What we think has a direct impact on how we feel and behave. If we think positively then our outlook is bright, light and full of motivation; if we think negatively our associated feelings are dark, heavy and full of doom and gloom. In our everyday lives, it’s easy to get swept away on the rollercoaster of positive and negative thinking, and that’s ok if the balance between the two opposites is at least equal – although erring on the positive side of the divide will hold you in better, happier stead.
But what about when all your thinking is negative, all the time?
In recovery, the phrase is ‘stinking thinking’ – and it’s not good. Experiencing negative thoughts all the time is bad for you. Such thinking can overwhelm and cripple your mind and your spirit, leading to constant malaise, indifference, and a general emptiness that is trademark of the active addict. Persistent ‘stinking thinking’ leads to more negative thinking, which can lead to depression and, for the recovering addict, relapse.
It’s simply a luxury we cannot afford if we want to live a free, happy life in recovery – you are, literally, thinking your way back into full blown addiction.
So what type of thinking can be regarded, as negative, stinking thinking. If you can relate to one or more of the types of negativity outlined below, then you are going to need to reassess a few things.
- Resenting other people
- Bitterness about the past
- Blaming other people
- Feeling superior to everyone else
- Feeling inferior to everyone else
- Ill-will towards strangers
- Focus on the faults of other people
- Viewing the world in black and white
- Being overly pessimistic
- Schadenfreude – getting enjoyment from watching other people fail
- Blowing things out of proportion
- Always attributing negative motives behind the actions of others
There are a host of dangers that will come via your stinking thinking, apart from being miserable all the time. It reopens the void in your stomach, the one that you had only just starting filling with recovery; it leads to conflict and fighting with yourself and the world around you, which in turn creates constantly negative environments; it plays so eloquently into your self- pity, which in turn leads to ‘victim’ style behaviours; it takes all the enjoyment that you were feeling in recovery, and turns it bad, which makes feel like you are stuck and going nowhere; it starts to eat away at the goodwill that you have built in your time in recovery, and will ultimately start to make you think whether recovery is worth it at all; if left unchecked it will lead you straight back to your drug of choice. It’s horrible.
But like everything in recovery, you can act and you can improve your thinking. Nothing is insurmountable if you are willing to look at the problem, and do something about it.
Here are some guidelines on things you can do to immediately to arrest the problem:
- Be consciously aware of your thinking. One of the main difficulties with this type of thinking is that people slip into it without even realizing it. So, look at your thinking today, pay attention to how you are thinking and the feelings that accompany those thoughts. Try a different approach to any person, place of thing that encourages your negative mood, and monitor the results by feeling the feelings that are generated. Use your new found self-awareness to honestly assess, and then act.
- I am no spiritual guru nor advisor. Meditation in its purest form is very hard for me, but I have developed the mindful practice of watching my thoughts and letting them go, especially in the eye of particularly harsh depression storm. I set my watch for 10 or 15 minutes, lay on the bed, close my eyes, calm myself with some deep breaths in and out, and watch the negativity flood my mind. And it does. Uncontrollably. As a spectator of my own thoughts, they don’t seem to have the devastating effect that occurs when I act on those feelings. Sometimes I laugh, or get angry, or get scared or just cry, but with the acknowledgement and acceptance of each thought, I can simply let them pass through. I’m still perfecting this art, and some sessions are more successful than others, but practice means progress, and that’s all I’m looking for.
- Another great practice is sitting down with a blank bit of paper and write down all the negativity that is engulfing your mind at that time. Taking the stink out of your head and writing it out in front of you, immediately disempowers the thought, and helps you to let go of it before it really starts to smell.
- Gratitude and positive thinking are an effective way to counterbalance an excess of negative thinking. This isn’t always possible in the middle of a severe episode, but can be implemented prior to the crappy thoughts surfacing, stopping them before they get any momentum in your head. Start and finish the day with either a mental or written show of gratitude for what you have in your life today. In time, this practice will infiltrate more and more of your daily thinking.
If you are struggling with continuous stinking thinking and you need more than the above, maybe a sounding board or just an empathic ear, then speak to your confidants in your recovery community or you can contact me via this FB page, and through the website – www.ajourneywithoutsubstance.com – and I will gladly lend my ear, and offer any help and support I can.
You wouldn’t let a stink bomb go off in your house every day, so stop setting them go off in your head!!
Here’s wishing you a positive, half glass full, kinda day,
Lots of love, Andrew