Sunday, 7 February 2010

How To Stop Negative Thinking

We tend to think that we are the sum total of our thoughts. This is simply not so. In fact our thoughts aren't "us" at all! You may have noticed that at odd moments when your mind goes blank, you don't become unconscious - you still retain awareness. What you truly are is awareness itself - everything else, including thoughts and memories, are things you simply experience, the mind responding to data it is receiving. This would all be very well if the mind always responded in a helpful positive way. Clearly it doesn't! Fortunately it is possible with practice and simple techniques to drastically reduce negative thinking and its effects, and lead a happier more comfortable and productive life as result.

If you you wish to be liberated from negative attitudes and behaviour, the first step is to understand how thoughts turn into actions. At any given moment, a vast traffic of information is entering and leaving your awareness. This information comes in the form of data from your senses, and internally-generated thought and memory. You have very little control over what is entering the field of your awareness. It is a "public access" zone that virtually anything can enter and leave. Though your environment has a strong input into your awareness, even in a positive unthreatenng environment, all manner of negativity can "bubble up" from your subconscious, so at any given moment, your awareness will have a mixture of positive, negative and neutral data moving across it.

Simply being aware of thoughts, memories and feelings has no impact on you. They only influence your life when they enter your focus. Something in your focus has your attention, and that particular item will set off a chain reaction that will affect your entire being. Unlike your awareness, you can have full conscious control over your focus, but you can also choose to let your focus drift. Do this however, and your focus will lock on to certain defaults. This is fine if your defaults are helpful, but in many people they are distinctly unhelpful!

Remember that your focus need not necessarily be on your immediate environment at all, but is capable of being on (literally) anything you can think of. Whatever it is locked onto sets off a whole raft of electrical signals throughout the brain and then the release of hormones into the blood, affecting the entire body. Consequently, your body isn't reacting to what's actually "there" but rather what you're focused on! The key to health and happiness is thus taking control of your focus.

In addition to focus, there is a second key factor in eliminating negative thinking - your beliefs. Faith and belief is not the preserve of the religious - it is a fundamental part of everyone's life. It must be because there is only one true and absolute certainty, and that isn't as you might imagine, death and taxes. The only indisputable truth beyond any doubt is that you are conscious. Science has been embarrassingly unable to categorically define either life or consciousness, which undermines every single "fact" that science has established! Science can only quantify what everyone can universally experience, but can't actually prove it's physically "there"!

In the absence of any real "truth" other than consciousness itself, your mind decides completely unilaterally what reality is. This reality is entirely a construct of your own mind, unique to you. What to you is reality can be nonsense and delusion to another, who has a completely different construct of reality. Reality is personal and subjective, not absolute and objective!

This understanding of reality is vital to your elimination of negative thinking. It's not what you believe in but belief itself that has power over your life! Once you realise this, you can begin to break free of negative beliefs and replace them with the more positive belief that anything is possible. What you believe affects everything you experience, so have the right focus and a positive belief and your life can become a powerhouse of fulfilment.

The ability to believe and perceive is essentially a survival tool, the result of evolution in a harsh tribal Savanna environment. Unfortunately it was forged for an environment and circumstances that are nothing like modern civilisation, and so belief and perception can get it hideously wrong if left to itself. Realising your own perception is a malleable tool rather than how it truly is, is key to having it promote and fulfil your life rather than sabotage it. 

The most common assumption at the root of negative thought is I AM THE VICTIM. I am at the total mercy of many factors completely beyond my control that are dooming me to an inferior life. With this fundamental belief at the root of your mind, programmed into the subconscious, life will turn out exactly how you perceive it. It is vital to completely eradicate this perception and replace it with a more positive one, Such a fundamental change of belief is called a PARADIGM SHIFT, a change in the assumtions that underpin your understanding.

The first step in eliminating this view is realising how it got there in the first place. It was imported! All beliefs are imports, accepted because they seem commensurate with experience. Combine a bad experience, particularly in childhood, with an imported negative belief and you have a recipe for a lifetime of self-sabotage.

Most of the things that are upsetting us are not actually happening to us at all! We are thinking about what things mean, what they might mean, what might happen to us, what has already happened to us and how defenceless we are. In most cases, while all this is going through your mind, at the particular moment, you are actually quite safe and not in any physical pain. However, as we saw earlier, your body does not respond to the environment, it responds to your focus. With your focus on threats, mind and body behaves like it's threatened. This results in inappropriate behaviour and responses, and over time will make you mentally and physically ill.

There are short term and long-term steps that you can take to keep your focus on the positive and revolutionise your perception, and the great news is that anyone can do them anywhere. A pilgrimmage to Tibet or great expense on a training course is not necessary!

Simply bring your middle finger into contact with the thumb. This on its' own won't do anything. What you must do now is look at the point of contact and focus on the feeling of the touch. This will release the grip of your negative thought on your focus and bring your focus back onto the present moment. You will notice your mind going temporarily blank in he process. Now bring your focus purposely to something positive and happy.

It is best to have this focus ready in advance rather than scrabbling around at the moment trying to think of something. For example, you may like to think of an idyllic beauty spot, a happy memory a wonderful experience or someone you deeply love. You will start to feel the happiness in your body. You are not imagining this: happiness like all other feelings causes particular hormones to circulate round your body. Finally focus upon a task, either "in-hand" or shortly to be done. Repeat this cycle as often as necessary.

You need to perceive yourself as part of something greater. You are the product of processes that are at work in the whole universe. You are not isolated and lost within it, you are a fundamental part of it, and your words, thoughts and actions can have far-reaching consequences. This works the other way too, which means you can draw on energies and resources from beyond yourself to fulfil yourself.

This can take the form of guides, friends, lovers and allies, as well-as all-manner of objects, events and circumstances, because the essence of the universe is within you. You may like to explore spirituality, or practices such as meditation, T'ai Chi or Yoga that promote your sense of belonging and being a unique yet integral expression of being.

Secondly, as far as possible keep your focus on the positive and the present. Just because something negative wanders into your awareness doesn't mean you need to give it your focus. If you do you are MANUFACTURING suffering for yourself. When you catch yourself doing this, rejoice! You have made a massive step forward to nipping negativity in the bud, and taking evasive action. Only negative things posing an immediate present threat to wellbeing requires your attention. A group of chavs playing their music loudly on the bus for example, though clearly antisocial, is NOT a threat to your wellbeing and does not need your focus. Acceptance of your awareness being an open forum and your focus being kept on a tight leash is major progress to the elimination of negativity from your life.

Thirdly, ongoing permanent sources of sadness, like trauma, loss, bereavement or chronic pain and illness, must be permitted their permanent presence in your awareness. They are "sitting tenants" and their rights to live there must be respected. Stop trying to "evict" them. However neither should they have unfettered access to your focus. Keep focus positive and present, but set aside annual short times of focus on your sadness if that is beneficial. For many, Remembrance Sunday is such a time, or an annual pilgrimmage to a graveside or memorable location.

Finally, each challenge you encounter is a point to make a change, not to wallow in self-pity as yet another example of your being the victim. Be focused on the best course of action, not what it "means". This is a waste of mental energy as meaning changes with time. The action, what you actually do, is fixed for all time, so give it your full attention.

This is a useful and potentally life-changing set of principles, all tried-and-tested by myself, but if you have specific issues blighting your life, you will defnitely need some form of extra help from another. Seek out this help urgently, because your life will effectively be "on-hold" until you do. It will not go away by itself! Everyone needs help sometimes, and there is no shame in it. Don't waste a moment of your life in fear and "playing safe" - there is no true "safe" in life, only adventures. Embrace the adventure and reach out when stuck.

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