Art credit: Courtney Hobbs
If you realized how powerful your thoughts are,
you would never think a negative thought.
Just because some inner voice in your head tells you that you are unworthy, unlovable, a loser, or whatever mean “sandbox name” it wants to call you, it doesn’t mean that it’s a fact or even based in reality. You have the power to challenge and change a negative thought always, as harsh or brutal as it may be.
When there hasn’t been a questioning process of your thoughts, and your emotions and behavior are a result of troubling or disturbing thoughts, it can become a negative state of mind that can dominate you. This can cause you to make impulsive, irrational, desperate, or even destructive and dangerous decisions because the only thing that is occupying your mind at a time of difficulty or despair is a thought that tells you things are not OK and are going to stay that way. This can lead to feeling unsafe, uncertain, or convinced that your survival is being threatened, even if that is not actually the case.
It’s also important to note that the type of thoughts I’m referring to are the garden variety troubling thoughts that plague most of us. Each of us at times feels anxious, sad, worried, or frightened. Millions of people experience days when they don’t want to get out of bed and just pull the covers over their head.
Questioning Your Negative Thoughts and Dissolving Them
I want to make it clear that part of being alive and human is to feel all sorts of things at different times, depending on what’s going on in your life, and that can even mean a gloomy day affecting your mood negatively. At different times we can alternately feel great, good, so-so, not so good, and even terrible. What I’m hoping with the Says Who? method is that it can be part of your daily practice, to be put to use before your negative thoughts can go so far as to push you into a more serious or troubled state of mind, causing you to opt for relief through medication, alcohol or any substance that can numb your feelings.
Questioning your negative thoughts and dissolving them can change your state of mind for the better. It’s certainly a good place to start before you decide to do something more extreme or radical like anesthetizing yourself with anything that is mind altering or numbing.
I’m not saying that people diagnosed with depression or a clinical type of mental illness can just change their thoughts right away and everything will be just fine. Maybe they can’t, as they might have a chemical imbalance or some other medical condition. If that’s the case, sometimes medication is absolutely necessary, especially if there is a more serious underlying problem like depression, or one is experiencing a feeling of ongoing, relentless hopelessness or despair.
Hopefully, those with serious problems who need professional help are working with a mental health professional or someone qualified in this area to help. Yet, even with professional help, you can continue to think troubling thoughts on your own, away from any outside help you’re receiving, and have no method or technique to question those thoughts, leaving you feeling overwhelmed or taken over by thoughts that make you feel bad, or so down that your life isn’t worth living anymore.
Clearly, if you have reached a point in your life where your depression becomes serious, and perhaps destructive or suicidal thoughts have entered your mind, again, I can’t emphasize enough how seeking professional help is extremely important, and should be sought immediately.
Unfortunately, many people don’t seek the help they need, and something that could have started as a bout of unhappiness or mild depression can often go unchecked or untreated, and thoughts that support their unhappiness or depression become too dominant in their thinking process. That person does not understand that “they are not their negative thoughts,” meaning that they are too enmeshed and over-identified with them. There is no separation between the negative thought and a healthy sense of “self”, which is who you are when you’re not gripped by fear or despair.
A negative thought is disruptive to feeling balanced, confident and whole, and can cause doubt and uncertainty. That can lead to situations where you might make unhealthy, destructive, or life threatening decisions because you do not know that “you are not your negative thoughts,” and the separation between “thought” and “self” is blurred and unclear.
Confronting And Challenging Critical Or Undermining Thoughts
A thought like you’re “bad, ugly, worthless, unlovable” or whatever critical or undermining thought you’ve told yourself or someone has said to you, must be confronted and challenged before it becomes fueled by more negative and critical thoughts, and they will definitely keep on coming if you don’t tell them to stop.
It’s one thing to stand up for yourself if someone is attacking you and saying mean or hurtful things to you directly, but if you can’t stand up to your own negative or criticalthoughts, then you’re allowing more harm to be done, and you will begin to believe what you’re telling yourself. That’s when you start to believe that “you are your negative thoughts,” and accept them as real and true, which can not only be hurtful, but damaging to your self-esteem and self-worth.
Negative Thoughts Are A Form of Abuse
It’s important to consider negative thoughts as a form of abuse. Just like you wouldn’t tolerate anyone abusing someone you love, you have to ask yourself why you would allow for a type of mental abuse to be done to you—by you!
