Negative Thoughts Are Unblockable (Do This Instead)

What’s your approach to negative thoughts, or tempting thoughts that you know will likely to lead to negative behaviors (such as a bad habit)?

Is it to try to eliminate them? Many people will try to block negative thoughts, ignore them, or pretend they can’t succumb to them if they don’t acknowledge them.

Don’t ever do this. It won’t work, and it will likely make the thought more powerful and the situation worse.

There is a way to think less about something, but it’s not through a direct “I won’t think about a red cactus” approach. Case in point, you probably just thought about a red cactus.

Even if you don’t want to think about a red cactus, you will do it now. And the more you try to resist thinking about the red cactus, denying the image in your mind, the more you will think about it.

Accept the red cactus, however, and you can move beyond it. In the same way, accepting a negative thought’s existence is the step you need to beat it. You might wonder why you’d acknowledge a thought that only serves to hurt you, but the following truth should put your mind at ease.

Acknowledgement is not agreement.

We acknowledge things every day that we don’t agree with. Political figures and statements. Evil acts in the world. Bad haircuts. Roaches. In order to disagree with and/or fix something, you must first accept that it exists.

Ack! A Roach!

A roach scurries out from under the coach. People scream. The roach says, “Thank you for acknowledging my presence” right before the shoe comes down. Those desperate screams from people, who are now standing and jumping up and down on the couch, are the complete opposite of ignoring the roach! They’re saying, “That disgusting creature exists in our house right now! Ahhhh! Get it out!”

And to whoever is in charge of taking care of such insects (why me?), the screaming, jumping, and demanding usually works to make it happen quickly. Extreme acknowledgement leads to faster resolution. Problem solved.

Lesson: In order to keep your home from being overtaken by insects, you can’t ignore their presence. In the same way, to keep your mind from being overtaken by negative thoughts, you can’t ignore their presence.

So Uh… *Gulp* … Negative Thoughts Are Like… Roaches?

Kind of, yeah. Because they both exist even when we don’t want them to exist. And they both get worse if we try to ignore them.

We assume that thoughts are different than roaches because we are the source, and we’d never put a roach in our own house. But the source doesn’t matter because what exists, exists.

And if you look at neuroscience, you’ll see that the brain and thought generation are very complex things. Major parts of your brain’s functionality are subconscious and not directly controllable. This is why we can’t choose all of our thoughts. This is why we all have thoughts we don’t want. By understanding that we don’t actually choose every thought that pops into our head, we can see why ignoring them doesn’t work.

If you could literally choose every thought you had, you could “ignore” any thought you knew would harm you. But those thoughts can pop up at any time without warning or permission, and by trying so hard to ignore them, they become that pesky red cactus. And you know what that means. They become red cacti. Here is it again in case you missed it.

Instead of denying, blocking, or ignoring thoughts that you don’t want, work through them. Deal with them. Face them and subject them to the truth that you know. The shoe of truth, or something. Gosh, why did I pick roaches as the example? I just started Malcolm Gladwell’s masterclass, so I should improve by the next article.

In time, the process of accepting a thought’s existence and correcting it will decrease the thought’s power and frequency. Why do you think that is?

If a “bad” thought comes from the subconscious, it must be fixed subconsciously. And how is that done? As I’ve said in my books, “repetition is the language of the subconscious brain.” By accepting and then dealing with a thought repeatedly, you will weaken it subconsciously in two ways.

  1. Practice: A negative thought comes. You correct it with a healthier thought/idea. The thought fades. The more you practice this, the quicker your response will be. This is a form of training for the subconscious.
  2. New Reward: Our subconscious likes to repeat processes that lead to rewards. You might wonder why it would then think negative thoughts, and that’s because of the other thing it likes—familiarity. Many people choose to live in misery because misery is known, and the subconscious brain likes what is known. When you deal with a thought in the proper way repeatedly, you familiarize the brain with this new, more rewarding way of thinking. Being that it’s more rewarding to have beneficial thoughts, the brain will learn to accept this new way of thinking once it becomes familiar enough.

None of this is perfect. We will all have negative thoughts from time to time, and we will all deal with them imperfectly. But going from generally ignoring, ruminating, or denying negative thoughts to accepting and correcting them can make a big difference!

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