If you are going through a tough time, the one thing that you DO have control over is your thoughts, because thoughts have a direct correlation with your level of emotional resilience. In other words, you’ll cope better, you’ll find solutions faster and you’ll recover faster if you can learn to become aware of your thought patterns. But you know this, don’t you? In fact, you’re probably thinking;
“Easier said than done, Amanda!”
Is there an easier way to have more positive, more nurturing thoughts when you’re anxious, feeling low or in the midst of a life challenge? Yes, there is, and I’ll show you how in just a minute!
The trouble with positive thinking is that it’s usually over simplified. Ever heard (or said?) things like this?…
“You MUST think positively!”
“You can’t let your thoughts run away with you like this!”
I read a book several years ago called The Magic of Thinking Big, by David A Schwartz that reminds me of how much positive thinking is over-simplified. It was a very “Gung Ho!” type of book, big, bold and well – a bit macho really! Schwartz wrote The Magic of Thinking Big in 1959, when I guess macho was the way to go! Here’s an extract:
“Your mind is a thought factory. There’s two foremen. One’s called Mr Triumph and the other’s called Mr Defeat. To see how these two foremen work for you, try this: tell yourself today’s a lousy day, this signals Mr Defeat into action, and he manufactures some facts to prove you right. He suggests to you it’s too hot, too cold, that business will be bad, sales will drop, etc, etc. He’s tremendously efficient; in just a few moments, he’s got you sold. It is a bad day. Before you know it, it’s a heck of a bad day. But tell yourself today is a fine day, and Mr Triumph is signalled forward to act. He tells you this is a wonderful day, the weather is refreshing, it’s good to be alive! Today you can catch up on some work. It’s a good day…the more work you give either of these two foremen, the stronger he becomes. If Mr Defeat is given more work to do he has the personnel and takes up more space in your mind.”
You get the picture – and of course it’s true that your thoughts DO dictate your experiences. But The Magic of Thinking Big was not to my liking as a self-development book – it lacked compassion and I am a firm believer in acknowledging feelings and thoughts, even the negative ones.
Both Schwartz and I want to help you achieve the same outcome – to feel positive! However, I subscribe to a gentler, more playful metaphor for building your emotional resilience than Schwartz’s Mr Triumph and Mr Defeat.
Allow me to introduce you to your Inner Dobby and your Inner Oprah…
Hopefully you’ll all be familiar with Harry Potter: Dobby is the little house elf who routinely uses self-flagellation when things go wrong – ahem. Google him if you’re not a Potter fan – you’ll get the picture!
I use “Inner Dobby” to represent is your inner critic, the inner you that is beating yourself up, the voice saying,
“Oh, it’s all going to hell in a hand cart, it’s going to be awful!”
All of those negative thoughts that you beat yourself up with – that is your inner Dobby.
The opposite of your Dobby voice (your inner critic) is what I call your Oprah voice – i.e. your Inner Coach. After all, who is wiser than Oprah?!
Whilst your Inner Dobby will exaggerate the negative, your Inner Oprah will gently say:
“Come on, what’s most likely? Let’s get real here!”
Here are some typical Inner Dobby habits that you might recognise!
- Exaggerating your problems
- Over generalising
- Creating worst possible scenarios in your head; dooming the future
- Replaying bad experiences repeatedly
- Focussing on the negative
- Discounting the positive
- Expecting negative intentions of others
And here are the positive Inner Oprah habits you can practise instead:
- Choose to function with a positive attitude
- Accept the things you cannot change
- Take ownership of your day and your feelings
- Learn to break out of your reactive mode
- Be aware of the quality of you self-talk
- Learn to create positive images in your mind when you face new challenges
- Learn to let go
- And when the going gets tough, the tough get mantra-ing! Here are 2 of my favourites:
“Whatever happens, I’ll handle it” – because you WILL
“This too shall pass” – because it always DOES
So next time you find yourself “horribilising”, thinking the worse or stuck in a repeat cyle of negativity, talk to your Inner Dobby gently. Tell him he’s doing his best, but he can have a rest from being a house elf slave of doom now. Get your wise and gentle Inner Oprah to take him by the hand and lead him away. And let Oprah do the talking!