One of the most common ways a client will sabotage their own progress is through negative thinking. You know negative thinking… It’s when you try to embark upon something and a little voice in your head pops up and says, No! You can’t. You never could. Don’t you remember the time you totally screwed that up?
My clients who struggle with starting their own businesses say things like: Maybe this isn’t for me. Maybe I am better off having someone else call the shots. Maybe I should go back to what I was doing. Maybe I am not the type who can do this.
My clients who struggle with dating will say things like: Maybe I am not cut out for this. Maybe there just isn’t someone out there for me. Maybe I am too screwed up. Maybe I am not attractive enough. Maybe it just isn’t my destiny.
The self help section of the bookstore (are there bookstores, any more?), okay, the self help section of amazon.com has a million rebuttals to negative thinking. Most of the rebuttals are to be uber positive: You CAN do this! You WILL do this! Do or do not but do not try!
This type of positive thinking works for some people.
Bottom line: If it does work for you, I say use it.
But for many, thinking positive simply feels like another weight they must carry. One client told me, “I can barely get myself to think about doing what I need to do and trying to be positive just feels too heavy”. Ironically, being told to think positively can sometimes cue negative thinking. Maybe it is all too much for me. Maybe I am not an entrepreneur, relationship type, the type who finds friends in a brand new city.
If trying to be positive feels like one more thing you CAN’T do, don’t give up. There is hope.
It’s called getting to neutral. When we think negatively, we shut off to the possibilities. We close doors. We also tend to push away our friends and relatives. Being neutral changes that. It honors that our negative thinking is still there, yet it refuses to give said negativity the keys to our lives. Instead we move to the middle, to a place where you are somewhat open to the possibility. Neutral thinking places the keys on the table and allows us time to get to work.
When a client expresses their negative thoughts I reply with: Maybe. Maybe you are right. But listen carefully, maybe, maybe there is someone out there for you. Then I shift to “It’s Possible that…”
It’s possible that you are not more or less screwed up than most other people. It’s possible that someone will find you attractive. It’s possible that there is a group of people for you to hang out with. It’s possible that there is a business that will work for you. It’s possible.
Because maybe, just maybe we are about to work our way to something good. And most people, even the most pessimistic or depressed will at least allow for the possibility of change. And once there is a possibility, there is space for growth and change.
It’s possible that there is someone out there for me so I will start a profile online, go out to a party, accept a set up of a good friend.
It’s possible that the accounting business that I want to start could work so I will start working on a website, get cards and attend a networking event.
Try it. (Just 4 little steps…)
- Find the negative and spell it out: I am too ______ so I can’t do ________.
- Find the neutral (maybe it is possible that I could) alternative (hint: if this is difficult, start with maybe) maybe I am ________ and I could do _______.
- Get to work on that neutral/maybe it is possible alternative.
- When doubts pop up redo.
Maybe, like many people I work with, you will exceed your expectations and get where you want to go. Maybe the next time someone else is negative you can respond: maybe you are right. But maybe you are not. It’s possible that things will work out. And you know what:
it’s possible that you can do more than what you imagined.
Nicole C Weiss LCSW
- Phone: 619-318-5012
- Email: email@example.com