How to Destroy a Negative Thought

We think a truly astounding number of thoughts a day, and most of them are repeat performances. We think the same thought over and over, sometimes phrased a little differently OR IN CAPS LOCK IN TIMES OF PANIC.

But the same thought nonetheless.

Our brain is trained this way. Certain situations, people or actions trigger those thoughts we see in our mind time and time again.

Like, when you’re late, you think “FUCK” and when you make a mistake, you think “I am such an idiot. ” And when you see Beyonce, you think “YES Queen I will do thy bidding always, WE FLAWLESS.”

…Or maybe that’s just me.

All of this is fine, really. We think what we think, and thoughts move fast on our brain highway.

However, what’s not cool is when a thought holds you hostage, making you feel bad or holding you back. That’s when you need to look at this a little closer, and get to work. Here’s how you can destroy a negative thought (pattern) if you want.

IDENTIFY THE THOUGHT Take a moment, take a breath. What thought always comes back? What thought pisses you off or makes you sad or stressed? What thought makes you feel like shit?

Popular contestants are usually “I’m lazy”, “I’m a procrastinator”, “I’m a bad student/employee/friend/girlfriend”, “I’m not good enough” or “everybody hates me.”

Because we’re dramatic like that.

IDENTIFY ITS SOURCE

Thoughts don’t just happen or randomly pop into your head. They are made and built from what we experience, what we do, what people tell us and what we look at.

And it is interesting to look at the thoughts that cause us pain. Why do we have these thoughts (and why do we keep them?), what is their origin.

“I’m a bad student” can come from not studying, having impossibly high standards for yourself or what your mom tells you when you don’t get an A+. “I’ll never find love” can come from watching too much Sex and the City and your dad going for a pack of cigarettes and never coming back.

Look. You can’t necessarily fix this or make this go away. But by knowing where it comes from, you can at least put it in perspective.

So. Why do you think this about yourself? Where does this come from? What’s the source of this negative thought? Earlier experiences, other people, fear?

This can be done through stream-of-consciousness writing, meditation, talking with a friend or just taking a second and thinking about it.

EXAMINE THE EVIDENCE

Take a trip down memory lane and your life, and see how true that thought really is.

For example, if you think of yourself as a “bad person”, can you look at your day-to-day living and see ‘bad person’-behaviour? And how many? What horrible crimes have you committed in your life that make you say this about yourself?

And, also very important, what evidence is there against this thought? What ‘good behavior’ examples can you come up with that point to the contrary? How often do these things occur?

If you feel you’re too biased or if you really think the thought is true, get other people involved: Ask your family, friends, coworkers you see often.

If your thought is unrealistic, exaggerated or just completely false, you’ll see it, and this will make you feel better.

Maybe it is (partially) correct. Remember, that’s okay too. The fact there is some evidence for the thought, that makes sense. After all, it came from somewhere.

It’s okay if it’s (partially) true or has been true in the past. The point is we want to get rid of it because it makes us unhappy, not because it’s completely false.

FIGHT THE THOUGHT

If you want to destroy a negative thought, you can start taking apart the thought from two angles.

First, mentally. When the thought pops up, you can think of all the evidence against it, all the testimonials from your loved ones against the thought and take away some of its strength.

You can throw a positive affirmation into the mix too if you want, declaring the opposite, if you think that helps! For me personally that doesn’t really work. The negative thoughts or beliefs I still have have pretty deep roots, so my subconscious just goes “HA! Nice try, Louise L. Hay Wannabe! Not gonna work!”

Second, through action. This is the more powerful stuff, I think, which might get the thought to fuck off entirely in the long run. (Fun fact: affirmation do help you to take action more in line with what you want, so here an affirmation might be helpful.)

So ask yourself: what would you need to do to not believe that thought about yourself anymore?

If you think of yourself as a negative person (in the not-funny, I-repel-people type of way), how about you just start to complain less and say more nice things. Be nicer to people, give more compliments, try to focus on the good things, use humor, smile more, be lighter.

