Negative thoughts in the face of discomfort: what meaning do they have?

It is our daily consultation that, whether they suffer from depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress or stress at work, all the people who ask us for help have negative or unpleasant thoughts about them. themselves. These thoughts are like “I’m not doing enough”, “I’m stupid”, “I can’t do it”, etc.

The School of Positive Psychology sends out this message, “if you think well, you will feel good,” as a mantra that, if you ignore the context and your situation, will fulfill the purpose of being happy. Although this school has evolved and currently has very valuable references, in much of the population the idea persists that it is not necessary to allow the entry of unpleasant thoughts and, automatically the transformation must be towards thoughts of value towards oneself. Faced with this, you have to ask yourself: if you don’t let the unpleasant run out, how do you manage to transform it?

In this article, I will describe the functions of negative thoughts and considerations about when to pay attention and seek professional help in this regard. In one sentence the answer would be, you still have to be careful.

    Negative thoughts and brain anatomy

    Thoughts are generated in the prefrontal cortex, one of the most specialized areas of the human brain. Each thought tries to deal with an emotion, which arises as an unstoppable cascade from deeper areas of the brain, especially the limbic system. That means first we feel and then we think. As Benjamin Libet said, “800 milliseconds before a decision is made, electrical potentials are triggered in limbic areas of the brain.”

    Faced with unpleasant feelings (anger, guilt, sadness, fear …), the rational brain needs to interpret what has happened, and it needs its time. Of course, part of the thinking will be directed to “What have I done to solve the problem?” This is where these thoughts arise; that is, if the feelings are not channeled or resolved, the interpretation itself will be of the type “I am not able” and the messages of self-mockery will appear.

    While this article focuses on negative thoughts about yourself, it’s important to note that the same happens when negative, automated thoughts are directed at others or the world. The difference would be that the tint of the message would no longer be imbued with fear or guilt, but with anger or resentment. In short, it is important to learn to separate our perception of ourselves from that of others or the world.

    Language constructs a reality, but also represents it

    If we stay focused on one way of speaking or thinking, it is common for it to change our perception. and all the information that enters us (what we see, hear, hear) will be conditioned by this way of speaking or thinking.

    If, for example, your thinking is “everything is wrong with me, I’m not doing anything right”, by the time you develop a successful business, your own perceptual system will point out that you have been lucky. “, Not in personal capacity. This way of thinking and perceiving reality makes it difficult to learn to grow and develop.

    It is also true that the environmental situation is important and that we do not always make good decisions when we interact with it, so negative thoughts can become here a very interesting analysis of the type “what should change so that it does not happen again? “Returning to the example above, if faced with the failure of a task, you distinguish that the lack of time and pressure from others played a role in this feeling of failure, it will be easier for you to separate “what I can do” from “what I could do”.

      When bad thoughts are functional

      When there is mental flexibility, you allow yourself to learn from mistakes and you let unpleasant thoughts flow about yourself that help you learn, not chastise you.

      For you to develop this flexibility, it is important to have an intimate and secure space (at home, in the village, in the mountains, etc.) where you can free yourself and give yourself this time for reflection, which is also a way to love yourself. Learning should lead to satisfaction, even if the path is paved and rugged.

      When bad thoughts are dysfunctional

      When there is mental rigidity, you can be like an iron beam, trying in some way that nothing bends or weakens you.. The problem is when something or someone manages to ‘bend’ you and one of you, or it is very difficult and painful to stand up, or you experience a ‘breaking’ effect. glass ”you feel like you are breaking into a thousand pieces losing hope.

      As we said before about the tongue, everything is conditioned, or you are hard, or you isolate yourself so as not to break up. From this point of view, it is very difficult to give yourself a chance again.

      If your thoughts are blocking you, repeating themselves over and over again, not allowing you to learn, and even the same situation that generates the problem reappears over and over again unchanged, it’s time to call a professional and seek help.

      Author: Juan Fernández-Rodríguez Labordeta, psychologist in Rising Therapeutics.

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