Are You Addicted to Negative Thinking?By Dr. Margaret Paul
December 31, 2006
Negative thinking causes much stress in the body, and may be a cause of illness.
Barbara sought my help because of her chronic fatigue. She had been going to different kinds of doctors and trying different nutrition plans for years and nothing was helping her. One of the doctors suggested that she try working with me.
In became evident early in our work together than Barbara was deeply addicted to thinking the worst. Constant negativity went through her mind about every aspect of her life. She would get out of her car and worry about getting robbed. In social situations, she would tell herself that people didn't like her. She was always worried about money, even though she was a successful graphic designer. Her husband could never do anything right. There was something wrong with every doctor she saw.
Negative thinking causes much stress in the body...
I told Barbara to imagine that she was telling these negative thoughts to a child. How would the child feel most of the time? Barbara could see that this child would, of course, feel anxious and stressed much of the time in response to all the negativity and catastrophic thinking.
The medical profession has long told us that stress is one of the leading causes of illness. Stress sets into motion the body's fight or flight response, pouring cortisol into the body and eventually exhausting the adrenal glands. Adrenal exhaustion can be one of the results of so much negative thinking.
False Beliefs Kept her Stuck
While Barbara could understand the possible effect her negative thinking was having on her health, it was extremely challenging for her to give it up. She deeply believed that her negative thinking kept her safe from disappointment. She believed that thinking the negative thoughts before the bad things happened prepared her to deal with it. She didn't want to be caught off guard. She believed that she could not handle the pain of disappointment, so that if she knew about it ahead of time and actually expected it, she wouldn't feel disappointed.
In addition, Barbara believed that if she was vigilant enough and thought through all the bad things that could happen, she could prevent them. She believed that by thinking ahead, she could somehow have control over the outcome of things.
Finally, Barbara also believed that she could control how people felt about her by acting right and saying the right thing. She was constantly vigilant about her behavior with others in her attempts to control how they felt about her and treated her.
However, in trying to control her feelings, others' feelings and the outcome of things, Barbara was likely causing her illness. The underlying cause of her negative thinking was her devotion to this control.
The Illusion of Control
The problem with all of this is that it is based on an illusion - the illusion of control. The fact is that Barbara could not foresee every event that could cause her some pain. She was devastated every time something happened that she had not thought of beforehand. How could something painful come out of the blue like that? How could she have not foreseen it?
The paradox of all of this is that, in trying to foresee future catastrophes, Barbara was not present in the moment. Real safety is in being present in the moment so we can respond appropriately to whatever is happening in the moment. When we are fully present in the moment, we are available to receiving information from our inner guidance. All of us have a source of guidance that is always available to us, and that is here to help us and protect us. But we can access our guidance only when we are fully present in the moment, not when we are trying to control the future.
Through practicing Step 1 of Inner Bonding - staying aware of her feelings and choosing to be responsible for them - Barbara is becoming more aware of her negative thinking. She is not yet healthy, but she has some better days now, days that are lighter and more fun.
Moving out of negative thinking is a process that takes time
If you are a negative thinker, you have been practicing this form of thinking your whole life. It is not going to stop in a day. But if you tune into the stress you feel and learn to connect your stress with your negative thinking, you can slowly change this pattern. Receiving support from the Inner Bonding membership community can be of great help in moving beyond negative thinking.
Vitality and joy can be the result of letting go of your negative thinking and learning to be present in the moment.
Join Dr. Margaret Paul for her 30-Day at-home Course: "Love Yourself: An Inner Bonding Experience to Heal Anxiety, Depression, Shame, Addictions and Relationships."
Join IBVillage to connect with others and receive compassionate help and support for learning to love yourself.
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The paradox of our wounded self is that it wants to feel safe so it tries in so many ways to control that which it cannot control, which leads to feeling anxious and unsafe. Surrendering to what is and opening to spiritual guidance creates the peace that will never come from trying to control.
By Dr. Margaret Paul