According to research, about 80 per cent of our thoughts have some negative content (Harris, 2007).* Hurrah! I'm normal. I've spent the other 20 per cent of my thoughts beating myself up for being so negative. What a relief. I can stop that now. I'm normal.
We have a lot to learn from positive psychology about enhancing and improving our state of mind. But, to me, that is the end of the story. The start of the story is acceptance; acceptance that I have negative thoughts and acceptance that that particular 'story' is not necessarily The Truth.
Learning detachment is where I am at the moment. I have a story, but I am not my story. Not unless I choose to become that story. There goes the Fat Me story... Ah, there's the Poor Me story... and now the Incompetent Me story. Hour after hour they weave there way in and around my thoughts. My body tenses, ever so slightly, as I become vaguely aware of them, but the guilt and shame they induce in me, means that I try to ignore them. Clearly that hasn't worked, they will outlive even the most determined cockroaches.
Apparently ignoring them, or even arguing with these thoughts is a fruitless exercise. My life experience backs up that argument. The trick is to notice them and detach from them, every so slightly, using phrases such as 'I notice I'm having a Poor Me thought'.
I'm only a novice at this, but it does give me a little more distance. It has assuaged that vague feeling of shame and guilt that delicately infuse my emotional state. The biggest relief has been the discovery that I am not a failure because I think like this, almost everyone else thinks like this too.
Imagine what humanity could create if we weren't looking through at the world through our negatively tinted glasses.
The Happiness Trap by Russ Harris, 2007
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