Fighting Negative Thinking

By Barton Goldsmith Tribune News Service

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Dr. Barton Goldsmith, a psychotherapist in California says that when it comes to trauma, "You may never forget what traumatized you, but if you do a little mental exercise, it won't have the same negative effect on you."

Tribune News Service

When bad things happen, they usually leave a scar. It's called trauma. When memories of the trauma keep popping up in your mind and make you uncomfortable, that's post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

If this is happening in your psyche, you can do some internal work to make your life easier and lessen the unwanted thoughts. Yes, this is work, but it's well worth the effort.

-Make meditation and visualization your new best friends. Learning very simple techniques can really change your thinking and your feelings about almost anything. There are so many different ways to do this, with classes and the Internet being the easiest. If this sounds too "brown rice" for you, remember that medical science has proven that it works.

-When distressing thoughts come into your mind, become aware of them as soon as possible. You may not actually realize you are thinking about what hurt you, and once you do, you can take steps to change your thinking and thereby your mood. Negative thoughts do not have as much power as you do.

-Look at what you are doing when you start feeling uncomfortable. If you are in bed in the morning, it's better to get up and get your day started. It's amazing how feeding the cat can take your mind off a painful memory. If you are sitting down, just stand up and go outside, take a deep breath, look around, and realize you are in the present moment.

-Know that you have the ability to change your thinking. Once you've switched your thoughts from negative to neutral or positive a few times, you can do it again. Practice thinking of positive things even when you are feeling okay. Let yourself start to dream about the future again.

-Own your empowerment. The problem is that when those old traumas get triggered, it takes over your mind, and you might (for the moment) forget you have some tools to deal with it. Using reminders of some kind, even Post-Its, can help you keep your focus where you want it.

-Don't beat yourself up. It will take a while to heal, and you can't control your dreams or thoughts upon waking, but you can take steps to change this. As long as you are doing what you can to make your inner world more peaceful, you are succeeding. Just remember that.

-If you can't find the motivation yourself, ask someone who loves you if he or she would be your coach for a little while. Or seek out a support group or licensed counselor. And sometimes these thoughts can have a physical or biochemical root, so it's always wise to see your medical doctor.

If you've had enough of living in emotional pain, I strongly encourage you to take some of the steps above, as well as many others. You may never forget what traumatized you, but if you do a little mental exercise, it won't have the same negative effect on you. The thing you have to remember is that you are in charge. You may just have to grab yourself by the scruff of the neck and tell yourself how much better your life will be if you can let go of past trauma. ___ (Dr. Barton Goldsmith, a psychotherapist in Westlake Village, Calif., is the author of "The Happy Couple: How to Make Happiness a Habit One Little Loving Thing at a Time.")

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