I had a client who was extremely hard on herself, and when things were not going so well for her, she felt like she was on a downward spiral “circling the drain,” as she would describe it, and those were the times she would tell herself how absolutely “worthless” she was.
I asked her to picture herself holding a child in her arms, and imagine someone coming along who tries to hurt that child, either verbally or physically.
“Wouldn’t you immediately want to protect that child from being in harm’s way,” I asked her.
“Absolutely!” she said.
“Alright, then why wouldn’t you want to protect yourself from abuse in the same way? Don’t you think you need to protect yourself from being hurt just like you would protect someone you love?”
“Yes,” she said, “but I guess I’m not very good at doing that. Obviously I need to love myself better.”
Sometimes the demeaning and degrading things we tell ourselves can be far more scathing and hurtful than anything someone can say to us, but whatever type of verbal abuse we hear, whether it’s coming from someone else, or from us to ourselves, it’s always our choice and decision to decide if we want to take it in and believe it as true, or reject it and let it go.
When Your Abuser Is You
Whatever it is we encounter in our lives that makes us feel bad about ourselves causing shame, insecurity, fear, etc. we have to be very careful not to turn it on ourselves in a negative, or abusive way. When we feel hurt, we feel vulnerable, and almost immediately a thought can pop up telling us we’re not good enough, or that it’s our fault that something unpleasant or unfortunate has happened to us. It’s so easy to assume responsibility for something that’s gone wrong when it might not even be our fault, or that it was out of our control.
Many people immediately blame themselves when something negative happens to them. The end of a relationship or marriage is a perfect example of how someone can go into a complete downward spiral of negativity, thinking that it’s their fault that it failed or ended, and the very thought of thinking that you’re a “failure” is what dominates your mind.
The problem with that is if you don’t confront or challenge the very first negative thought you have that wants to throw you under the bus, the next thing you know you can literally feel like you are being run over by all of the negative or abusive thoughts you have until you tell them to stop, by confronting and challenging them with the Says Who? method. If you allow for abusive thoughts then you are siding with the abuser, and that person can be yourself just as easily as it can be someone else.
You Ain't The Boss Of Me!
It’s important to remember that whenever you are thinking a negative thought, and find yourself at the affect of it—causing you to feel upset or angry—that means that you are allowing that thought to get a rise or reaction out of you. Do you want that? Do you want your negative thoughts to get the best of you? They certainly can, if you let them, and yet they don’t have to if you challenge and question them with the Says who? method.
Our thoughts influence our lives. The first thing to do when an unpleasant or negative thought comes into your head and threatens to throw you off stride is to acknowledge it right away. This will help put you in the observer mode, instead of the reactor mode. The three steps are:
- Acknowledge your thought.
- Observe it.
- Do not react to it.
These steps are essential to help you remain in the present moment, with total awareness, so you can be in the right frame of mind to question your negative thoughts without letting them affect you emotionally. By remaining the observer and not the reactor, you can get to the root of why that negative thought is in your mind and begin to release it. That way you are in control of your thought, as opposed of it being in control of you.
A Thought Of Self-love Is A Thought Of Power
And remember: A thought of self-love is a thought of power. Don’t give your power away by believing any thought, whether it’s your own, or influenced by someone else, that does not completely support the best of who you are.
Be kind and loving to yourself like you would a child who needed your care and protection. You deserve the same safekeepiong, and mindful attention as much as they would.
[Editor's Note: Read another excerpt from this book for the Says Who? method.]
©2016 by Ora Nadrich. All Rights Reserved.
Published by Morgan James Publishing,
Says Who?: How One Simple Question Can Change the Way You Think Forever
by Ora Nadrich.
More than simple "think positive" slogans and inspirational platitudes, this is not just a motivational book; instead "Says Who?" provides practical, tangible steps to tackling a condition that affects us all: negative thoughts.
About the Author
Ora Nadrich is founder and president of the Institute for Transformational Thinking and author of Live True: A Mindfulness Guide to Authenticity. A certified life coach and mindfulness teacher, she specializes in transformational thinking, self-discovery, and mentoring new coaches as they develop their careers. Contact her at theiftt.org and OraNadrich.com.