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Published on May 13, 2020

How to Turn Negative Thoughts Into Positive Action Now

How to Turn Negative Thoughts Into Positive Action Now

The golden question. The one to which we all want the answer…

Well, have you ever seen someone you idolize — someone who is just crushing it at life, overcoming obstacles and showing immense mental strength  — and thought: man, they must be wired differently?

Same.

Particularly if they’re doing their second Hell Week as a US Marine and you’re just trying to keep up with a 10-day yoga challenge you set for yourself.

Yes, it can seem like you’re worlds apart, but you aren’t. They are human, too, and although they have different neurological maps and habits, thinking they were born differently is a cop-out. Because then you can blame your lack of motivation, confidence, success, etc. on something else other than what it really is.

You should know that the question of how to turn negative thoughts into positive action is actually a trick question.

This is because a negative thought is like a freight train. It won’t magically turn into a fluffy white cloud or rainbow, but it can be redirected – this the secret: knowing that it’s actually inaction and indifference that will help you overcome negative thoughts.

Let’s dive deeper.

Where Do Your Negative Thoughts Come From?

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    Let’s start by addressing the elephant in the room — or more appropriately, the Chimp in the room — because you probably should know that you have one living inside of you.

    Yep, we all do. The sooner we all know this, the better (though some won’t, but hey, we need natural selection).

    If you’re feeling overwhelmed with emotions, out of sorts, and all over the place, then it’s likely that your Chimp has been freely frolicking inside the deep recesses of your subconscious mind. Roaming like the King of the Jungle—calling all of the shots and pushing all sorts of buttons and triggers.

    You’ve most certainly seen what it looks like when a Chimp goes rogue: people rampaging shopping centers for toilet paper, screaming at people who are just trying to help or, even worse, loading a gun and shooting anyone in sight.

    OK, that’s the extreme end, but ultimately the people that you look up to and admire for mental strength have trained their Chimps to work with them, like an army commanding its soldiers.

    It’s an important skill to learn, but they started right where you are, with the realization that they even had a Chimp. The next step is to know that your Chimp actually wants to help you, but it just sometimes gets things wrong—like, really wrong.

    What Is the Chimp and Why Do We Have It?

    Your Chimp is obviously not a real Chimp, but it’s a way to view the part of our subconscious mind that directs our lives, the primal and emotional part of us.

    The Chimp concept was coined by Professor Steve Peters in the Chimp Paradox, a book detailing how our Chimp (being a certain part of our subconscious mind) can either be our best friend or our greatest enemy—like ruin-your-life style enemy.[1]

    It is a paradox because it is the key to happiness and contentment but also the reason why so many of us suffer from our mental strength and wellbeing.

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    Your Chimp has been with you since you were born. It was there before your logical mind even developed. It told you to cry when you needed milk, to throw a tantrum to get your parents’ attention, and to laugh when something was funny.

    It stored your emotional memories and helped you make beliefs about life so that you could learn what you needed to do to survive.

    Kind of cute, right?

    Yeah, not so fast.

    Your Chimp is the reason you curse at someone whilst driving when they cut you off—the one that rages when you see an injustice or hear something that offends you. It’s also the one that gets in first and reminds you of all the times you failed and how painful it was so that you steer clear of any type of pain.

    This is separate from your logical, rational thinking brain – it’s operating in a completely different system, almost as if you had two brains.[2]

    One of them is virtually automatic and thinks for us without our input and is based on emotion. The other is under our control and allows us to think, as we want to. The trouble is that these two ’brains’ do not think the same way and they do not typically agree on the interpretation of what is going on. –– Prof. Steve Peter

    Our Chimp Thinks 200x Faster Than Us

    Crucially, the Chimp’s way of thinking is up to 200x times faster than the human, logical brain and a hell of a lot stronger (just like in real life).

    When your Chimp senses something is about to happen, something it thinks will cause you pain, it’ll immediately throw out all kinds of things to remind you why you shouldn’t do it. Anxiety, stress, panic attacks, negative thoughts… this is your Chimp.

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    And because your Chimp was there long before your logical mind developed, it could install certain beliefs into your internal computer before your logical mind could say:

    Hold on a second, I don’t think we need to assume everyone thinks you’re worthless just because you didn’t do well at school.

    When your Chimp senses something is about to happen, something it thinks will cause you pain, it’ll immediately throw out all kinds of things to remind you why you shouldn’t do it.

    How does it do this?

    Why negative thoughts of course! It pushes the “Go” button for anxiety, and it can cue the flow of negative thoughts whenever it thinks you need them.

