Question: Dear Luise: I have talked with a lot of people who have the same problem I have with random thoughts that pop up to remind me of failures, errors, misdeeds, and missed opportunities. It happens when I’m not focused on something, like when I’m driving my car. Anything can trigger these thoughts and there I am again at the effect of something that happened long ago. I can’t change it now, so what’s the point? All it does is pull me down. I really hate it. Is there anything I can do to lessen the effect this process has on me and how often it occurs? Thanks. Ken C.
Answer: Dear Ken: Everyone I know complains of this. If there are any people out there who don’t have to deal with it, I’d sure love to hear from you.
Some psychologists refer to such thoughts as an “internalized critical parent” who is unrelenting and unforgiving. I wonder why there isn’t another automatic voice to balance it out…one that would remind me of wins, accomplishments and kudos that have come my way. Seems only fair. So to offset it, I deliberately created a nurturing inner voice or an “internalized loving parent”. Why not?
The first thing to do to get a handle on this is to notice when the negative voice starts running. For me that often takes a while. The movie starts running in my head, the voice drones on and I don’t immediately realize I’m again a captive audience. Once I do, then I can chose to listen to something else. Change channels. Switch tracks. However, I do have to become present to put my plan into motion. The secret code word here is choice.
Once I’m “back”, I consciously start to list things I’m grateful for. I’m serious. I often say them out loud if I’m alone. By doing that I replace the thoughts that haunt me with ones that I enjoy. I can always think of something that reminds me of something that triggers a parade of more somethings…that make me feel good. Gratitude is a powerful emotion. Why hang out in fear, sadness, guilt and anger?
It takes a while to get this process rolling along smoothly. When you do, you may be surprised to find that after a while the thoughts of gratitude begin to initiate themselves, and you’re well into a new list before you notice that you’ve changed tracks in your brain and headed off in a more pleasant direction. Who needs negativity? Give it a try. Blessings, Luise