Reciprocal Inhibition 

Overcoming Anxiety | by Sarah Keith

overcoming anxiety

". . . Perfect love casts out fear . . ." 1 John 4:18 (ESV)

I hate that I struggle with anxiety. I often feel it exposes my lack of faith in God. And I suppose that's true. Yet, it helps to remember what Jesus said, "I have not come to call those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners and need to repent." Lately, my anxious thoughts have been difficult to handle, so I've returned to counseling for a "tune-up." My counselor suggested practicing Reciprocal Inhibition. This has to do with experiencing one state of mind to inhibit another state of mind: calmness to replace anxiety. Well, that's easier said than done. But, it is possible.

For many months, I have been revising this website to make it mobile-friendly. It's a gargantuan task of over 2000 pages. Coincidentally (or should I say providentially), the day my counselor suggested this technique, I was working on updating Dynamite Living, a devotional I wrote many years ago that focuses on 2 Timothy 1:7, For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind (NKJV). As I began thinking of this verse, I realized that "reciprocal inhibition" is actually a Biblical concept! God doesn't say, "You haven't been given a spirit of fear, so just stop it!" No, he replaces the spirit of fear with his power, love, and a sound mind. And as was stated in my previous devotional, the order of those three is important.

Jesus said, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly" John 10:10 (ESV). Is this not the original concept of reciprocal inhibition? One state of being, death,—we are dead in our trespasses and sin—has been exchanged for abundant life in Christ. This is the best news for God's children. Because, even while in a state of panic, which can feel like we're dying, our spiritual reality is life.

Philippians 4:4-9 also brings to mind the idea of reciprocal inhibition. See if you can identify them:  

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in mepractice these things, and the God of peace will be with you."

The Apostle Paul wrote the book of Philippians while in prison. I'd say that is a situation worthy of anxious feelings. Yet, Paul understood that his trials had purpose; his imprisonment served to advance the Gospel (1:12). Paul said don't be anxious. But he didn't leave us hanging there wondering how not to be anxious. God, through Paul, showed us how to exchange negative emotions for positive ones. These verses come with a promise too: the God of peace will be with you.

Whatever the trials or stresses that trigger our anxieties, it's important to remember that reciprocal inhibition needs to be exercised; we must put it into practice as Paul instructs, and be assured that, despite our feelings, the God of peace is with us. And like he did with Paul, God can use our story to further the Gospel and his Kingdom.

I'm sure there are hundreds more Scripture verses like these to discover. What about you, do any come to mind that confirm this truth? I'd love to hear from you! Email me.

Your webservant,
Sarah Keith

Copyright 2019 Sarah Keith  

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