*Change Your Thinking Change Your LIfe*
Do you ever feel like you or a loved one suffers from chronic negative thinking?
These patterns can be as subtle as that little voice in your head that just has to remind you of the negative possibility involved in an exciting situation, “so you won’t get so disappointed if it doesn’t happen”. Which, by the way, doesn’t work. You can’t stave off disappointment by having it ahead of time. You still get disappointed AND you have lost precious moments in the present busily being disappointed for some future let down that may not even happen! Also, spending energy holding back and thinking of what could go wrong leaves you more depleted than you would be if you were actually just allowing yourself to be excited, so if something negative happens? It hits you twice as hard!!
There are many things reasons a person might be practicing chronic negative thinking- from recent evolutionary explanations of ancestors with more negative interpretations of sounds being the ones to survive, to childhood trauma contributing to causality. It can sometimes feel really important to know why.
But sometimes awareness can be just as important. Because in the simplicity of awareness is agency. This means you can do something about it without knowing all of the reasons why.
So then it can be defined as just your perspective you are dealing with, slightly skewed perhaps, but not a whole childhood (or history of a species) of experiences that can be completely overwhelming, feel unfathomable, and better left alone. A person might never start to deal with the pattern if digging into the past is the only intervention point in the cycle. Thankfully, it is not.
In the moment of noticed chronic negative thinking, (which is already an achievement in itself, celebrate!) you can stop. You can say to yourself, “I am seeing it this way, but I am going to ask myself…do I regularly see things this way? Even when circumstances don’t warrant this perspective and it doesn’t behoove me to hold onto this way of thinking? Has using this pattern of thinking inappropriately gotten me into trouble before? These are the 3 CBT questions that can be applied to most anything to get some clarity on a situation.
This is all that is required in this second step, nothing else. Even if you continue to practice the thinking, you can feel proud that you are developing awareness and new behavior that will lead to clarity….being able to slow the behavior and substitute something else is a completely different step. It is my experience that this is one of the ways we humans like to trip ourselves up, by collapsing processes that require several steps into one or two bullet points then getting frustrated when we don’t accomplish our goals in this impossible way. e.g.
Goal- change careers
*figure out what you want to do
*get a job
I think you see what I am saying. If not, make an appointment immediately.
The next step, you go through the first two and add, this dialogue with yourself, “I am looking through some shaded windows. I can’t forget that these windows are tinted and I’ve made a decision to look out some different ones because I realized that I preferred the sun.”
And this is so important why? Because the way you choose (and it is a choice) to see things creates your reality. First of all, reminding yourself this is a well-though out choice makes it so much more likely you will follow through.
Second, If I am sick with the flu and I see everything as awful and don’t adjust for that? I will treat everyone around me horribly, they will think “what a #$%^&&^&*” and treat me horribly back. Presto!**** self fulfilling prophecy! Support for the shaded windows! Everything IS awful, though it just came from a flu virus. Does this make sense?
So don’t let your chronic negative thinking patterns determine your reality. If you have realized that you might be on the other end of the spectrum from Polly Anna-ism, you don’t have to sign up for analysis to get some relief. Though at some point, you may want to do some deeper work, you can decide about that when it is right.
But you can start watching those patterns and adjusting for them right now. It may seem facile, but what have you got to lose? You don’t have to read the studies, you can do your own. Pick a period of time, say 24 hours, and give it a try. You could chart your results and look at how things have gone at the end of a week.
If you don’t experience any relief or change, believe me your chronic negative thinking patterns will be right there waiting for you to slip back into them like threadbare slippers.
Today you could give it a try. When you catch yourself adding a “but” to most sentences, looking for the “other shoe”~stop, and try a different view.
Like mental cooking, experiment with adding some sparkle to every single thought!