Most everyone with social anxiety eventually has to come to terms with the uncomfortable fact that negative thinking is ruling their life.
Knowing that, doesn’t necessarily help, right?
It’s like you can’t stop.
And you want to stop, it completely makes sense.
I certainly used to be in the mode of resistance and I tried hard to stop negative thinking (also known as automatic negative thoughts), to “be positive” and to be “more confident“.
You name it – I pretty much have done it as far as self-help techniques are concerned.
In all that resisting, all that fighting and struggling against negative thinking what did I find?
You cannot stop negative thinking. So stop trying.
What you can do, however, is to not focus on it, while allowing it to be there.
Everyone has negative thoughts, EVERYONE. If someone tells you they don’t they’re either lying to make themselves look better, or they’re delusional.
I have negative thoughts all the time, and sometimes I go on a negative trip. But I know how to get grounded and recenter, so I’m in charge of my life and not my negative thoughts.
What used to take days or weeks to resolve now only takes minutes.
Like the old Zen story goes “a student asked the head monk who is the best Zen teacher in all of the land.
The monk thought about this and said, “well if you search all of the land, and you find someone who tells you that have learned to stop negative thoughts…then this IS NOT the person you are looking for.”
So why would you try to stop your negative thoughts all the time?
Can you stop them sometimes?
Sure. But in the end you won’t win. And you don’t need to. It’s actually far easier if you don’t.
It is the classic “resist-persist” model. The more you push up against negative thinking, the more it sticks around.
Now the same thing goes with believing your negative thinking is reality and you believing your negative thoughts to be true, when they’re just negative thoughts.
You don’t have to fight your thoughts. If you don’t fight them they don’t have power over you.
You also don’t have to follow your negative thinking. Room needs to be made for both positive and negative thoughts, they can’t exist without each other.
Due to the simple fact that you cannot know something is positive, without reference the negative. This is where feel-good only, positive approaches like the Law of Attraction fall short.
It gets all wishy-washy around negative thinking and sets people up for failure, when they can’t think positively enough.
You need to learn how to gain some distance from your thoughts, and change your relationship with your negative thoughts.
Learn to observe them non-judgmentally and watch their so-called power dissolve away.
I hate to sound like a broken record, but psychological research shows how powerful mindfulness is in training this aspect of dealing with negative thoughts.
It becomes more of what serves you and what doesn’t serve you, where you want to go and what you choose to do, instead of all about positive and negative.
Does it help to focus on the positive more?
Sure it does. But discounting and repressing the negative is a mistake that will bite you in the butt down the line.
Especially when it comes to negative emotions, not just negative thoughts.
I’ve integrated mindfulness based approaches like this into the Dissolve Social Anxiety Program. Integrated is the perfect word for it as it’s about integrating the positive and the negative together as a whole.
This is also a key to self-acceptance, which is at the heart of abating social anxiety.
Although there’s a lot more to it than just mindfulness alone, cultivating a mindful lifestyle is the strong foundation upon which social anxiety recovery happens, and will happen if you put in the time and effort to learn how to be mindful, focus on what gives your life meaning, and of course, take action towards your recovery.