ABC…….. of Conquering
the Monsters in your Mind
Yes. You heard it right. There are Monsters in your Mind. Would you like to conquer them or allow them to capture you? I know the answer. Now go through to know how.
Our thoughts are very powerful. Each & every cell in your body gets influenced by the thoughts you have. We get one thought, followed by another and then another and this continues unabated. The mind is like an infinitesimally high powered computer & keeps operating at an infinitesimally high speed. We are bombarded with thousands of these thoughts every day, on which we do not have any control at all. But, unfortunately, most of these thoughts are negative thoughts, which just refuse to leave us. This again gives rise to more such thoughts and the negative spiral continues. Thoughts also influence our choices of dealing with situations/incidents. They also shape our neurobiology – the inner circuitry that influences our energy, sleep, mood, mental focus, craving for food, weight, immunity, adrenal function and numerous other factors that have a tell-tale effect on our health.
If you are caught in negative spiral(s) like this, you stay in a state of fear, feel frustrated, become worried & agitated and your health, performance or for that matter your dealing with life in general gets adversely affected. You continue to be in a state of helplessness, where your thoughts control you.
Obviously, the solution is to convert the negative spiral to a positive spiral. Sounds easy? But, this is easily said than done, but nevertheless is very much possible and within our control. We have the power of interrupting the so-called negative spiral & convert it to positive spiral to make positive impact in our life. Unfortunately, our mind does not switch on or does not flip from negative to positive on its own. We need to do it consciously & in a natural way. But, it is easily said than done. In my foregoing discussions, I will focus on this to learn how to conquer these monsters (Yes, these negative thoughts are no less than monsters) instead of them controlling you and your life.
1. AWARE & ACKNOWLEDGE – The first step is Aware & Acknowledge.
• Be aware that you are not your thoughts. Though we know that thoughts are real and very powerful and have a lasting influence on our health, wellbeing and life in general, we can’t be equated with our thoughts. You are also not your mind; it is just a part of you and a tool used by you.
• Know that it is absolutely normal to have innumerable thoughts. Research indicates that a normal human being has approximately 60,000 to 70,000 thoughts per day, which means 2,500 to 2,900 thoughts per hour, which again means 41 to 48 thoughts per minute. Incredible; but absolutely normal. Research also shows that approximately 90% of these thoughts are the same as the day before. If you pay attention to these thoughts, you will be surprised to find that most of them are useless, senseless and baseless wandering thoughts, which you may not be even aware of. They just come and go.
• Also know that it is normal to have negative thoughts. Even the most optimistic persons are not free from negative thoughts. This sounds interesting because you don’t have to worry at the first place that you have negative thoughts.
• Acknowledge the presence of a negative thought or a series of negative thoughts, as and when they pop up in your head. ANTS (Automatic Negative Thoughts) invade your mind very often. Don’t ignore it. Recognize the ANT. If you would like to know more about this, please click READMORE
• The moment you recognize the ANT, 50% of the battle against the monstrous ANT is over; as you have been able to externalize the thought. It is no longer coming from you.
• You don’t have to believe all your negative thoughts. Nope. Since thoughts just happen & also we can’t be equated with our thoughts, every thought that goes through your mind need not be true. Thoughts can lie to us. In particular, you don’t have to believe your negative thoughts, even if your mind tries to convince that you & your mind are one and the same and all your thoughts are correct. If you want to get out of the clutches of your negative thoughts, don’t give any credence to the rubbish it tells you. Every negative thought is a potential liar.
• Every individual has a unique belief system through which we interpret new information and make our own assessment about the world around us. Belief system is a system of thoughts comprising of information we have gathered in the past both consciously and unconsciously, accumulated and stored in our brain. Our perception of any event is filtered by this unique belief system of ours, which is different for different individuals.
• As such, perception varies. There is a saying in my mother tongue, which when translated into English reads something like this: “The mother of a boy bitten by a snake gets scared, even when sees a thick rope”. There is never just one way to look at something – what one sees, gets greatly influenced by his perspectives, perceptions and the meanings he ascribes to it.
• Let me take a simple example & explain it a little further. You went to the office of your boss for discussion about an urgent matter & your boss dismissed you without even looking at your face. The thought that entered your mind is that your boss must be unhappy with you because of the controversial note you have sent to him the previous day. Though you were confident that your suggestion was good for the organization in the long run, you had a feeling that boss might not appreciate your suggestions. You felt dejected & irritated. Another of your colleague went through the same situation and came back frustrated. He came back with the thought that boss must have been angry with him as the performance of his area in the last quarter was bad. You hesitatingly went to boss’s Secretary & had a chat with her. She agreed with you that boss was in a very disturbing mood. She also informed you that boss had a talk over telephone with the Managing Director half an hour back and his mood might have been influenced by the said discussion. Sounds sense. Same event, three explanations. What you came to learn later the real reason was that your boss’s son had met with a car accident some time back. The moment you came to know about it, your feelings of irritation, frustration & dejection switched over to that of sympathy. Our feelings differ based on our own thoughts & our own perception. Perception in fact is different from reality.
