How to Break Negative Thought Patterns
How to Break Negative Thought Patterns
Negative thoughts are an extremely addictive thing. Whether triggered by an actual event, situation, or anticipation of events, it’s very easy to fall prey to their bleakness. They kind of suck you into them and it’s like a never-ending abyss that you keep falling into. There is something inside you that sees the darkness as a familiar territory and keeps pulling you there.
It’s an indicator of the fact that you have resided in this space for far too long or your mind is conditioned to keep falling in this space and it’s not only welcoming but extremely enticing too. As you keep falling, there is this little voice that tells you not to fall and come back but you tend to ignore it. The more you ignore it, the weaker it becomes, and then it stops speaking. So the only barrier that stopped you from going deep into these thoughts is also gone.
I don’t think there is any person who has never felt sad, disappointed, frustrated or helpless. Even the most positive of people have experienced massive setbacks, failures, grief or helplessness. The easiest and the most idiotic thing to say to a person when they are upset or sad is not to be sad or be positive. It just doesn’t work. In fact, it’s the most counterproductive thing to say yet most of us say that forgetting that it didn’t work for you when you were in a similar state.
So, what is it that would actually work and why is it so important to get yourself out of the sea of dark thoughts that you so willingly have drowned yourself into. I mean look at this, it’s an alluring space to be in like dark chocolate - addictive, inviting, and deep. You get the much-needed escapism by being in it. It’s like being trapped in a cage without knowing the way out and worse even not knowing whether you really want to get out!
Swati behind the scenes of her short film "The Maverick"
Somewhere lies a little fact that no matter how long or how deep the thoughts hold you, eventually, you have to get out or are forced to snap out. Then why are we talking about all this? It is because there is one very important element that determines the effect such thoughts have on you and that is duration! Let the thoughts come, let them try to pull you, but what matters is when do you activate the reverse switch.
Rather than situation forcing you to get out of them, how about building that switch that helps you reverse your thought process? The way we have conditioned ourselves to get sucked into a negative thought pattern, it is absolutely possible to condition ourselves to pull out of that pattern. You just need to build a switch that reminds you to get out of this abyss into reality and slowly into the space of more loving and positive thoughts. No matter how bleak the situation is, a mantra that works well is to remember that - This too shall pass!
The first step towards breaking the pattern of negative thoughts is becoming aware that you are having them. The moment you start to become more aware, the process of detachment from these thoughts begins. You start to see the thoughts from an observer’s point of view and when you do that, you start to lose your hold on them.
From being a possessive owner of them, you start to become a neutral spectator. Once that happens, it’s easy to detach yourself from these thoughts and look at them more objectively. It’s the first step that is the hardest and this is where you need to build a trigger that would begin the activation process for the reverse switch.
There are many ideas to build that trigger - some people create a habit of pinching their fingers when they see themselves falling into the trap of unwanted thoughts. This is of course an initial habit-forming stage. As your mind gets more and more trained to snap out of these thoughts, you wouldn’t need to adopt such practices. The switch would be inbuilt in your mind and your finger would thank you for the trouble you saved it!
Once you have reached the observer stage, you need to analyze the thoughts objectively and see which of the thoughts are facts and which ones have been formed as a result of your imagination, anxiety, or a fictional scenario playing in your mind saying - What if?
For any screenwriter, “What if” is an extremely powerful tool that can make your imagination run wild and create an amazing storyline and interesting twists and turns in your story. However, the same “what if” creates havoc if you are dealing with negative thoughts. Of all the imaginary scenarios that the “what if” has created in your mind, chances are that these would most likely not happen.
So, the first thing to dissect and remove is these “what ifs”. The next is to find out which are the thoughts that are actual problems and need solutions. These are the ones you need to work on.
Swati behind the scenes of her short film "The Souvenir" that was shot at Universal Studios Hollywood
Once you are done dissecting and analyzing your thoughts, you will find that many of the feelings of disappointment, sadness, frustration, or anger are beginning to dissipate. This is a very good sign and shows that you are doing great with winning over your thoughts.
Also, once you divided your thoughts into actual problems and those which were your reactions or figments of your imagination, you can let the latter ones go and focus more on the actual problems. The next step is fully accepting that this is the problem or situation you are facing and start the process of finding solutions.
A major mistake that most of us do is to try and find solutions to all our problems ourselves. While it’s great to be a problem solver, it sometimes tends to be counterproductive. I am not saying you might not find solutions yourself, you can but maybe it will take you longer and maybe you might not find the best solution.
There are various ways in which you can ask for help like researching online, connecting with groups of people who might have been in a similar situation or asking the experts. The point I want to drive home here is that - it is ok to ask for help in whatever way it’s comfortable for you.
What you need is - willpower and a little initiative. The chances are very high that you will get a solution that you wouldn’t have even imagined and that would make things much easier for you. In fact, you would even wonder why you didn’t reach out earlier and save yourself all the pain and frustration. It is also possible that there are some problems you may not be able to find a solution for, immediately.
Such things need to be left on time and one fine day when you least expect it, you would find the solution popping in your face like a toast out of a toaster. It might even happen that the problem itself will cease to exist with time. All you need is a little patience and faith that eventually things will work out for the better.
Another thing that helps immensely in moving from a negative thought pattern to a positive and more empowering one is to join a supportive group of people who love to share experiences, inspire and lift each other up rather than pull you down. Identify such communities and follow the people or pages which make you feel good.
For the entertainment industry, I find Stage 32 as one of those positive uplifting places which has the largest community of creatives across the world. So no matter what stage of your career you are in or what location you are from, you would find someone who is in or has been in similar shoes as you.
In conclusion, please be aware that every day you have a choice to choose more positive, loving and empowering thoughts. Exercise that choice and shatter those negative thought patterns. Keep connecting, creating, and uplifting yourself and others!
About the Author
Swati Chugh is a multiple award winning Independent Filmmaker. She has made 14 short films. She has written, produced, directed and edited these films herself. Her films have won 33 awards and have screened at 110+ Film Festivals in 24 countries - India, USA, UK, Canada, France, Russia, Italy, Bhuta...