By Dr. Russ,
Sometimes we let the “bucket-of-negativity” consume us such that everything we look at is dark and gray. In order to maintain optimism it is important to be able to avoid the “negativity bucket.”
The best way to avoid the trap of this bucket to is to carefully differentiate one negative from another. This way any negative simply fills a thimble, not a bucket.
What is the “Bucket-of-Negativity”?
A “Bucket-of-Negativity” is one that is full of pessimistic thoughts.
Pessimism is a belief about hopelessness and helplessness. A “Bucket” fills with negative thoughts when we make a false generalization from one negative thought to conclude that our lives are negative and will continue to be so.
Hopeless and helpless beliefs convey “I can’t or I don’t know how to.” Furthermore these statements have a certain permanency about them, i.e., “can’t now nor in the future.”
When one does not see a way or strategy to accomplish a goal, one usually gives up or remains stuck in that negative situation – the bucket begins to fill.
A “Bucket-of-Negativity” is full of feelings.
Sadness is a feeling, an emotion. I think because we describe feelings with words it becomes easy to confuse them with thoughts. Feelings, unlike beliefs, involve some level of emotional arousal such as the “fight of flight” response or tears flowing freely from ducts in the eyes. Sometimes we can mistakenly label a state of arousal as in “tears of joy,” versus “tears of grief.”
Sometimes I hear someone misuse the “feeling” word and say, “I feel hopeless or helpless about such and such,” instead of saying, “I believe such and such is hopeless.” Such individuals have misconstrued the meaning of a feeling.
If we come to believe that, “I feel, therefore I am”, instead of “I think therefore I am,” we set ourselves up for a full ‘bucket-of-negative.” We can learn to control our thoughts. If we learn and accept that thoughts trigger feelings, we can learn to control feelings and keep the “bucket” empty.
But if we let ourselves become awash in “uncontrollable” feelings the “Bucket” fills quickly and we can fall in.
Beliefs about hopelessness and helplessness are independent of feelings.
I can feel sad about the passing of my pet without experiencing thoughts of despair, that life will never be the same without her, can’t cope.
Instead, I can believe that life will be different, focus on the many good and happy times that the pet brought to my life, and perhaps look forward to getting another one. I might find that living day-to-day life, for awhile anyway, without the encumbrance of tending to an animal’s needs is one less burden to bear right now.
I can believe that a situation is hopeless in that I know I cannot control it, cannot make what I would like to see happen actually happen.
But, I do not have to cancel my picnic even when I know it is going to rain. I can move the picnic inside, and still enjoy the camaraderie of family and friends.
Keep Your “Bucket of Negativity” empty by discerning thoughts from feelings.
One negative thought barely fills a thimble. Negative feelings tend to flow unabated without the governor of thoughts. The “Bucket” will fill.
Learn to differentiate thoughts from feelings. Keep from generalizing from one negative thought to another. Use your thoughts to keep your feelings contained to a “thimble-full” of emotion. Put each thought into a different thimble.