- in Anxiety
Negative thoughts can be tied to many things; our core belief, our past experiences, thoughts about the future, body image, going to new places, meeting new people and so on. We’re very good at focusing on the negatives, whether real or perceived.
We've used this analogy with our clients:
The 'hook' of negative thoughts
Imagine you’re sitting in a small row boat, floating on an ocean of negative thoughts. The thoughts are swirling all around the boat, making it bob up and down.
You cast your fishing rod over the side of the boat, and seconds later you have your first bite. You find the negative thought provides very little in the way of fight as you haul it into your boat.
As you examine the negative thought it seems to grow; getting bigger and bigger. Not only that, but more negative thoughts are now jumping onto the boat of their own accord. The more negative thoughts you explore, the more the others seem to launch themselves from the ocean.
Your boat is now heavily laden with negative thoughts, riding low in the water, and still the thoughts jump on board. In no time at all the boat starts to sink and you find yourself floating in the ocean.
Each negative thought you grasp to stay afloat takes you deeper down and you start being pulled towards the bottom of the ocean.
The process of negative thinking
It might sound like a dark analogy, but it holds a certain truth in how a lot of us think. A negative thought enters our mind and instead of merely acknowledging it and letting it pass, we hook into and start analysing it.
This process of analysing only serves to create more negative thoughts. It enables “what if” thoughts to form, and then we start making assumptions. Some of these assumptions may be based on past experiences, while others may just be things we've concocted during the analysing process.
It's rare that any thoughts within this style of thinking are based upon actual facts. Let’s face it, our mind lies and creates infinite possibilities. It thinks of worse-case scenarios, magnifies situations to make them seem worse, and disables our ability to think clearly, rationally, and be pro-active in taking action.
Like the 'boat' example, you may have a worry which initially starts as a small, niggling worry. As you explore this worry it opens up a map of possible destinations, all of which become increasingly worse in their outcome. You start feeling more stressed and anxious, and as you turn the worry over and over in your mind more worries come to the surface.
How can we address negative thoughts?
Can you see the problem with this style of thinking? When we concentrate on the worry, it makes it increasingly bigger. A small worry may be a real worry which therefore needs attention, but ruminating over it will not resolve the problem.
So what can you do instead? What might help your thinking or your situation? The next blog post will address this. See you then!
Can you relate to the analogy of negative thoughts above? Let us know in the comments 🙂