Steve Pavlina: How to Squash Negative Thought Patterns

by Steve Pavlina

Suppose you have the bad habit of dwelling too much on the same negative thoughts.  And suppose there’s no outward physical manifestation associated to them.  It’s just negative thinking, like “I’m so depressed” or “I hate my job” or “I can’t do this” or “I hate being fat.”  How do you break a bad habit when it’s entirely in your mind?

There are actually quite a number of ways to decondition a negative thought pattern.  The basic idea is to replace the old pattern with a new one.  Mentally resisting the negative thought will usually backfire — you’ll simply reinforce it and make it even worse.  The more you fire those neurons in the same way, the stronger the pattern becomes.

Here’s a little method I use to break negative thought patterns.  It’s basically something I concocted from a combination of the swish pattern from NLP and a memory technique known as chaining.  I usually find the swish pattern alone to be weak and ineffective, but this method works very well for me.

Instead of trying to resist the negative thought pattern, you will redirect it.  Think of it like mental kung fu.  Take the energy of the negative thought and rechannel it into a positive thought.  With a little mental conditioning, whenever the negative thought occurs, your mind will automatically flow into the linked positive thought.  It’s similar to Pavlov’s dogs learning to salivate when the bell rang.

Here’s how it works:

Let’s assume your negative thought is a subvocalization, meaning that it’s like you hear a voice in your head that says something you want to change, like, “I’m an idiot.”  If the negative thought is visual (a mental image) or kinesthetic (a gut feeling), you can use a similar process.  In many cases the thought will manifest as a combination of all three (visual, auditory, and kinesthetic).

Step 1:  Turn the negative thought into a mental image.

Take that little voice, and turn it into a corresponding mental picture.  For example, if your thought is, “I’m an idiot,” imagine yourself wearing a dunce cap, dressed very foolishly, and jumping around like a dork.  See yourself surrounded by other people all pointing at you while you shout, “I’m an idiot.”  The more you exaggerate the scene, the better.  Imagine bright colors, lots of animation, rapid movement, and even sexual imagery if it helps you remember.  Rehearse this scene over and over in your mind until you reach the point where thinking the negative thought automatically brings up this goofy imagery.

Read the rest of the article here: Steve Pavlina