    What to Do With Your Chimp and Negative Thoughts

    Now you know where your negative thoughts come from, here are four techniques you can use to manage your Chimp and any negative thought patterns you’re stuck in:

    Become Aware of the Irrational Beliefs That Your Chimp Holds.

    By looking over and around your childhood to find the reason why you don’t feel like you’re enough—why you hate public speaking, why you can’t make friends, or why you just don’t feel like you deserve happiness—that’s when you’ll start to see how pointless and irrational it is.

    Going into the subconscious and identifying memories is super helpful to understand where it picked up the belief and change it.

    Begin to Notice Your Thoughts as They Come In.

    Practice getting calm and noticing your thoughts through meditation.

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    Watch what happens when you throw logic at a negative thought, anxious feeling, or panic attack. The minute you question a belief or a thought you take the power out of it and into the knowledge that you don’t have to agree with it.

    You can just decide and say: “You know what, today I actually do want to feel good about socializing, and what I felt like when I was 12 is not relevant to me now. Here’s what’s going to happen…”

    Show it who’s boss.

    Tell It How You Want to Be.

    Put in the good stuff. Show it pictures and use exciting words. It will listen. Repeat it clearly and repeat it often.

    Lastly, Remain Consistent.

    This will take time to make changes but know that a few weeks can bring about real, neurological changes.

    If you feel panic, stress, or anxiety kicking in, trigger the Vagus nerve (it’s like the handbrake for the Chimp’s accelerator) by getting into deep breathing and turning off the limbic “fight or flight” system.

    Cold-water in the face, gargling water, singing and deep breathing are all ways to stop the immediate physiological effects and get into a calmer state where you can rationalize your way out.

    Final Thoughts

    Over time, using all of these techniques will change your brain and neuro-circuitry, and these tools will change your life.

    Give yourself time, develop an understanding of the Chimp, and you’ll realize you don’t actually need to overpower it. You just need re-route the negative thoughts and let them go somewhere else if they don’t serve you.

    More to Inspire Positive Actions

    Featured photo credit: Marcus Bellamy via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Chimp Management: The Chimp Model
    [2] Chimp Management: The Chimp Model

    More by this author

    Daina Worrall

    Lawyer, C. Hypnotherapist and RTT Therapist - Personal Development & Mental Health

    How to Take Personal Responsibility and Stop Blaming Circumstances 10 Ways to Live an Intentional Life How to Cure Depression (Professional Advice from a Therapist) How to Turn Negative Thoughts Into Positive Action Now Self Care Tips During Difficult Times (A Therapist’s Advice)

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    Last Updated on October 22, 2020

    The Pros and Cons of Being Self-Critical (And How to Strike a Balance)

    The Pros and Cons of Being Self-Critical (And How to Strike a Balance)

    It is easy to hear the term “self-critical” and be immediately put off. After all, it’s difficult to be our own critics. However, utilizing self-criticism means taking a more self-aware path to ensure that you aren’t overlooking any possible areas of self-improvement.

    Self-criticism affects your self-esteem and can be a useful tool to identify patterns of weakness that you can look to eradicate by adapting your behavior.

    Self-Criticism Vs Self-Deprecation

    In exploring the idea of self-criticism, one has to first consider what it means for the individual. It’s important to remember that there is a significant difference between being self-critical and being self-deprecating.

    Self-deprecation is the act of putting oneself down, sometimes in an attempt to be humorous, but oftentimes out of a place of doubt and insecurity[1].

    Self-deprecation erodes one’s confidence. It isn’t something to use lightly, as your own self-talk will play a part in defining your existence and how you are perceived, and, more importantly, in how you perceive yourself.

    At the same time, you can’t take yourself so seriously that you are unable to make light of your mistakes as you pursue self-improvement. There is, of course, a balance to be struck, and both self-criticism and self-deprecation can be utilized in moderation.

    Learning the difference between the two is the key to pursuing a productive life that will allow your successes to compound and your failures to be reduced. While self-deprecation can highlight flaws in your approach to life, self-criticism is more concerned with addressing those flaws and then acting to correct them.

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    Self-Criticism: A Roadmap for Positive Change

    Self-evaluation as a tool can open your eyes to the problematic behaviors that are derailing your goals. By identifying those behaviors, you can identify the steps to become the best version of yourself.

