Motivational

Playing the Devil’s Advocate

Why do we think negatively when we know better?

“If I expect the worst, I am pleasantly surprised when something turns out well.”

Such an approach to life situations, is modus operandi for some members of my family.

I do get why people do get into the habit. I used to do this myself.

Some don’t like to get their hopes up and experience disappointment. They would rather enjoy the pleasant surprise when everything works out well. Sounds plausible and positive, but is it good for our mental health?

Is this a productive way of thinking – in that it supports us in dealing with our daily issues?

If you do this, does it work for you?

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You might even be a “prepper.”

Not the kind that are preparing for the apocalypse, but those folk that prepare for the worst-case scenario, exploring alternatives, or problem-solving the task or situation at hand in order to understand everything that can go wrong, so they can handle it better, when or if, it does go pear-shaped.

In preparing for the worst-case scenario, they feel they begin to process their own grief reaction to crises or adverse circumstances in their life.

Thinking negatively, expecting “the worst,” seeing the downside of positive situations, and even downright expecting failure, all convey a kind of backwards-thinking, emotional insurance policy.

Marc and Angel

When things work out well, people use this mental strategy to feel good about the uncontrollable nature of life.

They are innately rewarded unconsciously for this way of thinking.

This leads them to use this technique to deal with life again and again. Then it becomes entrenched as a habitual response. A habit like this can be extremely hard to shift.

sunset

I used to think more often in the negative, thinking I was preparing for unfavourable outcomes. I would worry about things, trying to process them, and by so doing felt I would be better prepared for the worst of the worst outcomes, if that eventuated. In the meantime, was I setting myself up for a self-fulfilling prophecy?

Sometimes, as foolish as it sounds, we’d rather be right about our negative predictions than have a positive outcome prove us wrong.  And since negative thinking leads to negative actions, or no action at all in many cases, by thinking negatively we create a self-fulfilling prediction for ourselves that confirms that we were right about the circumstance all along.

In other words, we think negatively, predict a negative outcome, act negatively, and then receive a negative outcome that fulfils our prediction. Of course, none of this is what we truly want or need in our lives.

Marc and Angel

It seems that our desire to want to be right, or feel in control of the changeable nature and vagaries of life is one reason why we subconsciously choose this negative strategy, through no fault of our own.

In fact, whatever it is we are seeking will rarely ever come in the form we’re expecting, but that doesn’t make it any less wonderful.

Afterthoughts

Choose to ignore negative thoughts because they do not support you but do not feel guilty if this is not easy or achievable.

Life can be good even if it isn’t perfect.  Too many people miss a silver lining because they’re expecting pure gold. Life can be good even if it isn’t perfect.

Positive thinking isn’t about expecting the best to always happen, but accepting that whatever happens, is the best, for the moment.

Someday, the negative voice inside you will have nothing left to say.

National garden Japan
Community, Mental Health, Motivational

Are You OK?

Charlotte Dawson’s tragic death, reminded me of a recent campaign that highlighted the issue of mental illness, primarily depression and suicide, in our community. The R U OK? Foundation is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to encouraging all people to regularly and meaningfully ask ‘are you ok?’ as a support to colleagues and those who may be struggling with life. They aim to get people talking, by one person initiating a natural conversation that could change the way the other person is feeling or thinking. It won’t necessarily cure or solve a problem, but it may be an opportunity for us to show work colleagues/family/friends that someone cares, and who doesn’t want to feel that they were listened to?

How often do we hear comments following a suicide such as: “I thought they were fine; He seemed to be doing well /he was really happy; as if this was a total surprise. And maybe it was, so R U Ok? is a great way to identify people who are seemingly, “doing fine”, but are, in reality, suffering inside before they take any drastic steps.  It gives them an opportunity to talk, if they so wish, and may avert the downward spiral of their negative thinking.

R U OK?

Four steps were identified in the R U Ok? conversation:

1. Ask R U OK?

Start a conversation somewhere private

Build trust through open and relaxed body language

Ask open – ended questions: How, what, when, why, where, anything that does not generate a Yes No response. Paraphrase their answers so you are not firing off one question after another. You don’t want them to close down because they feel they are being interrogated.

2. Listen without judgement

Give them  time to reply

Avoid suggesting how they ‘solve’ their problem

Don’t trivialize what they are feeling

3. Encourage Action

Summarize the issues/ Paraphrase their comments

Ask them what they plan to do *** – don’t tell them what to do

Urge them to take one step towards that solution

4. Follow up ***

Put a note in your diary to call them in one week

Listen without judgement again

Ask if they’ve managed to take that first step

*** These aspects are particularly important, as they can galvanise the person into actually taking that first step, and not just thinking about it.

N.B. If they deny they have a problem, it might just mean that they are not ready to talk about it yet. so check in with them again soon. And remember… It is ok to say, “I’m not OK.”

BOUNCE BACK

The acronym BOUNCE BACK can also help individuals counteract negative thoughts.

B ad times, like bad weather, does pass. It doesn’t last. Things can always get better. Stay optimistic

O ther people can help if you talk to them. “I’m really not feeling ok”

U nhelpful thinking makes you feel more upset

N obody is perfect – not you and not others

C oncentrate on the positives (no matter how small) and use laughter (Laughter really is the best medicine!)

