The Healing Journey – Erase Negative Thoughts with Five Healing Attitudes
by Thomas Wood MSW, LCSW
You can give your thoughts an upgrade, and it won’t cost a thing. The Five Healing Attitudes will exclude toxic thoughts from your mind, allowing you to erase the negative thoughts that are holding you back. This process rests on a simple truth: You can’t hold two opposing thoughts in your mind at the same time.
If you focus on a healing thought, the toxic thought is erased from your mind, at least for the moment. When it returns, you can refocus on the healing thought to make it go away again. Eventually it will lose strength and vitality, because you are no longer feeding it your energy and have carved out a new neuronal pathway for your brain – a new mental habit.
Here’s how to erase the most common toxic thought patterns.
1. Replace Self-pity with Gratitude: Self-pity can turn any happy scene into a crap-fest. If you are feeling sorry for yourself, consciously switch to gratitude by making a list of the things you have to be grateful for.
Who are the people you are glad for in your life? Do you have any material blessings that give you safety and comfort? What has happened, or is happening now, that makes your life positive and worth living? Focusing on these positive things will crowd out the self-pity.
The pitfall: Don’t switch to gratitude to avoid feelings of sadness, grief, and depression. If a loss is triggering your self-pity, you may be grieving and just need to accept the feelings, knowing that eventually they will end. As for depression, the signs and symptoms are well-known; go to https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/depression for more information. And if it seems hard to figure out on your own, see a therapist or ask a trusted friend.
2. Resentment vs Forgiveness: These are mutually exclusive too – you can’t resent someone and simultaneously forgive them.
There is nothing more corrosive to peace of mind than a carefully-nurtured grudge. Bitterness can throw shade on even the brightest day. Often the poison spills over into our other relationships, making it even worse.
You can let go of resentment by choosing to see the person in a positive light and wishing for them that they have all the good experiences you want for your own life. That may sound crazy, but it works. If you do this consistently for 2 or 3 weeks, it will dissolve your resentment.
The pitfall: You need to feel your anger as it comes up. Some of my patients tell me, “I want to forgive him/her/it, but I’m just not ready.” That’s fine. You can’t rush through anger; it takes its own time to unfold, wax, and wane. You will know you are ready to forgive when you get tired of the anger and want to move on.
3. Fear vs Trust: If you trust that you are ok, things are ok, and that they will stay ok, there’s no room for fear.
Anger and fear ultimately boil down to one thing: fear of loss. But some people seem able to shrug losses off. It is almost as if they see behind the current tragedy or suffering to a higher or deeper reality, and know that on that level they are safe.
Trust like this takes many forms – faith in God, confidence in the Universe, reliance on others, or simple belief in yourself. It is a powerful force, giving you the strength to ride out terrible setbacks.
The pitfall: Be careful what you put your faith in, and recognize that your fear may have important information for you. When crossing a river, it is not wise to use a bridge that gets swept away by high water. Make sure that you are relying on someone or something that is worthy of your trust. Similarly, give your fears a thorough examination through a fear inventory to see if they have anything important to tell you.
4. Self hatred vs self-love: I’ve worked with patients who told me straight up, “I hate myself.” Loving yourself is one of the hardest tasks of all, because it is so easy to beat yourself up for flaws or shortcomings that seem major to you.
You may view yourself as unlovable because of something you did or failed to do, or a decision or choice that led you down a bad path. Even so, you can forgive yourself and learn to love yourself. You might start by making a list of the people who love you. Are all of them wrong to view you as a lovable human being? Probably not. So why do they love you? If you’re not sure, ask them.
The pitfall: Stick with people that you know with certainty love you. There’s nothing worse than turning to someone for help and support and discovering that they have none to give.
5. Connection vs separation. Humans are social animals. We need to be “a part of” and not “apart from.” Membership in a community of people who are at least somewhat similar to you can soothe some of the hurts you experience in the world.
Family can give you this sense of connection, but you may need to search beyond your biological kin and find a “family of choice” – people who welcome you as their brother or sister and give you that sense of belonging that you crave.
The pitfall: Avoid groups with a reputation for rejection. There’s no sense setting yourself up for someone to whack you emotionally, much less physically.
Next time on The Healing Journey we will talk about 4 life-giving actions you can take to improve your mental health.
This article provides a general overview of certain mental health issues. It is not advice to take any specific approach to diagnosis or treatment. You should consult your mental health provider for a detailed assessment of your own symptoms and circumstances before embarking on any treatment.
Thomas Wood, founder of Your Family Healing Counseling and Therapy Services, is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. He has a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Notre Dame, a Masters degree in Social Work (MSW) from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and a Masters degree in Business Administration (MBA) from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. Tom takes a holistic approach to mental health and wellness that focuses on individual and family strength and resiliency to solve problems. Contact him at (920) 442-4149 or [email protected]
© 2021 by Thomas Wood MSW LCSW. All Rights Reserved.