One of my recovery students asked me recently what do I do with my negative thoughts?
I define these negative thoughts as any thoughts based in fear, doubt, or judgment.
“I’m bad for eating too much dessert”
“I better burn this off”
“I’ll never look the way I should”
“I’m not worthy/deserving of love or respect.”
Even this one… “I’ve gotta lose weight.”
It’s fine to have a healthy awareness of the benefits of certain food and exercise, but ask yourself this: what is my intention? Are you choosing to eliminate dessert from a place of self-love or is it more punitive like you’re keeping yourself in line?
Shifting our negative thoughts is not an overnight process. It’s a multi-layer, multi-step, non-linear process that beings with one simple step: NOTICE.
Here’s what i told my student:
I first have to notice and acknowledge I’m having negative thoughts.
And then I kind of stop myself in my tracks. I pause long enough to not only notice the thoughts but to feel them – how are they feeling in my body and where? Well, usually tense. And how are they feeling emotionally? Usually they are accompanied by immense anxiety, nervousness, frustration, and sometimes depression.
I pause, I get quiet, I notice.
I’ve trained myself NOT to rush and immediately “fix” the thoughts. I must allow the thoughts and the subsequent feelings they trigger to move through my body. Or else they’ll build up in the basement and years later I’ll uncover them in dusty boxes and guess what… by that time they’ve grown tenfold! By that time the negative thoughts have become the most nasty, diminishing stories about myself I could possibly come up with. So believe me, if you try to quickly stuff the negative thoughts away, they are only going to grow bigger.
The next time you find yourself in the cycle of self-loathing thoughts, all I want you to do is really make space to notice. Notice what you are feeling. Acknowledge the feelings, physical and emotional, and then make space for these feelings to flow through you.
Loosen your grip on the thoughts, soften a little, and notice what happens.
Stay tuned for next steps in the process in Part 2!