Most of us find ourselves looking on the black side at times. But do you regularly imagine the worst? Do you expect to fail? Do you drift off into fantasies about all that could go wrong? Do you even snatch defeat from the jaws of victory by talking yourself down? Then you are using your powers negatively. We all create our own reality, even if this isn’t obvious, so make a commitment to stop that negative thinking before it stops you!
- Thought comes before feeling
- Recognising your thoughts
- Using your imagination positively
THOUGHT COMES BEFORE FEELING
You may believe that you have no control over your feelings, and it’s true it is hard to control a difficult emotion. But if you reflect you will realise that the emotion didn’t come from nowhere, or even from the source that seems obvious. Before you experienced it, you had to think it!
Lets take a simple example. A friend tells you that your new clothes don’t suit you. You feel upset – maybe even angry – and it’s easy to believe that your friend has made you feel those things. However, when you analyse it, that’s not the case. You feel upset because of the way you think. You believe your friend is being critical, you believe that you look awful, and if you’re very negative you may believe a whole raft of other bad things too.
These bad things may extend to ‘I always look awful’, ‘I have no taste’, ‘Everyone thinks I look a mess’ progressing possibly to ‘My friend doesn’t really like me’ and then ‘No-one really likes me – they all think I’m scruffy and stupid.’ If you’re a habitual negative thinker you may recognize this type of thought-stream.
But what if you reacted differently, if you had thought differently? For instance you might have thought ‘My friend is in a bad mood’, ‘My friend has had a hard day and is taking it out on me, but they don’t intend to be mean’, ‘My friend has different tastes from me’, or even a simple, dismissive ‘My friend is wrong’!
So the feelings that you get from your friend’s criticism of what you’re wearing come clearly from how you think about it. Other circumstances may be more general, such as thinking you’re no good at something, that bad things are going to happen etc., so generating emotions of fear, anxiety and powerlessness. But it’s always the thought that comes before the feeling and generates it. Learn how to control your thoughts and you can change your life.
RECOGNISE THOSE THOUGHTS
If, like so many people, you’re in the habit of negative thinking, you need to put some effort into stopping this. Your first task is to reflect on the above section and see how it is working in your life. Until you really take this on board it will be hard to alter it.
It may help to be aware of all the times your negative assumptions have been wrong. Lets take the example above once more. Maybe a friend has criticised what you’re wearing only for someone else to compliment you on it, or to remark that your friend has desperate dress-sense themselves!
Maybe there are times when you’ve been convinced you’ve failed an exam or an interview only to find you’ve passed with flying colours or been offered the job. Yet that negative thinking caused you so much distress.
Make a list of all the times you can remember when you’ve thought something, then felt something, suffered over it and then found out your thought had been mistaken. As the days go by you may recognize more and more times when this happens.
CATCH YOURSELF, DISTRACT YOURSELF
As you begin to see the effect your thoughts are having, you’ll realise more quickly what’s going on. So, as you become crestfallen, feel hurt etc. you can say to yourself ‘I won’t go down that route’. Instead, get absorbed in something else, to divert your energy into something positive.
At first it may be helpful to be prepared for this by having something on hand to do, such as a crossword, or game on your smartphone. This isn’t an unhealthy avoidance of feeling but a conscious coping mechanism to move you on.
You may believe that analyzing what’s going on can make the feeling go away, but that rarely happens. Instead the likelihood is that you will go deeper and deeper into negative thinking. Lets use the same example again. If you analyse the situation with your friend you might be asking yourself why your friend said what they did, what exactly they meant etc. But that could lead to more negative thinking such as ‘My friend has never really liked me’!
There is no reason to dig and delve. It isn’t important, it’s only giving energy to the unwanted thoughts that lead to the even more unwanted feelings.
Instead accept that your thinking is awry and decide that you would prefer to think thoughts that make you happy. In this situation perhaps the best thought might be ‘We have different tastes.’
USE YOUR IMAGINATION
Of course, the kind of ‘thought’ we’ve been talking about here isn’t the sort that solves mathematical problems. It’s not intellectual and constructive. In fact it’s far closer to imagination, and imagination, as we know, can be used very positively.
If you are a negative thinker it’s quite likely that you spend a lot of time and energy involved in negative fantasies about what people think of you, about what you’re like, what you’re capable of and what’s going to happen in the future.
Instead you can now make a commitment to build positive scenarios. When you drift into disaster day-dream, re-write the script. Start imagining wonderful things happening, see yourself as successful and skilled. Never reason yourself out of this by saying it could lead to disappointment, because even if some good dreams don’t come true, others will. And in any case, you’ll only feel bad if you think bad – and you’re curing this!
HOW WE CAN HELP
We’ve looked at the importance of how you think, recognizing what’s happening, distracting yourself, avoiding analysis and using your imagination positively. You have the power to move away from negative thinking and you’ll do this even more quickly with help from our expert Readers. Put in a call today and start your transformation into a positive thinker.
PUBLISHED: 28 November 2017