There have been many occasions when I have worked with clients to change the negative conversations that they are continually having with themselves – these often show up as limiting beliefs; “I can’t talk to them about it” “I should have been able to do more to stop it happening” “they’ll never agree to it, so there’s no point in thinking about it”.
Now, there are many routes to supporting clients to change their thinking so that they reframe their negative thoughts into positive thinking or limiting beliefs into supportive beliefs. But here’s a thought, instead of being negative, just question yourself.
I did this with a client who had had a member of staff suspended for gross misconduct in a meeting with them. Although this was a witnessed event, the client was concerned that they hadn’t provided either the environment or management support to prevent the situation escalating to such a situation.
He started to reel off a list of where he could have gone wrong; maybe he could have done more, maybe he could have got more third party support for his member of staff, maybe he could have got a mentor for him, maybe he could have….. etc, etc
When he had exhausted the possibilities of where he could have gone ‘wrong’, I went through the list that I had scribbled down with him. I asked him if to consider whether what he was questioning was true, or was there an element of truth, or was it not true at all. As we got through the list, he realised that there was no truth in what he was saying.
Having arrived in an anxious state, he left the session confident of his actions. He also saw that the stream of negative thoughts he was having around that one situation had no substance – and so it was a very real example to him as to how he was creating his own stress.
It’s not useful to be having continual negative conversations based around limiting beliefs. (And isn’t it interesting how people understand their beliefs to be facts?) It creates unnecessary stress and a barrier to more effective thinking. But if you can’t stop those negative thoughts, you could try to question the validity of those thoughts. You may be surprised how many times you actually went the extra mile – and and maybe use it as an opportunity to take the learning from what you would like to do differently next time. And, are you sure you can’t…..? Can you think of a time when you could? What’s different this time?
Aint No Stopping Us Now – McFadden and Whitehead