I FEEL STUCK –
could it be what I’m thinking?
PREVIOUS: Accepting & Accessing Es (#2)
REMINDER: See ACRONYM page for abbrev.
OVERVIEW – A very IMP distinction: When ACoAs express emotional distress of any kind, we are often told: “You’re just being negative”. This scolding phrase actually refers to our thinking, never to any of our emotions! Yes, cognitive distortions (toxic beliefs) do create painful emotions, but the thoughts come first, and NO emotion is negative, no matter what the ‘teachers’ say! Anything negative is by implication bad. But emotions are not bad, because they give us tremendously important info about our experiences. Don’t try to change emotions, only the toxic thoughts (& the negative actions that follow)!
ALSO: When we are presently in deep pain because of some current event (death of a loved one, loss of a home, a serious health problem, re-experiencing an old trauma….) it is imperative to not let anyone tell us to “snap out of it / you’re being dramatic / be grateful for X / let go of the past….. We have a right to feel whatever we’re feeling! What we need to keep checking is that what WE are THINKING / believing is NOT based in bitterness, blame, hopelessness, guilt, panic, rage, S-H, shame ….
Negative/toxic thinking (NT) is a form of self-torture. It’s based on Toxic Rules (reinforcing our S-H) and in CDs. It means that we:
– assume the worst – are sure we can’t do a lot of things
– believe it’s hopeless – think it’s too late, we’re too old…
– can’t see or imagine possibilities – ignore available options
– lose self-respect & confidence – limit our vision & dreams
• When we’re in a negative state of mind (obsessive NT) we give off a vibe of fear & powerlessness that brings us & everyone around us down. It shows in the overall style of our presentation: our words -of course- body language, being mentally distracted & not listening to others, being emotionally distant, antsy or surly…. Our negativity encourages the attraction of other miserable people & situations, while obviously repelling anyone or anything happy, positive & forward-looking.
• For ACoAs, it also reinforces our sense of ‘not belonging’ & feeling disconnected – ie. abandoned, which then make us even more pessimistic! It acts like an underground warren of termites, eating away at the foundations of our self-esteem, sense of purpose & love of life.
NEGATIVITY (focusing on the bad side of things) can be about:
• ourselves (S-H) & future prospects (“I’ll never be happy…..”)
• events (“That party was painful”, “This dinner is going to be dull.”)
• other people (“I’d have friends, but everyone I know is so boring.”)
• people’s actions (“He made the lamest joke”, “Wow, she’s shallow”)
• general groups (“I hate hipsters. They think they’re better than me because they listen to crappy obscure bands.”)
• larger, more abstract organizations or institutions (“My city is so phony & stuck up”, “Everyone in this company is so selfish”, “I have nothing in common with society.”)
• any form of art, by being overly critical, nitpicking, never appreciating or enjoying anything (“I couldn’t get into that movie”, “No one writes good music anymore”)
SIGNS of being too negative — (from SuceedSocailly.com)
● always complaining about things, even when it’s in a rational, logical-sounding way, “This —- is an interesting tidbit to mull over”
● constantly noticing the flaws in things (people, activities, ideas)
● even a trivial flaw in something (good) will ruin it for us
● have a tough time seeing the bigger, overall positive picture
● get a secret pleasure when being negative with someone else, or tearing something down
● when things get under our skin we ‘have to’ rant about them to anyone who will listen
● we think positive people are naive or fake, have low standards, easily impressed
● someone suggests an activity or product, & we’re too quick to point out why it won’t work or why it’s a bad idea
● we see a flaw in something & just have to let everyone know, getting a little rush from being ‘right’ & superior
● when others talk about the positive aspects of something – we have this urge to say, “Yeah, but…” pointing out its weaknesses
● something’s realistically going well, but we’ve got a dozen reasons why it’s dumb, no good, won’t turn our well, is impractical ….
NEGATIVE thinking can come from one’s family, a personality trait that gets over-expressed, or seen as a ‘useful’ trait. SOME of us:
● picked up a negative style from people we grew up with or around
● rely on negativity as a crutch in conversations. We wouldn’t know what to say if we weren’t complaining about or critiquing something
● romanticize negativity, thinking it’s being a deep, complicated, tortured soul
● often get worked up about things & then vent, because it feels great –OR–
● are a little too rational. Not in touch with our own emotions, we don’t realize negative comments are harmful to others
● think that getting others caught up in our personal troubles is a reliable way for us to seem ‘deep, serious….’
● think we’re being ‘intellectual’ – as if pointing out the flaws in everything (unsolicited, unprovoked) is a sign of perceptiveness, analytical ability & honed critical thinking skills
● associate negativity with having refined tastes, as if putting down ‘mediocre’ things would show how discerning we are
● assume being cynical & overly skeptical about life with being ‘in the know’ of aware of how the world really works
● may think it’s just our style of humor – a way to be a clever, observational comedian or commentator
NEXT: “Being Negative (Part 2)