If you don’t think you’re a good student? STUDY. Put in the hours, the studyspo techniques and do the work. Nothing heals negative thinking more than doing the work.

Pile evidence upon evidence that the thought is inaccurate. Go from Exhibit A to Exhibit Z if you have to.

Change your mind by showing yourself you’re not what the thought says you are. Over time, this will destroy a negative thought like “I’m not sporty”, “I’m not creative” or “I am the Latoya of Destiny’s Child.”

So. Find the thought, be aware of the source, examine how true it actually is and then work on giving yourself more evidence to the country. By doing this you’ll be able to weaken thoughts that make you feel bad, until you no longer think of them at all.

Your head should be a nice place to be in, as you’re in there all the time. By getting rid of the bad apples, you can enjoy the orchard more.

Later dudes.

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16 comments

  1. Je eigen innerlijke criticus is je grootste vijand. Ik heb echt geleerd om de negatieve gedachte tegen te spreken waarin ik was gaan geloven. Het is lastig maar het kan. Ik heb veel aan de affirmaties van Louise Hay en Gabrielle Bernstein gehad.

    1. Fijn! Ik vind een paar affirmaties fijn die ik dan wel vind helpen, maar dat is echt alleen in hele specifieke situaties. Op mijn gedachten werken ze niet echt goed. Maar misschien heb ik daar de goede gewoon nog niet voor gevonden.

  2. Aaah ja negatieve gedachten: don’t get me started 😉 Ik vind het fijn (zoals jij zegt) om mij te realiseren dat ik weer negatief aan het denken ben, omdat ik op die manier het voor mezelf duidelijk heb dat ik er wat aan moet doen. Soms kost het wat meer moeite dan andere keren (net hoe diep ik er in geloof in het een onderdeel van mijn gedachten is geworden), maar meestal kan ik juist met deze realisatie al een hoop werk verrichten, eigenlijk dus exact wat jij aangeeft haha.

  3. Heerlijk die tekeningetjes. Heb gisteren een 4G schema meegekregen bij de psych, cognitieve therapie, komt een beetje op hetzelfde neer, dus ik moet hier ‘huiswerk’ van maken. Ben benieuwd wat het oplevert 🙂

  4. Heel fijn artikel zeg! Het tegendeel bewijzen is inderdaad een goede tip, maar ik merk ook vaak dat door de gedachte gewoon te laten zijn voor wat die is, hij veel minder indruk maakt. (:

  5. Dit is echt een eye-opener voor me. Dat je een gedachte mag vernietigen omdat het je ongelukkig maakt, ook al is het deels waar. In mijn hoofd werkt het zo dat als er een kern van waarheid in zit, ik die harde gedachte verdien.

    1. Snap ik! Heb ik ook heel lang gedacht, maar als de gedachte me niet (verder) helpt dan kan ik m net zo goed vervangen, denk ik dan maar!

  6. Loved this article, really changed how I look at CBT and changing your thoughts. I was always struggling with it, because often it is partly true. I therefore really liked the part about thet fact that you ou are allowed/have to change a thought because it makes you unhappy even if it is (a little) true. Also the part about “destroying it with evidence” instead of positive confirmation helped, I can never quite convince myself of those confirmations too.

    In short, really helpful article!

  7. Geniaal. Ik ben heel goed in de negatieve cycle en het steeds herhalen van de negatieve gedachte en bijbehorende gevoelens. En waar je aandacht aan geeft, dat groeit. Tijd om het te doorbreken en de dingen te gaan doen die de stellingen van mijn negatieve gedachten onderuit halen. Ik voel me strijdlustig! Bedankt voor het verhelderende verhaal en de tips

    1. Graag gedaan, en fijn van de strijdlustigheid!

      Waar je aandacht aan geeft groeit idd, dus daarom beter er anders mee omgaan als het om negatieve gedachten gaat!