Moving Beyond Negative Thought Patterns

Jun 14, 2024
Woman standing with arms open wide against orange sunset sky.

Negative thinking together can feel comforting or familiar, almost like a habit we slip into without noticing. When we get stuck in cycles of negative thoughts, it's easy to socialize with others who are in a negative loop.  The sneaky trick is we never have to take action because everyone else around us is stuck too. 

 

As Warren Buffett said,

 "What the human being is best at doing is 

interpreting all new information 

so that their prior conclusions remain intact." 

 

This tendency can be helpful if our mindset is healthy, but unhelpful if we're listening from a defensive place.  You know what I’m talking about. Your friend complains to you, then starts defending the box they put themselves in. Fun times.  

The good news is that negative thinking patterns are simply habits we can change. It's a universal human experience, not a personal flaw. 

 

Today, we'll look at:

  1. What negative thinking is
  2. Why these thought patterns develop
  3. How to escape the illusion
  4. The dangers of complaint
  5. A story of my shame because of negative thoughts
  6. Tips to support you
  7. Takeaway

 

Let's approach this with openness and compassion for ourselves and others. Sound good?

 

What is Negative Thinking

Since negative thinking is so common in the human experience, I wanted to share a helpful description I came across on Google that sums it up well. 

 

"Negative thinking is a thought process where people tend to find the worst in everything or reduce their expectations by considering the worst possible scenarios." 

 

It explains how negative thinking involves focusing on the worst potential outcomes and can lead to increased stress and sadness over time if left unaddressed. Sounds super fun right?

The good news is, with self-awareness and practice, these habitual thought patterns can be shifted to a more empowering mindset. Yay, you for taking the time to read this. Don’t you feel better already?

 

To give us some real-world examples we can relate to, here are some statements I've heard from others navigating this:

  1. "I want to lose weight, but I don't think I can, based on trying diets unsuccessfully in the past."
  2. "I want to find a new job, but it will probably be more of the same negative environment."
  3. "I'd like to start a business, but I'm too busy/tired/old, and it would just add more stress."

 

This reminds me of an inspirational friend who pursued new dreams well into her senior years, showing us it's truly never too late. At 50 she went to law school.  At 70 she got her Masters in Psychology. There are no real limits except the ones our minds create.

 

Why these thought patterns develop

Negative thinking is a universal human experience - absolutely everyone deals with it from time to time. So, the issue isn't whether we have negative thoughts, but whether we believe those thoughts and let them define us. 

When we notice ourselves falling into a shame spiral or self-criticism, it helps to remember we're in good company - this is part of the shared human condition. Just like procrastination, these thought patterns often arise to help us feel safe or comfortable.

 

 

There are different perspectives on why we think and act as we do. 

  • The renowned psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud believed seeking pleasure was our primary motivator. But as we've explored, pursuing pleasure alone can leave us feeling unfulfilled. 
  • Viktor Frankl, the inspiring psychologist, and Holocaust survivor, who wrote Man's Search for Meaning offered another perspective - he found satisfaction comes when we discover our unique sense of meaning and purpose. If we don't align our lives with meaning, it's natural to seek distractions or "hits" of fleeting happiness instead.

 

Negative thinking can feel like a protective comfort zone because change brings discomfort. Even dissatisfaction can seem preferable to the anxiety of entering the unknown! Know that this inclination is part of the shared human experience. We all crave safety and familiarity.

Escaping the Illusion

I'm reminiscing back to a powerful experience I had in 2002, when I attended a silent meditation retreat led by Adyashanti. He shared such wisdom about recognizing when we're caught in an illusion via our thoughts.

I remember him explaining that when we're immersed in illusion, we start to contract and suffer, truly believing our thoughts reflect reality. It's like when we become so engrossed in a movie that we forget we're just observing characters - we think we actually are the character!

One insightful challenge he put to us was, "What is your opinion of you, and how strongly are you willing to commit to it?" This points to how we can get attached to stories about ourselves, like:

  • "I did that, but..."
  • "I guess anyone could do it."
  • "I'm still not good enough."

 

Many teachers talk about this in terms of thought dogma - when we're so convinced our thoughts are true that no other perspective, even positive feedback from others, can permeate. But just like religious dogma, our stories are not absolute truths.

I wanted to share a quote that has always stuck with me from Adyashanti's book, Falling Into Grace. It speaks to how when we get attached to our thoughts in a given moment, we end up immersed in a dream world - where our mind constructs an entire reality that doesn't actually exist outside of our imagination.”

Though it may not seem obvious at first, the quote points to how believing our thoughts too concretely pulls us into almost a hypnotic trance, a world conjured by the mind rather than grounded in the present. Noticing this tendency in ourselves with curiosity and compassion is the first step toward waking up.

 

Eckhart Tolle offers wonderful insights into how identifying with our thoughts creates emotional suffering. He points to how we can get trapped in unconscious thought trances, believing stories like:

  • “I'm a piece of crap.” 
  • “Nobody will love me.” 
  • “I think I'll never achieve anything.” 
  • “I can never do what I think I can do.” 

 

Those narratives aren't objectively real. It's easy to forget we are not our thoughts - as Tolle says, "Most people are so completely identified with the voice in the head — the incessant stream of involuntary and compulsive thinking and the emotions that accompany it — that we may describe them as being possessed by their mind. As long as you are completely unaware of this, you take the thinker to be who you are."

It's so easy to get caught up in the stream of thoughts flowing through our minds. But when we over-identify with our thoughts, it's like becoming absorbed in a fictional character of our own creation. As Eckhart Tolle insightfully points out, complaining reinforces the egoic false self, keeping us stuck in thought loops.

