How trying to KEEP POSITIVE made me anxious and stuck
How accepting negative feelings made me calmer and happier.
Once upon a time, not too long ago, I attempted to always look for the bright side, turn my frown upside down and generally stay positive.
I believed it took just as much energy to look for the positive as it did to look for negatives. So I should always look for positives.
Sounds good right?
I made myself anxious, miserable and I felt like a failure. Because some negative thoughts and feelings would inevitably creep in.
I tried to avoid negative thoughts and feelings at all costs.
Like they were the worst thing that could possibly happen. Negative feelings were simply unacceptable to me
I finally learnt that negative thoughts and feelings are totally normal human behaviour.
From an evolutionary aspect, looking for danger kept us humans alive. We are hard-wired to look for the negative.
It IS harder to look on the bright side.
I know this information sounds simple and obvious to some, but for me it was truly a revelation.
Ironically learning that negative thoughts and feelings are normal and accepting them, instead of trying to avoid them has made me much calmer and happier.
I know this might sound like I wallow in negativity now, but its actually the complete opposite.
Let me explain…
Example of old thought pattern…
- I’m not good enough / I cant do it. (Or any other similar self doubt thought)
- Well that’s a shitty thought Chriss, you should change that.
- Come up with a perfectly acceptable reason why above negative thought isn’t true. (Seems like a reasonable and good thing to do)
- Negative feeling pops back into my head (eventually)
- I think I’m broken or weak because I cant control / stop this uneasy feeling no matter how much I try
- Spend a fair amount of time and energy going round and round in circles.
This felt like trying to hold a beach ball under water. Constant and exhausting.
Example of new thought pattern
- I can’t do it (or any similar self doubt)
- Oh there’s that old negative story again
- I know its just my biology trying to keep me safe by looking for danger
- I observe the thought, but don’t believe it or identify with it
- Thought floats away quickly and with minimal effort or struggle.
This feels like letting the beach ball float alongside me.
The thought is still there, but I don’t identify with it, or struggle against it.
Since that time I have gone on to study Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT) with the renowned Russ Harris.
I have also attended an extensive Mindfulness Based Stillness Meditation teacher training at the Gawler Foundation.
I am so happy and excited to be able to share these life changing lessons and techniques with my local community. To teach others how to free themselves from over-thinking and quieten their relentless self critic.
Working IN is just as important as working OUT.