Q: I still feel like I am missing pops. Are there some typical pops (negative thoughts) that many people miss or are very subtle so are frequently missed?
A: Catching automatic negative thoughts/pops patterns is a bit like peeling back layers of an onion. The top layers are more obvious and are typically either in our conscious awareness or easily brought to conscious awareness with the help of our curious observer. Other, deeper layers are by far more subtle and tend to be more deeply ingrained with our beliefs, how we see ourselves and what we believe to be true about our health and wellness. The more closely link our automatic thoughts are to our identity and fundamental beliefs, the more difficult they are to spot and to challenge. Tied to this identity and beliefs are the parts of us that surfaced early in our lives to protect us, to help us have our needs met in environments that perhaps were not ideal for us as children. It's not just overt disturbances that affect us as children, it can be more subtle like not feeling seen or understood, being ignored or neglected, not feeling safe, or not having our needs met. These circumstances create a heightened nervous system, make us hypervigilent, more prone to anxiety and fear, and affect our beliefs about ourselves and our worth. It is challenging to be able to recognize and befriend the parts of us that are so deeply anchored from so many years of being present. We see them as fundamental to who we are and fundamental to our nature, rather than parts that developed along the way and that do not serve our healing process. This is where it is helpful to work with a coach or someone that can help you recognize these parts. It is equally as important to meditate daily and cultivate your curious observer so that you can continue to hone your skills of uncovering the various layers that exist.
At the same time, we don't necessarily have to become consciously aware of all of it in order to make changes. And often, when we devote our attention to what we want to create and how we want to feel instead of what we want to get rid of or change, the very things that are getting in the way tend to come to the surface and become more easily identifiable. Then we can begin to work with them more directly.
In the mean time, I encourage you to use your feeling state and a barometer for your thoughts. What goes hand in hand with running maladaptive pathways in our brains are "negative" feeling states - fear, anxiety, sadness, frustration, anger, guilt, shame, defeat, melancholy, hopelessness, worry, etc. These feeling states have corresponding neurochemical signatures that reinforce the maladaptive pathways in the brain. When we are rooted in those pathways, it feels very hard to change our emotions. It feels like positive ones are not accessible and we lack to desire to even try to create them. This is a very normal experience and one of the fundamental reasons why in order to change we have to think greater than how we feel (as Joe Dispenza puts it).
I have written many blogs with suggestions to help change your feeling states, but here are some simple ones. Smile! The smile has to be big enough that it reaches the corners of your eyes. Plaster that smile on your face for at least two minutes (you can even set a timer if you like). The very act of positioning your facial muscles in this way sends a signal to your brain that releases happy-feel-good neurochemistry. Practice doing this at least a few times a day (even if your brain tries to tell you its ridiculous). Consider counting your breaths or thinking about something enjoyable while you do it to engage your brain in a helpful way.
Laughter yoga is another option - a few basic practices which can be found on YouTube. The laughter doesn't have to be sincere to affect your brain chemistry, and often through repetition you will find access to positive feelings that you may not have had access to before. Another option is to write out ten things you are grateful for and evoke the feeling of gratitude. These little practices, repeated often and consistently for a period of time, will start to change your neurochemistry and help you get out of the negative thought patterns that perhaps currently dominate your brain. Don't wait until you feel like doing them. Rather, activate your self-discipline and do it regardless of how you feel and what your brain may be telling you. Over time, the results will speak for themselves and you'll be glad you took the few minutes out of your day to do it.
One final suggestion comes from the work of Emile Coue. He was a French psychologist back in the early 1900's. He healed many patients of both physical and mental illness through the use of what he called auto-suggestion. Auto-suggestion involves repeating a positive statement out loud to yourself several times and regularly. Eventually your mind starts to believe it to be true and releases the corresponding chemistry in the brain and body to make it a reality. The statement he had his patients use was "Day by day, in every way I am getting better and better." It was to be repeated 20 times first thing upon waking in the morning and last thing before bed. The statement was later changed in the mid 1900's by Jose Silva, founder of the Silva Mind Control Method of Mental Dynamics. He used "Every day and in every way I am getting better and better." He also encouraged his students to add the statement, "Negative thoughts, negative suggestions have no influence over me at any level of mind." These statements were thought to be best said in an alpha brain wave state and did not need to be repeated to the same degree when used in that meditative state. Even though Jose Silva's book was written in the mid-70's and was based on his work over the previous few decades, the way that he talks about the brain and managing your mind reads like something you would see published today. You may find this simple practice is something worth incorporating into your routine. Consider repeating the "Every day.." statement morning and night 20 times according to the original instructions, and perhaps again at the end of your meditation practice. You may also add the "negative thoughts" statement at the end of a meditation practice as well, although according to Silva it only needs to be repeated once each time if you are in an alpha brain wave state.
Suffice it to say, catching and working with automatic negative thoughts is complex, but there are tools and ways of working with emotions and auto-suggestions that may not only make the process a little easier but also help us see more clearly where we may be stuck.
Until next time!
If you have a question, please email me at email@example.com
Candy Widdifield is Master Coach, Registered Reiki Master Teacher and former Registered Clinical Counsellor, living in Calgary Alberta, Canada. She has a background in nervous system regulation, trauma, grief & loss, mindfulness, somatic therapy, & positive psychology. She taught the DNRS in-person program for 5 years, has over a decade of experience coaching brain re-trainers & provides mentorship to other coaches. Candy works with people all over the world, helping them to optimize their wellbeing and thrive in their lives. More information about Candy can be found at www.candywiddifield.com