Let's say you're ready to change some aspect of your life - perhaps the way you eat or how much you weigh. If you've ever decided to create a permanent change in your life before, you know it's going to take a lot more than simply acting (i.e. eating or dieting) differently. What's required for permanent change is a shift in your old limiting self-talk and lots of positive energy.
To achieve permanent transformation, you're going to have to tap into your own inner power. And this is where the energy of your words and thoughts comes in. Success is built on a solid foundation of positive thoughts and feeling good. Your words, thoughts, ideas and belief systems are the key players in building such a strong and solid foundation. They set the stage for the way you experience everything in your life.
Negative thinking habits, on the other hand, can have a devastating effect on your outcome. Negative thoughts continually create bad feelings and cause misery or upset over life circumstances. Here's where the vicious cycle continues. You have negative thoughts, you feel bad, you find some way to feel better (eat, binge, anorexia, purge, drugs, alcohol, sex, drugs, shopping, etc.). The truth is, we're designed to feel good. That's our natural state and what we are always trying to come back to. Your overeating may in part be an attempt to feel better. There's lots of ways to feel better. But if you can learn to speak gently to yourself in the first place, you can save yourself from feeling bad!
Negative thinking patterns are learned ways of thinking. The following lists some of the most common types of destructive thinking patterns that occur:
ALL OR NOTHING THINKING
Sometimes referred to as black and white thinking, or absolute thinking. This is the type of thinking that states, "I've already blown it. I might as well give up on the rest of the day." If a situation falls short of 100% perfection, you see it as a total failure. For example, if you've binged for one meal, or didn't exactly follow your plan for the day, you think you've blown it completely. This train of thought is easy to get caught up in and it can be very damaging to your success.
You see a single negative event as a never-ending pattern of defeat. This type of thinking uses words such as "always" and "never". Though these two words seem harmless, they can distort your view of reality. If one negative event occurs, you might think, "It's just my luck. Nothing good ever happens to me." While this statement might be true some of the time, chances are there has been at least one exception to it. Holding onto this "always" and "never" attitude simply keeps you from seeing the truth as it really is. It's negative and self-defeating.
CATASTROPHIZING AND MINIMIZING
This type of thinking does two things: It sees the positive results of your actions as smaller than they really are, and exaggerates the negative results of your actions. This thinking may also inappropriately shrink your achievements down until they seem insignificant, while you obsessively dwell on what is 'wrong' with you. Sometimes this is referred to as "making a mountain out of a mole hill."
DISQUALIFYING THE POSITIVE
This is an extreme form of all-or-nothing thinking without the "all"! All the positive messages and actions are deleted or rejected. The positive experiences just "don't count" and we only attend to the negative. You pick out a single negative detail and dwell on it - discounting any other evidence to the contrary. This negative thought darkens everything else that has preceded. For example, you lost 30 pounds. But for some reason gained back five of those pounds. Negative thinking dwells entirely on the five gained back, darkening the entire situation. Discounting the positive takes the joy out of life and makes you feel inadequate and unrewarded.
You assume that your emotions reflect the way things really are. This thinking states, I feel it, therefore it must be true." In truth, it is most likely the old tapes that are playing in your head that is creating the emotions that you are feeling. This takes emotional reasons as evidence of truth. "I feel frustrated, I'll never get through this."
You try to motivate yourself with should statements, such as, "I should be eating healthy", "I should not eat that", "I should have lost more weight by now." "I should start exercising." Often it is habit to use words such "should", "shouldn't", "have to", "must", and "must not" in an attempt to create change. These are negative, action-stopping words. If you feel you should do something, then it's something you don't want to do but for some reason feel obligated to do.
You try to motivate yourself with should and shouldn't, as if you have to be whipped or punished before you could be expected to do anything. The emotional consequence of using should on yourself is guilt - which tends not to be an effective long-term motivator.
LABELING AND DISPARAGING
Underlying labeling is the thought that if I hate myself enough, maybe I'll change. Instead of describing your action, you judge yourself harshly. A label or insults are applied such as, "I'm a failure", "I'm fat and ugly", or "I'm such a stupid idiot." Instead of describing your error, you attach a negative label to yourself. Judging yourself harshly never helps the process of self-awareness or understanding. These statements are likely to cause massive emotional swings of anger, frustration, and low self-esteem.
You concentrate so strongly on a single negative detail and dwell on it so exclusively that your vision of reality becomes darkened. An analogy is like the single drop of ink that discolors an entire beaker of water. Your automatic thoughts all deal with this one concern. If, for example, you ran out of time on a previous test, you may find yourself so preoccupied with the time limit that you have trouble concentrating on the questions.
You see your self as the cause of some negative external event, which in fact you were not primarily responsible for.
*Things you ARE responsible for:
what you say & who you say it to
if and how you express emotions
who your friends are
where you live
what you do for work
what you do for self care and fun
your values and belief systems
what family members you stay connected to
what self talk you allow to continue
Whether we do personal growth work or not
what you eat or don't eat
*Things you are NOT responsible for:
what other people think of you
other people's life decisions
other people's thoughts / feelings
your genetic body type
life, just as it is
life is unpredictable
change is inevitable
grief and loss are inevitable
emotions are inevitable
certain people may or may not want to be with you
whether people are honest
intimacy requires risk and vulnerability
(* From Francie White, MS, RD Inner Escapes Workshops)
CONSTRUCTIVE SELF QUESTIONS
Only you can decide to alter your mental dialog. You alone are the pattern maker and breaker of your own existence. The first step is to explore (without judgement) what you are thinking. Are your thoughts encouraging and loving, or a depressing mix of fear, doubt, and punishment? Watch your thoughts and write them down on paper.
What am I thinking or dwelling on?
Am I seeing the whole truth?
How does this thought make me feel?
Which of the above thought patterns am I using?
Is it really true? How do I know?
Can I look at this another way?
What would I say to a friend in this situation if I was trying to help?
What am I needing right now to feel differently?
Copyright 2005, Dr. Annette Colby, all rights reserved.
Dr. Annette Colby, RD
Nutrition Therapist & Master Energy Healer
"Opening Creative Portals to Success"
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