The short answer?
Let me explain…Craig Sunter
What do I mean by negative thoughts?
I don’t like the term negative. To me that’s suggesting that it is a bad thing, that should be avoided or fixed, or something along those lines. Rather, I prefer to think of thoughts and emotions in terms of enjoyable, and not enjoyable. I enjoy thinking about how much I love my friends and family, I enjoy feeling peaceful and grateful and (belly)full. I don’t really enjoy feeling sad or irritated or stressed, or thinking about what would happen if that car pulled out in front of me or where I would go if I ran out of money and couldn’t pay my rent…you get the picture.
We all have them.
I’m actually bummed that there’s so many articles and books about stopping ‘negative thoughts’, because I don’t believe it would ever be possible. Every single human has un-enjoyable thoughts and/or emotions at some point. Every one feels things like anger, guilt, sadness, frustration, tiredness…so why do we have this big story going around that it’s somehow wrong to feel these things, and it should be stopped? The nature of human life is to experience both highs and lows.Image by Meg Wills
Why do we have un-enjoyable thoughts?
From an evolutionary perspective, we wouldn’t be here if we didn’t have negative thoughts. We needed to be cautious and suspicious about other people stealing our territory away from us, from predators, from food that would make us sick. Our brain is still just trying to protect us, by warning us about every old thing. Sometimes our brain does its job perfectly, warning us about a legitimate danger like an approaching car, or letting us know that there’s something that we need to do in order to live a more enjoyable life (like leave our crappy job).
Sometimes though, our brain sends us unnecessary warnings.
You know those really big, loud, scary-looking but somewhat-dense dogs? You might be sitting at home with your faithful canine standing guard, and your friend comes to visit, and the dog goes berserk. Barking and jumping around, warning you (its beloved owner) about this threat that has presented itself. Of course you, as a rational human being, check out the situation and see who’s at the door. You quickly notice that in fact it is your friend, and really, poses no threat at all. But try convincing old pal puppy of that.Mark Robinson
That’s what your brain is like sometimes. A big, stupid, loveable dog.
A dog that is inclined to go berserk about many and varied situations that could be interpreted as threats, but you in your rational mind can step back and see that in fact, it’s not a threat at all. Then you can choose to approach your thoughts the same way you can approach a barking dog. By acknowledging it, checking out the situation for yourself, and then calmly telling it that you don’t need it to protect you, because you are running the show here. Oh brain, I see we’re bringing up the story about ‘I-can’t-ever-trust-another-man-again’, are we? Thanks for bringing that up. I’ll take it from here though. And then, carry on as you see rationally fit, letting your brain make it’s harmless barking (un-enjoyable thoughts) in the background.
And know that it’s doing all that barking from a deep, deep desire to protect you and care for you. Which is a beautiful thing.
How about you? Does your brain go crazy sometimes with warnings that you could really do without? Let me know in the comments below.