Why Our Words and Thoughts Really Can Hurt Us: 10 Strategies For Combating Negativity and The Blues

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Marisa D. Aceves. Glass Bubble Landscape 1. Digital Photography

article by Marisa D. Aceves

Maintaining a positive attitude towards our art and other aspects of our life isn’t always easy.

Past traumas, rejection, career disappointments and failed relationships can temporarily get in the way of happiness.

However, when we constantly find ourselves dwelling on all of the misfortune that we have experienced instead of focusing on our strengths, this practice can not only get in the way of career advancement, it can ruin our emotional, psychological and physical health.

Succumbing to negative thought patterns steals our joy, our energy, and our will to create.

We don’t have to give into negative thoughts, but we often do.

In fact, we are conditioned from birth to think negatively, yet as very small children, the majority of us are essentially positive in our thoughts and actions.

Negative thoughts often lead to negative words about ourselves and others; this vicious cycle continues until we decide we want to change it.

Since the mind has a tendency to keep us thinking about all sorts of things that happen throughout the day, if we remember something negative that happened (something that upset us) this upsetting thought can trigger other upsetting thoughts.

This sets off a chain reaction that seems literally “unstoppable.”

Often worry or insecurities about getting out of our comfort zone in order to reach our goals can paralyze us from taking action in the areas that will ensure our success.

While the mind is trying to protect you and keep you safe, getting out of your comfort zone is essential to your artistic growth.

How do we defend ourselves against our  negative thoughts?

What can we do to set ourselves back on the path to a more positive, healthy outlook?

Here are some suggestions that may help you conquer the current onslaught of negativity:

Carefully Consider Your Present Thinking Patterns – The first step to changing negative thinking patterns is recognition. You have to recognize what types of negative thoughts are influencing your actions. When your are able to identify what types of negative thoughts you tend to entertain and in what areas negative thoughts occur, you can then begin to address the issue. According to Dr. Katharina Star, there are ten types of negative thinking patterns or cognitive distortions that interfere with our ability to think, feel and act in a positive manner. Here is a list with the strategies for combating them:

1) ALL OR NOTHING THINKING – Everything we think about is viewed in extremes of positive or negative. We are either an incredible success or a complete failure.  We are incredibly productive or we get nothing done at all. This way of thinking is extremely inflexible. It keeps us from seeing the step-by-step progress that we are trying to make toward our goals.

Strategy– For each area that causes you to go into black or white thinking, address it with the steps that you are taking to reach that goal each day. You may want to write down the areas that bother you the most. Then take notes of the progress you are making. This is written, visual proof that you are making an effort to move forward.

2) OVERGENERALIZING – When we are feeling down, we make assumptions that situations will always remain the way we once experienced them. We tell ourselves that we’ll never get out of our current situation. This is not necessarily the case, but the words “always” and “never” used negatively limit our view of our lives and potential .

Strategy- Whenever you are tempted to assume or overgeneralize, you should gently remind yourself that the upsetting situation may have been a one time occurrence. One mistake or situation should not determine the outcome of future events. Try to recall pleasant situations in which things did go well to offset thoughts about negative situations, setbacks, or mistakes.

3) MENTALLY FILTERING OUT THE POSITIVE- When we are approaching our lives from a negative point of view we have a tendency to filter out all of the things that are positive in our lives and focus only on the bad or unpleasant things.

Strategy- Count your blessings. Gratefulness helps us to notice what is beautiful and meaningful in our lives.  It helps us to see our gifts and the gifts of others.

4) DISMISSING WHAT IS POSITIVE – When we are discouraged, we have a tendency to ignore what is good in our lives, our achievements and relationships.

Strategy- Remind yourself of all of your successes. Continue to foster healthy, positive relationships by spending quality time with individuals you know love and care about you.

5) JUMPING TO CONCLUSIONS – Sometimes we believe misread behaviors in others is due to their dislike of us or their lack of trust in our abilities.  We entertain scenarios of “doom and gloom” believing that every situation that causes us discomfort will end badly.

Strategy- Tell yourself that your fear of peoples’ judgement is often unfounded. You don’t have enough facts that equal proof. Go into each situation focusing only on what is going on in the present.

Stay out of your head and stay engaged.

