By Monika B. Jensen, PhD
Is it better to think from a half-glass full perspective? Research suggests that thinking positively just might be. To do that though, you need to know how to banish negative thoughts.
Dr. Deepak Chopra contends that thoughts become stored in the body: all of them. (“Quantum Healing”)
How is this possible?
By its very nature, a strong thought has intense emotions attached to it: anger, sadness, guilt, fear or anxiety. When your brain stores this memory, or represses it, it is filed away with all the intensity of the unresolved emotions. Over time, these negative emotions attached to your recall can start blocking the flow of communication through the body’s neurological network pathways.
This trapped memory, with its fire keg of emotions, can play havoc with your daily reactions, without you even being aware of it. Everyone around you is.
Our bodies’ hardwiring with a failsafe device called the “ “flight or fight” response protects us from danger and keeps us safe. Often, this creates feelings of fear – a secondary emotion (and outcome) that has little to do with our safety.
This trapped emotion may surface when your body senses you are in a similar situation, whether you are or you aren’t! It can magnify a small reaction into an outburst if left unaddressed.
1. Discover how harmful a few negative thoughts can be.
Thoughts and emotions are, in fact, patterns of energy that flow from us “outside” in the world. Like anything else, emotions such as fear, guilt, and resentment, are energy, too. These deep-seated and often long-held emotions act like black bags of energy, which, if not dealt with and released, cause diseases in our bodies like heart problems and limits our ability to interact well with others.
Unresolved negative emotions produce physical and psychological damage, affecting our physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being. They insidiously become distorted over time in the form of self-dislike, self-hatred, not feeling appropriate or good enough. Our self-worth becomes insecure. As a result, we begin looking outside ourselves for confirmation that we are okay.
This act of affirmation results in something far more harmful: it subconsciously tells ourselves that we don’t trust our own opinions.
2. Identify your negative thoughts and opinions.
Press the pause button before you react or respond to a situation that prompts anxious feelings. Take a few seconds to acknowledge your thoughts and your feelings. Are they in proper proportion? If they aren’t, choose not to respond or react. Start recording these thoughts and the acts that prompted them down, whether in a journal, in quick notes in OneNote or even Evernote.
Acknowledge them, but don’t allow yourself to be triggered by them. Just recognize them.
3. Identify why your current negative thought process is counter-productive.
When you are ready to look hard at these unresolved memories and feelings, start breaking them down.
You have experienced in your past a full range of emotions, including fear, sadness, anger, anxiety. If 10-years later, you are still angry because of something that happened in the past, acknowledge how much spent energy this has cost you.
Is the memory of a person who is still in your life? Are hurtful things continuously happening in this relationship? Consider using words to communicate how you feel. In extreme situations, you may evaluate whether you want to continue the relationship.
Whatever your decision, forgive yourself for holding on these emotions for so long.
4. Skew to positive thoughts.
Knowing why positive thinking is preferred can help you reframe your brain to see the positive.
Positive thinking calms the mind and the body. That can assist us in viewing situations differently.
What if, in the above example, you identified three ways that the inciting incident caused you to pivot positively? Perhaps you moved, or started a new career path, met a wonderful person and started a life together.
Making these connections to intense residual memories may help you look at current day-to-day happening differently, and respond differently.
5. Respect your positive thoughts and opinions.
The reason most people cannot perform at their maximum ability comes from being concerned about what others think of them. Are you looking “outside” to confirm that what you are saying and doing is right? Are you sensitive to rejection? Do you change your opinion to align with someone else’s louder opinion?
6. Recognize fear, sadness, anger and guilt for what they are.
Even with consciously thinking positive thoughts, our emotions may hold traces of fear, anger, sadness or guilt.
For many of us, these emotions are patterned early for us. Have you ever thought about them?
Fear may help us avoid pain. It may also prevent us from finding real joy. Separate fear from awareness. You do not have to be fearful to know the consequences of something and avoid them. Fear and anxiety often cause painful events, but acknowledging uncertainty about an activity can help you set boundaries to create a positive experience.
The situation is similar to all other negative emotions.
Take sadness. While it is all right to feel sad when appropriate, it is harmful to feel the same despair concerning the same event, decades later. It is destructive.
Again, when you examine what makes us act that way, it is programmed ‘values,’ mostly from generations long passed or, in some cases, social judgment on morals.
When you reflect upon what makes people feel emotional pain, many times, it is mostly the result of programming. Emotional pain doesn’t come from what is right or wrong, it has everything to do with what society has conditioned us to believe is acceptable.
Guilt works the same way.
Process negative emotions
How many times do we create an expectation upon ourselves and feel angst if we don’t live up to it? Maybe we have adopted an expectation we perceived someone else had for us. Feel guilty and sad that you didn’t achieve what your parents or mentors wanted for you? Ever tested out the expectation? Most parents and tutors wish for us to find our paths and happiness. The guilt is relieved when we recognize it for what it is.
Remember that when we lack positive emotions and hold instead of fear, anger, sadness or guilt, it keeps us back from reconnecting with our whole selves. Yet, when we look from a different perspective at what makes us feel fearful or guilty, it may seem ridiculous. Fear, guilt, and resentment are not emotions we have to feel. We can let go of them and feel instead of love, joy and happiness.
7. Stay positive and use discomfort as a guidepost to check in with yourself.
Our uncomfortable feelings tell us that something is not in order. In this way, negative emotions can help. They signal us to break the patterns of the past.
8. Permit yourself to be the master/mistress of your own life.
How many of us are in the position to say, “It doesn’t matter what people think of me and what they say. They have a right to think what they like. So do I.”
As you go on this journey, recognize it is reasonable to listen to all views and information, meanwhile accepting that people have every right to disagree. Different ideologies help to inform our opinions. It often opens us up to new perspectives.
And, when you are free of fear, other negative emotions and limiting beliefs, you hear differently. You interpret facts and information in new ways. The opinions you shape become a reflection of you.
What matters is what you think of you. When you start liking yourself, life becomes enjoyable.
When you believe that you are unique and special, and do not need any approval from somebody else to be yourself, a tangible shift happens. Let go of all the emotional demands you carry with you from your past, and you will be able to create the future that you so much desire. You are the sum of all your experiences and conscious and unconscious decisions. You have different things to offer and a world of things to learn. If you allow negative emotions and other limiting beliefs from the past to make you conform to other’s life patterns and value systems, you give away the ability to achieve your dreams. So, make a special effort to take care of yourself and those unproductive thoughts today. One day, you will realize that you looked at a glass and saw that it was half full, effortlessly.