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positive/ negative thoughts and what they really mean.


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Ok. I've been depressed/anxious most my life, I'm almost 21 now. As a male, I've been frustrated with an inability to be/connect with people, especially with girls -- which is frustrating as hell. I've felt targeted and unworthy around other people. I've hated myself for feeling that way/[insert all the usual complaints]

Having said that, the depression, while perhaps is a "chemical imbalance" in my head, is almost always allieviated after a, what I like to call, "successful social experience (SSE)" A successful social experience is anytime I feel that I have made some kind of mutual connection with another person, one that is enjoyed between the both of us. I think you guys will know what i mean... Becuase I feel "good" after such an event, I have doubts that it is a cemical imbalance that is causing my depression, unless of course, anxiety is a result of a chemical imbalance, and anxiety also stopping me from experiencing SSE's. But then I wonder that if I had a chemical imbalance that always gives me corrupted thoughts, how do I ever experience SSE's? How is it that I feel good sometimes? Is the chemical imbalance for some reason momentarily fixed? Or is the chemical imbalance bs. Maybe it does not exist. Which means that it really comes down to how we think (obviously), but also how we think about what we are thinking.

Thus, I am talking about thoughts, both negative and positive, thoughts that are usually associated with anxiety or depression. I want to know what their real value is.

Negative thoughts

I've read a lot on these forums that thoughts like these should be in some way regulated, as if they are intrinsically bad. The general consensus in these forums seems to say:

If you are having negative thoughts, stop thinking negative, and switch to positive thoughts.

I understand the logic to this-- think good and you will feel good. However, I cannot help but think that in the moment one is forcing themsleves to think "good" thoughts, they are also thinking "bad" thoughts.

I do not think there is any necessary connection between "thinking" good, and "feeling" good. I mean, the last time I was actually feeling good, was I thinking about thoughts that are logically good? Not really. The last time I felt good, I was not thinking at all, I was in a strip club, a little bit drunk, talking to pretty girls (I apologize if some women take offence to this, I am not a womanizer of any sort, I promise). I wasn't thinking about my 4 am shift the next morning, or my probation officer who doesn't want me to drink. Now is that good? Were good thoughts occuring in that moment? Hell no, if I was thinking at all, they were thoughts that would be detrimental to what would be considered a conventional "good" lifestyle.

I'm not saying you have to be drunk to be happy, all I am saying is that there is no necessary connection between thinking good and feeling good, I can think of other examples that do not include alcohol. Because of this, I do not understant why we are so hooked on positive thoughts when we are feeeling bad.

Really, anytime you are forcing yourself to think "good" thoughts, you are actually compensating for the underlying negative thoughts. That then means that anytime you are trying to think "good" thoughts, you are really stressing yourself out -- dwelling and exaggerrating the effects of negative thoughts by being so worried about them that you have to try and think of "good" thoughts. I know you've all experienced this.

Now I'm not against thinking positively, but I am saying that by "forcing" yourself to "try" and think positively when in fact you are in a negative state, you will only be dwelling and exaggerating your negative feelings. If we accept that forcing good thoughts will only make it worse, What happens if one little insignificant thought comes along and we decide to try and force some positive thought over it? The little insignificant negative thought grows. And the more it grows, the more you will try to compensate for it, and thus the more it will grow. It is an exponential pain in the ass.

No thoughts are intrinsically positive

For example. Lets say we have a negative thought. Maybe for some reason we think of the word "alcohol" in a negative way. Now, if we are for some reason bombarded with the word "alcohol" and feel bad about it, we might create a positive statement to override it, something like, " At least I don't drink alchohol." But what happens now everytime you say to yourself that you don't drink alcohol? You associate it with the original negative thought, you remind your self of the negative every time you try to think of the positive. Now it's not just the word "alchohol" that is negative, but also the statement "I don't drink alchohol." It's negative by association. So now you have not one but two thoughts that are negative. And then of course we become unsure, we don't understand why this supposedly "positive" thought is not making us feel better. So what do we do? We try an come up with more positives thoughts, all of which will be associated with the original negative thought. Eventually, everything around us becomes negative by association. We don't like anything, don't care about anything, and we don't even remember why anymore. In this way, "positive thoughts" essentially become negatives thoughts.

Do happier people think more positively? yes, but it is not becuase they have more "positive" thoughts, It's becuase they have less thoughts tied down to their negative thoughts...

So, if there is no chemical imbalance in my head, and thinking positively doesn't work, wtf is wrong with me?

It is not about trying to "redirect" your thoughts. Thoughts are natural, unavoidable occurances. I do not think it is about hiding, or cowarding away from these supposed "negative" thoughts that apparantly entrap us in a cycle of hell on earth. It's about accepting these thoughts, understanding that they are in fact only mere thoughts, at the same time, we must appreciate them. We have to laugh at them, delve into them, play with them-- basically treat them as your bratty little sister -- you don't always take them seriously, but you love them, and could not live without them.

