One Christmas, my mum bought me a book called “Battlefield of the mind for teens” written by Joyce Meyer. She had just read the book “Battlefield of the mind” and having found immense value from it, bought me the corresponding book for teenagers.
I was very receptive and thankful for this book. However instantly upon reading it, I saw problems. It feels like it’s not written for teenagers, but a paranoid mother’s view of what all teenagers are – sex, drugs, and sin – that kind of thing. But even worse than that in my opinion, is the thought stopping techniques introduced from the very start of chapter 1.
What are thought stopping techniques? To put it simply, they’re any techniques a person uses to stop them from thinking critically most often without realising. Let’s use two extracts from Joyce Meyer’s book as an example.
“Your enemy is Satan himself, the ex-angel-turned-devil–and his demonic forces. Satan’s coming after you with a carefully crafted plan of attack, one you might not even see coming. In fact, you might not even believe you’re in a war at all. That’s one of your enemy’s best tricks–deception”
She sets Satan up as a demonic and evil force, aggressively attacking you and everyone else with something that is designed to cut deep and really change you. Then follows up with a list of examples of how Satan might attack you. Here is one of them:
“Come on, admit it: You have doubts about God all the time. If God was real, why would He allow those doubts to creep up inside your head?”
Here is where the thought stopping techniques come in. Generally if you have a lot of doubts about something, that would be a good indication that something is wrong, and that it should be investigated in order to find out what is true. However, this is not what Joyce is saying to do jere.
Framing doubt as one of the ways that Satan will attack you creates a situation that is impossible to investigate or lose. It assumes that there is no rational basis for this doubt, and that it is all an attack from Satan instead. This stops you from thinking critically about any doubts, simply dismissing them as attacks by Satan without any actual merit behind them.
This is what a thought stopping technique is. No matter how convincing, correct or compelling the doubt is, approaching it with the mindset that Satan is controlling your mind to make you lose faith in God will always stop you from thinking critically about your doubts.
It puts you in the situation where no matter how much evidence there is to the contrary, Christianity is always correct. It removes the possibility of being wrong.
This is massively cultish and manipulative, and a very unhealthy state for the mind to be in. Instead of feeling comfortable and happy with your own thoughts and mind, exploring doubt until you feel satisfied, you now suddenly feel like any critical thought against your beliefs is an attack by Satan.
In this situation, it is not Satan controlling your mind, but the Christian (Joyce Meyer) – there is no evidence at all for Satan trying to control your mind, but ample evidence for Joyce trying to control your mind by introducing you to this thought stopping technique.
Here is a fact: Doubt is a good thing, and an especially good thing to explore because only one of two scenario’s can happen.
The first scenario is that you doubt something, and then you find an explanation that relieves you of your doubt. This is an excellent thing. Not only were your doubts misplaced, but you understand perfectly the explanation against them, and this doubt will never trouble you again, and if you meet anyone who has the same doubt, you can tell them about what you have learned and help them.
The second scenario that can happen is that you realise that your doubt is correct. This is also an excellent thing. Your views have now changed from being incorrect to correct and once again this doubt is something that won’t bother you again, you know that your doubts were correct and you can now align your views and opinions in accordance with the new truth that you have found.
What about if this doubt, if explored and found to be correct, will have dramatically harmful consequences on your wellbeing? What if stopping your belief will make you become depressed, resume an addiction or self harm? I think obviously this is the point where exploring doubt stops becoming the win-win situation described above. If this is you, I wish you all the best, and don’t think any less of you, wellbeing is more important than having the correct view. But if you are in the position where the investigation of doubt would not result in any major significant impact to your wellbeing, I would greatly encourage you to explore doubt for the reasons explored above.
The idea of Satan controlling your mind and all of your doubts is an incredibly fringe belief I don’t believe many people reading this article will hold. But I do believe that many people, me included, fall victim to thought stopping techniques without realising. So I do encourage you to explore doubt, and to be aware of thought stopping techniques that may stop you from doing this.