See The Beauty Behind Our “Negative” Thoughts

by Karl Smerecnik on December 21, 2011

Our thoughts can be our greatest teachers if we can learn to bow in gratitude for their wisdom.

Every thought teaches us about what we value, even the “negative” ones. I put negative in quotes because I am learning that there is no such thing as negative thoughts. Our thoughts are just teachers. Behind every thought there is a beautiful message and it’s up to us to learn how to see that message. It’s a message revealing our deepest passions and values. A message that helps guide us to know what action to take next.

I recently had the flu and took several days off work to recuperate. During those days I spent a lot of time laying in bed resting and napping, watching movies, and reading – which would have been the equivalent of a fantastic vacation if it wasn’t for the fact I was feeling miserable. On the Sunday before going back to work, I spent much of the day watching films (a favorite hobby of mine). By the time evening came around, a familiar voice of guilt started speaking up: “You wasted the day being lazy and watching movies, you should have been more productive. You are wasting your life.”

Now most of the time I would have believed that thought. I would usually accept it as truth and berate myself for having squandered away a day that could have been spent doing something far more “meaningful” or “productive.” This self-reprimanding voice would usually continue on and on and I would listen and even chime in to agree. But the ridiculous nature of such a charade is that I would rarely feel motivated to actually do the opposite of what I was criticizing myself for. In fact, I would often just continue doing the “unproductive” behavior in an attempt to feel less crappy about myself.

But not this time!

Instead of believing the thought and agreeing that I’m “lazy” or “wasting my life,” I heard this thought as a reminder of what I cared about. This helpful voice was simply telling me that it was just time to do something different, something that would result in different outcomes. Instead of viewing the previous behavior as “wrong,” I saw the voice encouraging me ┬áto balance out the day with a different activity. Though the thought was framed negatively (“you are bad for doing this”) I was able to hear the beauty behind it (“you care about having a balanced life”). I listened with interest as this thought taught me what next action could better my life.

Ever since last Sunday I have continued to see my feelings and thoughts differently. They are simply signs or reminders that help keep me on track. They are my teachers. Instead of believing those old voices of self-judgment, I am learning to bow to them and thank them for reminding me what I value and what actions I can next take to make my life or others’ more wonderful.

Why did this shift happen? I don’t exactly know. But I’m betting it has something to do with my study and practice of Nonviolent Communication, empathy, inner belief work, and many of the other topics that have been discussed on this blog. I know I still have a lot of room for growth in this area but I feel very encouraged by this instance and I hope it’s encouraging for all of you who may also struggle with believing those “negative” thoughts.

How Will You See The Beauty Behind Our “Negative” Thoughts?

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Paula December 22, 2011 at 00:38

Karl – I'd love to turn this thought into a theme for a yoga class – thank you for this interesting musing. I can relate to the 'self-reprimanding voice' that I hear too often.


2 stepintowonder December 22, 2011 at 14:54

Hi Paula, I'm so glad that it was a valuable muse. Thanks for giving your feedback and thanks for reading!


3 joshua graner December 22, 2011 at 20:06

Karl, wonderful posting. Just before I read this I had posted about "blissfully wasting a perfectly good day on important nonsense" meaning chatting, watching films, reading absurd articles and playing brain games on Nice to see we are occupying some parallel psychic spaces. BTW are you still in NY? If you're in the area you are invited to spend the holidays with us :)


4 stepintowonder December 23, 2011 at 19:15

Hey Joshua, thanks for your comment, I love the commonality of our posts!


5 harald December 28, 2011 at 14:23

thank you for this contribution to my life and growth, yes, indeed, every thought carries a message.
i see that its not about demonizing the mental, but valuing it in its contribution. seeing the value in every thought and then let it go. onto the next one.
thank you karl.


6 stepintowonder December 28, 2011 at 15:47

Hi Harald, I'm glad to interact with you on here and I really enjoy hearing that this post contributed to you.


7 Miriam January 19, 2012 at 22:47

thanks so much for posting this karl, I appreciate how you were able to change the framing of the thought from something negative "you are bad for doing this/wanting this", to a thought that taps into the force behind every thought, which is "how can i make life more wonderful". you were able to access this energy, and the desire to make life more balanced, and thus wonderful, and were then able to celebrate this thought as a reminder of that. how awesome! Thank you for sharing how you were able to access this shift!


8 stepintowonder January 20, 2012 at 01:36

Hi Miriam, thank you for your comment, it's really helpful and encouraging.


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