The human psyche has so many funky glitches that it’s a wonder we can all can get along. Actually, on the whole we’re having a very, very difficult time getting along, aren’t we?
This is why positive thinking resources are so important. They help us remain on the positive side of the mental equation. Still, what do we do when negative thoughts creep in?
Well, negativity begins in the mind, so let’s start with how it manifests and then discuss steps to take that will neutralize.
Negativity can spontaneously manifest – and it often does so in a disturbing way. You may be sitting at lunch with a friend. Suddenly, a thought pops into your head: He’s so stupid. And look, his socks don’t even match. You may be meeting with your boss or another authority figure. Suddenly, you feel the urge to go off, ranting about what a horrible supervisor he or she is. You may even be cuddling with your romantic partner and begin to have doubtful, negative and unfounded thoughts about his or her intentions.
Negativity can have a life of it’s own within our psyche and we often feel helpless to do anything about it. The question is – what can you do to effectively manage the negative aspects of your mind?
Here are three ways to handle disturbingly negative thoughts:
1. Realize that impulsive, critical and even blatantly negative is normal.
These thoughts are not “socially acceptable” so few people want to admit what’s really going on in their heads. Nevertheless, your average person’s mind can be a steaming cauldron of mischief. I know this from 25 years of counseling and coaching very average people – just like me. My clients have always been well-adjusted, successful people with families, jobs, business ventures and adult responsibilities. Normal people. Yet, when we get digging around just a little bit, even the nicest, most reserved people reveal a totally different and much darker version of themselves.
This is normal, normal, normal. I’ve never met anyone – anyone – from the average marijuana-smoking teenager to the most distinguished professional who wasn’t struggling on a deeper level with this stuff.
I remember when I first realized that my mind was ready to go off on people. I was standing in the office of the Mission President in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (At the time, I was a Mormon missionary from 19-21 and a devout Mormon until age 37). Through hard work and dedication, I had risen through the ranks and landed a position as a special assistant to the president. This job was the envy of all power-hungry missionaries. Anyway, there we stood. The president was going on about necessary changes in the field and I was nodding along gravely.
I support you, Mr. President!
And then it hit me – the sudden urge to punch him in the face. I noticed my hand clenching and….Whoa! Hold on a second. Don’t punch your spiritual leader!
Then the voice, “Screw it. I’m going to lay this guy out right now!”
I said a silent prayer. I’m so sorry for my violent thoughts. Please give me the strength to respect my leader…
“Punch him! Punch that sucker!”
For six months I worked in the office of the president. And for six months I wanted to haul off and sock that guy in the face for no apparent reason (there was a reason – just not one I was aware of at the time). It was agonizing.
Ok? I’m a person, too. And this is all pretty normal from my perspective. If you are aware enough to notice your disturbing thoughts, congratulations. You are not alone. You’re in the company of every other human being who has ever existed. Trust me.
2. Thoughts are only thoughts, and that is all they will ever be.
A thought is a tiny secretion of neurotransmitters. They happen to the tune of thousands per hour according to some estimates (actually, they can’t really be quantified since the brain never rests and is constantly processing an enormous amount of data). Some of this data rises to the surface where we give it conscious consideration and meaning.
Isn’t it interesting that we often give the negative stuff all the weight and dismiss the positive? These are your negative psychological attachments at work. Negative attachments are what keep us glued to inner angst. They’re powerful. I dedicated a book to this concept of clinging to inner negativity. It’s real – and everyone should be aware, as difficult as it is to admit.
Anyway, thoughts are just thoughts. They are neither good nor bad. They only have the significance that you give them. Can you stop taking them so seriously? If you can, then you’ll have more choices.
3. There is a solution.
It’s not a magical solution. No one can wave a magic wand that will clean up your mind, turning you into pure, golden light. You’re a person; imperfect and vulnerable.
That said, if you are willing to address the deeper issues, then you can achieve a purer, more relaxed mind a lot more of the time. In my experience, you won’t get there by battling each thought. This only sets you up for war within yourself.
You get there by dealing with your deeper issues.
For me, the deeper issue was one of resistance to authority. Growing up, those in authority over me consistently hurt or neglected me. At length, I came to the conclusion that they didn’t care or didn’t know what they were doing – and therefore no authority figure ought to have any power over me. In fact, I guess I thought authority figures needed to be punished.
These are childish thoughts from a hurt child who didn’t understand that my parents and older siblings were just people struggling with their own issues. In my child mind, I didn’t care. I just wanted revenge. This leads to problems throughout early adulthood. My rebel attitude only invited more intervention from authority – not less -which made me resent them all the more….vicious cycle. The Rebel is one of the 12 attachment types that cause self-sabotage per the AHA Solution online program. I had to work through this one for quite some time. It was worth it.
Most of all, working on the deeper issues has allowed me the luxury of a quiet mind that rarely spins out of control. My mind does still get the best of me from time to time, but nothing like before. More than worth all the effort!
What’s the deeper issue beneath your negative thoughts?
Identify it. Name the issue and square yourself with the truth. Then, you’ll have your work cut out for you. It’s doable. And a much better path than remaining at the mercy of your mental demons.