How to Breakthrough Negative Thinking 10.10.14

Our thoughts are the crayons that color our world. The drawing that we create on the outside is a direct reflection of our internal landscape. Although we think thousands of thoughts each day, in general, they’re not all random. There’s a consistency to our mind chatter. Over the course of our lives, we develop a framework of thinking that often remains consistent unless challenged and consciously changed.

In general, we don’t question our thoughts unless they are causing us stress. What do I mean by our thoughts causing us stress? Have you ever noticed the link between a thought you think and how you feel moments after? Have you ever noticed the link between the thoughts you think, how they make you feel and then, as a result, how you act in the world?

Imagine this. Your day is going just fine. You had your coffee this morning and maybe even fit in a meditation session. You’re wearing your favorite shoes and your hair even came out the way you wanted it to. Everything at work is running smoothly and you are cruising through your to do list . All of a sudden, you remember that your date from last night said that he/she was going to call you in the morning to chat about getting together again tonight. You realize it’s 3 pm and he/she hasn’t called. Some rendition of the following thoughts start to run through your mind.

“Is he/she never going to call?”
“Does this mean he/she doesn't’ want to see me?”
“I must have said something I shouldn't have last night.”
“I knew I didn’t deserve this.”
“This is what happens when you go out with men/women like that.”
“Ugh. His/her loss.”

Within a few minutes, tension starts to fill your chest and your mind becomes distracted. You feel irritated, depressed and overwhelmed. This all took place in 5 minutes and began with a thought.

These thoughts could easily have been about a job interview, your family, an argument with a partner, an upcoming event, etc. The one thing they all have in common is that they come from a place of fear. When fear is the dominant energy in our minds, the environment is ripe for negative thinking to grow its roots. Fear also masquerades as criticism, judgment, catastrophic thinking, over analyzing and worry… Fearful thinking is a masquerade. Behind it’s disguise, is always a call for love.

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A beautiful reader, Lauren, wrote to me and asked that I share strategies for stopping negative thinking/worrying/fearful assumption making. I have yet to work with a coaching client who didn't want to work on this very thing. Now that we understand the impact of our thoughts, let's talk about how to shift our mindset from fear to love.

Before I explain the strategies, I want to make a discernment call about the kind of thoughts I am talking about. I do not want you to police your own mind. That would be a full-time job that should pay atleast 6 figures and require a PhD. The occasional negative thought never harmed a sweet soul. We’re human. We’re going to have moments of fear. That’s beautiful and wonderful and perfectly fine. What my suggestions are aimed at solving is the repetitive negative thinking patters or like in the example above, when you find yourself thinking a single fearful thought that turns into a 5 minute imaginary conversation that makes your blood pressure rise.

My first suggestion is a daily meditation practice to build self-awareness and presence. Meditation helps us to slow down and connect to ourselves. This way, we are less likely to attach to every thought that comes our way and weave a web of more fearful thoughts. We start to recognize a thought that is causing us pain and we have the option to choose to challenge it (next tip). Through meditation we can practice having a compassionate curiously towards our experience.

With increased self-awareness and presence we can then start to become more aware of the thoughts that we are thinking most of the time and moreover, the thoughts that are causing us stress.

If you find yourself constantly criticising yourself and others or if you find yourself constantly predicting the worst case scenario with every situation you find yourself in then there’s some breakthrough work to be done. Put your alchemist hat on.

What I want you to do here is to challenge your thinking. Your thoughts do not own you or control you. Compassionately and humbly you can ask yourself what is underneath the fear. You can ask to see through a loving lens. You can say "Please show me how to release this fearful thought."

You sit with it long enough to feel the fear that is underneath your thought. You look at it in the face with a compassionate heart. Nothing may come up at first, but know that your “ask” will be “received.” In A Course in Miracles (A spiritual self-study program), this is called the "miracle." This is when our fearful perceptions are replaced with loving perceptions.

There's a trust that needs to happen in this limbo place. Behind our negative thought patterns lives a layer of fear and fear is always a call for love. You need not feel bad, guilty or ashamed for having fearful thoughts for they hold our wounds that need healing. When you breakthrough the negative thought pattern by compassionately observing it and gently challenging it's validity and replacing it with a loving resonating alternative, you do the work of an alchemist. You transform fear to love.

My friends, give these steps a try and please share any questions or insights in the comments below. I love hearing from you.

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