“By means of personal experimentation and observation, we can discover certain simple and universal truths. The mind moves the body, and the body follows the mind. Logically then, negative thought patterns harm not only the mind but also the body. What we actually do builds up to affect the subconscious mind and in turn affects the conscious mind and all reactions.”
~ H.E. Davey, Japanese Yoga: The Way of Dynamic Meditation
Negative thoughts. We all have them. The question is, what to do about them?
(And please note, I’m not talking about addiction or mental illness here. Addiction and mental illness is a whole other ballgame, requiring specialised treatment.)
I’m naturally an optimistic person. Or at least I’ve become that way over time. I choose to look for the silver lining, to focus on the positive… I thought I had pretty much eliminated negative self talk, and that I had healthy self esteem.
So it was distressing for me when, without warning, I began to have a barrage of negative thoughts. Their cause? One of the drugs I was taking for my Lyme treatment. Suddenly I was anxious, negative and self-loathing.
Of course it was the drugs. My doctor had warned me about these possible side effects. ‘Nicole,’ I would say to myself, ‘this isn’t how you really feel, it’s the drugs.’ If things got really bad I would ring my wonderful sister who would also reiterate that, yes, I was feeling this way because of the drugs.
But knowing it was the drugs wasn’t helping. Those feelings just weren’t going away.
I tried ignoring them, but the more I ignored them the louder they got.
It was horrible.
The thing is, it doesn’t matter WHERE the feeling comes from. What matters is that you’re experiencing it.
Maybe it’s a voice from our past, someone from our life who judged us or was less than supportive. Maybe it’s our own sabotaging behaviour, our fears or doubts. Maybe we’re exhausted and today everything just seems harder.
Sometimes the thoughts and emotions are generated by disease, toxins, chemical or hormonal imbalances, or good old-fashioned stress and overload.
Wherever the thoughts come from, they sound like this:
No-one likes you.
You’ll never be successful.
He’ll leave you.
You’re not good enough.
This won’t work.
You’re a failure.
This is going to be a disaster, like everything else you’ve done.
Why do you even bother?
You’re such a loser.
Of course, these thoughts often turned up when I was trying to do something; sticking to my diet, taking my meds, writing, thinking about the future once I began to regain my health.
These negative voices would stop me in my tracks. Which is pretty much what negative self talk is designed to do.
A friend shared this technique with me, and it has worked brilliantly well.
When a negative thought turns up, schedule it for later. Like this:
10am and I’m working on my blog…
Negative Thought: Why do you bother? This is such a colossal waste of time. No-one actually reads this crap. You’re not even a good writer.
Me: Hello, Negative Thought. I’m busy right now. But I promise I’ll give you my undivided attention at 5 o’clock this afternoon. Okay? See you then.
Negative Thought: But, we need to talk NOW.
Me: Nup, sorry. I’m busy. Come back at 5.
11am and I’m watching TV…
Negative Thought: No words, just a sense of suffocating doom.
Go Away. Five. I’ll deal with you at Five.
Negative Thought: Doom, doom, doom.
Leave me ALONE!!! You’re interrupting my show. I said I’ll talk to you at Five. Later, okay?
Midday, and I’m making a healthy lunch…
Negative Thought: Why don’t you just eat chips? You’re so fat anyway and this salad crap won’t make any difference, porky. Chips!!! Chips are easy. Chips are good.
Me: I’m sorry, Negative Thought. No time for you right now. I’m making salad. Come back at 5.05pm and you can tell me all about it. I promise to listen to everything you say.
Negative Thought: Grumble, Grumble, Grumble, CHIPS!!!!
Me: See you this afternoon.
2pm and I’m trying to take a nap…
Negative Thought: You’re so lazy. You’re just faking it. Anyway, this treatment isn’t working. You’ll never be well. You’re a total loser. Everyone is so ashamed of you. You’re pathetic.
Me, through gritted teeth: Ten past five. Get in the queue. I’ll deal with this later.
Negative Thought: Sure, Loser. Have a nice nap. I look forward to our chat.
Me: Great 🙁
And that’s what I did. I kept telling my negative thoughts that I acknowledged them, but I would deal with them later.
Just before five that afternoon I sat down in my lounge, expecting that the waiting room for my Negative Thoughts would soon be crammed full.
In fact, I waited and waited.
No-one showed up at all.
Negative thoughts have no endurance. They want instant gratification. They need to engage you and feed off you in order to stick around.
I found myself in a quiet room, with only me for company.
A Negative Thought did show up once, but the conversation it delivered had no oomph. It sounded like a pre-recorded message of all of the worst, most unoriginal cliches. The negative talk had scant impact on me, especially since I was no longer involved in the task it had been complaining about. Honestly, it all sounded a little ridiculous. Less than five minutes and we were done. And I came out the winner.
My dear friend, Leesa, also suggests: “Another thing to do in case they do show up is to say ‘I’ll give you 5 minutes at 5 o’clock.’ Set a timer and get up and do something that requires concentration when the time is up. The thoughts have to wait until the next day at 5 o’clock again.”
Telling my thoughts to wait, and that I’ll get back to them, has been the singular best coping mechanism I’ve had for negative thoughts and negative self-talk.
It has allowed me to keep focusing on what I need to, undistracted by these white-anting thoughts that erode my stability and self-worth.
I’m through the worst of my treatment now, and life is looking up.
The less-than-positive thoughts I may have from time to time are much more likely to be my own old patterning. Still, I keep making dates with these thoughts. And they keep standing me up.
It gives me time for quiet reflection each day.
It gives me a chance to enjoy the view.
Maybe you might benefit from this technique too. 🙂 The more you work with this technique the easier it gets, and the weaker those thoughts become.
You are valuable and worthy, and this negative talk IS NOT YOU!!! Don’t let it define you, or steal your joy and the energy you want to put into your life.
Above all, if it gets overwhelming, ask for help. It’s your life. You get to be in charge. So take the power back from those negative thoughts. If the thoughts are BIG and it’s hard to stable them in one corner (like with addiction or mental illness) then pull out the big guns – commit to a program or course of action and find yourself a team of trained helpers and supporters to get you through.
You deserve happiness and peace of mind.
I’m thinking of you, and sending love. ♥ Nicole xx