Sometimes nothing seems as oppressive as relentless, negative thinking. Five Steps to Resolve such thinking

You experience yourself thinking, thinking, thinking about the same issue or more than one issue. The mind overheats.

You can’t sleep at night.

There is no peace of mind and certainly no happiness.

These relentless thoughts come across as negative and unhealthy. Reactions and projections torment the mind leaving you unable to distinguish facts from reactions. Reactive thoughts can react on reactive thoughts. Both kinds of merciless thoughts make you feel miserable. You feel you cannot get away from such thoughts.

Such a mindset can drive a person to thoughts of self-hate, self-harm and suicidal thoughts or worse. Such thoughts can increase in the same way towards another – hatred of another, the desire to harm another or thoughts to kill another.

Persistent and intense negative thoughts increase the levels of blame towards oneself and other. Suffering increases. You cannot handle it. Thoughts to harm oneself or another seem easier than enduring the mental suffering.

You cannot put the fire out by pouring petrol on the flames.

Necessity for Support to find a Way through the Nightmare

If you cannot cope with the mental suffering, you need support. Urgently. You need to make a phone call. A loved family member. A friend. A neighbour. A colleague. A clinic. A charity offering counsel.

There is somebody out there who can listen to you and respond in a suitable way. Your decision to reach out shows strength of character not a sign of weakness.

We reach out in many ways in daily life – to people with household skills, to car mechanics, google, for learning, to businesses and much more. It is not a big deal to reach out.

If you have some space in your mind, you can also take steps to change the negative thinking. You do not have to try and force yourself to think positively.  That could make things worse.

Here are Five Basic Steps to Dissolve Negative and Harmful Thinking

  1. Keep reminding yourself. “Thoughts are just thoughts.” These painful thoughts arising are soaked in horrible feeling. Yes, they are still thoughts whether about yourself, another, both or something else. Say repeatedly, like a mantra, “Thoughts are just thoughts.” Or “Life is bigger than these thoughts.” or “This experience is a collision in the mind of memory, negative feelings, thoughts, the future, insecurity and fears” or “This experience arises to pass like all other experiences.” Keep reminding yourself. Say it aloud to give weight to the truth of the statement. You will start to find some space around the issue(s).
  2. Develop non-negative thoughts. What is another way to think about the issue? Write them down. Read aloud to yourself the alternative ways of thinking. Write out the challenge of the experience. Name areas of your life outside the problematic. Experience sky above and earth below. The word negative often carries the tone of rejection. This is not helpful. Use the word with care.
  3. Divert your attention to worthwhile activities. That does not mean make yourself busy. It means concentrating on an activity. Walking, tidying up the home, write out the issue, draw on paper the story, exercise and lots and lots of deep breathing.
  4. In due course, the thoughts will fade away but that does not mean you have resolved the situation. Mentally, you might be too tired to think any more. You might be left feeling unhappy or depressed. Reflect on the consequences in the future of such thinking. Remind yourself to respond now in a skilful way rather than experience the consequences of more suffering at a later stage.
  5. Change the conditions that trigger such thinking. Is there a core issue? Fear, loss, separation, trauma, hurt, despair, anxiety? Can you spot a condition or two triggering the painful stream of thinking? Keep asking yourself “What can I change to make a difference to my view?” 

You might think of other ways as well not listed above. Apply them.

Keep working with one or more of these five areas.


Through regular practice, you will find the empowerment and wisdom to be at ease with your thinking.

At times, it will be two steps forward and one step back.

You might realise a harmonious relationship with your thoughts free from any kind suffering in your thoughts. Your thoughts then have no capacity to generate harm anywhere.

What does full empowerment with your thoughts mean?

The burden of excessive thinking is over.

Your thoughts feel suffused with clarity, calmness and are quietly reflective.

It means you think what you wish to think.

You do not think what you do not wish to think.

That is something worth working towards.

Think about it!

PS. Other blogs address directly emotional issues, such as suffering, fear, trauma, anger, grief, difficult emotions, self-harm and more. There is a SEARCH in top right of page.


7 thoughts on “Sometimes nothing seems as oppressive as relentless, negative thinking. Five Steps to Resolve such thinking”

  1. Schmid-Volk, Wolfgang

    Once we have resolved these negative neurotic tendencies – one of which are negative thoughts – through therapeutic intervention, in other words dealt with unconscious shadow material, there will arise another chalenge: no thoughts at all! This will lead to a liberating experience of all encompassing inner silence, fostered by pure awareness, an unbiased witnessing what arises moment to moment. What might help, as Ramana Maharshi suggested is inquiry: the thought “WHO AM I”, and this will be like the stick turning the burning pyre. Eventuelly it will destroy itself. Then there will be SELF REALIZATION! I have been dealing and being challenged by the Apollon Complex. And still determined to face the Challenge. Unrelenting and committed praxis is ordained. And then very gradually one might enter, psychic, subtle and causal and nondual domains, where even the witness disolves into the all. The end of experiences: good or bad, high and low, inside and outside, etc. This is, I assume, what Ramana was intimating towards: SELF REALIZATION .

  2. I have a problem with what you have written here Christopher, although I have to say some of the advice is wise and helpful, especially the part about calling someone to talk when things are tough.

    Firstly, “negative” is one side of a simplistic duality. It’s the same as “bad“ which many of us were told as children about some of our thoughts and feelings. Using labels like bad, wrong and negative can hamper an open inquiry.

    Secondly, thoughts, no matter how awful, are a symptom of a deeper problem which is feelings. No one ever had unhealthy or self-defeating thoughts without them being triggered by painful feelings at some level of consciousness. The feeling level is often where some essential work needs to be done, and it’s deeper than the thinking level.

    As I read through your essay I see many references to thoughts and thinking, but very few to feelings. Generally speaking, people try very hard to avoid discussing or experiencing uncomfortable feelings and so refer only to thinking – as a strategy for that avoidance.

    Your advice about dealing with unhealthy thought patterns is good, but I think people should keep their mind open about seeking deeper causes for the mental agitation.

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