This is a follow up to an original post which you can find here.
Mind Reading is a cognitive distortion.
As part of my recovery (PTSD, Anxiety Disorder), we talk a lot about healthy boundaries. Healthy boundaries are gates; not walls. They let the good in and keep the bad out. Cognitive distortions, like all or nothing thinking, is a way of forming a wall. Relationships become very frustrated and tense when there are walls everywhere.
I desperately want healthy and intimate relationships above all else and so I frequently review a list of cognitive distortions (here is an example). I then try to catch myself before, or shortly after, I make such distortions. Thereby developing a rational belief system in my brain, and hopefully gaining greater intimacy with loved ones. I also try to catch myself I am reactionary, or do invasive things like ‘mind reading’ to other people.
Cognitive distortions are simply some of the common ways we tend to think irrationally. These patterns can get reinforced and entrenched over time. They include: All or nothing thinking (this is still a sticky one for me). Personalization. Shoulding ourselves and others. Jumping to conclusions/mindreading. Some resources name them differently but there are about a dozen that have been commonly recognized.
Regarding the book The Lovely Bones, I wrote yesterday that it is an astounding work, an enjoyable read. It also sparked some deep questions and realizations about why I don’t like the idea of anyone, other than God, watching me from Heaven. For the sake of writing a great work of fiction, it works to have the narrator share what the characters are thinking and feeling. It makes it a deeply enjoyable read.
In my real life, mind reading is damaging. It is a way of trying to control others. Whether or not I was doing that as a fear reaction (versus outright deviance) or to try and keep myself safe–I recognized that it was still invasive. And I don’t want to do to others what happened to me. I want to lay this behavior down.
Mind-Reading has an association with the demonic.
In my convoluted journey out of Protestantism, it was revelatory how many other denominations and types of churches existed. I wanted to explore some of them, before I decided on any one thing. (Um, I’m still exploring, but that’s another story.)
For a while I turned onto the spiritual warfare trail. Being prayed over in tongues. Binding. Rebuking. Renouncing. Breaking Soul Ties. Beating drums. Recognizing the demonic in things. (It seemed to be everywhere). During this time a veteran-at-warfare-stuff insisted that demons cannot read our thoughts. They do pretend to be reading our actual minds all the time, though.
The following is a summation of what she told me:
Only God can read thoughts or hear unspoken prayers from our mind. Therefore, (within spiritual warfare realms of Christianity), we say it isn’t effective if you don’t ‘pray it aloud.’
Demons try to fool us that they can read our minds as they become very good at watching our past actions and the words we have spoken aloud in the past, and can gauge pretty accurately how we are going to respond in the future, or how they can torment us now. But, rest assured, that if you ever cast a demon out of someone and that demon starts talking to you about private things it ought not to know–that they are bluffing and mind reading merely based on watching your personality traits and past actions, or things you have spoken aloud; not because they have the power to read your actual thoughts and private prayers to God. They don’t. Don’t let that throw you. Don’t go into fear reactions. You have power over them. They fear you more than you fear them.
I was not an easy sell. I had too many questions. Like, whenever I pray something aloud to God, are demons overhearing that? Yikes. I think I’ll keep praying silently instead…and I asked for scriptural proof of her claims. She had few specifics to offer me, she said: if you look at The Book of Job, it is clear that the devil has boundaries and can’t just mess nilly willy with us humans. That God has to first allow him the pass. Also, in The Book of James, it is clear that at times God allows trials of all kinds as a test, which can build our endurance. But, even at that, if you take all of scripture and all the stories of demonic activity therein, you will see that this truth holds up: God can hear unspoken prayers. God alone knows our inward being. Other people can not. Demons can not.
Hmm. It was comforting. I wanted to believe that God alone had such access to my heart and brain.
I was still a bit skeptical.
I left that particular trail eventually. There was value in it for me as I used many of the things I learned about spiritual warfare in my recovery process. (I believe child sexual abuse, of which I am a survivor, has demonic influences behind it).
I continued to study on my own (I’ve never been good at trusting other people’s assertions about the Bible; I’ll form my own, thank you). I have since come to believe, more or less, most of what she had asserted was true. I now do believe that demons cannot read our thoughts. I survived brainwashing, sexualization, normalization, years of voyeurism, invasions of my body, and other intrusions on my privacy. I like my privacy very much now. Especially in regard to my own private thoughts! This belief is great comfort to me.
I am less reactionary now but I still chafe when someone thinks they know what I just said, or what I really meant by that comment. Worse yet, is when they ask me what I meant, I tell them, and they then disregard my answer and think I am lying; that I really meant something else. Ugh.
I ‘get’ it. I’ve done it myself. It’s called mind-reading. It is a well known cognitive distortion. And– it’s also what demons do. They coldly summarize your life, use all the words you once said (and then regretted) against you, throwing it back in your face to try and make you cow to their power.
I use my belief about spiritual warfare and how demons operate as fuel for making my own personal changes in relationships with others.
So, then, what would my heaven be like?
There won’t be any mind-reading in Heaven.
It will be a place where lies are not allowed. Or mind reading. Perhaps that is because Jesus changes and perfects everyone upon entry. Maybe, though, the ones who didn’t see anything wrong with trying to invade other people’s minds and basic boundaries on earth, won’t be let in at all. Since they ignored Jesus’s urgings to lay down the sinful flesh and follow Him and His ways (which honor and respect our need to make up our own minds, without pressure), maybe they are the ones He will say He never knew.
I am not sure how that will work. I do believe, though, that in heaven if you ask another person what they are thinking, they will share and you won’t doubt them. Because in Heaven, above all other things it may or may not be, it will be safe there. People who make it there can’t lie, or cheat, or abuse you or get into your private thoughts and try to control those too. Furthermore, they won’t want to do that.