I think when one is in such a state, he or she can simply live. One can enjoy life because they are not scared or worried about "bad" thoughts. When "bad" thougths occur, they occur. Accepting them is a much more appropriate method than hiding them away in some corner of your mind by trying to decieve yourself into thinking "good" thoughts. In such a state one becomes much more open to SSE's, and life gets better.

People will see that you are "ok" with your thoughts, and they will accept you. But if you are stuck in a rut of anxious or depressive thoughts (meaning you do not accept your thoughts, bad or good), people will see that you are not "ok". They will question you. And why wouldn't they if they see you are questioning yourself?? That is really all there is to it. And thus, all these thoughts about people not accepting you for who you are and so on, are really reflective of the fact that you (or me) has not really accepted their own thoughts yet. Once people do accept you though, the amount of SSE's you experience will sky rocket, thus giving you more feelings of good, and depression can be allieviated.

So it's really a concious choice to be depressed or not-- a choice between accepting your thoughts or hating them. I know that is really easy to say; I've heard people tell me that all my life, and i would be like "wtf are you talking about man, why would I choose to be this way." The fact is though, I think it is true, it's just something that todays society does not teach us how to do this very well. Some people get by fine, but people who are naturally more fluttered with thoughts have extra difficulty in figuring this crap out.

Thinking positively when you are thinking badly will not help you!!! It's contradictive and impossible. It does not make sense. It will make things worse becuase you are fighting yourself if your try too!!! You must accept your thoughts, even the "bad" ones!!!! This has allowed me to go on a date for the first time in my life, I somehow got a picked up a girl in the mall!!! The date didn't go well, I need practice!!! But it's better than before!! Sometimes I still get caught up in negative thoughts, but it's ok.

The value of thoughts is kind of ambivalent. You have to appreciate and accept them, at the same time, you have to find a way to essentially devaluate them. This is not the same as ignoring them. In my opinion, it's clear that some one has not yet appreciated and understood their thoughts if they have not yet devaluated them, that is to say, they allow them to take over.

Thank you for reading my long rant, if you did. I probably seem young and naive to many of you but it's cool. I appreciate this site a lot as i have no one else to talk to. Also if you agree or disagree, I would love to hear from you.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hello Nathan. I agree with some of what you said. Thoughts are after all just that 'thoughts' and if we could learn to accept that and not give them so much importance then it probably would help those of us that feel we are 'depressed', and I agree that trying to force negative thoughts down and replace them with positive ones, is useless. I know I haven't been able to stop those negative thoughts though i've tried telling myself time and again it's all in my head and if I could only think positively everything would be okay. Maybe you are right though, maybe it is a conscious choice to be depressed or not. I don't know...i've never thought of it that way before. It's not as though I said to myself 'okay i'm going to disconnect from life and from people and become depressed'. It just happened over a long period of time.

I go now and again to a chat room that someone gave me the link to called Recovery International. It's a self help kind of thing. I have found some of the advice helpful. They too say that we should remember that thoughts and feelings are only that, and not give them so much importance, and treat them like you said, as you would a bratty sister.

Congratulations on your ability to see yourself and your feelings with clarity and on being able to go on a date! Hopefully the next one will go better! Take care.

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Guest ASchwartz

Hi Nathan and Endless,

Really, what we are talking about is using the principles of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). With CBT, thoughts are neither positive or negative. Instead, thoughts are either distorted or unrealistic. If I think to myself, "I am having a terrible day," I am engaging in distorted thinking and can start to feel depressed. If I look more closely at that thought, I realize that I am angry about having gotten stuck in a traffic jam on the way to work and arrived 5 minutes late. In other words, my reaction to the traffic and lateness was exaggerated. In no way should it be allowed to affect my whole day.

Your reactions?


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Hi, Allen.

My reaction is that first of all I agree, generally speaking, a traffic jam in the morning should not negatively affect your mood for the rest of the day. If it does, there is probably something you can do to avoid this (assuming you want to avoid it)

I like how you differentiated between positive/negative and distortions/I assume you meant realistic, not unrealistic (isn’t that the same as a distortion?).

On “distortions”: Distortions are obviously bad in that they can make something that would have made you feel marginally bad, exponentially worse by exaggeration.

How do we avoid distortions then? I think we have to do like you said-- look more closely at the thought to weed out any possible exaggerations.

What do we do then once the exaggerations are weeded out/ what if the thought is not a distortion?

At some point, we are going to have “legitimate” thoughts that still make us feel bad. Perhaps something like, I don’t know, “My brother is dead,” and my brother really is dead.

And so we can try to supplement with “positive” thoughts, but I personally don’t think this works. I think this is a form of denial that will only work to exaggerate the negative thought, and will in fact make room for distortions to accumulate because you are side stepping, looking away from the thought. You aren’t looking closely at it if you are denying it in the first place.

It think then there is nothing left to do but accept the thought and the feelings that go along with it. Think about the thought (allowing you to weed out possible distortions) and feel the feelings (for me, instead of fighting harsh feelings, it is better to accept and embrace the feelings because in the moment I do this, I am differentiating myself from my feelings. I gain some kind of perspective of them. This of course in not always easy to do, like Endless asked, how to you take this step?

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