Negative thoughts destroy only myself.
My first conscious sober act must be to remove negativity from my life.
This is something I really struggled with for a long time. At heart I lean towards pessimism, and I can usually give you the absolute worst case, for any scenario you consider.
But it turns out I’m not alone in having a negative bias. I recently watched a youtube presentation by psychologist Dr. Rick Hanson. In it he said that based on how we evolved we’re hard wired to focus on the negative, and quickly perceive threats. He calls it “Having Velcro for negativity, and Teflon for positivity.”
But since beginning my recovery journey, I’ve done a lot of work in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Compassion Focussed Therapy (CFT), and Mindfulness.
CBT taught me that my emotions and my thoughts are interlinked, and that by changing my thoughts I could change how I feel. It took a lot of thought records, and practice, by slowly it helped me shift some pretty fundamental core beliefs and let me go from believing that I am unlovable to believing that I am likeable.
Mindfulness taught me to pay attention to my thoughts neutrally without judging them. This was an important first step, because you can’t apply CBT to a negative thought without being aware of what the thought is. Mindfulness also taught me to stay in the present, rather than being sucked into looking at my horrible past, or feeling terrified about my future. I won’t say I’m capable of doing this 100% of the time, but the more I practice it, the easier it becomes.
CFT has been an incredibly powerful therapy for me. It’s main message is that wherever you ended up in life, “It’s not your fault” and that depending on what happened in our childhood and brains can become more hardwired to perceive threats, and that we need to work on learning healthy ways of self-soothing and calming the threat circuits in our brain.
In addition to addiction, I’ve also struggled with recurrent depression through most of my adult life. I can generally count on at least one major depressive episode a year. It’s taken a lot work, both in therapy, and in finding the right combination of meds, to get me to place where I can experience happiness, and even joy occasionally.
I’ll never be a Pollyanna, but at least my outlook on life is much more positive now. And that feels good.