Letting go of the negative thoughts

Being it the start of a new year with plenty to be grateful for (a new job, career ownership, engagement, health, etc.) I felt it might be appropriate to talk about something I’m continuously working on:  getting rid of self-destructive thoughts that keep me from enjoying the amazing life I have.

I’ve been studying this stuff for some time, but it still takes quite a bit of conscious effort to keep negativity at bay.  There are two books I’ve been reading, simultaneously: The Science of Positivity & You are a Badass. I recommend both, by the way!  They take very different approaches on a similar topic to discuss the power of the brain to “go negative” with emotions like cynicism, guilt, shame, fear, comparison, anger… and they then go into what you can do about it so you can keep those emotions at  bay and cash in on a joyous life.

Bear with me, I’m going to go into just a bit of detail on each book because it’s with a greater understanding of some of the science and spirituality schools of thought on the topic, that I am able to stay in a higher state of being- and I hope you will be able to reap the same benefits :).

The Science of Positivity unveils some of the evolutionary reasons our brains have a tendency to scan for problems to promote our survival.  It touches a bit on the neurotransmitters that are released (typically mimicking “feel good” feelings) as we grow up and start learning negative thought patterns like “I’m not good enough,”  “this is too good to be true, something will come along and ruin it,” “I have a bad voice,” or “they’re all out to get us”.  Your brain takes comfort in finding problems (it seems especially in comparison to others, in my opinion) because if it can identify them, then it can prepare an action plan to confront the problem.  In the wild these confrontations take the form of fight/flight/fawn/freeze.  In today’s world where social threats play a greater role than survival threats those confrontations take the form of negative emotions like anger (fight), fear (flight, addictions to numb & avoid pain like alcohol or shopping or sex), people pleasing & living for the values of others (fawn), helplessness & powerlessness (freeze).

So, all these negative emotions that come from the wiring of our brains are nothing to feel judgy about! It’s literally human (or the author would argue, mammalian) nature. In fact, it’s key to first observe yourself feeling these negative emotions AND to remember not to judge yourself every time you recognize your brain going negative- you are not your brain, you are greater than it.

So what’s going on here and what does it have to do with making the most out of life?  The thing is, our brain is very good at generating problems; most of which don’t truly need to be addressed.  The result is  wasted time & energy spent on dwelling that could otherwise be applied to one of the things that brings us happiness.  Some of my biggest negative thoughts right now that are stopping me from crushing it & enjoying some very good things in life?

“I’m not good enough to do well in this new job” -flight/freeze: helpless and overwhelmed
“I squeaked by in the interview process, and it was a mistake for them to hire me”  -flight: I should quit before it’s too late
“My new co-workers are all more experienced than me, and I can’t do this” -freeze: feeling like giving up
“Wedding planning is stressful and my partner isn’t contributing enough”- fight: my partner isn’t helping
“Budgeting is hard and I can’t keep up with my expenses with wedding costs” -flight: shopping to numb the feeling of not having enough money lately
“I feel guilty that my family needs financial help right now, while I am saving for other things for our future” -freeze: not enjoying the gifts I’ve been given because of guilt

I’m sure you have your own feelings that are keeping you from enjoying the gifts you have too…this is my attempt at breaking down some of my biggest at the moment.

Now, onto my new favorite tongue-and-cheek spirituality books: You are a Badass.  The author is hilarious and so real.  She gets down to a truthful question pretty quick- why the heck do we let the fear of the opinions of others stop us from celebrating how awesome we are!?  She argues (as do many other spiritual leaders) that we are born with this innate way of believing in ourselves, and as we grow up, we are conditioned to start believing in self-destructive thoughts that prevent us from truly living.  This repeated conditioning of negative thoughts is what is biologically wiring our brains at a young age (discussed in the first book I mentioned).  She has an array of suggestions on how to balance this, but the one I’m working on currently is “affirmations.”

