We think some 12,000-60,000 thoughts per day, and 98% of those thoughts are the same as the thoughts we had the day before. Oh, by the way, 80% of those thoughts we keep having day after day are negative. Yes, we humans think lots and lots of negative thoughts in a day—thoughts that keep us distracted, stuck, angry, fearful, resentful and destructive. (Men think about 8,000 thoughts about sex somehow too, maybe that’s why they can’t multi task like women can.)
Some of us may have noticed the negativity within ourselves and maybe want to change things up—like add a few more positive thoughts in the mix—I know I have—and have tried all the classic methods to change my thoughts to be more positive.
Recently, I stumbled upon a new technique which not only helps me be less negative day to day, but it also helps me problem solve more creatively so I don’t keep spinning my wheels thinking of the same old negative thoughts, and loop over and over the same problems —I am actually seeking solutions.
Is there such a thing as “Negative Feelings?”
First, I wonder why they call feelings “positive” or “negative”. They are feelings, everyone has them, from love to grief to anger—each is a treasure trove, in my book. They can range from wonderful to uncomfortable, but one thing is certain, they are natural, and an important part of being human. The thing is, feelings lead to thoughts and labeling. This is where things start to go south because we know thoughts often lead to actions. Of course our actions move us through the practical parts of life—for better or worse. The more we can untangle our feelings from our thoughts, the better shot we have at making healthy decisions.
When we hurt:
When something happens that hurts, I start by allowing the feelings—all of them—I take time out, if at all possible. I let the feelings wash over me as many times as the need to. The key is, I don’t try to prevent myself from feeling the feelings, I let them flow as soon as it’s appropriate. I try not to let thoughts narrate my feelings, nor do label them. I just allow them—however…
One evening, shortly after my father passed away, we had been invited to dinner. The topic of my father’s death came up as soon as we sat down, and continued through out the whole meal. I knew no one meant any harm, they just wanted to express their condolences, and talk about every other person they could think of who had died in the past 50 years. It became quite morose. By the time I got to the car, I knew I was starting to loose it, but Brooke was with me, so I waited until we got home, and she was settled before heading off to the shower to have a good cry—the shower is a great way to cover an ugly cry, by the way. In situations like that, I’ll hold off a cry, but on days I was by myself, I’d just let it go.
During the early days after my father’s passing, the tears would sneak up on me; as much as I could, I took the time to let them come instead of denying my sadness, or fighting it off. I found that by allowing my grief to roll forward on its own, I began to see my way through. It still took a while, but I knew I was healing, and that the healing was a good thing.
Dealing with Anger:
When it comes to dealing with anger, I’ve written before that anger is part of our protection system—when a friend does something that makes us angry, it’s time to take a good look at what’s going on within ourselves, what triggered anger with in us, and why. I do this BEFORE confronting someone. Often I discover it is a misunderstanding within me, something I need to work on, but occasionally, a discussion or some action is required. Because I value my anger, and take time out to listen to it, there are fewer misunderstandings.
Sometimes I write a letter to the person, and often through the letter, I can begin to see the role my perceptions played in the matter, sometimes I find solutions, and other times, I find the situation ridiculous and is completely unworthy of any action on my part. Sometimes it’s all about the other person, their perceptions and actions, in which case, all you can do is step back. All too often, we make matters worse trying to have conversation, trying to defend our feelings, letting out tempers go out of control, or make accusations and threats that are difficult to reel back, once they have been said. The questions I like to ask are “what triggered this anger?” “What does it remind me of?” (In one case, it reminded me of a painful experience in grade school. The insight turned out to be very instructive.) “Is my perception of the situation really true or has my characterization of the situation colored it in some way?” And finally, “Do I need to take action?”
Fear and Worry:
This is where some good question asking does a world of good. Fear and worry usually relate to the future, so it’s a perfect time to ask the question: “What do I want to have happen here?” “What is the optimal solution and how can I get to it?” “If the worst happens, what can I do to improve or make the best of it?” “Is there anything in between the best and worst that would work for me?” “What actions do I need to take next?” “What is the most important thing for me to work on or do next?”
Since I’ve been allowing my feelings to dissipate, then ask myself questions that lead me closer to truth, positivity and solutions, I’ve actually made some space for positive thoughts, like celebrating getting things resolved and off my mind. Have you tried using the question technique, and if so, has it worked for you?
It’s my first annual survey! I’d love to hear your thoughts so I can be incorporating more of what you love into our journey. It’s just a ten question 1 minute survey.