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What is the best way to overcome negative thought processes?

By Anonymous December 18, 2008 - 12:37pm
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For years I've struggled with framing just about every situation negatively. For example, I could be at a party, chatting with friends, enjoying dinner, maybe a glass of wine, dancing or playing a game and generally having a good time, but one off comment -- in retrospect -- may ruin the entire night for me.

The same holds true for work. I can generally have an good day, but find myself obsessing about the small fire I had to put out or a random question from a colleague about a project that is still in the works.

What is the best way to turn my mindset around without turning to prescription drug medication?

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Have you spent any time reflecting upon why you allow yourself the negative comments? We are prone to display traits learned during childhood, and - I'm no psychiatrist, but - it seems to me that you may be dealing with a self-esteem issue.

Just a thought, and without trying to over-analyze what you're going through.

December 19, 2008 - 7:24pm

Have you heard of Eckhart Tolle? He has two best sellers: “The Power of Now” and “A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life Purpose” I read both books and have the CDs which I play from time to time in the car while driving in Southern California crazy traffic. Eckhart is a genius and probably one of the greatest mystics of our time. Why do I recommend his books? Because he helped me understand why humans have a tendency to think “negative” thoughts and how we can overcome these behaviors by recognizing what drives them to our heads. http://www.eckharttolle.com/eckharttolle

I am also an avid reader of scientific-based biological and quantum physics articles and books, and what I have found is beyond fascinating. Our left brain is responsible for most of the chatter we have inside our head. This chatter are our THOUGHTS which never seem to stop in our heads. However, our Creator gave us a wonderful right brain that allows us to go to that special place where creativity, peace and love are generated, this brain is our direct communication with the Universe, with God or that higher existence we are. When people practice meditation, prayer, chanting, or some other contemplative exercise, we allow our brains to switch from the left (task- focused, external world-focused) to the right brain (higher SELF, internal, spiritual, but connected with a higher energy frequency).

We are physical bodies (matter) but also energy (thoughts). It is important to develop habits that allow our bodies to function on the right energy frequency. There is scientific evidence now that supports the connection of energy frequency and the thought process.

We are humans first, and our sensorial ability makes us experience things through the senses. Our thoughts of past experiences are stored memories that no longer exist but are now hidden fears, apprehensions, traumatic events that will repeat over and over again through these annoying “negativity” of thoughts. You sabotage your own well-being by allowing them to upset you. Thoughts are going to happen because your left brain is working around the clock. And unless you develop habits that help your right brain take over for a few minutes or hours, your brain chatter will continue and play tricks on you.

What do you do then when you are having fun and these negative thoughts surface? Accept them as such. Welcome them and face them as what they are: “just thoughts”. For example, you are dancing and enjoying the music and suddenly you remember you have this deadline to meet at work. Your heart beat speeds up (not because of the dancing) but the fear of missing the deadline. Take a deep breath, do not stop dancing, just have a small talk with your left brain and tell it: “Left brain, you are awesome, always keeping me on track with important tasks I must do, but I am busy now surrendering to the rhythm of this beautiful song and this hunk dancing with me, I want to stay here in the moment right now” Self talk is great! I do it all the time and most of the time with great results. Not easy always, I must admit. But I have got into a meditation routine that allows my right brain to take me to a place where I experience the higher ME.

Here is a link to a presentation by Jill Bolte a Neuroanatomist who recounts her experience of her own brain stroke and found the relationship betweent the two brains within us. http://www.ted.com/index.php/speakers/jill_bolte_taylor.html

December 18, 2008 - 10:59pm

What have you done in the past that has been successful?

I think it's important to realize that you already do have some positive, helpful and effective strategies that you use. When you are in a good, reflective mood, write down what has helped you reframe thoughts in the past, and you'll remember them next time you need them!

I have the same problem that you describe (sometimes have felt like "everyone is mean" or "I'm the victim; why aren't people just naturally nice and polite?"), and I have to remind myself that the ONLY person's response and behavior I can change is my own. So, Step One for me was realizing that most people aren't even thinking about me; they are thinking about themselves and not doing anything purposefully to me. If it's the case of family or co-workers (that you can't escape from), then I give myself permission to not be overly-nice to them (my usual) and just pretend like I am doing a case study on different cultures, and I observe them more than interact with them. It helps me feel like I'm not "giving myself over" to their rudeness, but am still polite. Those types of people (who are mean) usually just want attention/an audience, anyways. Then, practice a few scripts/lines in front of the mirror that you can tell them to excuse yourself if you feel like you are being mistreated. You don't have to judge/label them or try to change them; just change your behavior and walk away.

Another strategy I've used:
"Don't Believe Everything You Think"

That motto (actually, a bumper sticker!) is what helps me change the way I'm thinking; not automatically believing that because you have a passing thought (or even a feeling) that it is necessarily something to act on, or dwell on, or respond to. Feelings and thoughts are both fleeting, and change often.

There are great resources on reframing and positive thinking. I recently wrote about my favorite, called "10 Patterns of Twisted Thinking", and you can read it here: http://www.empowher.com/community/share/dont-believe-everything-you-think-twisted-thinking-patterns

Another online source: http://psychology.suite101.com/article.cfm/twisted_thinking_two

There are books on how to reframe your thinking, here are two good ones:
"Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy," David D. Burns, M.D.

"Mind Over Mood: Change How You Feel by Changing the Way You Think," Dennis Greenberger, Ph.D. and C. Padesky, Ph.D.

Have you tried journaling? There is a great book that talks about the research and benefits to journaling, called "Opening Up". Have you written down what the "off comment" was, and then revisted it a week later? Most of the time, you won't remember why it bothered you so much, or you are able to put it into context (or, it may be a few of the same people making you feel bad...in which case...avoiding toxic people in your life is another helpful strategy).

Ok...this is the last comment I have! :-)
Obsessing about work projects and fires can be a good thing. Perhaps even reframing how you view yourself and how your mind works could help!? It seems like you are hard on yourself, and maybe telling yourself that your brain is working hard on this project/question/fire, and you are so dedicated that your brain is still trying to problem solve. Tell your brain: "you have 5 more minutes of problem solving, then we are going to relax and come back to the problem tomorrow at 8am". Give yourself permission, then actively do something else. It will take some practice; perhaps using that 5 minutes to write down the problem, so you know you won't forget it, and can revisit it again.

Does any of this help??

December 18, 2008 - 1:20pm
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