• It's important to understand your negativity

  • Don't let your past dominate your present says Clayton John Ainger

  • If you are looking for a therapist, you can find one here

We all experience negativity everyday to differing degrees – some severe, some mild - and all negativity has an impact on our lives. Psychologically we can feel demotivated, overwhelmed and sometimes incapable of being able to deal with it. Physically we can become jittery, tense, restless, or even exhausted and lethargic.

The meaning we give to negativity is that ‘this equals bad’, and we can end up in a spiral of negativity that so often appears to be never-ending. But why does this happen?

Negativity happens in your life for a reason. In the first instance it is a natural and normal psychological and physical message from you to you, letting you know that something is not quite right or how you believe it should be. Its primary purpose is to keep you safe. But there is so much more to negativity. There is a pattern to it, but we have become so conditioned that negativity is a bad thing that we avoid it, ignore it, stuff it down or we become so all consumed in it, that we don’t take the time to notice what is really going on.

To understand your negativity, you need to raise your awareness to the unconscious stories you tell yourself, the stories that cause you to get in your own way. The reason you experience a story is because unconsciously you feel unsafe, e.g. unsafe to voice your opinions, unsafe to feel love, unsafe to be successful and so on.

ALL stories and ALL negativity, without exception, relate to your past. Each story has arisen from one or a combination of traumas you have experienced in your past and when you tell yourself a story, and you experience the negativity, you are literally reliving the past in the ‘here and now’. Often each story begins with an unconscious thought, or self-talk, or voice in your head (which can be as quiet as a whisper, but it is there).

The problem with our stories is they work to keep us safe through restricting our willingness to play a properly active part in our lives, limiting our confidence to take on new challenges and causing us to get in our own way, limiting our progress.

It’s easy to see how this happens. Negativity and our stories cause us to form attitudes about parts of our character and our lives, which reduce our willingness to put ourselves in the same negative situations again. By avoiding participation, we allow the areas of our lives that we’re least satisfied with to stagnate. The attitudes we form are typically unconscious and can range from fairly trivial (e.g. ‘I’m a bad cook’, after a failed attempt) to potentially destructive (e.g. ‘I’m unlovable’, after a failed relationship).

Negativity is uncomfortable and undesirable. But the right attitude turns it into two powerful tools. The first is its power as a fuel for change; the second is a series of insistent lessons to learn from.

The first step toward making any change is to notice you. Pay attention to your negativity and the stories you tell yourself. Search your own thinking to become aware of your thoughts and self-talk. Notice the feelings and behaviours that stop you. Seek to understand the motivation behind your stories, be honest about what is going on and what you want instead.

Remember that avoidance only guarantees failure. Whilst withdrawing from life may give you the illusion you are safe, it still leaves you feeling unfulfilled and your potential unrealised. When you embrace the very best of who you are and start to focus on living as much as possible as the person that you know yourself to be, your life will start to transform on all levels.

Remember you have a choice about how you choose to live your life…through negativity and fear, or joy and happiness. Go on… give yourself the best gift of all…you!

Further reading

Use mindfulness to banish negative self-talk

Identifying moods and thoughts

This is how negative self-talk can damage our relationships

Challenging your thoughts: are they helpful?