where can dark thoughts go?
One topic is often unspoken, as if taboo, particularly in the world of leaders and influencers. Yet, I think it’s fair to say that it’s a part of our common human condition to have negative thoughts along with positive ones. It doesn’t seem quite right when someone is able to be optimistic and positive 100% of the time. Can you relate?
And it’s normal to have occasional thoughts and feelings in the realm of sadness, anger, frustration, doubt, anxiety, worry, struggle, loss, fear, shame, guilt, weakness, frailty, what have you. I’ll admit that it’s part of my life experience. While there are many self-help strategies and tactics, or positive-thinking motivational speeches and/or sermons, to battle the dark thoughts, those techniques may rely too much on our own efforts and strength. I’m not that strong to get through life on my own. It’s okay to ask for help and get help. As I reflect on this, I thought of 4 things you can do when dark thoughts come:
- 1. Replace. One very common tactic is to replace the negative thought with a positive thought. Gratitude is particularly powerful. Hope and remembrance can be powerful replacers too.
- 2. Release. Dark thoughts need a place to go. Some of them don’t just go away by self-effort or re-focusing. I’ve found it incredibly valuable to be with someone safe to process out loud the pain and confusion. It’s not quite safe to release dark thoughts into the open internet for all to see, which I liken to injecting poison or spreading a virus onto others. Not helpful. Sometimes talk therapy with a professional counselor provides that release so good for our soul.
- 3. Rx. And for some, mental and emotional health can be facilitated through prescription medication, just as vitamins and/or drugs can bring health for other conditions that affect our imperfections.
- 4. Renew. And not to preclude the supernatural, a miraculous healing can transform a person like nothing else. While not every single person who wants healing gets healing, some do.
So as I reflected and simmered this topic on the back burner, something came across my radar.This new MTV show caught my attention as being particularly poignant and powerful — called “If you really knew me.” The premise of the documentary-style drama series is that each episode will follow 5 students during a one-day program, “Challenge Day.” These 5 students will get honest with each other– get past the labels and cliques, and share with each other the illuminating yet sometimes difficult truths about their lives. A press release describes “Challenge Day’s vision is that every child lives in a world where they feel safe, loved and celebrated.”
Wow! Could you imagine a place like that? Where a person, young and old, can feel safe, loved, and celebrated? What would happen if a church could be a safe and honest place like that?
How do you get help when dark thoughts make an unwelcomed visit? What else would you add about this?
[photo credit: enpenumbra]
How about #5 “Relax”? When dark thoughts come, I like to sit and relax with a glass of wine, or a good book, pet my cat, or unwind my mind with meditation/prayer. Maybe relaxation is a massage; sometimes it’s a moderate walk around the block in the sun. It could be chilling out with some soft jazz, or laying on my yoga mat after some vigorous movement.
Mostly for me, it means quieting my mind. it doesn’t always mean reaching for “positive self talk” when I’m not ready to hear it. Well meaning people can try to inject their positivity into a moment or situation where it feels more burdensome than helpful. It’s those moments when I actually feel I need to pull away from all that, take a step back, and relax, knowing that this moment too shall pass.
@Imei, great thought! Thanks for chiming in..
and another one came to mind, (6) RECREATION. In contrast to exercise (which can be mundane, though still helpful), recreation and play can rejuvenate our soul in ways that shows just how enjoyable and fun life is, in direct contrast to whatever dark thoughts or feelings may have made an unwelcomed visit.
Why not try allowing everything to be as it is?
Sure, there are many strategies that can distract, avoid, deny, reframe, or supress those thoughts. Those techniques can be quite effective, but they all have underlying resistance.
One of the main benefits of being in the company of a supportive friend/group/counselor is the external validation of someone else accepting you fully including all of your so called ‘flaws’ and ‘negative thoughts’.
Why not just start by doing that to yourself. Accept yourself totally, absolutely no resistance to what you consider negative, not good enough, and no grasping/seeking towards positive either. Start with a solid foundation of full surrender and acceptance of what you are (good, bad, ugly, plain, normal, boring, flawed, etc).
Then from that more solid foundation, you can work on personal growth, improvement, helping others, etc.
Why not try that, instead of starting with a foundation of internal lack, pursuing happiness through everything external (image, deeds, peers, validation, achievement, materials, possessions, money, success, etc).
Acceptance and surrender is a subtle concept that can be difficult to grasp for the average person who has a lot of mental chatter in their head.
To give the mind something more concrete to focus on, I recommend self-inquiry.
Instead of instantly believing and reacting to negative thoughts, add some space and inquire into those thoughts (ie. Where did it come from? Is it true? What does it feel like? What would happen if? Why?). Have the attitude like an inquisitive child who’s continually asking ‘Why this?” and ‘Why that?’. If you’re honest with your inquiry and answers, you will realize that most of those negative thoughts are based on false assumptions & beliefs.
For more specifics, “The Work” by Byron Katie is a popular method of self inquiry.
Broken down simply, it’s 4 questions and a turn around:
1. Is it true?
2. Can you absolutely know that it’s true?
3. How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?
4. Who would you be without the thought?
Then turn around the concept you are questioning.
Seems very simple on the surface, but genuinely practiced, it has been quite powerful and life changing for many.