Originally published on Medium.com on February 7, 2020
Changing How We Look At Negative Thoughts
Negative thoughts. If you’re reading this post, I’d bet you have a lot of them. I do too.
Fears such as, “I’m a failure,” “I’ll never beat my anxiety,” or “I shouldn’t even try” often manifest in our minds and become hard to silence.
Of course, these thoughts, at face value, are dangerous enough, but there are a few reasons why they’re even more detrimental than meets the eye.
The first reason is, for the most part, society pretends like most people don’t have such thoughts and that it’s not okay to have them. This is a flat out lie. Here’s why.
Experts like Deepak Chopra estimate that we have tens of thousands of thoughts per day. Moreover, thanks to the brain’s negativity bias — a built-in defense mechanism against threats — many of those thoughts tend to be on the pessimistic side.
The second reason is an extension of the first — since we’re programmed, socially, to believe that negative thoughts aren’t okay to have, we often resist them and fight ourselves when they do pop into our minds.
This fight is something I talk about extensively in my writing. When we feel fear or negativity manifesting in our minds or bodies and resist it, we lock it in place and help it grow. We obsess over it, try to fight it off, and in the process, make it much worse than it originally was.
I find this concept so fascinating and helpful that I even made it the focus of the back cover of my first book,* where I urged readers (in big, bold letters) to “give up the fight [against anxiety].” No, that doesn’t mean to become apathetic or to stop trying altogether, but to simply stop pushing back against fear and let it move through you.
Of course, it’s very hard to do so when you’ve been programmed by society to run as fast as you can from such negativity. In fact, without a firm belief that negative thoughts are okay to have, we’ll likely only continue to resist them and spin them into further doubts, fears, and questions in our minds.
Thus, despite our social programming, what we really need to do is buy, wholeheartedly, into this new belief (that negative beliefs are not only okay to have, but also that many, if not most, people have them quite often). Why? Because it’s true anyway, so we might as well let it assist us in our struggles.
The main reason society preaches the opposite is because most of us hate negativity. We don’t like it in ourselves and we detest it in others. Thus, it almost seems as though we’d rather pretend everyone is positive and upbeat all the time, even if that’s really not the case.
Of course, some of us are more naturally negative or neurotic than others, and I’m sure we all know a couple truly jubilant people, but for the most part, we all struggle and deal with negativity on a regular basis. Knowing how to deal with that negativity is one of the most important strategies you can have in your anxiety arsenal.
With that strategy in hand, the next time you feel fear or negativity starting to bubble up, tell yourself it’s okay to have such thoughts and feelings. If you do it right, I think you just might find that negativity moving through you faster than it otherwise would’ve.
Thanks for reading! Looking for even more anxiety-busting strategies?
Then grab a copy of my book, Get Out of Your Head: A Toolkit for Living with and Overcoming Anxiety.* It covers many of the topics I discuss in my blog posts, as well as a few new, key frameworks for managing fear. Check it out if you’re looking to level-up your anxiety-alleviating skills.
Or, if you’re not yet ready to jump into the book, head on over to some of my other articles on managing anxiety:
*Disclaimer: The above links are affiliate URLs, which pay me a small commission when readers make purchases through them.