How familiar is that?
Is life so busy it feels like you’re existing, rather than living it. When we react or overreact to something this is usually because of the ‘straw that broke the camel’s back’ proverb. It can be quite messy too! A pile of negativity weighs on us far more than we realise.
Life brings with it many things that are unavoidable, for example, stress, anxiety, struggles, negativity, but along with it, it also brings us choices. It might not feel that way at times, but we do have choices, if not as many as we might like, they are still available to us. We can choose whether we respond or react to situations, people, comments etc. and we can also choose if we are going to help ourselves out a little bit here, or just become consumed by the whole ‘Negative Nellyism’ thing.
I know it sounds difficult, but it really is much easier than you think.
Our thought processes are often quite damaging. The inner critic is our worst enemy because it tells us what failures we are sometimes. It loves to metaphorically thumb its nose and sneer ‘Told you so!’ It can even keep us up at night ruminating about what a living breathing disaster we are.
Why is it that we can soak up negative thoughts and comments like a sponge, yet positive ones are met with a Teflon overcoat? There is an answer to that!
It’s because of our brain’s negativity bias. This means that our brain is inbuilt with a greater sensitivity to negative comments or even thoughts, than to positive ones. On the other hand, our Negative Nelly thoughts have potentially kept us from getting into harm’s way which is no bad thing. It’s like having a ‘risk assessor’ in our brain, warning us of potential dangers and hazards. That’s OK, but when we analyse and ruminate it doesn’t end up leaning towards positivity – due to the negativity bias. What happens is that the disturbing thoughts build momentum before we notice it so when our minds are running on overtime, analysing every thought and turning it into a swamp of negativity it is all too easy to let it completely run amok and then wonder why we feel so overwhelmed, or like we are not so slowly sinking.
It doesn’t seem fair does it? Wouldn’t most of us like to wake up with positive and optimistic attitudes, ready to fight the onslaught of the day, week or month? How are we meant to fight the good fight when it just feels so hard? When all the thoughts that intrude from seemingly nowhere flood our conscious and drag our mood into the toilet, how can we possibly change that? Think the opposite, right? Not exactly. Well, in truth, not at all. Thinking the opposite could be just as unhelpful.
The fact of the matter is that we can change the way we think about things, and we can also change the way we think about our thoughts. We just have to learn a few tricks to help us along the way.
So, is it possible stop thinking?
No, in truth it isn’t possible. What we don’t need to do is try to stop thinking because it will set us up for a fail, and let’s face it, with all the other negativity coursing through our brains like a plague of locusts we don’t need yet another perceived failure on our hands or in our heads!
So, what are you supposed to do with the negative thoughts? The thing is, we know that a thought creates a feeling, which then caused us to behave in a certain way.
I’ll give you an example: It’s a bit like if you’ve been told often enough that you’re stupid, chances are that you’ll believe it. When something seeps deep into our unconscious we don’t realise that it’s there, but it’s just waiting for the right time to surface. It might arise when we have been asked to do something at work and our first thought is ‘I can’t do that – I’m not smart enough and I’ll get it all wrong.’ Such damaging words, but we say them to ourselves anyway. Not only are they damaging, but they’re quite extreme and certainly an over generalisation. Let me break it down for you.
‘I can’t do that.’
Is that true? If it’s something that you haven’t done before, it might be a little different, or even difficult, but how would you know you can’t do it until you try? So, you try, and it doesn’t go well. You’ve just confirmed that self-fulfilling prophecy, haven’t you? I can hear you saying to yourself ‘I knew it!’ But you didn’t really know it did you? You just thought it.
‘I’m not smart enough and I’ll get it all wrong.’
Firstly, how do you know you’re not smart enough? Did someone tell you that? If they did it certainly says more about them than it does you! The thing is, it’s ok to make a mistake. But it’s the ‘all wrong’ that is all wrong. We aren’t robots, we’re human beings and we are extremely fallible. Of course, no one wants to hear that from their doctor, dentist or surgeon, but the truth is, it’s true, they’re fallible too. We are so afraid of failing or looking uncool that we miss out on opportunities that could be life-changing! Worse still, we also believe those thoughts. But that’s all they are. A thought is a thought. It’s not necessarily a truth.
I could say I’m 5 feet 10 inches and a size 12 but that doesn’t make it true, and neither does thinking it, yet we get good at believing self-defeating thoughts as if they are gospel.
Suppose I ring a friend who doesn’t answer. I might think I’ve offended her. The next step is then to start worrying about what I might have said or done to annoy her that much that she no longer wants to speak to me or respond to my text. Then of course comes the anxiety, the stress and the thought that she doesn’t like me anymore. How do I stop that snowball?
It’s a thought, and thoughts aren’t always true. When we get involved or entangled in that thought we become overwhelmed and consumed by it. All that over-thinking has done is create a scenario worthy of an Oscar. We are basically self-disturbing. So how do we stop this unhelpful pattern?
When a thought, negative or destructive comes to mind, just acknowledge it as a thought. Remind yourself that not all thoughts are true. They are cerebral incidents, or mental events. Don’t become entangled, don’t let it grow into a monster, and just recognise that it is only a thought. Only you can give it the power, and only you can diminish it. Of course, it’s easier to diminish it before you give it power to rampage through your brain like a herd of wild buffalo, stomping over all the reality and the truths. Take away it’s power by simply recognising that it’s just a thought, and not all thoughts are true.
So next time you’re tempted to get tangled, recondition your brain and start thinking straight.