E verybody experiences sadness, hurt, failure, rejection and setbacks sometimes, not just you. They’re a normal part of life, don’t personalize them.

B lame fairly – how much was due to you, to others, and to bad luck?

A ccept what can’t be changed (but try to change what you can change first)

C atastrophising exaggerates your worries. Don’t believe the worst possible picture.

K eep things in perspective. It’s only one part of the spectrum of your whole life.

Mental Illness, depression, anxiety in the modern world is on the rise. Generalized Anxiety Disorder is the most commonly presenting mental illness in the world today.

R U OK?

Something sobering to ponder about.

Mental Health, Motivational

Thinking Negatively? Why Do We Do It?

Why do we think negatively when we know better?

Because thinking negatively, expecting “the worst,” seeing the downside of positive situations, and even downright expecting failure, all convey a kind of backwards-thinking, emotional insurance policy.

Our desire to want to be right is another common reason we subconsciously choose negative thinking.  Sometimes, as foolish as it sounds, we would rather be right about our negative predictions than have a positive outcome prove us wrong.  And since negative thinking leads to negative actions, or no action at all in many cases, by thinking negatively we create a self-fulfilling  protective prediction for ourselves.

In other words, we think negatively, predict a negative outcome, act negatively, and then receive a negative outcome that fulfills our prediction.

Of course, none of this is what we truly want or need in our lives.

Are you hung up with being right?  Stamp out these negative thinking traps with four ideas from Marc and Angel:

a) Start focusing on the grey area between the extremes.

Life simply isn’t black or white – 100% of this or 100% of that – all or nothing.

Thinking in extremes like this is a fast way to misery, because negative thinking tends to view any situation that’s less than perfect as being extremely bad.

For example:

  • Rather than the rainstorm merely slowing down my commute home from work, instead “it wasted my whole evening and ruined my night!”
  • Rather than accepting the nervousness of meeting a new group of people, “I know these people are not going to like me.”

Since 99.9% of all situations in life are less than perfect, black and white thinking tends to make us focus on the negative – the drama, the failures, and the worst case scenarios.  Sure catastrophes occur on occasion, but contrary to what you many see on the evening news, most of life occurs in a grey area between the extremes of bliss and devastation.

If you struggle with seeing the grey area of a situation, sit down with a pen and paper, write down the best-case outcome, the worst-case outcome, and at least one realistic outcome that falls between the two extremes.  For example, say you’ve been worrying about a new intimate relationship, write down:

  • Worst-case outcome (unlikely extreme):  “The relationship is a total disaster that ends with two broken hearts.”
  • Best-case outcome (unlikely extreme):  “The relationship is total bliss with zero arguments until the end of time.”
  • Realistic-case outcome (highly likely):  “There will be great times, good times, and not so good times, but we will work together, respect each other, and give our relationship a fair chance before drawing any conclusions.”

Make the realistic-case outcome as detailed and long as you like, or list more than one realistic-case outcome.

Giving your mind more options to consider will help reduce extreme emotions and allow you to think more clearly and realistically. 

b) Stop looking for negative signs from others.

Too often we jump to conclusions, only to cause ourselves and others unnecessary worry, hurt, and anger.  If someone says one thing, don’t assume they mean something else.  If they say nothing at all, don’t assume their silence has some hidden, negative connotation.

Thinking negatively will inevitably lead you to interpret everything another person does as being negative, especially when you are uncertain about what the other person is thinking.  For instance, “He hasn’t called, so he must not want to talk to me,” or, “She only said that to be nice, but she doesn’t really mean it.”

Assigning meaning to a situation before you have the whole story makes you more likely to believe that the uncertainty you feel (based on lack of knowing) is a negative sign.

********On the flip-side, holding off on assigning meaning to an incomplete story is a primary key to overcoming negative thinking. ********

When you think more positively, or simply more clearly about the facts, you’ll be able to evaluate all possible reasons you can think of, not just the negative ones.  In other words, you’ll be doing more of:  “I don’t know why he hasn’t called, but maybe…”

  • “…he’s extremely busy at work.”
  • “…his phone battery is dead.”
  • “…he’s simply waiting for me to call him.”
  • etc.

You get the get the idea.  None of these circumstances are negative and all are as plausible as any other possible explanation.

Next time you feel uncertain and insecure, and you catch yourself stressing about a problem that doesn’t exist, stop yourself and take a deep breath.  Then tell yourself, “This problem I’m concerned with only exists in my mind.”

If you do this, you very often can avoid disappointment. Eliminate expectations, and stop yourself inventing rules on how life should be, how then could you be disappointed? Counteract every negative thought with a realistic, positive thought, that is free of expectations, ridiculous rules, and skewed interpretations.  Assign meaning to a situation or experience, way way down the track, if you must, at least that way, you might have more information to base it on, rather than just your initial knee-jerk reaction that is based on premises that life should be perfect.

Being able to distinguish between what you imagine and what is actually happening in your life is an important step towards living a positive life.

Thoughts to ponder over, more strategies to come…..

To be continued…..