For every negative thought I have, I replace it with a positive one.  However, it’s key to really believe in the affirmation.  Why? The more attention and power you have in the belief of the replacement thought, the greater real-estate that positive affirmation will have in your mind, and thus more energy for finding solutions and focusing on the good stuff.  The author notes it can be hard at first because you can feel like you’re lying to yourself, but with practice you can RETRAIN YOUR BRAIN to believe it.  For me to really get behind my affirmations, I need to first dissolve the negativity by examining it (again, without judgement!). This means analyzing the thought to understand when it is my brain is going negative and determining whether or not that is bringing me any value by hanging onto it.  Once, I determine that complaining, or feeling guilty, or being angry, or pleasing others for no reason is of no service to my goals at hand, I let it go and replace it with a more neutral thought.

Imagine yourself looking from the outside in, and write down a response. Be your own best friend who sees how truly awesome you are.

Let’s take a look at my earlier examples:

1) “I am good enough”, because I was hired for a reason. That means several of the people I interviewed with believe in me- because I believed in myself, first. . Action: Identify the biggest challenges I have and develop a plan to overcome them. Don’t be embarrassed to ask for some help.  Bring a fresh perspective, and be engaged so people know. I am meant to be here!

2) “I killed it in the interview because I am a badass”. People believe in me, they’re not judging me. Action: Now go and be that badass.  Be prepared when I come to the meeting table with questions and engagement; do the necessary research.  Offer up ideas- don’t be shy, shine!

3) My new co-workers have been doing this longer, but “I have unique perspectives and beliefs to contribute to this team”. Action: Bring it.  Take ownership, offer solutions and be seen as an equal. Be bold, be engaged

4) Wedding planning is a gift and “I am blessed to be taking these steps with my partner” who I’m crazy about. Action: communicate and set time aside for wedding planning when we’re both prepared to discuss. Acknowledge that we think differently, and me dropping a question on him every few hours during his work day is not effective. Make it fun, make it efficient! And even if we’re arguing, make an effort to be grateful for what we’re arguing over…simple things that mark the biggest day we’ll have in unity and are peanuts compared to the meaning of the wedding, itself

5) “Money is a good thing”, I am grateful to have money to budget in the first place. It is not something I need to feel guilty over, but grateful toward. It is not something I need to fear not having enough of. Action:  Create a spreadsheet, and look at money realistically according to my goals: 1) wedding 2) long term saving 3) saving for my business 4) visiting home to see family.  I don’t need new clothes, or fancy gadgets- they’re not serving my greater goals. Find free ways to treat myself like a bubble bath and candles

6) My family has everything they need, and more we are “filled to the brim with love”. Feeling guilt for having money to save is not reason to put a bandaid of cash in their bank account, visiting more often will better serve my goal of wanting to be there for them. Action: commit to visiting more often, investing time instead of money. Always offer my help, in non-financial ways and treat them when I can 🙂

So there you have it, those are some of my biggest affirmations right now that I’m using to neutralize negativity that isn’t serving me so that I can attract more of what I love.  These change constantly as the chapters of my life-book change, and as new “obstacles” that aren’t really obstacles arise.  I make the effort to be grateful for even the things I find myself complaining of, and it seems to be making a big difference in how I approach life.

To steal a line from a favorite song of mine, this New Year: “My wish for you is that this life becomes all that you want it to,” and when it does, that you don’t let your mind/brain stop you from enjoying it.

XOXO,

Sidney

 

 

“On Beauty”

“…beauty is life when life unveils her holy face.
But you are life and you are the veil.
Beauty is eternity gazing at itself in a mirror.
But you are eternity and you are the mirror.”

-Khalil Gibran

Wow. Just wow. There are some moments in life that just stop me dead in my tracks. And the view from this morning’s walk was one of them. I soaked in the stillness and quiet of dawn. Sitting there I couldn’t believe the mystery I saw in the clouds and could hardly grasp the intensity of colors right in front of me (pic doesn’t do it justice). In a strange sense it was kind of like opening my eyes for the first time in a long time. Cheesy, I know. But that view was damn powerful. You can go out seeking beauty and chasing sunrises to try and catch a glimpse of her, and other times- POW she smacks you right where you are.

It was a solid 3 minutes of taking in the enormity of what I was seeing, knowing it would end as soon as the sun creeped up a little higher to steal the shades of pink from the sky. I  noticed an early-rise type runner on the trail, and I began to awaken again to my senses as I faintly heard cars in the distance, headed on their morning commute.