• In order to progress in our life, we need to change in our thinking process. It is like ejecting a DVD and replacing it by another DVD, that we like better.
3. COMMAND, CONFRONT & CHALLENGE
• You are the boss of your thoughts, not the other way round. Please understand no thought can harm you without any specific approval from you. Though you can’t obviously prevent the thoughts (including negative thoughts) from visiting you (that may be beyond your power), but please do not offer them a cozy chair.
• If you have negative thoughts and you are not comfortable about these thoughts, the simplest thing you can do is to stop listening to those thoughts. Pass a command authoritatively– “Hello Thought! I know you are not correct. I don’t agree with you. You can’t win me over. STOP.”
• If you have a negative thought & you do not confront it, your mind believes it and your brain acts on it.
• Imagine an acquaintance passes a negative comment about you right on your face, which you do not agree. You will definitely not let it pass & will confront him. In the similar way, confront your negative thoughts & do not let it go.
• Challenge your negative thoughts & suck the power out of it. One easy way psychologist’s advice is to write down your negative thoughts. As long as these negative thoughts stay in your head, they create a mumbo-jumbo mess. It is argued that the moment you write down your negative thoughts and transfer your negative thoughts from mind to paper, you become more powerful & stronger.
4. DIVERT & DISTRACT
• One noteworthy characteristic of negative thoughts is rumination. That means your mind keeps replaying the same negative thoughts over and over again. Another characteristic is that they come in flocks, one after another followed by another & so on. So, it is of immediately necessity to stop the flow in order to distract your mind completely and divert for productive utilization.
• Negative thought seeps in. Then what can you do to distract? Yes, you can go for a walk or intense physical workout, call a friend, go for a movie or watch a TV show (preferably comedy), listen to your favorite music or engage yourself in a brain exercise game like Sudoku puzzle etc.; there are so many things you can do straight away. Some prefer to go for relaxation techniques, breathing exercises and meditation etc. This distraction gives you immediate relief from the clutches of negative thoughts.
• This technique is based on the principle of focusing on the present moment. Most of our negative thoughts are concerned with what has already happened or what is yet to happen; that means about the past or the future. Focusing on the present means to concentrate on & mindful of what we are doing at this exact moment of time. If you are on a walk, focus on the scenery, on the trees, the greeneries, the flowers, the butterflies and for that matter whatever that keeps you happy. The more you focus on the present moment, the weaker your negative thoughts become.
• But, remember that distraction or diversion is not the solution to end negative thoughts. It is at best postponed, but not eliminated.
5. DISSECT & DEBATE
• Analyze your negative thoughts by asking the following questions. The idea is once you start questioning these thoughts & analyze objectively, they lose their power.
• What are the evidences in favor of this thought? Suppose your thought wants you to believe that you are a failure; then you are questioning the basis of that thought. It is important because most of the times your ANTs (Automatic Negative Thoughts) influence & persuade you to jump to conclusions, even if they do not logically flow from the given situation.
• Are there any evidences against this? What are they? For example, a negative thought is developed in your mind that you are a pathetic presenter. When you tried to gather evidence in favor of this thought, you found that the thought was based on a remark by a senior colleague at the end of the presentation that some of the points were not clarified properly. When analyzed further, you could understand that what your thought wanted you to believe by labeling yourself a pathetic presenter is far from truth; a pathetic exaggeration. Yes, there were some opportunities for improvement; but overall it was an extremely good presentation considering the appreciation all along you received from the participants.
• Do I have all the facts or do I need to collect some more facts for coming to a conclusion? This is very important since most of the Automatic Negative Thoughts are based on insufficient data or information.
• If the negative thoughts are triggered by certain event, you can question – What else that event could mean? What could be alternate explanations?
• It is useful to ask yourself – Am I exaggerating? In fact, most of the Automatic Negative Thoughts are nothing but exaggerations.
• Would others agree that my thoughts are correct? Think of you describing your thoughts to some of your close friends and family members. What is going to be their reaction in all probability? Are they going to agree with you or simply dismissing your thoughts as figments of imagination?
• How would I respond to a close friend if he had been in this situation? This is important because most of us are good advisors. Imagine your best friend is in similar situation; he comes to you & asks for your advice. Think of what advice you are likely to give him and why that advice can’t be applicable for you?
• What is the worst thing that can happen? What is the best? What is most realistic? The moment you ask these questions, exaggeration will melt way and objectivity will emerge.
6. EVOLVE & EXCHANGE
• Most of the times, negative thoughts come to us arising out of our poor perspectives. For example, you are thinking – “I am nowhere near my target in reducing my weight. I am an utter failure in my weight-control measures.” But, instead of thinking above, start thinking – “Yes, I am facing some challenges in controlling my weight. My progress is slow. But, I am working on finding out the solutions.” In both, you are basically telling the same things; the only exception being there is positive tone in the second. That little shift in the tone will make a huge difference in your thinking pattern and the ultimate result.
• Be aware of Shades of Gray. We have a tendency of thinking of events in extreme terms. Life is not as simple as that. Instead of thinking “I am a total failure”, you can think “Yes, I am partially successful.”
