Monday, June 20, 2005

Catching Your Negative Thoughts

What you think means more than anything else in your life. More than what you earn, more than where you live, more than your social position, and more than what anyone else may think about you. George Matthew Adams

I am writing the script for tomorrow's radio show (KDIA, 1640 AM, 5 pm) which will be on mastering your thoughts. This means challenging your negative thoughts which typically run rampant through the minds of most people. These little buggers are fast and hyper-critical. You have to be on your toes to catch them. There are three steps to mastering your thinking:

1.) Become aware of your negative thoughts which I refer to as Gremlin thinking
2.) Challenge each negative thought
3.) Replace negative thoughts with positive thoughts

These are ways in which your mind distorts incoming information to make you feel lousy and worthless. Think of them as ways in which your mind lies to you with the intent of making the situation worse than it really is. Here are the some of the nine types of Gremlins:

1. Mind Reading
The mind reading Gremlin tells you that you know that another person is thinking something bad about you without any confirmation of this from the other person. One of the concepts I have learned over the years is that many of us think that 99% of what other people do is a direct result of something we have done, said or thought. In truth, only 1% of what other people do is directly related to something we have done. The other 99% is due to their own stress level and daily events. For example, a negative look from your boss may mean nothing more than he or she ran into a lot of traffic on the way to work. You do not know. You cannot read minds. I have over 10 years of training in human behavior and I still can't read the mind of another person.

2. Fortune-Telling
The fortune telling Gremlin puts forth a negative outcome to a situation before it has taken place. To some extent, your mind makes happen what it sees. It creates self-fulfilling prophecies. Unconsciously, predicting failure will often increase your chances of failing. For example, if you say,
I know I will screw up my big presentation,
then you will likely not prepare enough, or get anxious during the presentation, and make a costly mistake at your presentation.

3. Always or Never Thinking
This automatic negative thought take place whenever you think words such as
every time, or
These thoughts are absolutes which can change your behavior. For example, I have a friend who asked for a raise. She was turned down. She told herself that she would never get another raise. This Gremlin prevented her from asking for another raise for nine months, despite the fact that she deserved it.

4. Guilt Beatings
Guilt-based Gremlins occur when we are overwhelmed by thoughts such as
I should have done
I'm bad because
I must do better at
I have to
I ought to have

The key words to watch for are should, ought, have to, and must. These are tip-offs that you are dealing with guilt beatings. Guilt is quite good at making us feel bad. It is a terrible motivator of behavior.

5. All or Nothing Thinking
All or nothing thinking occurs frequently when you are in a bad mood and view the world in absolutes – black or white, all or nothing, good or bad, possible or impossible. The world is never as simple as either/or. The world does not lend itself to such dualities and dichotomies. It is too complex for such simplicity.
We see this type of thinking frequently at home with children when, on a rainy day, they tell us,

Dad, there’s nothing to do. We’re bored.

Obviously, the child with this thought is feeling tired and/or bored. But the thought itself is not rational, nor is it true. How can it be true when the child is surrounded by other children, toys, games, balls, and art supplies? The point is that these thoughts must be noticed and then disputed. Otherwise, they are believed as if they were true.

Other examples of all or nothing thinking include thoughts like
I am the worst father on the planet and
None of the kids like me and
If I do well on this presentation, then my boss will like me and give me a raise, but if I blow it then he will not like me and will fire me.

Other examples include
I hate myself. I’m all bad. There is no good in me and
I am completely stupid and
I am 100% worthless.

None of these thoughts are true. Yet, if we do not dispute and challenge them, we risk them becoming the truth.

All or nothing thinking is very, very rarely right. Ninety-nine percent of the time these thoughts are lies. Typically, these thoughts are fueled by negative emotions. When you notice all or nothing thinking, take a step back and look at what you are feeling. If you are feeling angry, sad, or ashamed, it’s a good bet your thought processes are lying to you. To the extent possible, remove yourself from the situation, so you can breathe, relax, release the feeling and recharge.
Every time you become aware of such a thought, challenge it. Is it based on fact? Is it true? Is it rational? When you challenge such thoughts, you remove their power over you which enables you to live up to you potential rather than drown in your fear.

Whether you think you can or think you can't, you are right.
— Henry Ford

Question: What do you think you cannot do?

I hope this day finds you well and free from Gremlin thinking!


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