Written by: Maritza Barrera, LMFT
So, this is where we get confused about it all. Just accept it already.
If you've found yourself stuck in negative thinking, I’m sure you’ve tried to think more positively. I’m also sure at least one friend, loved one, or maybe even your therapist, has advised you to do the same. But, it seems no matter how hard you try, you just can’t get your thinking to switch gears. If this sounds like you, or you are simply curious enough to read on, I want to talk to you about how to break through that barrier.
First, here comes your dose of validation. All humans have negative thoughts in their head about themselves, about others, about situations and circumstances. This is normal. It is also a mental prison with very thick bars!
So what can you do to free yourself all Shawshank style?! I thought you’d never ask.
Step One: Catch your negative thoughts
If you’re a visual person, feel free to imagine you have a net and you catch your negative thoughts when they happen. Now, don’t think you will be catching every one of these bad boys Day 1. But instead, just focus on slowing down enough in your day to catch one or two in that old school fishing net of yours for analysis.
Step Two: Notice your feels
When you think the negative thought, how do you feel? Our feelings inform our decisions and behaviors, so its worth paying attention to the ones that result from your negative thoughts.
Step Three: Now change the script
Create a new positive thought still related to the subject. So if you're being self critical, give yourself some praise. If you’re being negative about a situation or another person, try on some empathy. Imagine you misunderstood and the whole situation is actually somehow positive. As an example, maybe your friend was having a bad day and that’s why she was short with you on the phone. Just try some scenarios for yourself.
Step Four: And here’s where we break the barrier…are you ready?!
Accept the damn reframe! Notice how you feel when you think the more positive thought. I’m sure your mind is ready to throw up the next thought to disregard and completely nullify your positive reframe, but just catch that bad boy in your net and cast it aside with its kin. Be all “yeah, yeah, I hear ya, but I have better things to do and better feels to feel thank you very much”.
It might seem hard at first to even come up with the positive reframes, but if you get creative, you won’t regret it. Just give in to the possibility that everything is lining up perfectly to bring you joy. Let those thoughts flow and believe them.
Still struggling…not yet convinced…
Consider the following scenario. I’m a therapist. I choose to think I’m a good therapist, in spite of negative thinking that can tell me the opposite. So I catch it in my net, I switch it to positive, I gain emotional and stress relief from this, and I go about my merry way.
Now, you may be thinking, but what if you are a terrible therapist and your negative thinking is actually true? What if you don’t know it, you are BLIND to it, and you go around looking like a merry damn idiot, wreaking havoc on the world? And to this I say, I hear you, and now you hear me, and every other human who has an ego that wants to stay intact.
But I digress.
If I go around thinking the positive thoughts about my professional self, I gain a morale boost. I feel better about myself, and I, in turn, show up more readily and eager to do my job well. Of course, this is just one example. There are many many more that would show how accepting the reframe is key to gaining ground toward more positive thinking on a regular and consistent basis.
Maritza Barrera is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist, Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist, and Qualified Supervisor. She is the owner of Pure Empathy and works to fulfill her mission of promoting awareness, compassion, and acceptance to everyone she can reach! Welcome to the light side! #nerdybynature