You’ve heard the expression “Food for thought”. I find in my clinical practice that most of the time people tend to feed their negative thought more than positive thought. The inner critic inside of us often takes the driver’s seat filling our brains with negative thoughts. “ I can’t. I’m not good enough. I am not enough. That’s not possible. I will never feel better. The worst is always going to happen. I am dumb. I am ugly. People don’t like me. I can’t lose the weight. I don’t deserve that job.” These negative voices are usually louder than the ones with positive affirmations that find strengths.
Often times, the way we speak to ourselves manifests in our actions (or inactions). If we believe “I can’t do it”, of course you can’t. Because chances are, you’re not even going to try!! And we all know that you can’t accomplish something if you don’t try. Changing the way we talk to ourselves can be paramount in goal setting, making positive changes in our lives and achieving our goals. This does not mean that a “can do” attitude will automatically mean you will accomplish all your goals effortlessly. However, it will make the process and likelihood of success better. It seems that a lot of learning and major successes come from epic failures. Personally speaking, I find I’ve learned the most through my failures, not my successes. Our failures challenge us.
Being able to accept this and move forward without getting stuck on the negative thought train is what will move one forward. This is where the power of thought comes in. If we think we can and view ourselves and our things more positively, we are more likely to keep trying and working at it without feeling discouraged, down, stuck or depressed.
A helpful tool I often utilize with my clients is the Thought, Feeling, Behavior Triangle. The basic principle of this is simple. Your thoughts impact how you feel, which can dictate how your act. For example, you walk into a room and there is a group of people standing across from you in the room. The moment you walk through the door, they start laughing. Some automatic thoughts that may occur are that “they are laughing at me” and “they are making fun of me”. These thoughts may lead you to feel self-conscious, lacking self-confidence, ashamed of who you are, embarrassed, angry, hurt, sad (the list could go on…). If you think and feel these things, you may walk away, avoid socializing, confront them and/or pick a fight (again, the list could go on…). Now I will walk you through the same scenario with a simple change in thought. Here it goes.
You walk into a room and there is a group of people standing across from you in the room. The moment you walk through the door, they start laughing. This time the automatic thoughts that may occur are that “someone must have told a joke, I wonder what they’re laughing at, I wonder what’s funny”. These thoughts may lead to you feel curious, intrigued, neutral (the list could go on…). If you think and feel these things, you may walk over and address/engage with the group, ask what was funny, do nothing, (again, the list could go on…). A person may find that the group was laughing at a Youtube Video, a joke, and you may forge friendships or have a positive experience. In this second scenario, the outcomes are less negative and the pathway to a more positive feeling and behavior is a healthier thinking.
I will not tell you that it is easy to change thinking patterns. No doubt it takes a bit of self-awareness, concerted effort, and practice practice practice. However, I will tell you that it is possible and can most certainly be worth it. If you want to start to practice feeding your POSITIVE thoughts, or just plain change your thinking patterns, let your therapist know! If you don’t have one, I would be glad to talk to you about how therapy can help you with this.