Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Affirmative Thinking

When trying to overcome negative feelings we need to understand how the mind works. The mind does not compute “don’t.” When we tell ourselves things like, “Don’t hurt!” or “Don’t eat that!” or “Don’t hold this grudge!” it doesn’t work because the mind only calculates “do.” Try imagining not eating that donut. Just my mentioning this made you see yourself eating the donut. You may have imagined setting it down after a bit, but you first imagine eating it. You simply can’t imagine not doing something. A wise friend once told me never to say to a newly licensed, teenage driver as she backs out of the driveway, “Don’t hit the mailbox” because as soon as you say it, the mental picture of hitting the mailbox pops into her head, and the next thing you know a dented car hovers over a fallen mailbox while you try to console the hysterical driver.

So as we try to redirect our behavior or to overcome negative feelings, the most important thing we can do is replace the negative thought with a positive thought. “I eat healthy foods.” “I feel good.” “I forgive him.” As we come to understand this principle we realize that our negative and positive thoughts and feelings are powerful. But the most important thing to realize is that when given enough time, the positives always have power over the negatives. The prime example of that is the Atonement, the most positive event of all time which will eventually overcome all negatives. But remember, positive encouragement takes time. A forceful, manipulative, negative approach to get someone to do what you want them to do may intimidate them into doing it faster, but it will always generate negative feelings in the other person that can fester and cause more problems—usually worse problems. On the other hand, a positive, loving approach may take more time, but it will last and generate positive feelings in the other person and in yourself.

Keeping your self-talk positive can help you conquer and avoid unnecessary pain, and being affirmative with others can strengthen relationships.

9 comments:

Wendi said...

Sherrie, this was a great post. I really appreciate the way you can explain things so well. I was just asked to speak in church on Sunday. They want a returned missionary sister to speak on missionary work and one of my home teachers is the one going on the mission. I'm actually looking forward to the opportunity, believe it or not. Things have really improved for me and I'm so thankful to be able to start giving back. I'm planning to mention your blog briefly in my talk. I hope that's okay. :)

Laresa said...

I think about this everytime I go to a public pool. The Lifeguard doesn't stop the kids by saying "Don't Run". I always hear the Lifegaurd say "Please walk". I always try to think of positive ways I can put things to my boys too.

Sherrie Mills Johnson said...

Wendi, I am so excited for you! And yes it is fine to mention the blog. Thanks for your kind words and good luck Sunday.

Sherrie Mills Johnson said...

Laresa, Good example! Not only does it create the correct mental picture, but as a person repeats the words they've heard it reinforces the correct behavior.

Dave's Mom said...

A corollary thought is the idiom "You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar."

Jenny said...

I have been trying this with my kids; trying to turn a "don't" into a possitive. It's been harder than I thought. But it has also been good for me because if nothing else, I stop for a second to form my "positive" sentence, and in that second I'm able to calm down more and things don't seem like such a big deal. Thanks!

Sherrie Mills Johnson said...

Laura, Thanks for adding that thought. It is so true!

Sherrie Mills Johnson said...

Jenny, Thanks for the example! It is amazing how trying to do the positive thing brings on residual positive things. Let me know how it goes.

cbracken said...

This is such an important thing as a mother to understand...and in all relationships as you mentioned. I am happy for the reminder to think affirmative thoughts not negative with 'don'ts'...I had forgotten how my brain works!