – related finds. With an eye for beauty, Trina finds inspiration in styled spaces, broken places, and everywhere in between. Through soulful writing, in the voice of a trusted friend, she guides others to find joy and goodness in their everyday lives. Her work also includes creative direction, styling, and design projects. Trina is a new resident of Nashville, Tennessee, where she live s with her husband and their four children