Updated: Sep 2, 2021
There are 3 ways to cope with negative thoughts:
1. Push it. You try very hard to avoid situations that trigger the thoughts (e.g., avoid meeting people due to social anxiety). Alternatively, you continuously distract yourself with unhealthy ways (e.g., excessive alcohol consumption, illicit drug abuse, internet addiction, repeated self-harm).
2. Catch it. You overthink, obsess, and ruminate on a problem. Although it's not working, you still try to solve a problem by thinking hard. Albert Einstein says, "We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them."
Both ways mentioned above are often tiring and ineffective. Of course, when our mind is healthy and sharp, we can transform the negative thoughts to more positive and healthy ones. When that fails, no worries; we have another option - a mindful way - let it go, let it be.
3. Let it go, let it be.
Apply thought defusing methods. For examples, imagine the thoughts as though they're clouds passing through the sky or leaves flowing on a stream.
Allow the thoughts to come and go so that we won’t be carried away, pushed around, or caught up by them.
When you're calmer and emotionally stronger, see if you can explore the thoughts (e.g., “I’m not good enough”) with an attitude of kindness, a beginner’s mind, and wisdom.
Kindness - try not to beat yourself up.
Beginner's mind - be curious and open to possibilities.
Wisdom - understand the causes, conditions, and context that trigger the thoughts.
If the thoughts are sticky and refuse to go, let it be. Gently park them aside temporary and shift your attention to other activities, e.g., playing badminton.
When we return to the thoughts later, we often have new perspectives (beginner's mind) on what triggered the thoughts and how to solve problems (wisdom). Discussing your thoughts and feelings with someone trusted may also be helpful.
When we can't let go, just let it be with kindness, gentleness, and patience. With time, beginner's mind and wisdom, we'll be able to let it go and grow...
Thoughts are like visitors in a guest house. We welcome the guest.
When it's time to go, we let them go...
If the guests refuse to go, let them be...