Why are negative thoughts more powerful than positive ones?
Sometimes, when we’re feeling pessimistic and hopeless, it can seem as if our negative thoughts are more powerful than our positive ones. This may not be true but our perception of this being the case can make it feel as if it was true. Positive thoughts are usually not causing us any difficulties. They don’t make us feel as if we are struggling or dealing with a problem. Negative thoughts often make us pay attention to the fact that something is ‘wrong’ in our lives at the moment. When there’s a problem, there’s a strong urge to fix it so that we can feel better. This is very deeply embedded in our human nature. Sometimes our simple attention and focussed thinking about a difficulty leads to us being able to resolve it, either in our minds or in the outer world. This can often lead to the negative thoughts just disappearing of their own accord.
Unfortunately, it isn’t always the case that we can immediately resolve a problem or that we can let go of our negative thoughts. This can lead to us feeling anxious, depressed, fearful or stuck. None of this is pleasant for us. Often the negative thoughts are beneath our conscious awareness. We might notice that we’re feeling bad but not be aware of any thoughts that might be accompanying this feeling. This can lead to us feeling unable to identify the negative thoughts and address them. There are a number of different ways in which we respond to this situation.
- We block the thoughts and feelings and tell ourselves that they don’t exist. The problem with this solution is that if we don’t acknowledge the problem, it’s not possible to deal with it.
- We focus on a whole range of negative thoughts to see which ones might be affecting us at the moment. We can stay ruminating about all of the things that we find difficult or upsetting or annoying. This can lead to us feeling even more anxious/depressed or helpless.
- We focus on a person in our lives and blame them for the problem we are experiencing. They may have a part to play, but if we don’t realise what is going on in our own minds, we won’t necessarily find an effective solution.
- We focus on all our own perceived faults and failings and blame ourselves for having all of these weaknesses in the first place. If we were better/more intelligent/less sensitive/more assertive/more confident, none of this would be happening and we wouldn’t have to suffer. Resorting to this solution just increases the impact of our negative thoughts on us.
How can we have more positive thoughts?
This is something that many people struggle with. There are many possible answers to this question. I’m going to suggest some of the simplest and quickest ways to do this.
- Name the negative thought as best you can eg. I’m thinking that I’ve messed up that job
- Accept that you’re having the thought, even though you can’t figure out how to let it go. You might feel huge resistance to doing this, but give it a try anyway.
- Offer yourself compassion for the predicament in which you find yourself. This step is really important. You are already powerfully moving into the process of thinking positively when you do this one thing.
- Change your focus away from the negative. Make a conscious decision to think of one thing that you are happy with right now. Stay focussed on this one positive thought for at least a minute.
- Repeat the steps with another negative thought.
- Practice, practice, practice. When we repeat something again and again, it gets wired into our brain and eventually becomes a habit, before finally becoming our default stance.
Moving away from being controlled by our negative thoughts is not an easy thing to do but it is worth persisting with this method because it does work and you will feel happier and more peaceful.