Accentuate the Positive, Eliminate the Negative

Therapy holds a key to freeing your brain from self perpetuated negative thoughts.

One of the most enduring and helpful psychological tips I ever learned was in the ‘60s from my therapist Albert Ellis.  I went to see Ellis at his Institute for Rational Emotive Therapy (RET), the first of the Cognitive Behavioral Therapies (CBT), in Manhattan in 1967.  I was feeling so overwhelmed by anxiety that the first words out of my mouth were “I think I need to be institutionalized”.  His response: “So?”  I laughed with relief.  He sent me home with his book, A Guide to Rational Living, first published in 1961, which changed my thinking forever.

Example of how our inner voice perpetuates emotional states:

Did you ever notice how children who get a cut for example cry and cry, only to return to their former play within minutes?  Sometimes a hug and a compassionate “that must hurt” helps. We, “grownups” on the other hand keep re-telling the event to ourselves and others, thus perpetuating the upset.

Sharing our stories about the bumps and bruises of every day life may help us debrief, make sense of, and integrate the experience in to our larger life story.  On the other hand repeating a traumatic story may re-traumatize us, perpetuate the hurt and throw us out of balance longer than is helpful.

The point is we have a constant, often unconscious internal thoughts streaming through our minds.  The thoughts become habitual, and literally form patterns in our brains – Thus, “neurons that fire together wire together”, the motto of the new neuroscience, actually a quote from Hebbs, 1949.

One of the main advantages of mindfulness meditation is to help us become conscious of our thoughts.  Once aware we have choices.  Here’s one I’m training myself out of.  Thoughts about war.  My internal dialogue/monologue can develop on the topic and cause anger, despair, and result in a generally uncomfortable, unhealthy feeling.  As soon as I notice the war CD starting to play in my head, I stop.  I picture a Stop sign, (learned that from an elementary school boy I was helping deal with anger), colorful mandala, and pictures around the house.  When Albert Ellis first taught me to notice my thoughts, I was sometimes so overwhelmed I would say, “Mary had a little lamb….” It works!    You’ve thrown a monkey wrench in to the thought pattern.

We have expectations and a sense of fairness.  More positively ask yourself: How can I implement this in my life?  Where in my life am I out of integrity with myself?  What am I not doing that I want myself to do?  Can I trust myself?  Am I trustworthy?

Therapy can help you recognize and transform harmful thoughts, which are causing anxiety, depression, grief, anger and other negative emotional states. You can move in to a position of choice and experience more positive emotional states, a happier you attracting happier energy.

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