6) MAGNIFYING AND MINIMIZING PROBLEMS- In this example of distorted thinking, we adopt either a “world is going to end” attitude to every setback we encounter, or we dismiss every opportunity for change that comes along because we believe we don’t deserve it.

Strategy- Discuss your problems and fears with a licensed therapist, a trusted friend or family member. This will help you get a grounded perspective on what you are experiencing.  Reach out to others who can help you see the true nature and amount of attention each emotional episode deserves.

7) EMOTION BASED REASONING- When we are lost in emotion, everything we see and experience  is colored by how we feel.

Strategy- Before allowing the latest bought of anxiety to paralyze you from taking action, you need to remind yourself that emotions lie. Our emotions are lying to us about our abilities and self-worth.  Feelings are not facts, just feelings.  Since emotions are associated with the right brain, engage in an activity which activates the left brain like counting, writing, researching,etc.  This helps to flip the switch on overpowering emotions.

8) WOULD’VE COULD’VE SHOULD’VE STATEMENTS – In the middle of a bad case of the blues, we tend to rehash what we could have, would have or should have done about a disappointing or unpleasant past experience.  This pointless exercise prolongs disappointment .

Strategy- Move on.  Do what you didn’t do yesterday today.  Focusing on changing bad habits that keep you from a more positive outcome.

9) ATTACHING LABELS TO OURSELVES – Low self-esteem and hopelessness contribute to our attributing judgemental labels to ourselves like stupid, worthless, etc.

Strategy- Refrain from labeling. Tell yourself “I know I have to work on this problem, but it doesn’t make me a bad or unworthy person.  There is no one in the world that isn’t touched by something.

10) PLAYING THE BLAME GAME – When we want to avoid dealing with our problems, we resort to self-blame or blaming others.  However, self-blame increases panic and anxiety.  Blaming others for our problems prolongs anger and frustration. It alienates us from our peers.

Strategy – Make plans to address the areas in your life that are frustrating you. Create a chart and write down possible solutions to each problem with small steps that you need to take to reach each goal.

Coping with periods of discouragement can go a long way to improving your creativity. It’s important not to stay discouraged. Eventually, we can conquer the negative thought patterns and words that are holding us back from our best life and creative work.

The Agony of Defeating Yourself: 7 Warning Signs You’re Prone to Self-Sabotage

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Marisa D. Aceves. Satellite 2 Valley 1. Digital Photography

 

You’ve been surfing the web and combing the pages of countless art publications looking for the perfect opportunity to showcase your work.

You know that you have a limited amount of time to get your jpegs and artist statement together to send to a handful of promising juried exhibitions.

As you prepare your entry, you can feel the anxiety begin to build.

Will it be good enough?

Do you have enough experience?

Have you met the requirements for each competition?

One little doubt is added to another and another. 

Then, just when you’ve begun the baby steps to reaching your goal of increased visibility you do something stupid…

…something completely and totally irrational….

You decide not to enter.

The opportunity is gone within a couple of days, but the self-loathing and internal brow-beating can go on for weeks. 

Finally, you come to realize one small yet important fact that you have deliberately chosen to ignore: You’re your own worst enemy.

We want good things for ourselves; We have an innate desire to share our work with others. So why do we consistently do things to kill our chances for success?

There are as many different reasons for engaging in self-sabotaging behaviors as there are self-sabotaging behaviors. Self-sabotage in the arts in not a unique phenomenon. It seems to cross professions and is an otherwise equal opportunity problem.  

So how do we know if we have a tendency to self-sabotage and what can we do to address it . Here are seven warning signs that you may have a problem with self-defeating behaviors:

1. Procrastination- We have all been a party to procrastination at one point or another.  However, when it becomes a habit and an excuse to avoid things and people associated with our job (that make us uncomfortable) it can keep us from the work we need to put in to achieve our career goals. If you know that procrastination is a problem, write a list of all of the goals that you would like to achieve.  Break these goals into smaller tasks so that you don’t get overwhelmed.  Set up a daily and weekly schedule for working on these smaller tasks. If it helps, keep a monthly calendar with the tasks for that particular day written in the space for each day of the month.  If it is a social problem and you are avoiding seeing people within your industry, friends and family, try to take small steps to expose your self to more people. Join a local arts council etc. Learn from good friends who can help you understand how to successfully communicate with people.

