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  • Writer's picturePatrick Norris


Grief powerfully influences our brains, perspectives and anxieties. With every loss, sorrow and suffering comes a reprogramming of our brain’s software. In last month’s post I explained how grief and anxiety become coupled, toxifying our leadership vision. I encourage you to go back and read it first, as today we will pick up and talk about managing the anxiety in our lives.

Last month we said that physiologically there is a good, God-given, and healthy purpose to fear:

First, we should clarify that there is a godly fear, or a God-given purpose for healthy fear. God designed our brains to recognize impending threats, then appropriately address them with solutions. The neurochemical cocktail that does this is fundamentally known in our emotional framework as fear, or anxiety. This healthy fear helps us tackle problems within our organizations. It helps us have resolve to win the day. It motivates our movement forward.

Again, fear in a healthy or manageable form, is a gift from God. Without our brain’s fear circuits, we wouldn’t have the motivation to address threats, innovate, or find solutions. However, when fear moves from a healthy, manageable state, to chronically exaggerating threats with energies from our imagination, we move into a spirit of fear, or problematic anxiety, or panic.

So, what do you do when the wheels seem to be coming off? What do you do when anxiety is interpreting that “everything is out of control”?

Here's the deal: As the famous Christian psychologist, Dr. Henry Cloud has shared, we know that when things are going in a direction in life where we feel everything is out of control, our brain registers that as “learned helplessness,” or what is called “intolerance of uncertainty.”

When that happens, we really need to watch and listen for these three thoughts. These 3 thoughts can be categorized as the “THREE P’S”. When things happen outside of our control that affect us, our brain will change the software and will interpret things as one or all of these “THREE P’s”.

The “THREE P” thoughts are…

1. Narrative thoughts that feel deeply PERSONAL

2. Narrative thoughts that feel deeply PERVASIVE

3. Narrative thoughts that feel deeply PERMANENT

  • LISTEN for these “THREE P’s” in your thought life. Listen how your thoughts frame them with specific narratives. Note how these narratives stimulate associated emotions.

  • IDENTIFY how these “THREE P’s” are steeped in generalizations. When we haven’t assessed our specific threats, the brain assumes everything is a threat.

  • DISPUTE the script-narratives with rational and biblical truth that these “THREE P’s” are telling you. When threats are unchallenged, they generate cycles of negative emotional experiencing. When threats are challenged, or rationally analyzed, the brain will eliminate the unnecessary threats, returning us to a more calmed state.

LISTEN. IDENTIFY. DISPUTE. This can be viewed as an acronym “LID”. We are going to put a LID on the “THREE P’s”.

Listen for the Three P's

We are LISTENING for any narrative and emotional energy that PERSONALIZES what has happened.

LISTEN for the inner scripts that are PERVASIVE, or exaggerated. <