Whether you call your negative thoughts your fears, your inner critic or your Ego, you probably think your life would be so much better without those thoughts, right?
Not So Fast…
I don't think your negative thinking is a problem. In fact I think you can benefit in a big way if you really listen to it. In fact, I've started calling my inner critic one of my most trusted and valued advisors.
But it is tricky, because it often wants to talk with you at the most inopportune moments. You know the ones, the times when you're already feeling bad about yourself, you're tired, and you just plowed through a pint of ice cream.
But what if, in that wretched moment, you were just to say to that voice, "Not now"? And what if later-after a good night's sleep, say-when you were feeling more calm and centered, you held a dialogue with it and truly got at what it had to tell-and teach-you?
Here's the thing: the "negative" thinking is a temporary challenge, and like all challenges you can address it in a way so that you come out of it stronger and smarter.
If you face the fear, and figure out how to set things up so you don't feel immobilized by it anymore-for example, by developing a strategy to do some difficult thing like quit your job-well, that would be a good thing, right?
Really! Even the most attainable goal is still just a daydream unless there's a plan to get there. And yet when questions crop up about how we're going to achieve our dreams-when our minds prompt us to do some planning, we too often dismiss them because it's painful to feel the fear that comes up-it's painful not to know the answer immediately. (It's even more painful when you don't even know how you'll figure the answers out). But ignoring the negative self-talk is only a temporary fix.
Your fears, in fact, will speak louder and more often the more you ignore them. So what if, instead of dismissing your doubts as withering criticism-the echo of some overprotective parent or unappreciative teacher or unsupportive friend-you paid attention to them and started to dialogue with them? Do that, and you'll discover that there are very few inner criticisms that can't be put to rest through action.
Here's what you do: Imagine a dialogue as if you were writing a play. Write Fear or Inner Critic or whatever you call that voice with the negative thoughts on one line and then add a colon and then write a question or a statement that you've heard it say.
Then write your name, colon, and your response. When you write your response, write it as if you were tapped into your highest self, or as if you were playing the part of your wise and kind best friend or a spiritual leader, like the Dalai Lama.
You may be tempted to think that you're just "making this up," but stick with it. You are actually accessing that part of yourself that really does know.
This may feel strange at first and that's fine, because it is like any practice, like learning a foreign language or how to play the piano, and you will get better at it with time, practice, and patience.
To be clear, you are practicing self -knowledge and self-trust, and becoming proficient at it is absolutely priceless. Nothing is worth more than this.
And this process doesn't just apply to planning for the future. Knowing and trusting yourself grows when you choose to slow down and notice what you are thinking. And if you get good at this process I've just outlined, you'll break the habit of having a negative thought and simply feeling bad. Instead of saying, "I don't want to feel this way!" and "Why is this happening?" you'll begin to ask yourself, "What is this here to teach me?" and start the dialogue.
I started this dialogue around the frustration I was having about my literary agent and the fear of what it would mean if I terminated my contract with her. The fear of "You'll never find another agent!" always shut me down quickly in the past, but I decided to dialogue with it one morning when I was feeling particularly well rested and ready to take charge of anything, including my fears.
Very quickly I realized that my fears of never finding another agent or getting my book published anywhere may be well founded, but they didn't need to keep me stuck in a relationship that I felt was no longer in my best interest.
After that dialogue, a thought I had dreaded-writing the email to my agent and informing her that I appreciated all of her help, but that I was terminating our contract-turned out to be easy. After I sent the email I was overcome with a flood of relief and my fears and doubt have never resurfaced.
Have you ever had an experience of letting go of good to make room for the great? What helped you make the leap?