fbpx Make Friends With Your Negative Thoughts
Make Friends With Your Negative Thoughts

Make Friends With Your Negative Thoughts

Introduction

Negative thoughts are like gnats. When we have one, we tend to want to swat it away! 

It would be strange if we didn’t want to swat away negative thoughts. However, when we try to swat these thoughts and feelings away, we only make them stronger and swat away a little part of ourselves.

Let’s talk about why it’s important to make friends with your negative thoughts.

We Can't Control Our Inner Critic

What if our negative thoughts were like butterflies? Would we swat them away? Probably not. We assign value to these thoughts and can choose to assign value differently. We can decide to treat negative thoughts more like butterflies than like gnats. (Melbourne Meditation Centre)

Trying to push away or ignore our negative thoughts can lead to guilt, shame, and self-judgment. But when we acknowledge our negative thoughts and make peace with them, we create a more authentic relationship with ourselves.

Thoughts are an inevitable part of our lives. No matter how happy or good our lives seem, we will always have thoughts pop up. And, from time to time, these thoughts will be negative.

The key is not to fight the negative thoughts but to make friends with them. If we can make friends with them, we can more clearly determine if our negative thoughts indicate a need for action or are simply uncomfortable feelings that will pass with time.

The source of our negative thoughts is our inner critic. We cannot control our inner critic. There isn’t a magic inner criticism dial available that we can use to turn the heat down. There’s no script we can say that will convince an inner critic to quiet down and leave us alone.

There is no special learning or practice we can use to change our critic’s motivation at the macro level. Also, there are reasons why attempting to silence our inner critic is not a great idea.

Since we can’t control our inner critic, we can choose to learn how to gently guide it. We can acknowledge our negative thoughts and emotions and choose not to give them power by calling them negative or positive.

Now, that probably sounds pretty challenging. But before we move on to the encouraging part of this piece, hopefully, we can agree that trying to silence our inner critic is not a great idea. We also might agree that training ourselves to delay assigning value, positive or negative, to a rising thought; can also be challenging.

This article will explore the importance of acknowledging and making peace with our negative thoughts and feelings. We will also discuss how this can help us make better personal and business decisions.

We will start by discussing why it’s not a good idea to try and ignore or eliminate our negative thoughts and feelings. We will then review the importance of accepting our thoughts. Finally, we will review tips on how to make friends with your negative thoughts and feelings.

Don't Shoot the Messenger

Our mind sends thoughts to help us pursue goals and succeed in our endeavors. It also sends us thoughts of encouragement and affirmation. And then, it sends those occasional negative thoughts. Bay View Therapy

It’s not necessarily the message itself that’s annoying but rather the nature of the message. It is also true that how we deal with these messages can prolong the suffering or bad feeling we have from them. Do we get defensive when we experience a negative thought? Do we beat ourselves up for it? Although it seems we are critically receiving and translating these messages, the intent of these thoughts is actually to help us.

For those negative thoughts, we can respond in a healthier, more productive way, just like we would respond to a good friend telling us something we don’t like or agree with. It might be uncomfortable hearing what they have to say. But we probably wouldn’t kick our friend out of the house for telling his or her truth. That would be like swatting a gnat.

However, if self-criticism becomes a habit, it can lead to negative thinking and an increase in the number of limiting beliefs we have. 

When confronted with harsh thoughts from somewhere in our mind, the normal response is to try and get rid of them or avoid them altogether. Unfortunately, if we try to make the feelings disappear or learn to avoid them, we signal to our brains that they’re indeed bad. 

This signaling can cause even more shame when the feeling or thought returns. Inevitably, this leads to a cycle of more self-criticism and more negative thoughts. 

We must understand that thoughts do not have independent validity. That is, we assign value to each thought. We can choose to handle them with a practice that helps us face and accept them instead of trying to swat them away.

Make Friends With Your Negative Thoughts

Everybody has an inner critic. We all experience at least some negative self-talk from our inner critic. There’s not a single person on Earth who doesn’t experience at least the occasional bit of self-doubt, worry about saying something stupid, or some other bit of overly-critical self-talk.

It is essential to come to terms with this because we must give up on the idea that the goal is to silence our inner critic or to eliminate it entirely.

Not only is this impossible, but it will keep us locked in a cycle of treating our inner critic as an enemy, making it stronger and more critical over time. Every day our minds acquire experiences and file them away for later use. This information influences our decision-making and actions.

Our inner critic develops with our earliest negative experiences in life. These negative and harmful experiences eventually permeate our minds, along with positive experiences, and become beliefs, values, and ideas.

However, our minds cannot accurately assess what influence these beliefs may have in the future. Our minds are not good at assessing which information may hinder, hurt, or help us in the long run.

With this in mind, remember; negative thoughts are not intended to hurt us. They are meant to protect us against harmful outcomes. (so, can we thank them, maybe not yet) We can think of our inner critic not merely as a self-protection device but as a way to protect ourselves from harm. Whether we like it or not, it is part of us, so it is valuable to understand this relationship.

To illustrate this, author Tara Brach paints a picture of a tea party where we welcome old friends like regret, jealousy, and self-doubt. She discusses how to welcome them like old friends (which they are) and welcome them like we would acknowledge a friend in an accepting, non-judging manner. (Radical Acceptance)

This is how you can begin to make friends with your negative thoughts.

Imagine Our New Friendship

Good friends are precious. Especially the kind of friends who lift us when we feel down. Who makes even the hardest challenges feel manageable. Who help us recognize the truths our very hearts already know.

Guess what? We can be that kind of friend to ourselves.

  1. To start with, we can take notice of when we don’t speak kindly to ourselves. Those moments may point us to thought patterns that make and keep us unhappy.
  2. We can acknowledge thoughts and let them pass by without judgment. Or we can choose to engage those thoughts actively and reframe them.

Noticing Our Thoughts

We can increase awareness of our thinking by noticing the sources of our self-talk. This can include noticing the circumstances that bring on certain thoughts. Certain circumstances can trigger thoughts that are associated with those circumstances.

When we pay attention this way, we will catch things that were unnoticeable by simple awareness and see flaws in our thought patterns.

We can use familiar activities to gain internal peace and relief, whether a humorous joke or a walk in the woods that allows us to create mental space. When we get this mental space, we can digest and reflect on the day’s interactions. One method is to write about what we experience internally. It can be as simple and as wordy as we choose.

Here are some writing prompts:

  • Do I think of myself as a treasured friend?
  • Do I notice myself speaking words of wisdom and kindness?
  • Do I hear myself repeating someone else’s words (either positive or negative ones)?

We will gain a greater perspective on which areas aren’t serving us. And we will see future opportunities to talk to ourselves as a treasured friend.

Reframing Negative Thoughts

When we are drawn into confronting our thoughts, it can be helpful to reframe them. When we are in the midst of challenging situations, it can be helpful to take a mental pause and think or jot down the answers to these two questions:

  • What is one thing that is positive or good about this situation?
  • What is one opportunity within this situation?

These questions help to interrupt the negative train of thought and allow us to reframe our thoughts with some positive aspects to them. It is a challenge to develop this practice. However, it pays dividends for years to come and allows us to make friends with your negative thoughts and not fight with them (theleaderstore.com).

Conclusion

What if our negative thoughts were like butterflies? Would we swat them away? Absolutely not! And now that we know that all our thoughts can be our friends, we shouldn’t swat them away either.

In the next few minutes, some negative thoughts will probably wander in from the cold. Choose to invite them to your private tea party or reframe it as having positive aspects.

Shopping Cart