How to Identify and Rationalize Negativity
Identifying a problem is the first step to keeping it in check. When you find yourself thinking or talking in a way that reflects negativity, identify it and tell yourself, “That’s a negative thought. Stop now.”
Identifying Negative Thoughts
Let’s talk about a few ways you can find out if you are stuck in the negative. Typical negative thought patterns go something like this:
1. Talking to yourself in a self-defeating manner. When appearing for a job interview, do you think, “No way am I getting this job; all the other candidates look so well-prepared”? While waiting for at the ticket counter, do you try to convince yourself that the tickets will run out before your turn? Do you always blame yourself for things going wrong in your life?
2. Prejudging the present to be as bad as the past. Do you hesitate from taking new opportunities because of the bitterness of a bad experience? Do you fear that you will always remain jobless because of a few years of unemployment? Do you generally expect the worst outcome?
3. Comparing yourself to others in a negative manner. Do you feel inadequate when you see your colleague buying an expensive car or speaking at an esteemed conference? Do you find your life boring and dull when you scroll down your Instagram feed?
While a few of our ruminations may be true about the choices we’ve made, the ones putting us in our presently undesirable predicaments, such thoughts are utterly unhelpful in changing us or making better and well-balanced thinkers out of us.
Rationalizing Negative Thoughts
Renowned psychologist Martin Seligman has devised an interesting technique called the ABCDE Technique to understand and deal with negative emotions. You will need a pen and paper to do this. I explain the technique below with a personal example from my life:
Adversity: Take any recent setback of your life.
My notes: Last year, I had a big fallout with my brother over past grudges. We fought bitterly, and I blocked his number from my phone. Our parents intervened but we didn’t resolve the fight.
Belief: Write down what the adversity made you think about and the thoughts running through your mind when you were facing the adversity.
My notes: “My family life doesn’t work.”
“I just don’t deserve a good relationship.”
“I just have bad luck in my personal relationship. Why am I am so unlucky?”
Consequences: What did you feel and do as a result of your beliefs?
My notes: I didn’t speak to my brother for a year. I spoke badly of him to our parents. I held onto the grudge and kept away from any discussions about him.
Dispute: Dispute your belief about the situation. Come up with some hard evidence to challenge your belief about the situation. Write it down. Can you now think of another way of looking at the situation?
My notes: My parents do care about me, though. They always provide for me and maintain solid contact with me. I have several good relationships. I am luckier than millions of other people.
Energy: Write down if and how the above disputation has changed your energy. How do you feel now?
My notes: I feel rested. I feel like calling my brother and being there for him. I decide to let go and I become wiser. It’s like a weight lifted from my shoulders.
Key Takeaways That You Can Pin Up
Your beliefs and assumptions about your adversity are what govern the rest of it: your reaction, your future decisions, and the course of your future.
Before you act on limiting beliefs about your setbacks, challenge them with an ounce of truth.
Tomorrow, we will learn more about negative mind-frames from a psychological angle.
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