Negative thoughts are a great source of anxiety and despair for many of us… they can be crushingly overwhelming… so much so that they feel like a physical weight… pressing down on us.
They seem to come out of nowhere… at times hitting us like a bus at full speed…
Other times they start off as a small seed… and grow like a rampant weed… suffocating out hope, dreams, aspirations and our will to live.
How do we deal with such pervasive thoughts when they wreak such havok in our lives? How can we prevent them from having such destructive sway over out actions, habits and ultimately our success or failure?
Well, here’s the thing… we are not the thoughts. The thoughts are a completely separate entity to us. They are like… well look at them like a gremlin inside of you – representative of every single negative experience you have ever been through. It is no more ‘you’ than your car is ‘you’ or your shoes are ‘you’. It is merely a ‘possession’ – something that has been acquired and can be dispensed with if we use the right strategies.
The gremlin likes to keep out of sight, well away from the daylight where you can see him for what he is. So he resides in our subconscious mind – the part of our brain that essentially operates on auto-pilot and projects onto our conscious thoughts.
Now, if this identity has supremacy in our subconscious mind, he has free will to project despair, hopelessness, anxiety and any and every other negative emotion he wants to onto our conscious thoughts…
He likes to play games on us. He’s mean, and cunning. He likes to give us brief reprieve and let us think that we’re making progress… and then he shuts out the light of hope all at once… and we plunge into an abysmal state of morbid depression.
He’s very difficult to identify. He is very comfortable in our subconscious mind… and he has a tenacious grip. He’s damn well going to fight to the last breath if we make a move to try and dislodge him and eject him from the territory he has usurped in our mind.
At times the battle with the gremlin feels well nigh impossible. Utterly hopeless.
But it’s not!
Now the number one reason it feels so desperately difficult is because that’s what the gremlin wants us to think. It’s not actually as hard as it looks…! Moreover, it’s not as complicated as it looks!
There are 3 basic steps required to dispel the gremlin and maintain control of our subconscious to ensure that he doesn’t make a reappearance.
Now these steps are not easy, I don’t want to give you that illusion for one moment.
They are: Confrontation, Displacement and Momentum
The first – confrontation – is absolutely the hardest. The hardest by far.
It involves facing off with the gremlin instead of constantly shutting him out and trying to ignore him and pretending he doesn’t exist.
Acknowledging our failures and the trauma of our past… accepting where we have could have done so much better… embracing our imperfections and realising that we still have a chance to get our life back on track! Anything that tells you otherwise is a lie.
All those nightmares that you keep running from… all those awful experiences you have been through… maybe you’ve had a lot of violence in your life… addictions… witnessed terrible things… been abused and bullied… wasted your life with trivial and damaging pursuits… perhaps engaged in physical self-harm or other destructive activities over a long period of time…
Whatever we are running from, we need to face. It is only by confronting our fears that we can name them for what they are and conquer them in view of moving forward in our lives.
This can be especially daunting as it involves taking responsibility where appropriate for things we might have hitherto blamed on others or on things outside of our control.
With something like an addiction for instance, we might have blamed on things or people that gave us stress and so we turned to alcohol or drugs or some other substance or activity to numb the anxiety. The fact of the matter is, however that very rarely are negative thought patterns nor behavioural traits completely outside of our control to regulate.
Now, an important aspect of confronting the gremlin is recognising which activities we have engaged in or not done in order try and block him out of thoughts. Perhaps you have a massive temper issue… and whenever negative thoughts surface, you get violent and destructive in an attempt to take your mind away from them…? Or do you turn to a debilitating addiction to numb the pain temporarily? Or are you a chronic workaholic… and you’re working yourself into the ground to try and escape? Or maybe with your load of guilt and regret you’re expending yourself unreasonably on a gigantic mountain of good deeds in an effort to appease yourself.
Or… what are you not doing in your vain attempts to keep your past at bay? Perhaps you’ve been abused or burnt by partner or friend and you’re terrified of trying another relationship… or finding new friends… and you withering away with loneliness… Or you don’t want to get a job because your last one was pure torture…
There is a vast multiplicity of methods we contrive to subdue the pain of our past… and ultimately every method is doomed to fail.
Having confronted our past, the next critical step is displacement.
Displacement entails that we take decisive and proactive steps to replace our negative thoughts and habitual behaviours. Instead of pressing snooze 12 times in the morning get up and get going when your alarm goes off. Instead of having whiskey numbers 2, 3, 4 and 8… have 5 glasses of water. Instead of going to the pub to gamble away your earnings… go for a walk!
The opportunities for positive alternative steps are endless…
Now the natural response is ‘huh! It’s easy for you to say that – it’s much harder to do in real life’ and don’t I damn well know it! Displacement is about desisting from what we’ve been doing and more importantly replacing that behaviour with something else. We can never defeat the gremlin by removing him then leaving our subconscious in a vacuum. It’s imperative that we fill the void with a positive alternative.
The third step momentum involves maintenance of a displacement regimen. Or in other words, we keep doing the positive things until they become unstoppable habits. Momentum is like the roaring waterfall that maintains the pure transparency of the lake.
You can do it my friend.
Cody has studied psychology and self-help strategies for many years and is very passionate about helping others to fulfill their potential and live happier lives.