The Secret Antidote To Negative Thinking
Q: Why is gratitude the antidote to negative thinking—why wouldn’t positive thinking be the solution?
PHIL: It’s tempting to believe we can improve our lives simply by substituting positive thoughts for negative ones. Unfortunately, this doesn’t work; positive thoughts don’t have anywhere near the power that negative thoughts do.
Negative thoughts get their power from an unexpected place: our modern, scientific worldview. Its assumptions are stark, to say the least. From your first science class, you’ve been taught that life is an unending struggle for survival in which you will face unpredictable threats to your existence—earthquakes, megastorms, terrorism, automobile accidents, super-viruses, etc. And in the end, you lose the struggle—you die, and none of it had any meaning.
No human being can live comfortably with such chaos. We need a sense of control over our lives. As strange as it sounds, worry creates that sense of control. Deep down, we believe if we anticipate everything that could happen—it won’t happen. It’s as if the negative thoughts are a protective shield against an out-of-control universe.
BARRY: I’ve actually had patients admit this to me: We work on their worrying, they start to feel less plagued by it, and then they say, “I feel unprotected now, like if I stop worrying completely, that’s when I’m going to be hit by something terrible.”
PHIL: There’s a word for that kind of thinking: superstition. Your worrying is no more effective at preventing bad things from happening than a rabbit’s foot is in bringing you luck. All negativity does is destroy your peace of mind. You need to find something stronger than positive thoughts, something that shifts your perspective of the universe from a survivalist one to one in which you feel supported and connected to something greater than yourself. You might believe that this other universe exists, but that’s not enough: you need to be able to feel it to really free yourself. The best way to feel it is with gratitude.
Read the full interview at goop.com.