2. Negative Self-Defeating Thought Patterns- Sometimes we punish ourselves when things don’t go our way (opportunities fall through), people we love disappoint us, or we simply fear the unknown.  The problem with repeating negative thoughts about ourselves and our situation/s is that eventually, we start to believe our own hype and those destructive thoughts eventually become actions. Generally, the negative self-sabotaging thoughts we have about ourselves have a deeper underlying cause that we need to address. Try to find out the real reasons for your negative thoughts about yourself and your abilities. Is it fear of failure? Is it fear of rejection? Once you are able to positively identify the areas that are emotionally difficult for you, you can begin to make a plan to move forward in these areas so that they no longer serve as emotional triggers. 

3. Difficulty Handling Emotional Stress- When people correct you or make negative or hurtful comments do you automatically become defensive? Do you make excuses or shutdown?  These could be signs that you have difficulty handling emotional stress.  Instead of falling into self-destructive habits like drugs, alcohol etc. to deal with the emotional stress, consider this: Is their criticism valid?  Who is making the negative comments and why?  We can never completely avoid emotionally stressful situations. All we can do is learn to deal with them in a positive, mature manner. There may be times, when we have to fix a problem that is due to our own lack or responsibility. Other times, the problem lies with the individual or individuals making the negative comments; it is not our problem to fix.

4. Dysfunctional Relationships- As I have mentioned before in a previous post on stress, there are some people who care more about themselves than they do about you. Their negative decisions and self-destructive behaviors can often effect you and the way that others see you.  In the course of your relationship with them, you find that you are spending all of your time trying to fix their problems instead of working to solve your own.  This game can lead to a load of resentment.  Sometimes, we want influential friends or a career affiliation so badly, our “neediness” makes us an easy target for abusers and users.  Inside we feel that  something is wrong, but we purposefully ignore the warning signs. There is also a reverse example of the aforementioned negative relationship, where we have unrealistic expectations of the people that we know and love.  We may place an unnecessary burden on them to “keep us happy at all times”. When this scenario inevitably fails, we lose our cool and they lose us permanently.  Don’t rely on others to make you feel loved, happy or worthy. Treat others with love and respect. When they don’t reciprocate, politely and calmly wish them well and let them go on their way. 

5. Entertaining Negative Past Events That Make You Angry-  Constantly reliving the past doesn’t give you hope for the future.  What has happened has happened. It is officially over.  To allow yourself to remain angry about something that has happened in the past automatically gives that past event or person unnecessary control over you and your future happiness. Whenever you find that this is happening, move from where you are.  Try to engage in another activity like reading or a hobby that you enjoy. Watch a television program that you like. Call a good friend or family member on the phone and start a great conversation.  Do not allow yourself to entertain these past events.  Calmly tell yourself that the problematic situation has already occurred; you are not going back in time to fix it. Tell yourself that you have already decided to move on. If this method doesn’t work try writing down the reasons why that particular situation made you angry? On paper tell the person or persons involved what you would have wanted to tell them.  Don’t hold back.  Now rip the paper into shreds and toss it in the trash. Give yourself permission to let it go forever.  It may take some time and practice at first, but all unprofitable habits can be conquered with time and effort.

6. You Blame Others- Sometimes, it really is their fault. Other times, it is simply our own lack of action or bad habits that eventually bring us down.  If we continue to blame others for our problems, we develop a bitter victim mentality.  It gives us the perfect excuse to avoid the change we need to make a difference in our lives.  

7. Inability To Commit To Specific Goals- We all face an uncertain future.  No one really knows what will happen tomorrow, but if we work hard and prepare we have a better chance of succeeding.  Often we find that at the core of inaction is fear.  We can experience fear about the future or about wether or not we can meet the goals we set. Nevertheless, we have to define our goals anyway so that we know were we want to go and what we want to achieve. Ask yourself what you want to accomplish with your work. Boldly set about making a list of goals you would like to achieve. Be realistic with a keen understanding of your present abilities and knowledge. Place these goals in an area where you can see them so that you are constantly reminded of your intentions. While your goals may change over time, it is good to have your goals in front of you.  In this way, you can monitor your actions to see if they are helping or keeping you from reaching your goals.  

While this article doesn’t  begin to cover all of the self-sabotaging behaviors that exist, it does help to identify some common ones that may be directly effecting your business.  Like many other problems, time, consistency and patience pay off.