Where do automatic negative thoughts come from

By M.Farouk Radwan, MSc.

Is your mind haunted by negative thoughts?

You were feeling OK then all of a sudden you started getting negative thoughts and your mood changed, what happened?

Where do negative thoughts come from?
Why does our mood change all of a sudden?

In order to help you answer these questions i have to first ask you another one. Do you know why some people can't live without their IPOD?

Because their minds are already full of negative thoughts and they always need some kind of distraction to push the negative thoughts away.

Social interaction, music, drinking and even drugs can be a person's preferred escapement method from the negative thoughts lingering in his mind.

Do you know why some people feel really bad when they are alone?
Its because they fall prey to their own negative thoughts and that's why they always seek distraction in order to escape from these thoughts.

Where do automatic negative thoughts come from

Lets suppose that a plate which had rotten food was spoiling the smell of your room, what would be the best way to get rid of the smell?

Should you buy a Fan or get rid of the plate?
While the second choice is obviously the one that will be chosen by most rational people still most people do the opposite when dealing with negative thoughts.

When trying to deal with negative thoughts most people will do their best to get rid of the smell instead of the food. Most people try to get rid of the negative thoughts directly using the different distracting methods without realizing that the only way to end negative thoughts is to change the beliefs that caused them in the first place.

"I am sure they didn't like me" That's a popular negative thought but did you ever try to find out what caused it? Most probably this thought is a symptom of a limiting belief such as "I am not an interesting person"

Now what do you think would happen if the person who got that negative thought distracted himself using an Ipod?

The negative thought will always remain there and this person will get it again as soon as the distraction ends.

How to end automatic negative thoughts for good

Here is a quick formula that will help you reduce automatic negative thoughts:

  • 1)Understand that distraction is not the soloution: In my book, The ultimate guide to getting over depression i said that the soloution to ending negative thoughts does not lie in distraction. Its OK to distract your self in a healthy way as long as you are working on a plan to end the negative thoughts
  • 2) Learn How emotions change: Your mind will usually present you with an important problem before it changes your mood, if it got a good response from you then most likely your emotions won't change. Here is an example, lets suppose that a religious man, who was lost in the desert, suddenly visualized himself dying out of thirst. If that man calmed his mind down by saying that God will help him then most probably he won't feel anxious or afraid. Now compare this to someone who has nothing to reassure his mind with, most probably this person will feel anxious and afraid after getting such a thought unless he provides some kind of reassurance.
  • 3) Change your core beliefs: The best way to end automatic negative thoughts for good is to change the beliefs that caused them. By removing the source of the negative thoughts you will be able to think positively (see Changing limiting beliefs)

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