How to deal with negative thoughts

how to deal with negative feelingsIn this era when so many people are into the Law of Attraction as depicted in The Secret and many other places, it’s almost become forbidden to entertain negative thoughts. People who consider themselves spiritually awakened have frequently come to view succumbing to an inner temper tantrum or bout with situational depression as an absolute no-no.

I have seen people go to some pretty bizarre lengths to deny that they are having a rough time—and this because they want to stay the course on the Good Ship Lollipop. They’ve been indoctrinated with the idea that thoughts and beliefs create reality. If you give in and think bad thoughts, they figure, it means you’re creating  a negative reality.

At countless times on my Facebook news stream I get photos and messages to the effect of if you want to be happy, change your thoughts. Change the channel, change your mood. Spray on the joy. And while I think that’s a good idea for many situations, I think that it misses an important point:

Thoughts and emotions that we might consider negative often bear gifts to us. They are often messages from our higher selves or our unconscious. They warn us that we’re going in the wrong direction. Bad things often happen to us so that we wake up and look for spiritual answers. A health issue, a romantic break-up, a temper tantrum, a workplace betrayal—even when the event seems so far out of your control, it may well be a route that takes you out of your routine where you will find solutions.

Take a look back in time to areas where your life changed through a painful event—a lost job or a job you wanted and didn’t get, an accident, a divorce, a bankruptcy, the death of someone close to you. Did something good come out of it? Did you shift your thinking enough to open up to new possibilities? (Painful events do not have to be traumas! They can also be little events like a missed train or being stood up.)

Many people experience positive change through their pain. Being passed by for one job or one relationship or one adventure turns out to yield a better opportunity. Casting negative feelings as the enemy may not be helpful here. And then there’s this:


We are here on the planet to learn. This place is dualistic, a study in contrasts and opposites like happy and sad, good and evil, night and day, dry and wet. So we will always be confronted by light and shadow because that’s nature in this dimension. It is the spiritual dimension, not this one, that is non-dualistic, at least according to spiritual teachings I have heard.

The secret to dealing with negative thoughts, I believe, is to watch those thoughts and learn from them, not ignore them and try frantically to cover them over with positives. When you understand the message for you in the negative thought, it has served its purpose and then it does not need to keep bugging you. Listen when you’re pissed. Listen when you feel hurt.

I like to acknowledge my feelings before I move on. Acknowledging them helps me move forward. I like to observe the feelings, “good” or “bad” as they may be. I am beginning to recognize certain thoughts as ego-driven and certain other thoughts as more spiritual.

I am able to say, “Boy, my ego/self-esteem/desires sure got trashed there. Whew, look at the smoke and rubble!” I can then rise above it and say, “And this opens up a new opportunity for me.”


For me positive thinking works best when I don’t deny the negative feelings. There’s a period of time for feeling the disappointment or the anger or the jealousy or the grief. Knowing that the longer I stew in it the worse it will get, I keep it as brief as I can, but I don’t try to automagically deal with it through denial and cover-up.

Then I work on the positives with gusto. I do it by first wondering what I would like to see happen now, not denying the reality of what happened. I create a positive vision that would counter-balance the aches and pains of the event. I find this a much more constructive use of energy than extending the suffering or plotting revenge or anything else we’re taught in our culture’s soap opera mentality to do.

While some people carry “you create your own reality” to astounding heights far beyond where I go, I nonetheless think there is great power and wisdom in it.