As I dive deeper into the eastern spiritual scriptures, I’ve become fascinated by the framework that ancient, Indian Vedanta shares about the different layers covering our soul. In that framework, one of the layers is our mind. So, I realize that I would need to overcome my negative thinking, as well as my overthinking, to be more spiritually aligned and in touch with my “soul”.
I’d love to share these ideas with you today.
5 Facts About Your Mind To Help You Overcome Negative Thinking
Once again, here we have an article where psychology meets spirituality to explain why negative thinking even happens in the first place, and what we can do about it.
#1 – The mind delivers ALL messages in “positives”.
I often share this vivid example with my friends and clients to explain how the mind works. And I’m placing a disclaimer here – brace yourself as you read this!
When I’m driving and about to turn at any major intersection, sometimes, a mental image of a truck hitting my car pops into my head. At first, this freaked me out and I thought it was some kind of “intuitive signal“. But after this happened a few times (and it kept happening), I began questioning why the thought was recurring. Was I going crazy? Why was my mind seemingly obsessed with bad things happening to me? What was going on?!
In a similar fashion, one of my clients, Elizebeth shared how every time she would walk down the stairs with her toddler in her arms, she’d get images of her falling. This was troubling her to the point that she wanted to switch houses to live somewhere where there is no staircase!
What’s the outcome of such horrific imagery?
It helps us become extra vigilant. It’s not necessarily a prophecy. But in this way, the mind makes sure I’m careful while driving, Elizebeth is careful on the stairs, and so on.
But why does the mind create negative images if it’s trying to protect us?
Because it works in “positives”, meaning it can only conjure thoughts and images of something happening. It doesn’t have a way to say something should NOT happen, so it literally will have to show the worst-case happening for us to become aware of it. In this case, an accident on the road or staircase.
I give credit to Brian, the brilliant author of spiritual sci-fi, The God Matrix, for weaving this education into his novel and into my life.
So you might see now that while the mind doesn’t want that worst-case to happen, it might need retraining so we can overcome this negative thinking. For that, here’s a tip to get you started.
You can ask yourself, “what is the mind really trying to tell me?”.
See if flipping the thought or image around helps. For instance, let’s say that after a challenging meeting with a boss, your negative thinking leads you to believe that you’ll get fired. You can attempt to overcome that thought by realizing, “the mind doesn’t want me to get fired and is reflecting on what I did wrong that might get me in trouble”.
Also, you can retune the mind with intentional images and thoughts, like visualizing looking at the speedometer slowing down, or holding present moment awareness and smiling as you gracefully come down the stairs. Such visualization can become a positive reminder versus a negative spiral.
#2 – The mind’s ability to imagine negative situations is actually quite healthy.
Have you ever found yourself fancying another partner or beating up your boss? If you’re like me, this can feel really “unethical” and be a shock to realize! You might feel upset that there’s a part of you that might be enjoying these rebellious acts, which you would otherwise never do in real life.
It seems that a lot of answers have serendipitously come to me through books because my next insight came while reading the initial chapters of The Body Keeps The Score. I discovered that people who have been deeply traumatized lose their ability to imagine. So, in other words, thoughts like the ones I listed above are the mind’s way of “imagining creative solutions” to the problem we might be facing.
In daily life, the mind and the body are constantly picking up on energy and information around us. When something isn’t to our liking, our nervous system will automatically trigger a response (fight, flight, or freeze) that might involve any number of responses, like actually running away or fighting off the problem. Or in some cases, daydreaming of a parallel reality, visualizing the worst happening, etc.
So, it can help to understand that the mind creating all these negative (and positive) scenarios is actually a creative, albeit not always helpful, way to cope with the uncomfortable present moment.
These ways of dealing with stress are called coping mechanisms. If you’re not happy with the response your mind is choosing, you can definitely do something about it.
What really matters is the awareness that we are NOT every thought we think. We don’t need to act on these ideas if they aren’t in alignment with who we really are. So, every time you have a fight with your boss, it doesn’t necessarily mean you blindly follow your mind’s idea to punch them!
This is where spirituality can really support us. We can realize that there’s something deeper within us – underneath the automatic responses of the nervous system and beyond the wild imaginations of the mind – that isn’t buying into these stories or ideas.
Practices like mindfulness and meditation can help us develop a degree of detachment from our thoughts, as we practice “watching” and being an observer of the images and stories our mind tells us.
#3 – We have 3 brain systems that can contribute to our negative thinking.
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#5 – Our mind is always working for us, even if it feels like it’s working against us.
This is something my certified mentor and coach, Alyssa Nobriga calls divided will.
This can be a situation like you consciously wanting to reach a certain weight goal but your unconscious mind keeps sabotaging your efforts. You end up yo-yo dieting to gain even more weight. This is, by the way, one of my shadow wounds that I’ve been working on for years to overcome. So I feel like using my example here helps.
So if we use the understanding from the points above, the different parts of our minds can be in conflict. In my case, one part of me finds eating good food to be my definition of “fun” and “reward’. So every time I was consciously doing a good job of not eating unhealthy, I was unconsciously rewarding myself with snacks and desserts!
After I understood this irony, I developed different reward systems like aromatherapy, naps, healthier sweet obsessions, etc.
In a similar fashion, I’ve seen many of my clients indulge in food when they’re stressed or trying to comfort themselves from unresolved emotions. Building capacity for our emotions is another great way to overcome undesirable coping mechanisms, like binge eating, numbing with drugs or alcohol, etc.
This is why I believe that self-sabotage isn’t an accurate description of our behavior: it’s just about different parts of us trying to have our needs met, and about giving the unconscious parts of us a voice so that we can fully grasp what our needs are.
So, if you have a situation in your life where you’re finding your mind to be working against you in some ways, explore if there are needs met in that “unwanted behavior” that is otherwise neglected.
Here, my favorite coaching question to ask clients is, “what is the BENEFIT of you doing that undesirable deed?” List down all the possible reasons why you SHOULD be doing what you are, even if you think you shouldn’t.
Another tip for those that are new to the idea of the body guiding us, is to ask yourself to differentiate between “what my mind wants and what my body wants”. You may find that there’s a great contrast when you listen to your body – your mind might be uncomfortable but your body could be at ease.
I’ve found that this tool helps in so many ways like discovering my answers as a snack versus fruit, laze versus exercise, and work more versus rest.
Just developing more knowledge about the way the mind functions can help us become so much more compassionate with ourselves. And every time we do catch ourselves overthinking or indulging in negative thoughts, we aren’t judging ourselves or resisting the thoughts. We end up moving through the debacles of the mind with more ease and patience.
I’d love to hear from you in the comments if you try these techniques out and gather more insight into the conscious and unconscious workings of your mind!
Vasundhra is the Founder & Writer of My Spiritual Shenanigans. After seeing 11:11 on the clock one fateful night, her life turned around. Ever since, she has been blending modern psychology and ancient spirituality, to help herself and people around the world elevate the quality of their lives.
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