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positive/ negative thoughts and what they really mean.


nathan
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I'm reposting this here becuase there are more people in this forum.

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.

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That's interesting Nathan. I've been thinking about that myself for awhile, and I'm reading a book on cognitive therapy to learn more. They hypothesize that our moods are in fact very much created by your thoughts, or <cognitions> as they put it. This refers to the way you look at things - your perceptions, mental attitudes and beliefs. It includes the way you interpret things.

The first principle is that you feel the way you do because of the thoughts you are thinking at the moment. So if you think<cognitive therapy is too good to be true. It would never work for me>, then you are probably feeling skeptical or even discouraged. The thoughts made you feel that way, the internal dialogue actually created the feelings. If on the other hand you think <hey, this sounds like something which might finally help me> you may have a sudden uplift in mood.

The second principle is that when you are feeling depressed, your thoughts are dominated by pervasive negativity, and eventually you come to believe that things are and will always be bad. This bleak vision creates a sense of hopelessness.

The third principle is that their reseach has shown that negative thoughts which cause emotional turmoil nearly always contain gross distortions. Although these thoughts appear valid, they are in fact often irrational or plain wrong. Some of those those distortions include thinking patterns that jump to conclusions, overgeneralize, all-or-nothing thinking. So for example if you think <my life is shit and will never get better>, then you start feeling pretty lousy soon after. If you take a second and challenge that thought and rectify the error, or distortion, you will probably see that this is fact a pretty rediculous statement and based on all-or-nothing thinking which is not helpful....

That's the part I find really interesting personally. I too have struggled with thinking how the heck can I control my thoughts. I'm starting to recognize that my <perceptions> of what I am living are often based on these distortions. For example, if I meet a new person, I often assume that they do not like me. The fact is that most people like me just fine, but I have this nasty habit of feeling inadequate so I jump to that conclusion. I do think it's important for me to challenge this thought, since it's based on something false and I do have control over how I choose look at this new situation.

Well, that was long, but I think that negative and self-defeating thought can and should be challenged. Another example I have is when I was younger I was very shy and self-concious and did not like how it held me back in professional situations. I could have just said that's the way it is and I just need to accept it. But I decided to challenge that, took courses in public speaking, etc. and I am no longer shy and can talk in front of hundreds of people. I think we can in fact teach ourselves to change the way we think about things, and for people who suffer from depression it is apparently as helpful as medication in many cases. It's a learning process ... I think we have predispositions to think in certain ways, but with time and determination I think we can indeed improve on unhelpful thinking patterns.

Over to you :)

Edited by Symora
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Interesting, I don't know mush about this stuff, but I have some questions.

Is it never the case that emotions are the antecedents to thoughts? Are negative thoughts always the antecedents to feeling bad? Don't you ever just feel bad (or good)for no apparant negative or positive thoughts, and then produce thoughts in respictive to your mood? Basically, obviously emotions and thougths go hand in hand, but is it 100% sure that emotions arn't actually in the driver's seat?

I guess it could still be subconscious thoughts or perseptions that "drive" your moods, but who knows? maybe the brain naturally cycles through moods irrespective to its thoughts. If tha is true, what do negative/ positive thoughts really mean then? lol I duno...

I just don't think feeling "negative" or depressed is a bad thing in itself. I think it is something that all people should and do experience. Rather then try and get rid of it, I feel like, atleast withmyself, it is better to face it head on, to delve into it.

It's like when you get anxious or nervous, for me it seems better to accept the fact that I am nervous, and try to feel everthing in me that is making me nervous, as opposed to trying to ignore or deny the fact that I am nervous.

Doing this automatically differentiates me and my nervousness becuase by accepting it, I put myself in a position where I can then in some way qualify it. I am observing myself in a state of nervousness, and I can learn from this.

But if I try and ignore it, I can't qualify it becuase I havn't even accepted it's presence, and therefore havn't wholly understood its qualities. I become naive to it-- I also allow "distortions" to grow.

It seems to me that forcing positive thougths in times of anxiousness or depressive moods, one is not accepting there thougths, it's almost like they are in a state of denial. And in doing so they cannot learn about themsleves in such states.

So is thinking positively in order to compensate for a negative thought a way of ignoring that negative thought? Or am I way off base here/ maybe it is relevant to tthe person.

With the third principle, I agree, people tend to distort negative thoughts. But people tend to distort any kind of thoughts, so this would be expected. And I agree, it is always good to look over your thoughts, reflecting and refining them is always a good way to allieviate distortions.

But what about negative thougths that are more or less true or "real"? To me again, I think it is better to accpet these thoughts, rather than to push "positive" thoughts onto them, as this seems like a way of ignoring or denying something that sshould be understood. It should be understood, not ignored, as means to allieviate any distortions. Pushing "positive thoughts" over top of this will only work as a distraction.

so if we want to rid our thoughts of distortions, don't we have to accept all thougthts-even negative ones-in order to "qualify" or properly understand what such a thought is worth??

Won't thinkiing "postively," make us ignore a thought, and consequently all of its potential distortions??

Edited by nathan
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All valid concepts, makes sense to me ... I guess it depends on how you come at it. I like the concept of being the silent observer. They teach you this in medication practice. You learn to watch your thoughts. One way to do it is imagine yourself lying at the bottom of the ocean (you are a fish so breathing is not an issue :)...), and as your thoughts come you see them as bubbles floating around you, moving freely. You watch them go buy but don't attach meaning to them. This is difficult, very difficult. Our mind wants to go off in all these directions and it's very hards to stay in that objective observer mode, so if you go off it's normal. When you realise it you just reassume the silent observer position and move on. The longer you stay there the more you start seeing the patterns of your thoughts, how they have a tendency to be optimistic or pessimistic for example, or dramatic, or dowright distortions of what you actually saw for example.

Once you discern the throughts without judging them too quickly, your consciousness about the thoughts change, you start seeing things differently. Not because you are forcing yourself to see it positively for example, but because you understand it differently and chose an option that may be more helpful to where you want to get.

I also don't think it's bad to feel negative or depressed. In fact I think it helps us develop compassion and understanding for other people's suffering, it wears away at our rough edges too, but I think it may be counterproductive to stay there...it makes existence too difficult.

Edited by Symora
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  • 5 months later...

very interesting are your thoughts on thoughts:) i would like to ask you what are your views concerning beliefs and do your beliefs affect your thought processes? subconcious beliefs also. ihave an idea that thoughts are connected to beliefs.

i have had a lightbulb moment today i hve realised that this negative thinking occurs slowly and is very insiduous, one leads to another deeper and deeper. i have suffered depression for years without realising it, i have never been on medication and as i have become more aware about what is happening to me, i have been able to monitor it easier.

i have become very interested in meditation and i used osho dynamic meditation recently when i fell into th black hole of depression, it was vry interesting to notic that my thoughts were changing very subtly as i was practicing it, i did it for two weeks and than left it, i find it tricky to keep these things up, but they obviously work and i believe it is a way to reprgramme your subconcious.

just a few ideas to explore:)

alice

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