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Lessons I Learned By Dealing With Negativity

We all experience negative thoughts at times. Unfortunately, our social and environmental conditioning can lead us to treating them as things to be fought against, avoided, or a sign of our weakness. As a result, the negative thoughts are often coupled with anger towards ourselves. These negative thoughts can keep us "stuck in our own heads", and hinder us from moving forward with our lives in a positive manner. With that being said, there's much to learn from these so-called negative thoughts. They can teach us some very important lessons, and it is our fear of negativity itself that keeps us from learning these lessons. Next time your mind wanders into negative thinking, don't try to suppress such thoughts. Instead, use them as a ladder to haul yourself back up. Here are the seven most important lessons you can learn from negative thoughts: 
what negativity teaches us

1. If you’re lost, negativity can be your compass

Being angry at yourself in times of crisis can cause you to become lost in a sea of thoughts, and even forget how you got to this state in the first place, thus preventing you from avoiding it next time. Instead, try using your negative thoughts as a compass - think of why you became angry in the first place to try and find the source of your frustration, as well as remind you where you want to be. You can guide your search with questions such as:

  • When did I become angry with myself?
  • Has this sort of thing happened in the past?
  • Were my reactions to this situation different last time?
  • If I acted differently, was I more or less frustrated?
what negativity teaches us

Another way of using negative thoughts as a compass is by mapping out your fears or the obstacles in the way of you feeling better. Try asking yourself:

  • Am I mad at myself because there’s something I could have done differently?
  • If so, can I avoid this type of obstacle next time?
  • Are there other ways to approach this problem?
  • What can I do differently next time?

2. Falling into familiar holes doesn’t become less painful

Imagine walking down the street and suddenly falling into a hole. The first time it happens, you’ll be mad at the city for its negligence. The second time, you’ll be mad because it still hasn't fixed the problem despite the risk. The third time, you’ll be mad at yourself because you didn't remember that there’s a hole there. Why did you fall into that hole time after time? Most likely it's because you weren’t looking where you were heading, and were too busy blaming others, thus avoiding your own responsibility.

The best way to deal with such “holes” in your life is in stages - by covering the hole if you can, finding a way around the hole while it’s still there, or looking forward to avoid falling into that hole (or others) in the future. Instead of blaming others for your predicament, take responsibility for what you can do differently, and do it.

what negativity teaches us

3. Your best friend is you

Negativity turns you into your own judge, jury, and executioner. As proof, we still remember certain mistakes we made in the past that others have already forgotten. However, we tend to ignore the most important lesson that each negative thought carries with it - just as we are our own harshest judges, we are also our own best friends.

Instead of running in circles, finding yourself guilty time and time again, try looking at the problem impartially, as if a friend is telling you about their problem and asking you for your opinion. What your advice be? Is it really a problem that cannot be overcome? When you look at an issue from the sideline, you can often find a solution more easily. If you keep practicing this lesson, you’ll find it easier to connect with yourself, and stop judging yourself so harshly.

what negativity teaches us

4. No one knows everything

Many of our negative thoughts originate from the false assumption that they are indisputable facts. We can be sure that there is only one reason for our failings, or that people act a certain way because of one specific reason. These assumptions can be completely wrong, making them into the feet we use to trip ourselves over when dealing with future problems.

If we think that a colleague has no time for us because they don’t like us, we won’t be able to communicate with them positively in the future, even if their reason was that they were busy, or weren’t feeling well when we approached them. Such an incident can lead us to analyze our relationship with others incorrectly, as well as causing us to make the same mistakes time and time again in future. In quite the same way, being rejected when applying for a job can make us think we’re not talented enough when that position may have been made redundant for a variety of reasons.

Try reminding yourself that in any negative situation, some things that you’re not aware of and are beyond your control may have taken place. Remember that nobody is omniscient, and that’s perfectly fine.

what negativity teaches us

5. If you think you’re drowning in negativity, you’re probably wrong

Do you think that everything bad that happens to you is the result of personal malice, and that bad things keep happening to you all the time? It may be time to stop for a moment and remind yourself that the worst thing that is happening is what you’re doing to yourself. Every negative thought provides us with two options - to fall into despair, or to learn and grow. Sadly, most of us choose the first option.

In order to help yourself see the situation from a broader perspective, assign every negative thought a couple of new friends - factual proof, and a different interpretation. Factual proof forms the basis of assessing your situation (for example, if a friend is mad at you, what are we basing our understanding of that anger on?), at the same time, even if you’re sure that your interpretation is correct, train yourself to come up with an alternative, logical interpretation of the situation. It might just be the right interpretation after all.

what negativity teaches us

6. Some positive thoughts are disguised as negative ones

Not all thoughts that begin in a negative tone are necessarily negative themselves. It may surprise you, but if you think about it, you’ll find out that it is indeed the case. You may be imagining the worst possible scenario about something that may happen to someone you hold dear, but this thought is actually a positive thought, originating from a place of love and care for that person.

Try and express as many negative thoughts in a positive way and you may find out that people who originally reacted to these thoughts in a negative way now react to them differently after they understand the source of your fears or anger.


what negativity teaches us

7. To move forward, stop collecting trash

After you’ve sifted through your negative thoughts and learned as much as you can from them, you can divide them into negative thoughts that can help you, and those that are nothing but “trash”. In other words, don’t let the trashy thoughts take up space in your head – they’ll only slow you down and make you feel unhappy.

No one likes to live in a house that is filled with trash, and the same goes for you and your mental space. Instead of punishing yourself by preoccupying yourself with these unnecessary thoughts, which exact a heavy toll on your mental state, try disposing of them as soon as you can. If a negative thought pops up, treat it as a memo to clear your mind up and make room for positivity instead.

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