The Power of Negative Thinking

By Val Silver

Is the power of negative thinking all bad? The answer is a surprising, "No." Thinking negative thoughts shows its value as an aid to achieving health and life goals when you observe them with discernment and use them to your advantage.  With all the attention on positive thinking and law of attraction, the upside of negative thinking often gets overlooked and disregarded. In truth, learning to tap into its wisdom can be enlightening, instructive, and even motivating.

A fair amount of pessimism is normal and healthy. Your subconscious mind has a natural bent for the negative; it is hard-wired to alert you to to danger and to keep you safely in your comfort zones. This part of your brain is more likely to pay attention when something seems unsafe or wrong and to seek out negatives. It remembers them and give them more weight than positives that may also be present in your reality. 

On the other hand, habitual negative thinking patterns may also be normal, but they are not healthy. They serve more as a strategy for playing small and staying stuck instead of a strategy for stepping up, taking responsibility and risks, and making things happen.  

There is a big difference between habitual thinking patterns that put you (and others) down, keep you stuck, and do nothing to make your life better, and using the power of negative thinking to your advantage when facing upcoming situations. 

The Positive Power of Negative Thinking

There is nothing wrong with you if you think negative thoughts. You should expect to have anxious feelings or have doubts and fears when you take risks and step outside your comfort zone. Accept this process as part of your brain wiring. Explore what these thoughts and feelings are trying to tell you. Learn from them. Accept them. Then decide if you should hold yourself back because you truly are in danger or if you would do well to adjust your unhelpful 'stinkin' thinkin' in order to move forward with more ease and enjoyment. 

4 Benefits of Negative Thoughts

  • Thoughts are indicators of your beliefs, self-esteem, your disposition and personality. Your thinking patterns and your emotions are windows into your sometimes elusive subconscious mind. For example, constantly telling yourself, "I don't deserve, am not worthy, or good things are for other people, not me" reveal limiting, painful beliefs about yourself and your world. Talking to yourself this way demonstrates the power of negative thinking gone awry. Bring these thoughts into your awareness so that you can shift them to better feeling thoughts and heal those wounded parts of yourself. 
  • Negative emotions point to distress about current situations in your life.  If there is a mismatch between how you would like an ongoing relationship, job, health, or financial situation to be and how it actually is, your internal wisdom will alert you, and keep alerting you, to this gap in hopes that you will become uncomfortable enough with the situation to make different choices. This is kind of a double-edged sword because one part of you knows you have to make changes and the other part wants to keep you in the familiar which it deems as safe even if it isn't true in the long-term. 
  • Strong emotions such as anger and disgust can be energizing. Have you ever gone on a space cleaning rampage, left a miserable relationship, or changed your lifestyle because your thoughts and feelings about a situation reached a boiling point? You were able to leverage your discord between what you want and what you had in order to risk stepping out of your comfort zone in order to reach for something better. 

2 Exercises to Expand Awareness and Benefits of Negative Thoughts

When you observe your thoughts, you can put the power of negative thinking to work for you. you will Practicing awareness will help you realize emotional wounds that need healing, limiting beliefs that hold you back, and stinking thinking patterns that interfere with your well-being.  

Note: If you have persistent dark thoughts, thoughts about hurting yourself or others, or suffered a severe emotional trauma, please consult with a medical professional. Doing these types of self-exploration exercises may not be right for you at this time 

Exercise One - Observe Your Troublesome Self Talk:

the power of negative thinking

For a week or two, jot down as much of your negative self talk and comments made to others, and the feelings and emotions that accompany them. You may want to carry a small notebook or voice recorder with you so you can journal throughout the day.

Observe your thoughts without judgment. Do not censor or try to change them. Think of this exercise as an exploration and a learning experience. 

  • Record when and why you felt angry, sad, frustrated, unworthy, disgusted with yourself, with someone else, or with a situation. 
  • What did you say to yourself? To them? 

After that period, read over your journal and look for patterns.  Notice how you view life, what you say to yourself and others, and your states of mind. Your focus for this reflection is your unhealthy, unproductive thinking patterns, not occasional, random thoughts. 

Exercise Two - Explore the Positive Side of a Negative Situation

The power of negative thinking can be destructive to your mental health when you obsess over the past and let it sap the joy out of your present and future.

If you are churning over a past problematic situation, and want to feel better about it, try this exercise. You can use an experience from the first exercise or start anew.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself:

thinking negative thoughts
  • What do you tell yourself about this event? Write it down, get it all out. The positive power of negative thinking lies in your willingness to listen to the message your mind is giving you, and using your inner talk to your advantage. Dig deep.
  • What did this experience teach you about life? 
  • Is what you learned really accurate or is it a perception? Give evidence.
  • How did change your thoughts and behaviors in response to this event? 
  • How did those responses benefit or hinder you in your life? 
  • Are they still useful or are they limiting you? IE: How do they affect your relationships, career, happiness, finances and health?
  • Do the thoughts and feelings you carried forward into your present reveal parts of yourself that need healing? Which parts?
  • What do you want instead?
  • Are you willing to do what it takes to change your thoughts and your situation?  If so, what first steps will you take? When?

Doing this kind of reflection is powerful. It may also be a good idea to share your responses with a trusted friend, life coach, or therapist. Realizing the positive side of the negative, helps you feel better about what happened.

When you have completed your exploration and feel ready, you can begin to release and shift to more positive, productive thoughts.  Many people report relief from physical and mental distress when they take steps to release their limiting beliefs and negative emotions.

There is a positive side to thinking negative thoughts. When you tune into your disturbing mental chatter with nonjudgmental awareness, you can learn a lot about yourself. What you hear yourself saying alerts you to what parts of your life are not working, what needs healing, and what you want instead. 

When you accept all your thoughts and emotions as allies instead of enemies, you are in a position to benefit from the power of negative thinking. You can shift them to better feeling, more productive thoughts and actions, and afford yourself the opportunity  to make conscious decisions. You can aid your emotional and mental healing.  In this light, it is easy to see how the power of negative thinking can be very positive.

page updated 08/2019

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