Our minds tend to get stuck in the past, forming negativity thoughts or beliefs based upon our experiences. When we get stuck in negativity, we hold ourselves back and hinder our progress. We avoid engaging in certain activities that may be beneficial for us or that may help us to grow as human beings.
The reason our minds come up with negative ideas is for the sake of survival. However, nowadays with technological advancement, we are fortunate enough to not have to succumb to our own survival. We depend on each other for the sake of survival. For example, we have supermarkets that we can go to in order to buy food. We have government programs such as food stamps for people who are unable to make a livelihood based on their physical and mental wellness.
When our minds come up with a negative thought or concludes a negative belief, it can hold us back from truly enjoying life. It does not even have to seem so negative, yet it can hinder our progress. For example, if you as a kid rarely spoke up, you might have been classified as being shy. If enough people tell you that you are shy or you get used to not speaking up, you bring truth to that label. But once you realize that there are other possible truths (e.g. maybe you were not shy but observant and trying to take information in, or maybe you didn’t speak much back then but now you have more things to say), then you begin to realize that anything could be a possibility, and it should leave you feeling empowered in progressing with life or changing your behaviors.
When we have negative thoughts, there are a few different approaches you can take. The first is to drown in that negative thought and allow it to hinder us. The second is to ignore the thought and to just do whatever you want in spite of that negative thought. The third is to examine that thought and see where it is coming from, realizing that it doesn’t have to be that way, and accepting a more empowering thought.
Going with the negative thought
Let’s examine the first mode of thinking, giving into the negative thought. When you give into the negative thought, you may be tempted to practice maladaptive behaviors that only serve to destruct you and others around you. Or, you arouse feelings that sink you into that negative thought bubble, seeping more into anger, resentment, guilt, or depression. You get stuck in a rut.
Sometimes, we need to give into the negative thoughts as a way to process our feelings and emotions. For example, if someone passes away, you may miss them and cry your heart out. Doing that is okay, because we sometimes feel the need to express our sadness just as much as we may feel the need to express our joy. It’s okay to sink low sometimes and to feel a certain way.
What’s tricky is that we must not let that negativity sit with us for long periods of time. For example, just because you fail one exam at school, does not mean that you’re going to fail the next one. It could just mean that you have to modify your study habits so that you can pass the next exam. Just because you make a mistake once doesn’t mean that you’re doomed to making the same mistake a second time. And even if you fail or make a mistake several times, that doesn’t mean that you are not learning. You are, and it’s just a matter of time before you succeed or make that great leap in progress.
Ignoring the thought and moving on
Ignoring the negative thought takes more willpower than just going with the thought. It requires you to consciously decide that you will be positive no matter what. There is an upside and a downside to this method. The first good thing about this is that you can always challenge your thoughts and decide for yourself that you will do something positive instead. The downside is that it does require some willpower and conscious thinking or acting in order to combat that thought. You will feel some sort of resistance. Plus, there’s only so many things that we can be conscious about at a single moment. It requires you to zone out and to just tune into your senses, living in the present moment.
This method is mostly useful when you are out and about, not able to fully focus on the negative thought and figure out where it is stemming from. For example, if someone says something off-putting or seemingly offensive to you, you may choose to ignore it at the moment and to just head off your way, focusing on what you are doing. You don’t have to process it at the moment. You can process it later when you’re alone. But, you don’t have to take in something negative that someone else says about you. You can decide for yourself about who you are.
I used this method as a way to cope with cyberbullying. There have been a few times when someone left hateful comments on my videos, whether it is racist or just plain rude. But rather than taking that negativity in, I either delete those hateful comments and block them, or I just altogether ignore those people and just move on with my life. Those people don’t know me, and I don’t know them. But rather than stooping down to their level of rudeness, I choose to live my life in a positive manner. It is a conscious approach that I make an effort towards every single day.
Examining where those thoughts arise
Our minds come up with all sorts of ideas, both negative and positive. When we don’t receive what we want, our minds try to justify it and come up with ideas as to why you aren’t getting what you desire. But sometimes, those thoughts are rooted in fear. As I mentioned earlier, our brains have been developed that way for the sake of survival, especially when we needed it most in past times. But, we do not have to accept those thoughts and live in a fear-based mindset.
As a child, you may have a parent who seemed busy all the time and could barely spend time with you. They may have been living paycheck to paycheck. But as a child, maybe you didn’t understand that they were stressed out and busy all the time in order to make a decent living. Maybe to you, it meant that you were not important. But there are many other possibilities as to why they behaved the way they did. To you, it may have seemed true that you were not important. But another possible truth is that maybe you were important and they’re way of expressing care was to make money in order to supply your basic needs. Maybe you were not important to them at the moment, but later you became important to them. Or maybe you were always important, but they just could not find the proper time to express their love to you.
When you are able to reflect back on the past and see where those thoughts arise, we can see that there are many possible truths. Most likely, you didn’t see the words “I’m not important” written on the walls or even spoken. There was no color or shape to it. It’s just a thought. So rather than giving into the negative thoughts, why not focus on the positive and live in a more empowering way? For example, you could replace those negative thoughts with, “I am important. I am worthy. I am deserving of love. I have a lot to offer this world. And, I am a positive influence on other people.”
Negative feelings or emotions
Another thing is that you might not hear the negative thought, but you might feel a negative way. If you look back to the event, you can realize that it was just an event, serving no negative feeling at all. The negative feeling is just a feeling. And as with every feeling, it is fleeting, and it is able to be changed. A person can’t make you feel anything. It is your body, and your body naturally responds to events. But rather than sinking into negative emotions or feelings, we can arise and feel empowered. We can see that those seemingly negative events doesn’t happen anymore, and we can feel happy about it. We can tune into more of our positive and empowering feelings.
I would like to argue that no one can make you feel anything except for yourself. You are in control of your body. And even if you have natural reactions to things (your instinct), you can realize that those feelings were just feelings in the moment. Your feelings don’t have to be the way they are. You can change them with practice. And also, just because you used to be nervous about certain things (e.g. public speaking), doesn’t mean that you can’t ever stand in front of an audience and speak. The nervousness is just a response triggered by an event, and if you can see that the event had no initial meaning behind it, then you can understand that you can exist in another state of being.
All in all, having negative thoughts is normal. But, we don’t have to succumb to those negative ideas forever. We can consciously pick them out and reframe our minds into a more positive state of being. We can live confidently and happily in this world with just a little effort. What empowering thoughts or feelings would you like to live up to?