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Focusing on the negative (filtering)

Dr Elizma van der Smit. April 2019

· Mind

This type of thinking is when you can only see the bad in a situation. Concentrating on the negatives while ignoring the positives.

Examples:

  • I know he [my boss] said most of my submission was great but he also said there were a number of mistakes that had to be corrected…he must think I’m really hopeless.
  •  Or a friend compliments you on your appearance, but you decide that “they are just saying that to be nice” or “they are trying to get something out of me”.
  • You like someone romantically but because you’ve been hurt in every previous relationship, you are cold and wary of this person, looking only for their flaws. In reality, this person could be loyal and loving and only have your best interests at heart.
  • You want to start going to the gym but you don’t want people to look at you when you exercise, you don’t want to travel their after work and you don’t want to hurt yourself. In reality, you would get healthier, you might find it’s a new passion of yours, and you may get encouragement from friends. 
  • If nine good things happen, and one bad thing, sometimes we filter out the good and hone in on the bad. Maybe we declare we had a bad day, despite the positive events that occurred. Or maybe we look back at our performance and declare it was terrible because we made a single mistake. 

Why do we do it?

Nancy Ellis in (https://wakeup-world.com/2015/08/01/negative-thinking-the-cause-of-chronic-depression-anxiety/)

  1. Negative thinking is a survival strategy that causes us to look for what is wrong so that we can protect ourselves against danger, but it is a very bad strategy because our thoughts actually create reality. 
  2. We are programmed by our parents, teachers and society how to think. If those who brought us up thought negatively, and most of them did, we learned to do the same.
  3. Our negative beliefs about ourselves and the world cause us to have negative thoughts. If you believe that you are unworthy, your thoughts will support that belief.

Filtering out the positive can prevent you from establishing a realistic outlook on a situation. It is not a surprise that all negative thinking is fear-based, but did you know that chronic negative thinking that goes on day-after-day creates stress that can damage the body and mind, resulting in depression.Depression is your body’s defense mechanism against the ill-effects of chronic negative thinking. Depression ‘turns down’ all emotional responses. Without depression, your body must deal with the constant fight-or-flight stress response that is the result of chronic negative thinking.

Your life cannot be any better than your thoughts about your life. 

The truth is, we all use ‘negative filtering’ from time to time. It’s only critical that you start to be mindful of it when you become anxious or depressed. By simply understanding that you’re doing it day in and day out, you can start to challenge the way you think and begin to open your mind to new ways of thinking.

What should I do?

  • Take responsibility: If you want to awaken from depression, it is essential that you take responsibility for all your thoughts, but also notice that you are not your thoughts.If you can separate who you really are from your thoughts, thoughts will begin to lose their power over you.
  • Practice letting go: When you become aware of negative thoughts, let go as quickly as you can. Don’t fight with your thoughts, just let everything go. If you imagine that the voice in your head is the voice of Mickey Mouse, it will lose its power. You might also want to imagine putting the thought in a bubble and then popping the bubble.
  • Add a “yet”: When you say, “I can’t do something,” it tells your subconscious mind not to allow you to do it. However, if you add a “yet,” it changes everything. By saying “I can’t do it, yet,” you are commanding your subconscious mind to prepare for doing whatever it is that you want to do.
  • Saturate your mind: Saturate your mind with positive youtubes, books and music – anything that makes you feel good and moves you in the direction of focusing on the positive.
  • Practice imagining: Practice imagining your perfect life as if it has already happened. Indulging your imagination will unlock the positivity that already exists inside you. It is also a great idea to pre-pave your day by imagining how you desire your day to unfold.
  • Others: Instead of feeling sorry for someone or worrying about others, imagine those who have challenges overcoming those challenges – see them strong, happy and successful. The most that we can ever do for another is to imagine them at their very best.
  • Develop a balanced outlook by noticing both the positive and the negative.Negative thinking is simply thinking about what you do not want, while positive thinking is thinking about what you do want. Ask yourself, do I focus more on what I do want or what I don’t want?   Keep a diary where you document the positive things, or maybe a gratitude journal.  Make sure you write at least three positive things about your life as well as about yourself.

This post is for informational purposes only. It should not be considered therapy.This blog is only for informational and educational purposes and should not be considered therapy or any form of treatment. We are not able to respond to specific questions or comments about personal situations, appropriate diagnosis or treatment, or otherwise provide any clinical opinions. If you think you need immediate assistance, call your local doctor/psychologist or psychiatrist or the SADAG Mental Health Line on 011 234 4837. If necessary, please phone the Suicide Crisis Line on 0800 567 567 or sms 31393.

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This blog is only for informational and educational purposes and should not be considered therapy or any form of treatment. We are not able to respond to specific questions or comments about personal situations, appropriate diagnosis or treatment, or otherwise provide any clinical opinions. If you think you need immediate assistance, call your local doctor/psychologist or psychiatrist or the SADAG Mental health Line on 011 234 4837. If necessary, please phone the Suicide Crisis Line on 0800 567 567 or sms 31393.