A hostage is someone who is being held captive against their will. What a shock it is to discover that we often are held as a prisoner, not by some external ogre or monster, but by our very own thoughts and attitudes that inhabit our mind. No one would do this deliberately, of course. Unless we purposely focus our attention to what is actually happening, we can continue to be in bondage, sometimes through our entire lifetime.
Negative, pessimistic thoughts can ramble endlessly as the default, lowest common denominator in our minds. It happens on a largely unconscious level. The negativity floats surreptitiously beneath the surface of our awareness.
What is the nature of these intruders and how do they manage to hold us hostage? See if you can recognize yourself in any of the following negative thinking patterns.
Negative thoughts can often be in the form of harsh self judgment or criticism. "I'm ugly and overweight," "I can never do anything right." "I'm such a loser!" Negative self-talk can have a very powerful downward influence on your life.
Judging others is a close cousin to self judgement. If we are hard on ourselves and have high personal expectations, we are more likely to hold others to those same standards. Gabby Bernstein has written a very inspiring book, Judgement Detox https://gabbybernstein.com/judgment-detox-book that I would highly recommend as a further resource on this topic.
Negative thoughts can often take the form of self sabotage. Self-sabotage is when we actively or passively take steps to prevent ourselves from achieving what we really want from life. The energy you waste on negative thinking prevents you from moving forward. Negative, self-defeating thinking patterns literally hi-jack your personal goals. I recently read a book that guides us through this destructive form of thinking: The Mountain is You: Transforming Self Sabotage into Self-Mastery by Brianna Wiest.
Regrets are another way that we can allow our minds to wallow in negative thought patterns. Regret dwells on past failures or mistakes and can create a downward spiral of toxicity in our minds, blinding us to present and future possibilities.
Whereas regrets imprison us in the past, worry focuses us on future challenges. Worry creates fear and "what-if" scenarios in our mind. I have heard it said that worry is like paying interest on a debt before it is due.
How can we free ourselves from these intrusive, unhealthy thought patterns? I am going to suggest 5 strategies for you to guide you in your effort to break out of negative thinking habits.
The first step is becoming aware of what your mind is focused on. Ask yourself the question, "what am I thinking about when I'm not thinking about anything at all?" As I mentioned earlier, our thoughts often lurk just below the surface of our awareness and we need to make a conscious effort to bring them to our attention. Awareness is power. Without it, we cannot ever hope to change anything.
Accept full responsibility for making any changes to your thinking patterns. You, and no one else is the author of your own narrative. It is entirely up to you how you choose to respond to your thought patterns. If it's change you want, you are responsible to make it happen. It's up to you and no one else to get rid of the beliefs that don't empower you or strengthen you.
Be willing to put in the work. The lottery is left up to chance, but life changes are up to choice and hard work. If you do not like your current script, then you must put in the work to re-write it. Excuses block progress. Committed, sustained actions are what will move you forward. Without action there can be no results. Stop waiting for things to happen. Start making them happen.
Replace negative scripts with positive affirmations. In order to change your mental script, you need to have something positive to replace it with. As the saying goes, "don't erase, replace." Examples of positive scripts are "I am capable, I can do this, I can make a difference."
Be willing to step out of your comfort zone. The path of least resistance is doing nothing. If you keep doing things the way you always have, you will keep getting the same results. A decision to change requires commitment. Commitment leads to action and action results in change; change is uncomfortable. If your goal is to remain comfortable, then you likely will continue to be a hostage of your thoughts.
"You are today where your thoughts have brought you; you will be tomorrow where your thoughts take you."-James Allen. Our thoughts have just as much power to steer us in a positive direction as they have to limit and hold us back.
What choices can you make today that can free you from the hostage situation you have placed yourself in? In this moment you have the power to write a new script with a new ending!