Negative thoughts are a global problem. Why do we try to grind so much in our thought processes and how seriously should we take a thought?
Negative thoughts as part of our ability to symbolize
The human race excels as the species most capable of cooperation. Language, or our ability to use symbols to represent sounds and concepts, is an absolutely essential part of this capacity. One that has given us an evolutionary advantage, despite our physical inferiority. This blessing can also sometimes be a curse.
While most animals have a greater immediacy in their experience of the world, we can dwell on the past and predict the future. An animal grazes without a care until the danger presents itself, reacts adaptively and will continue to graze care-free when the danger has passed, as if nothing had happened. Does this sound tempting?
The lion who did not manage to serve up a zebra-meat lunch to his pride hardly lays awake worrying at night about it. But a human being does. Not because it presents a greater problem for the human being that the meat was burned, but because we have the ability to constantly symbolize around the event.
When any event, real or imaginary, in the past or future, at any time can permeate into the human being's here-and-now consciousness with the aid of symbols like language and images, the potential for constant suffering is infinite.
But only if we allow ourselves to be carried away by the constant inner flow of symbols.
Perspectives on negative thoughts
When we see how crucial the use of language/symbols/thoughts are for getting stuck in suffering, it becomes apparent that learning ways to relate to the symbols that are carried forth in the brain's thought patterns is vital.
Gaining perspective - as we, for example, do in this text - is invaluable in order for the language that we constantly produce in our brain to not be confused with reality.
Psychotherapy always involves one form or another of gaining perspective in relation to our internal selves. Maybe it isn't the internal content that needs to change but rather the way in which we relate to it. How seriously should we take a thought? What is the relationship between our thoughts and reality? You don't need to get on every bus that comes along, not all of them will take you where you want to go. The same principle applies to thoughts.
Sometimes it's better to just sit and watch them as they come and go.
Negative thoughts and therapy
But this is often easier said than done. Fortunately, there are many different directions of therapy and wisdom traditions that you can utilize to help and inspire that address these sorts of problematics. Coming from many different angles. Metacognitive therapy, mindfulness, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and psychodynamic therapy, to name a few.
At Psykologvirke, we are experts in a range of these methods. Not least, we have expertise in a form of therapy known as Intensive Psychodynamic Short-term Therapy (ISTDP) From this view, excessive brooding, negative thoughts and dwelling in these are often seen as driven by a deeper, emotional states within ourselves. When unconscious emotions come up, anxiety is created within the body. This discomfort puts the brain into high gear. Partially in an attempt to find an answer, as a security-seeking strategy, partially to not have to feel the uncomfortable state within the body.
You can imagine it is a little like post-drinking anxiety. The anxiety within your body involves a more basic process, while it drives the brain to seek out what is that is wrong. And one who seeks shall find.
Let your emotions in so your thoughts let go
Therapy involves finding ways to place your thoughts to the side long enough, so they don't block the underlying, anxiety creating emotions. When you dare to step into the underlying emotional landscape, you can then work through it and the anxiety in your body will lessen. Then the brain isn't put into high gear to escape, as well.
It is often a very exciting and rewarding process. Not only will you be less fried by your own thoughts, but you will also be moving towards greater authenticity. It can be valuable to give it a try. Whether from one therapeutic angle or another.