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Taming the Destructive Thoughts: What You Can Do

A few weeks ago, I did a survey of women, who are caring for others, to hear what they struggle with and are finding the most challenging about caring for others. What came up time and time again was their struggle with negative, destructive thinking.

In my opinion, what we say to ourselves about who we are and the way we act has to be one of the most powerful things in our lives. Our thoughts have either the power to tear us down or to build us up. Most often it is to tear us down. I hear this from my friends, so many women I talk to, and know it’s true for myself too. It is so easy to get stuck and let destructive thinking take over.

And when it comes to caring for others like a child or a parent, our destructive thinking can be a poison in our lives. We tell ourselves:

I am terrible.
I can’t do it right.
I am worthless.
I should have done better.
I am the worst.

Those thoughts pop up in our minds. We brew on them. We let them fester. We believe they are true. They take hold in our minds like a leech sucking the marrow of determination and love right out of a our minds. And we let the thoughts spin around. We think that if we let the destructive thoughts happen that they will make us improve, or change the situation, or make us do penance for our badness.

But do you know what really happens…nothing good. Those terrible thoughts grow and grow as we spin them around in our mind. They destroy and poison our minds. They keep us from doing the good things we would do because they destroy us from the inside out.

So what can we do?

Acknowledge that these thoughts are destructive: Write down the thought or thoughts that you are having. Tell yourself, “it doesn’t have to be this way” and “I am not going to listen to this poison.”

Share your destructive thoughts with someone else: Tell someone what has been going through your head. When we spin thoughts around in our heads they gain power and a stronghold in our minds. When we share with someone, who respects and cares for us, our destructive thoughts lose power. They lose potency. We realize that they aren’t as true as we thought they were. They maybe aren’t true at all.

Test their truthfulness: Author and speaker Byron Katie, has a method of looking at destructive thoughts to address them instead of letting them haunt you. She suggests that you ask these 4 questions:

1)Is it true? (Yes or no. If no, move to 3.)
2)Can you absolutely know that it’s true? (Yes or no.)
3)How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?
4)Who would you be without the thought?

This is a way of confronting those destructive thoughts directly. Whether the thoughts have some truth to them or no truth to them, you can address what makes the thoughts true or not true. Then after you have thought through the questions Byron Katie suggests, turning the destructive thoughts around. After you think to yourself, “I’m a terrible daughter when I am caring for my mom.” Turn it around by saying, “I am a good daughter to my mom. I provide the best care I can give her. I love her like no one else can.”

Address anything that needs to change as a result of what the thoughts reveal: If the destructive thought is a sign of a bigger problem that you need to address, do something. It could be you are battling those thoughts because you are under a lot of stress, and it is time to get help in some way. Or maybe there is an element of truth in them, like needing to work on speaking in a gentler way to your mom.

Do not accept destructive thoughts as true and let yourself brew over them. Instead address them head on, decide if there is anything that you need to change as a result, and then get rid of them. In a future post I will address more techniques for getting rid of these thoughts. Don’t hesitate to get help. The power of a coach to address destructive thinking can make all of the difference.

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