I find myself reading the poem above every once in a while, and I seem to gather something different from it every time. After my experience on this random early morning walk, the poem today revealed a truth that you cannot seek beauty because it isn’t something to be sought after. It just exists. As is. Within us all when we notice. We just need to recognize it. Beauty in all her glory presented herself to me and I was open to it. I was not chasing after her this morning but I caught a glimpse of her and realized she is always here with me.

May you catch your glimpse of her from within, in the most ordinary walks of life.

XO,

Sidney

Love

“When love beckons to you, follow him,
Though his ways are hard and steep.
And when his wings enfold you yield to him,
Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you.
And when he speaks to you believe in him,
Though his voice may shatter your dreams as the north wind lays waste the garden…” -Kahlil Gibran

This poem evokes mixed emotions in me, mostly because I think there’s a lot of truth in it- truth that is sometimes hard to accept.  I believe in balance in all things (at least I try to remind myself to maintain this perspective) in that you can’t fully experience & appreciate the good things in life without having some exposure to the more painful moments that life dishes out like loss or betrayal.

What I don’t believe is that we should shy away from a chance at love (or other good things in this life, for that matter) out of fear of making ourselves vulnerable.  There is too much goodness that comes from finding love to try and avoid being hurt.  I have been lucky to find my “person,” but it wasn’t without risk of vulnerability and sacrifice.  I felt an anxiety in my heart very early on in our relationship, before we even knew if we wanted to play a part in one another’s lives in a romantic way.  This pain came from the fear that I could get hurt if I let myself fall in love.  The circumstances weren’t exactly in our favor: we both had fresh wounds from the sting of love, and time wasn’t really on our side either, as I knew he would be leaving the state shortly after we had met.  Despite this “reasoning” to avoid getting involved, and other logical tricks my mind tried to play as to why I shouldn’t have given it a chance, there was a stronger desire to take shot at being adventurous and choosing love.

What many people in my personal life don’t know is that something seemed to possess me at the moment I decided to have a shot at love.  I looked for a job in the city I knew he would be going to, and the universe/God/Holy Spirit- call it what you may- opened up with opportunities.  I took a chance and moved out of state without any real evidence that this partial stranger would be my soulmate, and I justified the move with other reasons like being closer to my father and a supposedly better job.  But it did not matter what lies I tried to convince my restless mind of, my heart had already decided that love was calling me, and so I was brave and vulnerable and I have never looked back.  Our relationship is a beautiful thing- one that honors two individuals being who they are and desire to be; nourishing one another’s souls & endeavors without eclipsing one another.

Love is something I will never shy away from despite the inevitable pains that it brings, but perhaps it is important to note that while I took this chance somewhat “blindly” and without reason, I also was somewhat detached to the outcome.  I knew I was playing somewhat of a dangerous game, and so I had to make sure I took care of myself, too and wasn’t blindly optimistic.  I’m confident that had it not worked out between the two of us, I had already done enough self-work to have made my time in this new place just as rich of an experience.  A wise person once told me that to have a deep desire is an important thing, but to feel independent from the outcome of pursuing that desire is equally important…if not more.   Pursue the game of love without fear, but accept what may come as part of your journey no matter what…

I guess one final thought I have on non-romantic love at this moment is based on the memory of losing someone very close to me.  I have felt the torture that comes when you let someone into your life enough, to really love them.  That vulnerability of placing full trust and responsibility in someone not to hurt you is not a realistic expectation, as we can never control the actions of anyone else.  But it’s my belief that love is worth it.  Because the contrary is to let fear win.  I’ve done that too- I’ve let the fear of emotional pain block me from granting true forgiveness- because to forgive and love again means to expose yourself to more heartache.  The choice to not forgive, though, had only resulted in anger and blame and the only person who felt the burden of that stress was me, in these internal battles of trying to reason “why”.  When I chose forgiveness in my particular experience,  through deep understanding, and truly placing myself in the person’s shoes, it was like a huge weight was lifted from my world.  True forgiveness is not easy, but I believe that as much as love is worth pursuing, so is forgiveness.  It does not mean more emotional pain, it means the opposite, actually- freedom to experience the rewards of love, again.

And so, my wish for you today is that you love without abandon because it will always conquer fear.  XO, Sidney