    “Your thoughts affect how you feel and how you behave. The way you think has the power to become a self-fulfilling prophecy.” -Amy Morin[2]

    This idea underlines the importance of not allowing self-criticism to blur into the realm of self-deprecating behavior. That will only work against you as you are attempting to constructively analyze your own behavior.

    Auditing is necessary and good. Look at industries across the board and you will find that the most successful companies, people, and products have worked hard to refine their final output. Auditing your life, schedule, clients, contacts, and more will help you to identify the good from the bad.

    If you don’t look back on what you’ve done and allow yourself to be self-critical of the areas that created more problems and less results, how will you learn how to avoid those missteps in your future endeavors?

    Auditing with critical thoughts will allow you to build your own map to success by targeting behaviors that are ineffective in your pursuit of goals, and it will help you realize the changes that need to take place in order to correct for those inefficiencies.

    The Pros of Being Self-Critical

    Self-Criticism Opens Your Eyes to Areas of Improvement

    In life, you ought to be your biggest fan and instill the confidence in yourself to show the world that you are worthy of the life that you’ve achieved up until now.

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    At the same time, however, you need to have the self-awareness to understand that you can feel like a million bucks while still having room for improvement. Learn to be self-critical enough to increase your overall success in the pursuit of your goals.

    You can check out this TED Talk with Tasha Eurich to learn more on how to improve your self-awareness:

    We all need to look in the mirror at times and work to identify the deficiencies in our own behavior in order to find room for improvement. So many people live their lives in a manner that allows no room for self-reflection and thus are missing out on key opportunities.

    For example, many people complain about not having the money to save for retirement, but instead of working to identify a solution, they assume that it cannot be fixed. Some of those individuals might find that if they challenge themselves and open themselves up to criticism, they may find the source of their problem.

    Perhaps they don’t have a proper budget in place and are spending more money than they bring in on a week-to-week basis. Being self-critical would help them realize this.

    I’d argue that if we all spent more energy evaluating our place in life, how we got there, and where we want to go, it would clear up what is missing from the equation.

    Self-Criticism Allows You to Realize Your Potential

    By working to analyze your own behaviors and identify areas that need to be improved upon, you will be able to better strive to reach your full potential in life and unlock success.

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    Being self-critical will help you to go from where you are now to where you want to be, and it will increase your self-awareness. There are so many positives to be gained by adopting a self-critical attitude.

    Read more about self-improvement: 42 Practical Ways to Improve Yourself

    The Cons of Being Self-Critical

    Self-Criticism Can Overemphasize Negatives

    The problems that could arise if one is overly self-critical are not always clear, but there are a few issues that can pop up if you start being too hard on yourself.

    If you are self-critical too often and don’t allow space in your own audit of yourself for praise, celebration, and reassurance in your victories, then you may be on a path of negative self-talk and perhaps even depression.

    If you are constantly looking for what is wrong with your actions or pursuits while failing to see what you are doing right, then you aren’t utilizing self-criticism properly. While the line is thin, there is definitely a difference between appropriate, foundation-building self-criticism, and over-zealous, confidence-eroding self-deprecation.

    Self-Criticism Can Lead to Negative Distortions of Yourself

    One struggle I often see in individuals is with their own perception of self. If you have been raised to believe that you are a failure, for example, then you may not have a healthy expectation of yourself.

    By being overly self-critical, you might be distorting your own self-image. The key here lies in utilizing the device of self-criticism correctly, which many people often do not do.

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    If utilized properly, self-criticism can be a fantastic tool, but if used incorrectly, it can have devastating effects on your own self-worth and confidence.

    Final Thoughts

    When used properly, self-criticism can be a tool for success.

    We must work hard to ensure that we are in fact exercising a constructive analysis of our own behavior and not falling into self-deprecation.

    Unfortunately, it seems as though many view the idea of being self-critical with a negative connotation. However, it can be an extremely positive and fruitful exercise if pursued with the right mindset.

    It helps tremendously when you have a community of friends and family who also help to uplift you and encourage you as you are pursuing your dreams in life.

    In evaluating your own situation and in attempting to constructively self-criticize, you should also take a look at the people you surround yourself with to try and better understand if those individuals are helping you in your aspirations or if they are holding you back as you work to better yourself.

    “We are the average of the five people we spend the most time with.” -Jim Rohn[3]

    If you work to adopt a healthy version of self-criticism and avoid allowing it to delve into self-deprecation or self-doubt, then it will serve you well as a tool to lend support to your goals and aspirations.

    More Tips About Building Self-Esteem

    Featured photo credit: Elijah O’Donnell via unsplash.com

    Reference

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