Taking The Reins of Your Self-Destructive Brain: Step-by-Step Top Tips
I get asked a lot about how I learned where my reactions and emotions come from in certain situations, and how I manage to notice them and change them before the consequence or regret comes around.
Maybe you continue to eat more even when you’re full up.
Maybe you tell yourself that you will eat nothing tomorrow because you ate “too much” today.
Maybe you feel annoyed, forgotten about or actually superior when someone doesn’t meet your expectations.
Maybe your mind creates visual scenarios in your head that make you believe people are against you.
Maybe you panic in tense situations involving people, and try your very best to fix them or avoid them.
Whether you struggle with self-destructive thoughts that are about food, people, work or something else, the first step in learning how to become unaffected by them is to become consciously aware of them as they’re happening. Usually this begins with you just feeling a bit ‘off’, not quite right, panicked or like your thoughts are firing all over the place at one hundred miles an hour, You might not necessarily be aware that you are wanting to control or fix a situation - you’re just fully focused on the future.
Every reaction where you want to have more control of or ‘fix’ a situation, is based in fear.
Fear manifests itself in you in many forms, you may feel anxious, jealous, ashamed, stressed, lonely, worthless, powerless, or another one of many emotions! What do they all have in common? The thoughts they leave you with are often about the future.
Anxious: What will happen? What if this goes wrong?
Jealous: I’m not good enough. What if they’re better than me?
Ashamed: How will they look at me next time I see them? I need to punish myself. I need to isolate.
Stressed: What if I don’t get this done? I can’t cope with this.
Lonely: I’ll never have any friends. I’ll never be successful.
Worthless: I’ll never find someone who loves me. I’m not good enough to have the career I want.
Powerless: Is there no way at all to fix this? My life is over, I have no control.
Do you see?
As mentioned before, the first step to no longer being affected by negative or self-destructive thoughts is to be consciously aware of when they’re there, from the very first instance in which they begin to take shape. Next time you feel a bit ‘off’ whilst doing something or interacting with someone, stop. Not because you should stop, but because it can be a huge help to listen to your mind and figure out what’s going on in there. You will most likely feel ‘off’ when your gut is telling you something isn’t comfortable and when your mind is going into self-destruct mode.
Now think: how often does this ‘off’ feeling come up? And when? Maybe you feel it when you’re about to eat. Maybe you feel it whilst you’re eating. Maybe you feel it when tensions are rising between people. Maybe you feel it when your expectations haven’t been met. Do those conscious or subconscious thoughts only come up around food? Or around relationships or people? Or around work?
Screenshot that to come back to it when you're ready.
Answering those questions will help you to become consciously aware of your mind in those situations. Next time you feel a bit off, it won’t just pass you by. You won’t just bring out your subconscious coping mechanism that I call the ‘self-destruct-without-even-realising-it’ big red button.
Gradually, more and more over time, you will think “it’s happening again”, and then “I’m feeling anxious again” or “I’m feeling out of control again”. You’ll be able to be more specific in your awareness of your emotions and thoughts over time.
Why is it that before starting this practice, you didn’t know what you were doing until the consequences appeared? Or until the moment had passed and your brain began to process it?
Well, a lot of the time, your reactions are learnt. They’re your mind’s way of trying to help you cope in repeated situations - with quite the opposite effect a lot of the time. Maybe you see a lot of heavily edited images of people, and marketing messages about calories and weight-loss plans, and so your mind may make a note of it saying “that is what I should strive to look like” and “that is what I should eat to achieve it”. So next time you eat something, and you associate that food with your body size or shape, you tell yourself off mentally. You learn to not repeat that in the future because what you did was ‘wrong’ and ‘will lead to failure’.
Another example might be that someone got angry at you once. You tried to argue back but it just made them more angry. So instead you did as they said, you were compliant and that time they calmed down and they were happier around you. The tension was resolved, and you didn’t feel threatened anymore. The more this happened over time, the more it was ingrained into your memory that “if people are angry I should do as they say”, or “if I feel that someone is about to get angry I can change the subject, compliment them, or do what I think would make them happy (i.e. you can control the situation) and the anger will be avoided”. This might leave you feeling powerless or even controlled yourself.
The truth is, and as mentioned briefly already, all of the reactions and learnt behaviours mentioned above are based in fear and control. Your head is filled with expectations - of yourself and/or of others. So it’s time to tackle those worries and those controlling, self-destructive thoughts!
Next time you feel like those thoughts are there, stop and take a few minutes to ask yourself these questions:
How do I feel? Be as specific as possible.
How do I feel physically? Emotionally? Mentally? Spiritually?
What is the voice in my head telling me?
When did it first say those things? Last week or years ago? Why? What did I go through?
Again, screenshot this for when you're ready to go through and answer them.
Acknowledge the self-destructive thoughts. Speak to them like they’re your friend. Welcome them in, but remember that you can put healthy boundaries in place - just as you should with people. Would you let someone call you names, for example? Hopefully the answer is no! You’d set a boundary, say that you aren’t okay with it, walk away and let them deal with what is actually their problem, not yours.
Now you need to do the same with that critical or self-destructive voice in your head. It’s allowed to be there, but you are worthy of having boundaries that you choose to set.
So, if you've had a go at answering some or all of those questions, it's time to recap. You’ve identified when you tend to get self-destructive or negative thoughts most often. Around food, work, relationships, people, or social situations and so on. You’ve also identified what your head tends to tell you in those situations. You’re now consciously aware of them, more and more often, whilst they’re happening. You’ve also figured out part or all of the reason as to why they come up, and when they first start to appear.
If you’ve managed to pick up on even just a few of those things in the amount of time it’s taken you to read this, you’re doing amazingly! The truth is, for me it took a lot of work and a lot of time. I mean like half a year at least to get to grips with it all, and at least a full year to see positive changes more regularly.
There’s one more step to Taking The Reins of Your Self-Destructive Brain - changing those negative thoughts and reactions by using affirmations, talking about it with people you trust, knowing the things or situations that trigger your negative reactions and talking to people who have gone through something similar.
I’ve spoken about affirmations a lot already in other blog posts, so I’m sure you don’t need me to go into them - but if you’re new to the term, have a read of this blog post here or simply search for ‘affirmations’.
With time, patience, daily practice of affirmations and talking about what I was struggling with all put together, I saw positive changes that became more and more frequent. Although it occasionally still takes effort, the practice I’ve put in over time certainly shows.
My book, You Are In Control Of Your Own Universe, was written to celebrate the happiness I found through working everything written in this blog post- it’s a book of 555 affirmations written specifically for negative emotions. Affirmations changed my life. The ones in the book are the exact ones that I used in my own journey, and am now sharing with you.
Let’s get that positivity flowing!
Sending love to you all,