Friday, July 01, 2005

More on Gremlin Thinking - Automatic Negative Thoughts

Today, I will return to the topic of automatic negative thoughts, or Gremlin Thinking, and how to train your brain to challenge them.

The human brain does NOT know the difference between what is real and what is imagined. Brain scan studies have shown that the same area of the brain lights up when someone looks at a bed and when they simply imagine a bed. That is why the mere thought of something sad can make you cry. In the same way, constantly thinking about worst case scenarios will make you stressed. This has been verified by the Harvard Medical School. Harvard Medical School uses this same info in their Heart Wellness Program to help people prevent heart disease and recover from heart difficulties.

The more you listen to negative material, the more your brain becomes convinced that the world, and everyone in it, is heartless, cruel and meaningless. All those negative messages normalize and simultaneously perpetuate the insanity. Be careful what is fed into your head!

Negative thoughts are insidious. They pass through your mind quickly and quietly. They happen on their own. But they have tremendous destructive potential. They usually start with messages given to us in childhood and they are carried with us into adulthood.

Left unchallenged, we BELIEVE these negative thoughts.

This is critical to understand. If you do not challenge your negative thoughts, you will believe them, and they will negatively impact your life.

The Harvard Medical School has stated that negative thoughts can lead to headaches, low back pain, insomnia, and high blood pressure ? all symptoms of stress. They go on to state that negative thoughts can lead to negative behaviors such as cigarette smoking, alcohol abuse, and over- or under-eating. Harvard Medical School uses this same method of cognitive restructuring to help individuals recover from heart difficulties.

Negative thoughts are based on false beliefs, illogical views and incorrect assumptions. Most people do not know that thoughts can be deceitful. Most of us don?t even think about our thoughts. So people go through life believing whatever irrational thoughts pass through their head. This means that their behavior is based on these false beliefs and assumptions. This, in turn, leads to difficulties with moods, behaviors and interpersonal relations. Often these negative thoughts fuel anxiety, depression, anger and misunderstandings. Unfortunately, the development and mastery of our thoughts and feelings is left largely to chance.

Learning how to dispute our negative thoughts is essential if we are to reach our potential and live a satisfying and meaningful life.

The good news is that we can learn to train our thoughts to slow down and to be positive, nurturing and supportive. You begin this process by identifying and challenging your negative thoughts. I like to call negative thoughts Gremlins. This helps us to speak about them more safely, and it helps you to master personifying them so you can push them out of your head.

When I have a negative thought, I use visualization to eradicate it. I like to picture it as a little Gremlin (which kind of looks like a goblin) that I shove out my ear. Think of it as making him walk the plank. Remember, your brain does NOT know the difference between the internal world and the external world. Once you grasp this idea, you will understand how powerful visualization is. Another visualization you can use is to imagine catching each negative thought and hitting it with a rubber stamped marked Cancelled and then sweep it in the garbage can. BTW, it is always good to have a garbage can in your head to throw away negative or destructive thoughts.

Negative thoughts are ways in which your mind lies to you with the intent of making the situation worse than it really is. The really big red flags for Gremlin thoughts are ALWAYS, MUST, NEVER, OUGHT, AND SHOULD. Gremlin thoughts sound like this:

Oh no!
Why me?
I am just not good enough.
Nothing ever changes.
This always happens to me.
How can I be soooo stupid.
I should have done better.
I will never succeed.
I am mad, therefore I must have been treated badly.

Watch out for these types of thoughts. When you recognize them, challenge them. Are they based on fact? Or are they merely runaway feelings?

I plan to fill you in on the final types of Gremlin thinking shortly.

Right now, I must go prepare for our upcoming radio shows. We begin going daily (Monday through Friday) on July 4th, 2005.

Look for Guide To Self Radio on KDIA, 1640 AM.

All my best,
Dr. John


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