Potty Training for Your Mind: Flushing Out Negative Thinking

by | Jan 29, 2014 | Anxiety, Depression

When talking about changing negative thought patterns, a client asked me how the process works to truly master your own thinking. I compared it to potty training your child which made my client laugh (therapy doesn’t always have to be painful). 
In potty training, at first the child needs an adult to catch their accidents and warn them that one might be coming. Well before a child recognizes the need to visit a toilet, a care giver is suggesting he or she go at regular intervals. Some people use a therapist, some people use a journal, and some people use a friend or family member to hold them accountable and regularly check if they are falling back into habits of negative thoughts. Slowly your child learns to recognize when he or she needs to be changed and then to recognize when an accident is impending. Similarly you will start to recognize when you are slipping towards detrimental thinking. While it may not always feel like you are getting anywhere, this is big progress. It takes many small steps to achieve any goal. It is only after much time and mess and frustration that children learn to visit the toilet independently before it becomes an urgent crisis, even planning ahead to make a stop in the washroom prior to departing on a road trip.
In the same way, you do not immediately simply change your thought patterns. While ‘that isn’t a very helpful way of thinking’ is easy to say, making a change in thought habits takes much time, effort, and learning to recognize when falling into unhelpful patterns. At first you will catch yourself hours after it happens. Soon you will start catch yourself more quickly, and eventually in the moment when the negative thoughts pattern emerges. As you slowly replace these negative thinking patterns with more helpful thoughts, the positive frame of mind will eventually become a new habit.
WhiIe I didn’t intend to be humorous necessarily, I think the surprise of it will help the analogy stick for some people. Let’s face it, some of the ways that we think are simply waste. Not just a waste of time or energy but actual negativity that needs to be eliminated from our beings. What kind of thought patterns do you need to flush out of your mind? 
Do you sink into self doubt or definition created in your younger days, perhaps even one created for you by peers? Do you expect or assume the worst? When something doesn’t go as planned, do you expect a snowball of further negativity? Do you believe you know what other people are thinking? Do you place unrealistic demands on yourself or others with the word “should”? 
There  are many different kinds of thinking errors or negative thinking patterns that may be holding you back either from making the changes that you want or from enjoying the life you have. Learning to flush these old thoughts will take time, but controlling your mind can help you be in control of how you feel. As you contemplate what ideas dominate your thinking or cycle through your mind, is it helpful? motivating? empowering? Or is it time to start training your mind and flush out some negative thought habits?

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