From Mindset by Cassandra Carlopio (click for full audio version)
One thing I get asked a lot as a meditation teacher is how do I get rid of my negative thoughts? However, that’s the wrong question to us because it’s based on the perspective that one can actually get rid of negative thoughts.
What I know to be true is that you cannot tell your brain what not to think. For example, if I say to you do not think about a pink elephant what is the first thing that pops into your mind? For most people, that’s a thought or an image of a pink elephant.
Start telling yourself to not think negative thoughts, or if you have a negative thought and you tell yourself to stop, it will just get stronger or louder. What you resist persists and this is definitely accurate when it comes to negative thoughts.
Also, I do my best to stay clear of negative versus positive thoughts and conceptualize thoughts in a more nuanced way because all thoughts and not created equal. This is one of the things you really learn through meditation.
Thoughts are not created equal.
Once we get a handle on taking a step back from thoughts not automatically believing them just because we think them, we have a chance to somewhat objectively examine our thoughts. What we find is that thoughts are not created equal instead, thoughts can be kind of categorized into a number of different categories: neutral, descriptive thoughts, distracting thoughts, actionable thoughts, inspired thoughts, and destructive thoughts.
Neutral, descriptive thoughts
Thoughts like I think it’s warm today, or I’m feeling a sensation of hunger, I wonder what time it is? These are a kind of neutral descriptive thoughts.
Thoughts like I wonder what’s so-in-so doing, or maybe I should check Facebook while you’re working on a project.
Thoughts such as the ones that you lay down to go to sleep and the thought arises I left the oven on or I left the car door unlocked! These are thoughts that are actually really valuable and that we need to listen to and go act.
And then there are inspired thoughts. There is a red light bulb moment when you suddenly solve a problem. I have a whole new idea or a whole new way of seeing a creative project! You finally understand something in a whole new way.
These inspired thoughts are highly valuable and should not only listen to but in most cases actually write them down.
And then there are the destructive but sometimes called negative thoughts. They sound like something terrible – I’m never going to amount to anything, I failed, I’m unworthy, no one’s going to love me, I’m going to make a fool of myself.
These are thoughts that you want to acknowledge and then diffuse as soon as possible and definitely not listen to them or not take them as true.
Lets now explore techniques for diffusing these thoughts and take the power out of negative or destructive thoughts.
How people generally tend to deal with these types of thoughts actually is by trying to push them away with the hope that they leave us alone. Pushing away thoughts doesn’t work most of the time and actually gives them more power over you.
Create distance between you and your negative thoughts.
The best way to learn to diffuse them and take the power out of negative or destructive thoughts is to bring some distance between you and them.
I’m going to take you through a few ways to do this.
One way to actually imagine the destructive thought is coming in a voice that is comical to you, such as the voice of a favorite comedian or a cartoon character. What this does it takes the sting out of the content of the thoughts. If you imagine Daffy Duck saying “I will fail” has much less if a grip on you that way. What this does is also bring some humor.
Bring some space between you and the thought by taking away the power of the thought and then allowing you to see it for what it is – just a destructive thought that you can acknowledge and then let’s move on.
Send the thought away.
Another way to defuse destructive or negative thoughts is to actually say to your mind “thank you, mind for telling me that I’m failing and I’m never going to amount to anything, really – now go away.”
This really helps for right now, this knowledge that there is a thought but you’re not falling into the trap of believing it. Just a simple “thank you, now on your way.”
Play with imagination.
Another way that really works for people that I’ve worked with is imagining this negative or destructive thought in the voice of an opera singer or cartoon character, or a kind of an animal.
My personal favorite is a council of apes. When I find myself thinking judgmental, critical thoughts, I imagine all of these thoughts coming from this counsel of apes and it makes me laugh and again gives me some distance between the content of thought and myself.
I remember not all thoughts are created equal and it’s really important actually know the difference between a valuable thought and a destructive thought.
Wishing you peace and positivity,
Listen to Mindset by Cassandra Carlopio – full audio version.
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