He notes how each complaint is just a story the mind spins, strengthening its limited narratives. These are his words. “The ego's greatest enemy is the present moment, which is to say, life itself.” 

Dwelling on, "I shouldn't have been treated that way," pulls us into the past's pain repeatedly. But when we're fully engaged in the present, simply experiencing life as it unfolds, there's no room for extra suffering we mentally manufacture. Getting hooked on thoughts like, "It should have been different," or, "People should have helped me more," only creates more pain.

 

The Dangers of Complaint

Unresolved grievances can really feed into negative thought patterns and keep us stuck. When we become obsessed with thoughts like, "They shouldn't have treated me that way," especially after a trauma, it's easy to remain in that painful mental space.

As Eckhart Tolle wisely notes in his book, A New Earth, “One strong grievance is enough to contaminate large areas of your life and keep you in the grip of the ego.” 

Steven Pressfield offers these almost playful, pithy insights that stick with you. The lightness of his approach can provide a nice complement to Tolle's profound perspectives. Steven Pressfield's motivating book, The War of Art, explores how we self-sabotage pursuing goals like starting a business or any big endeavor.

This one is called Resistance. He uses punchy prose to capture how resistance feels like. “First, unhappiness. We feel like hell. A low-grade misery pervades everything. We're bored, we're restless. We can't get no satisfaction. There's guilt but we can't put our finger on the source. We want to go back to bed; we want to get up and party. We feel unloved and unlovable. We're disgusted. We hate our lives. We hate ourselves.”

Looking at thoughts from many angles can be fun and enlightening. We all have unique perspectives shaped by our diverse backgrounds. 

 

Some questions I like to gently ask myself are: 

  • How am I lying to myself today? 
  • What is my personal thought dogma? 
  • What is my thought error of the day? 
  • What is creating my thought prison today? 
  • Am I married to my limiting belief right now? 
  • Am I gaslighting myself? 
  • Am I making up a new story? 
  • How am I, my own cult leader, manipulating myself today?"

 

Story Of My Shame

I remember an embarrassing moment from when I was dating my boyfriend back in the day. He came over to my place to pick me up for a date we had planned. I had spent time doing my hair and makeup and painting my nails, excited to see him. 

But when he arrived, he was distracted. He called to check his answering machine (yes, this was back in the day of answering machines. You can google it if you don’t know what that is), about some money someone owed him that he needed to pay rent. He didn't even really look at me or say hi.

I immediately started making up stories in my head, “He's not interested in dating me. He doesn't care about me. I think we should break up.” I felt insecure and slighted. 

When I finally asked him if he even wanted to hang out, he seemed confused and said of course he had been looking forward to our date all day. He had just been preoccupied with worrying about having enough money to pay his bills.

I felt silly for jumping to conclusions rather than just asking openly about what was going on. It was a good lesson for me early on to spot when I put on my crazy pants and am having a solo conversation instead of being present.  Whoops.

Tips to support you:

    • Question the assumptions and stories you tell yourself
    • Don't believe every negative thought - examine if it reflects reality
    • Catch yourself when spiraling into worried thinking
    • Complaining less strengthens presence and releases past grievances

Takeaway

Taking time for self-reflection is critical if we want to truly understand our thought patterns and make positive changes. As we go through life, most of us don’t stop to analyze our core beliefs and why we think the way we do. We allow our conditioning and assumptions to remain unexamined. This can leave us feeling stuck, as if we lack agency or the ability to grow beyond our programming.

 

Intellectual insight doesn't always create change.

Cognitive therapy is great, but truthfully, intellectual insight doesn’t always create change. 

If you’re experiencing a trauma response, sometimes you’re unable to access your executive functioning and rewrite the thought.  This is where a private therapist who specializes in trauma can help.  

 

Cognitive therapy and Trauma therapy still not helping?

Did you know that when we’re looping in thoughts, it could just be a quick supplement remedy?  Like wearing glasses, sometimes we’re wired where we might need a little neurological support.  It’s not personal, we just get what we get genetically.  See your doctor for an assessment. Don’t self medicate. 

Making it easy.

Would you like to be taken through the process of breaking free from negative thinking traps? The information above is from a class inside the Mastery section of the Invoke and Release® Healing Circle. There you will find a step-by-step healing path to help you build a strong and resilient foundation to heal from your past and move through life with ease.

 

You can find the “Breaking Free from Negative Thinking” healing class in the Invoke and Release® Healing Circle.

 

You will learn about the healing method Invoke and Release® which is a powerful tool helping you release emotional trauma so you can feel free to live the life you want.

 

The Invoke and Release® Healing Modality helps you:

  • Helps lower stress levels so you can achieve what you want in life
  • Examine whether your negative thoughts reflect reality
  • Removing energy blocks to restore your inner peace and allow for more flow

 

Joining the Invoke and Release® Healing Circle helps you:

  • Ditch the negativity and embrace the positive side of life
  • Attract happier and healthier people into your life
  • Amplify your ability to manifest anything and create the life you desire



Important Links:

Sigmund Freud

Viktor Frankl

Adyashanti

Eckhart Tolle

Steven Pressfield

Invoke and Release®

Invoke and Release® Healing Circle

Reveal and Heal Obstacles to Your Success™

What is Invoke and Release®?

 

Recommended Books:

Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl

Falling Into Grace by Adyashanti

A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

 

Helpful Blogs:

Seeing through the Seduction of Negative Thinking

The Ultimate Guide to Identifying and Transforming Your Limiting Beliefs

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