Coming Clean on Toxic Thoughts…

Have you ever found yourself in a less than desirable situation… say… a difficult marriage, a horrible job or been betrayed by a friend, relative or lover? Have you ever been wrongfully accused? 

If you’ve answered “yes” to any of the above, then you probably had “Toxic Thoughts”… you know those thoughts that are rooted in resentment and take on a life of their own as you plot revenge and conjure up scenarios where you triumph over the enemy.

So how did you deal with these Toxic Thoughts? How do you deal with them?”

I got many thoughtful responses to this post I did on my Facebook wall. So many of my friends contributed and participated with such honesty and humanity sharing from their personal journey. People who don’t know each other, whose only connection on my wall is that they know me, supported and cheered on each other. I was sent several inbox messages with those stories too personal to share on a Facebook wall. Some inbox messages were sincere words of encouragement and hope and “Go, Kelly! You can do this!” even though I didn’t confess to actually struggling with Toxic Thoughts in my FB status update. I am grateful. 

You all inspired me to try and pull your collective thoughts and input and experiences together into a playbook of sorts for dealing with Toxic Thoughts. So here goes…

Everyone has Toxic Thoughts at one time or another…
My most mild mannered, easy-going of friends confessed to having these feelings and thoughts. You are not alone.

Acknowledge Them
Face these thoughts. Articulate them. Don’t let them swirl in a murky, ill-defined mass in your mind and soul. 

Then Challenge Them
Sometimes you are simply the victim in the situation through no fault of your own.
Sometimes you are culpable in the whole mess.
Doesn’t really matter in the final analysis though. The net result is a miserable, hurting YOU, weighed down by these Toxic Thoughts that make you physically ill and show on your face.

Decide what you want
Some people hold on to anger and bitterness and use it as motivation.
But I’ve found righteous indignation to be tiring. Guilt is debilitating. The most desirable end state for me is one where I am free, happy and in a place to both receive and give goodness. 
So you don’t want to be constantly ruminating on your victim-hood, or plotting revenge… You want to freely celebrate someone else’s triumphs…You want energy that makes everything you do joyful and purposeful… You want the lines on your face to be from laughing too much, and not evidence of the constant internal grimacing that accompanies your Toxic Thoughts…
Good. Getting there…

Take Action!
Toxic thoughts apparently don’t simply expire over time. They have to be replaced. And replacing them requires some deliberate decisions then actions 

Some Practical Suggestions from my Friends:

  • Allow a set amount of time for rumination then clap your hands 3 times (ok the clapping is my idea!) and then decide enough!
  • Replace the ruminations with other thoughts: 

  1. Acknowledging what is good in your life
  2. Praying to God
  3. Giving thanks to God

  • Positive mantras like Bible verses that promise better days and healing and provision create new focal points and serve a pivots around which your entire outlook and attitude can shift
  • Accept what you cannot control
  • Do the things that make you fell better: Music or Walking or Dancing or Going to the beach  
  • Removing yourself from the situation (several people recommended this!)
  • Seek counselling from trained professionals or wise people who mean you well.
  • DO the opposite of how you are feeling. Feeling lonely? Call someone. Feeling like no one cares? Give someone a gift? Bemoaning how alone in the world you are? Invite friends over.
And remember this…

My wise cousin who knows a thing or two about how peoples minds work, reminded me that letting go and replacing Toxic Thoughts is often times not a one-off event, but rather a process. If you’re headed in the direction of Freedom, then you’re doing good…

“In my personal journey, I have discovered that sometimes forgiveness and letting go is not a one time thing. I don’t know why I always thought it was that way or that it had to be that way. Perhaps it should be that way. However, letting go in increments is still a victory. It’s still letting go. And by this I mean, I often work with people who believe all is lost when we worked through a problem LAST week but this week it popped back up causing distress. This doesn’t mean that it’s all over. It just means that gently and carefully we stitch up the heart again and go about our business. This is life. It’s not perfect. But in the end, that’s okay.”

And so, before I set off to work yesterday, I decided up front not to focus on everything that was not as I wanted it to be. And then as I rounded the corner, I saw this, and I knew that it was a gift to me… a reminder that life is more than I can see at a particular point in time. It was perfect. And it was splendid. And in that moment I gave thanks.
Sunrise over Kingston Harbour….

And nothing changed, you know…except me. I listened as people made their presentations. I heard the half-truths and the selective exaggerations. And as I listened and observed, the less than savory things about certain people still came to mind. But this time I acknowledged them even as I declined to pass judgement. 

One of my friends shared this on  my wall in response to my question on Toxic Thoughts. Think on these things…

From Nelson Mandela’s “Long Walk to Freedom”: In the Foreword written by former US President Bill Clinton, he notes: “I once asked Mandela to describe his long walk from prison to president. Mandela’s reply was: “When you are young and strong, you can stay alive on your hatred. And I did for many years.” Then one day after years of imprisonment, physical, and emotional abuse, and separation from his family, Mandela said, “I realized that they could take everything from me except my mind and my heart. They could not take those things. Those things I still had control over. And I decided not to give them away.” 

President Clinton, like any rational person, could not readily wrap his mind around what Mandela was saying, and so he pressed for more: “Tell me the truth,” he said to Mandela, “when you were leaving prison after 27 years and walking down that road to freedom, didn’t you hate them all over again?” and Mandela replied, “Absolutely I did, because they had imprisoned me for so long. I was abused. I didn’t get to see my children grow up. I lost my marriage and the best years of my life. I was angry. And I was afraid, because I had not been free in so long. But as I got closer to the car that would take me away, I realized that when I went through that gate, if I still hated them, they would still have me. I wanted to be free. And so I let it go.”

You can either focus on the walls around you or you can simply look up and see the endless possibilities…your choice. Photo Credit: Rachael McIntosh