Stress Relief Causes: Negative Thinking, Focus, Triggering, And Automaticity

by Doc Orman, M.D.


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In this post, I will continue our discussion about negative thinking and stress by tying it back to previous discussions we’ve had in this blog about the roles that focus, triggering, and automaticity play in the origins of human stress. 

The first thing to notice about negative thinking is that it usually involves a limited, narrow focus of our attention.  Like any type of Either/Or Thinking, focusing exclusively on just the negative side of any occurrence in our lives makes us more or less blind to any opposite (i.e. positive) perspectives.   

Thus, when we believe someone is out to get us, or otherwise do us harm, it’s often hard for us to consider, at the very same time, that we may be wrong about our assumption, or that the other person may actually have our best interests at heart.  

Of course, sometimes in life, people really are out to get us.  And when this happens, an appropriate dose of realistic negative thinking can be very beneficial.  But more times than we like to admit, our automatic negative assumptions are not entirely accurate. 

Much Of Our Negative Thinking Is Automatic And Conditioned 

As we go through our lives, negative thoughts, beliefs, opinions, perceptions, emotions, etc. routinely get triggered within our bodies literally hundreds of times daily.  Some of these negative thoughts, etc., will be appropriate—in other words, they will be more or less consistent with the reality of our situations.  But many will not. 

Such is the nature of being human.  We all live in human bodies that get conditioned, throughout our lives, to react automatically to a wide range of triggering events. 

And as I mentioned in my first post in this series (Negative Thinking And Stress), most of us have been conditioned to automatically react by focusing on negatives (rather than positives, or equally balanced views) from the time we are very small children.   

When you put the following facts together, namely that: 

  • Many of us have been conditioned, when triggered by certain types of events in life, to automatically focus on negative, rather than positive, perspectives;
  • Automatic, triggered ways of thinking are often very narrow in their scope, and therefore they miss (i.e. render us blind to) other legitimate aspects of reality;
  • Automatic, triggered ways of thinking are often inconsistent with the truth about whatever may have really happened; 

you can see how negative thinking, limited focus (i.e. blindness), triggering, and automaticity all combine with each other to lead to many potential problems and stress in our lives, which can easily be eliminated. 

In the four concluding posts in this two-week series on negative thinking, I will focus on how we can use the information outlined in this post, and the preceding one, to map out a strategy for how to deal with negative thinking successfully.

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