All day long our minds are filled with constant chitter chatter. Most of it benign, some of it worry-some, and some of it down right troublesome.
Research suggests we have somewhere in the region of 65,000 thoughts every day and that on average our mental dialogue is in the region of 50 to 300 words per minute.
Much of this is self-talk, inwardly directed and a good deal of it is unhelpful. Because of the way it makes us feel, it is capable of raising our stress levels and bringing down our mood. In CBT circles we talk of NATs (Negative Automatic Thoughts) or ANTs (Automatic Negative Thoughts).
Such thoughts are:
AUTOMATIC They just seem to come into your mind without any concious effort.
DISTORTED They are not always supported by the things you know to be true.
UNHELPFUL They are nearly always negative and make it difficult to change.
PLAUSIBLE You accept them as facts without questioning them.
INVOLUNTARY You do not choose to have them and they appear difficult to stop.
One of the problems is that we tend to be so identified with our thoughts that we often cannot see them for what they are…just thoughts. Instead, somehow we see them as us, and we feel we have no power over them. Often we give them power, believing them and that we are somehow at the mercy of them. Racing thoughts, obsessive ruminations and irrational fears take over.
How then can we learn to step back and take control? Well, let me introduce you to “thought flipping.”
I would like you to imagine that you are now going to install a “negative thought alarm.” As soon as a negative thought crosses your mind a silent alarm sounds. You then step in with absolute authority, grab hold of the thought and flip it on its head, by thinking the exact opposite.
Yes, expect a little battle at first, when your rational programmed mind tells you that such a practice is ridiculous and could not possibly be true. But like the Master you are, you use your authority and power to respond back in a direct and commanding way. The mind is reminded that it’s former thought was, at the very least, as lousy and ridiculous as the new flipped one. As you are the Master you will choose what is true.
Here is an example of thought flipping where we rewrite the negative mental script.
You find your mood dipping and you notice you are feeling angry with yourself. Your thoughts are as follows: “I am useless and have no sticking power, I missed an entire week at the gym.” By flipping the thought we create a different perspective and this can halt the negative mood slide. “I have been kind and listened
to my body and taken a break from the gym, so I am going to have a really good workout today, because I am truly committed to my goal of feeling good and honouring my mind and body.”
What you need to do is change the wording, in other words rewrite them. Which one do you want to be true? You choose?
It can be really helpful at first to get into the habit of writing down any serial negative thoughts that continue to pop into your mind. Do this when you notice the drain on your emotions and you start to feel down, depressed or anxious:
Write down your thoughts on paper and take a good look at it.
Do you know this thought is a fact, is it true?
Is this a helpful thought, does it serve you?
Write down a counter thought that opposes the negative thought
Change the wording of the thought to something more positive
Now each time the negative thought wants to dominate your thinking, assertively replace it with the new positive alternative.
So here we have it, thought flipping, tackling negative thoughts by re-creating positive alternatives with deliberate intent. Planting positive thoughts this way ensures that we take back control and create the reality we want.
Until next time, very best wishes, Steve.
You may wish to know that Steve is now offering therapy sessions via Skype Please contact us through our website @ www.stevecliffordcbt.com
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Steve Clifford Senior Accredited Integrative Psychotherapist. Accredited Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist.
Adapted from: “Thought-Flipping: A guide for Taking Charge of Your Mind-Stuff,” by Leigh Donovan, 30/06/12, Spirit-full, a personal transformational blog.
Ref: “Negative Automatic Thoughts,” Central Manchester and Manchester Children’s University Hospitals NHS TRust, Clinical Psychology, 2002