February 27, 2020

My Simple 2 Step Process For Eliminating Negative Thoughts

silhouette of woman looking out over los angeles during sunset

Hello Doll,

“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.”

– Gandhi

What do you do when negative thoughts are running on a loop through your head? I’m not talking about the stray thoughts that don’t stick, but the ones that make you feel really bad? 

If you’re like most people, you probably try to ignore them, or to override them by “thinking positively.” Which might seem like the right thing to do, because there’s truly nothing more unpleasant than when your own mind feels like it’s attacking you.

But the giant, fatal flaw with either of those strategies is — they simply do not work. Your subconscious thrives in darkness, so ignoring them doesn’t make them go away, it only makes them more deeply entrenched. 

“Thinking positively” doesn’t work, because by denying the negative emotions you’re feeling, you don’t actually change the feeling, you’re just filing it away deeper, where it’ll continue to plague you.  

If your negative beliefs have friends, denial and avoidance are its very best friends. 

I don’t claim to have the only solution to weaken and eventually silence particular hurtful thoughts. But luckily, years ago I stumbled upon a strategy that’s been quite literally life changing for me. 

It’s a really simple two step process, the goal of which is to weaken the emotional force of particular sh*tty thoughts over time. Without the emotional impact, even your most negative thoughts lose steam and fade away. 

Step 1: Acknowledge the thought without judging yourself for having it. 

I do this by saying to myself “Oh, there’s that old thought again” or “Well, this is a new one! That’s interesting.” 

You’ll find by doing this, a little bit of the emotional sting of the thought is instantly diminished, because you’re creating a small buffer between the thought and your identity. Essentially, it instantly reminds you that you are not your thoughts.

That buffer may be just a teeny one, but that teeny bit matters! That teeny bit is the first step in eliminating that thought over time. 

Step 2: Consider the possibility the thought is wrong — even if (and especially if) it feels 100% true. 

I say to myself some version of “This feels really true, and it hurts to have this thought because it feels so true. BUT I’m open to the possibility that it’s not” or “Even though I have ‘evidence’ that this thought is true, maybe — just maybe it it’s not true, or it won’t always be true.”  

By doing this you’re telling yourself — your feelings are valid, but your feelings aren’t facts. 

That’s it. Don’t try to override it, or tell yourself a positive mantra that doesn’t reflect your true feeling or belief. It might sound overly simplistic, but I promise that if you continue to apply these two steps to your peskiest, most painful negative thoughts, they will start to weaken. 

They won’t go away overnight, but I have personally had the experience where one day, after repeatedly questioning a thought that previously plagued me, one day I find myself surprised to find I now know it’s not true. And once I get to that point, the thought just evaporates. Because it no longer has the emotion to feed it. 

My challenge for you is to start paying attention to your negative thoughts — especially the ones that pertain to your belief about your worthiness or what’s possible for you. Stick with these two steps, and see how much you can change your life.