• Try to think in realistic terms instead of absolutes.
• Exchange your negative thoughts deliberately with positive thoughts. This is known as the Law of Displacement, a very important step in which you get rid of your irrational, hopeless, stressful negative thoughts by rational, strong, logical positive thoughts with layers of hope & expectations; just like getting rid of darkness in the room by switching on the light.
• If you have gone sincerely through the steps A (Awareness), B (Belief), C (command, control & challenge), D (Divert & Distract, Dissect & Debate), this step E (Evolve & Exchange) is not going to be very difficult for you.
• In another post, we have discussed about how most of the thoughts we have, are usually negative and thoughts that pop into our heads automatically, uninvited, like burglars. They just happen and we often do not notice them. To know more, please click READMORE
• Studies have indicated authoritatively that early exchange of negative thoughts with positive thoughts can help millions people in preventing full blown depression. To bring clarity, we will discuss these ANTS (Automatic Negative Thoughts) with examples and the corresponding positive thoughts to replace them.
ANT 1- Always & Never Thinking
Typical Thought – I am destined to fail. I forgot to finish the project in time. I never do things right.
Exchanged positive Thought – That may be just a single one-off instance. But, I will take it as a challenge & do whatever possible to do it right this time
ANT 2- Mental Filter (Binocular Trick)
Typical Thought – Though my boss mentioned that most of the points in my proposal were great, he also said there were a number of mistakes that had to be corrected…he must think I’m really hopeless.
Exchanged positive Thought – So many good things were told. Yes, there are some mistakes, which need to be corrected. These are opportunities for improvements (OFIs). I will definitely be more successful by concentrating on OFIs.
ANT 3- Crystal-Ball gazing (Fortune Telling)
Typical Thought – My last presentation was bad. My presentation this time is also going to be bad. The whole class will laugh at me.
Exchanged positive Thought – If my presentation was not as good, so what? Many successful people have failures on the way. I have prepared really well this time. They’ll definitely like my presentation this time.
ANT 4- Mind Reading
Typical Thought – My teacher did not return my wish today. She doesn’t like me.
Exchanged positive Thought – I am not sure about that. Maybe she was unmindful or she is just having a bad day and teachers are human too.
ANT 5- Emotional Reasoning (Thinking with your feelings)
Typical Thought – I feel utterly hopeless today; therefore my situation must be hopeless.
Exchanged positive Thought – I do not have specific reason for my feeling. I do not have any evidence that my situation is hopeless. May be the situation will work out the best for me.
ANT 6- Guilt beating
Typical Thought – Last time when we went together for coffee, I spilled coffee on her dress. I know she said she will go out with me again, but I bet she won’t respond
Exchanged positive Thought – Last time, it was an inadvertent mistake & I felt genuinely sorry and conveyed to her. There is no reason why she will carry it. She gives equal importance to our relationship.
ANT 7- Labeling
Typical Thought – “I’m stupid.”
Exchanged positive Thought – Sometimes I do things that aren’t too smart but that doesn’t mean that I am stupid. I will rather be careful in future.
ANT 8- Personalizing (Self-blame)
Typical Thought – Manisha is in a terrible mood. It must have been something I did. It’s obvious she doesn’t like me; otherwise she would’ve said hello.
Exchanged positive Thought – There is no evidence to jump to the conclusion that she does not like me. Her mood may be due to something else.
ANT 9- Blaming
Typical Thought – It is because of your fault that we have all these problems.
Exchanged positive Thought – If I do not take the responsibility, I can’t fix it. I need to look at my part of the problem and look for ways I can.
8. FOLLOW UP WITH APTS
• Just replacing the ANTs with positive thoughts will definitely help you in getting rid of your immediate problem. But that is not all. For changing your life for the better, you need to ensure that the ANTS do not trouble you time and again. For the same, you need to change your belief system & thought pattern permanently. This is the most difficult step, but possible with constant practice.
• APTs stand for Automatic Positive Thoughts. For accomplishing big goals in your life, you need to develop Automatic Positive Thoughts, which should permanently replace your Automatic Negative Thoughts. It may not become automatic at first; but with continuous practice, your confidence level & overall wellbeing will grow drastically. Our brains are hardwired to take only one thought at a time. So, when a negative thought creeps in, which is quite natural when you face a challenge, make full efforts to substitute it by a positive thought. Once you do it over and over again, the influence that ANTs have on your life will vanish. Here are some APTS which you can utilize every day, or you can develop APTS of your own depending on the situation.
I am happy today
I am successful
I am confident
I am healthy, wealthy & wise
I can do anything
I love myself, the way I am.
I can shape & reshape my destiny by my positive affirmations & likewise many more.
• This is based on the theory of Positive Affirmations. The idea is to get the new positive thoughts engrained in your deeper subconscious mind. You will achieve it through REPETTION. For want of space, we will discuss about the roles played by our Conscious Mind & our Subconscious Mind in shaping our thoughts, feelings, action & destiny in a separate post.
GOOD BYE till then. Happy Reading