This article was first published on KSL.COM
I read your article last week about processing emotions and choosing my inner state, but I’m really struggling with negative thinking and I think you underestimate how difficult some of us have it. My life has been so much more difficult than most people get, and my situation is frankly miserable and unfair. When I try to choose gratitude for what I do have or think positive, I can literally feel my subconscious mind resisting this whole idea. I’m not sure it’s possible for everyone to just choose to think positive. I find myself complaining about my situation quite often but I think that expressing how I feel helps me. Isn’t it good for us sometimes?
Expressing negative emotions can be healthy (some of the time) as long as it is part of your process to work through them and get to a better place. If you are constantly expressing your negative feelings though, without working through them, you are just complaining, which is giving more power and energy to the negative and making it bigger in your life. This doesn’t serve you.
The steps I gave you last week to process through emotions would serve you much more, but there could be another factor in play that is making it difficult for you to choose a positive outlook. You might be getting some quirky subconscious benefits from the negative state and you might not be ready to let those benefits go.
Let me give you some examples of how this happens. Someone who is holding onto feelings of anger or hate toward another person may be getting the benefit of staying distracted from their own feelings of inadequacy. By staying focused on anger toward another person, they don’t have to deal with their own faults. If they let go of their anger they would have to deal with their pain, so anger feels like a win.
People who are constantly dwelling in feelings of inadequacy or have low self-esteem often apologize a lot, worry about what others think and need to vocally explain every aspect of their behavior. At the subconscious level they may think this fear mindset protects them at some level, because it makes them very careful what they do and say. It might even make them more polite or gracious toward others so people will like them.
They could be afraid that thinking positively about themselves would make them selfish and less cautious. They may also see self-deprecation as humility and think it's righteous. This means that low self-esteem may make them feel better in some ways. The problem is that low self-esteem makes people see you as weak and lose respect for you. Loving strength and confidence are much more attractive.
Someone who is overburdened with work, who feels stressed out and exhausted all the time, may get all kinds of benefits from these negative feelings. They may subconsciously believe this state means they are working really hard (they may believe if you don’t feel this way you aren’t working hard enough). So, they get a sense of accomplishment or self-esteem from being stressed. Complaining about being overworked may also protect them at some level, discouraging others from asking anything more from them, or giving them an excuse to say no to anything they don’t want to do. They may also like the sympathy love they get from others, who feel sorry for them when they complain.
Sympathy love is a common benefit to being in a negative state and many of us learned to use this as children to get the attention or love we needed. You may subconsciously complain about life mostly for this reason. Why else would you need to voice your complaints out loud so often? Why not just feel this way on the inside and keep it to yourself?
If you find yourself complaining a lot about how unfair your life is, how difficult you have it, how awful you are, or how miserable you are, you must ask yourself these questions:
One other thing you mentioned was that your life is unfair and more difficult than most people get. I want you to see that you have placed a label on your experience, and just because you have chosen to do this doesn’t make it true.
Beliefs like these are only true in your life if you believe they are true. They are a perspective you have chosen, but you could just as easily choose a different perspective, one that might make you feel more grateful, loved, safe and blessed even in the very same circumstances.
When I was going through a difficult time in my life, I wasn’t very happy with people who gave me the very advice I’m giving you. I felt they needed to walk a mile in my shoes (and suffer like me) before they could know how impossible it was to be positive here.
Then I read about Viktor Frankl, who suffered through the concentration camps in World War II, lost everything and everyone he loved, and who (in much more miserable circumstances than mine) found the power to choose his attitude, to find meaning and purpose in his experiences and to choose love over fear, and I realized that if he could do it — I had no excuse.
Having said that, I also know it isn’t easy and it takes time and work. I usually work with a coaching client for 3 to 6 months to teach them how to process their experiences in a different way and learn how to choose their inner state, but I promise you can get there if you keep reading, learning and practicing.
Steven Richards, who wrote "Think Your Way to Success," said, “You are essentially who you create yourself to be and all that occurs in your life is the result of your own making.”
I believe this is true. You can change the way your life is going! I see people do it every day. Just know that you are way more powerful than you realize and you can create change by changing your thinking.
You can do this.
FOR MORE FREE
Coaching is less expensive than you think - If you need help we can find you a coach you can afford.
Kimberly Giles is the president and founder of Claritypoint Life Coaching and 12 SHAPES INC. She is an author and professional speaker. She was named one of the top 20 advice gurus in the country by Good Morning America in 2010. She appears regularly on local and national TV and Radio.