Thoughts in the Background
Women with addiction tend to struggle with negative thoughts. It’s part of why we’re prone to reaching for substances to help us feel better.
If we pay close attention, we may notice that we are saturated with self-talk, so familiar and chronic that we barely stop to object to it. This talk might be like a drippy faucet on some days and a firehose on others, but chances are high that negativity in some form is a near-constant presence. It’s part of the inner environment of our psyche.
Whether we notice the thoughts or not, the evidence of their existence is visible in our lives. Our behaviors, choices, relationships, and bodies all reflect the fact that deep in the background, negative thoughts are running the show.
Inner Thoughts Pollute the Psyche
These negative thoughts, with their ominous voice-overs, interpretations, and vibes, vastly affect what it feels like inside our own skin. Just as the same video clip seems very different depending on the music you set it to, our lives feel completely different based on the quality and tone of the thoughts running in our heads.
Negative thoughts are like environmental toxins, polluting our inner world. That which is natural, sweet, and kind within us can’t live or feel safe in such an environment. The pain these thoughts create will reinforce the addiction habit because we need to get away from it all.
Changing the Program
We can change the program. We can say, “Enough of these voices! Let’s listen to some different ones. Let’s choose something that feels good to listen to.”
It’s some work, but not nearly as much as it sounds. Thoughts can be shifted and changed much more easily than we think once we decide to do that.
Some follow-through, persistence, optimism, and faith will help. Start with believing that it can be done.
The following four practices for thinking better thoughts may help you on your way.
4 Practices for Thinking Better Thoughts
1. Notice Your Inner Weather
Begin to notice when your negative thoughts are especially strong. A clue is that you will feel bad, triggered to use, or in some other way uncomfortable. If you are not feeling happy and relaxed, some negative thoughts are at play.
For example, if you notice you feel anxious, empty, agitated, or depressed, that means strong negative thoughts are going on.
Next time you catch this, say to yourself, “Aha! There must be some negative thoughts going on. I wonder what they are?”
2. Observe and Distance: Thoughts are Just Thoughts
Begin to identify what, precisely, your negative thoughts are saying. Listen closely to observe exactly what interpretation of your life is being offered.
Practice the following mantra: “I am not my thoughts. Thoughts can be positive, and thoughts can be negative, but either way, they are only thoughts. If I listen to negative thoughts, I will feel bad. If I listen to positive thoughts, I will feel good. Either way, thoughts are just thoughts, and I am not my thoughts.”
3. Use Logic to Defeat Negative Thoughts
Negative thoughts can feel insanely convincing, even though they are nothing more than opinions or expectations, and would be easily defeated in a logical debate.
For example, the depressing thought, “Things will always be like this,” is disprovable in a matter of seconds because your life has never once stayed the same. Hasn’t it always changed, evolved, shifted, and grown? Isn’t it true that nothing, not even you, has once stayed the same?
Practice countering the logic of negative thoughts, and you will get better and better at it over time. You’ll find that negative thoughts go poof in the light of logic.
4. Find Better-Feeling Thoughts
Finally, practice adopting and creating new thoughts that feel better. Using the criteria, “How does this thought feel to my body?”, find interpretations that you, personally, choose to have of your own life.
It’s all in the framing! Using your own personal life philosophy, your unique creativity, and your way of relating to this world, what do you think is the best way to think about this situation? Get in the habit of asking yourself which way of looking at it feels the nicest to your body.
Gradually, your new, better-feeling thoughts will become the default program, and you won’t have to work so hard to be happy. Won’t that be nice?