Turn the Tables on Negative Thoughts

Negative thoughts can undermine our happiness and damage our self-esteem. You know it and I know it. Destructive, negative thoughts can begin when you least expect them, and once negative thinking begins it can be particularly hard to stop it. Traditional advice on dealing with negative thinking is to "forget about it", to suppress those unwanted thoughts. Some people advocate to try and replace negative thoughts with positive ones, which is just an effort to suppress negative thoughts with a twist. Here’s a novel suggestion: Instead of sweeping your worries under the carpet, pretending that the negativity is ‘gone’, make a conscience effort to use the force of negative thoughts to your advantage constructively.

Negative thinking is generally triggered during periods of stress. In anticipation of an important event where you are expected to perform at your best, or any situation where you think you may be at risk, self-doubt kicks in. You start to think of every little thing that could possibly go wrong. As a person’s negativity takes hold, the fear of failure grows. Rather than trying to suppress negative thoughts, challenge them.

You can reverse the effect of self-doubt and negativity by carefully going through your intended course of action before entering a stressful situation. Negative thoughts usually revolve around specific ‘worst-case scenarios’. When ‘worst-case scenarios’ come to mind, challenge how reasonable or logical the scenario really is, AND, no matter how illogical or fantastical the worst-case may be, come up with actions you can take to deal with it. Devise backup plans and ways you can deal with setbacks. There will always be factors beyond your control. That does not stop you from getting your morning cup of coffee (or tea). You do have ability to respond to unexpected situations quickly and efficiently. For example, if the power is out, you go elsewhere to get coffee (or you are prepared and keep instant coffee on hand for such an emergency because you have challenged that worry about not having coffee and taken action). Solutions may not be perfect, so what, embrace the new situation.

As you begin to work through your negativity, challenging it, you take that energy negativity (that feels like fear or even panic)and put it to work. Worried about earthquakes? Learn where the gas and electrical cut-offs are located in your home. Store up some water, batteries, and so forth. Learn first aid. Suddenly, you are using the negativity to create positive solutions. You look more like a winner, playing it smart, instead of someone who overly worries.

Another trigger of negative thoughts is the internal conflict about being shamed or doing something that makes you stupid or ‘guilty’. These thoughts are a bit more difficult to address. Such negative thoughts are fueled by and deeply rooted in notions about what is ‘right’ and what is socially acceptable. As such, they are more difficult to challenge. Society’s expectations, moral standards and religious views often contradict a person’s desires, thus filling him with guilt and anxiety. The truth is, no matter WHAT you desire, someone can create a reason you should feel guilty about it.

When dealing with negative thoughts about yourself, about your public image, self-esteem or ego, trying challenging the negative thoughts with relativity. There are extremes when it comes to guilt or image. On the one extreme of being bad is harming one’s self and/or others. On the other extreme is eating an extra piece of cheese cake. Use the negativity to figure out how ‘bad’ or mistaken you are, and what needs to be done to find redemption or self-forgiveness. Examine your desires for within the desire is a need, perhaps something lacking. Maybe it’s the need or lack which should be addressed rather than beating yourself up over the desire. Find out what you believe in and go that direction. Again, use that negative energy to move towards a positive solution.

Finally, there are certain negative thoughts and fears that arise just from the fact we are mortal: Nearly all of us fear sickness, death, losing our possessions, and so forth. Many ‘reasonable’ people try to argue that such worries are irrational. Really? That sounds more like someone hasn’t been paying attention (or is in denial). The ‘darker’ side of life is real. However, dwelling on it does not help. Facing it, challenging yourself, may yield something important.

Instead of being negative or worrying about death or sickness, challenge this negativity. If death or sickness is so ‘powerful’, why does life always continue? Don’t we have the choice to be and stay healthy? Don’t we have the ability to heal and improve? Use the worrying to look at ways to improve your health and make your life more exciting while you are alive. Maybe seek out ways to help others, which just may introduce you to ‘the meaning of life’. Everyone is afraid of something. But not everyone allows themselves to be ruled by those fears. Some use the fear to power them forward. It is a choice, really. You can do one, or the other.

Negative thoughts are often your mind’s means of telling you that something is going wrong. You cannot eliminate them altogether. If you choose to ignore or suppress your negative thoughts, they will probably keep coming back in more aggressive forms. Instead, you can learn how to interpret them and use them to improve yourself and achieve positive outcomes.

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