Do you ever find yourself lost in fear, anxiety or anger?
Spinning out a movie-like bad fantasy of horrible things that you worry will happen?
Or cataloging all the wrong, messed-up things that someone you dislike has done to you?
For sure, I do this, and I’m totally delighted to share a wonderful tool I’ve learned for dealing with negative thoughts and emotions.
But first, let’s look at how the negative thoughts manifest in your mind.
Giving in to the Dark Side
For me, the dark thoughts are like full-on horror movies sometimes.
…I’m going to go to the farmer’s market, and get COVID and then will be stuck in my room, hacking and all pitiful and miserable. It’ll get so bad that I have to go to the hospital, and be intubated and probably will never see Lobsang again and when I’m dying the nurses will be busy and I won’t get to Facetime Lobsang or my family, and…and…and…
I know, it’s ridiculous and funny when you actually look at it in the light of day!
But I have a tendency to anxiety and hypervigilance, and it’s just something my human mind does when I’m in fear or resentment.
The anger and resentful movie is usually based on some past event.
It might go like this…
…I can’t believe John (name changed to protect the innocent 🤣 ) didn’t give me credit for that work I did. I mean, I wrote that whole friggin’ thing and he never acknowledged that to the boss. Then, if I said something I would look bad… What a jerk! And look at him, all smiles and sucking up…etc. etc. ad nauseam.
I was kind of shocked when I realized just how much of my thoughts are taken up with this kind of useless, harmful thinking.
And I was deeply grateful to learn a way to counteract those thoughts.
Welcome to the Light Side
The tool I learned is called simply Equal Air Time and it so simple and yet so incredibly powerful. (I learned this from a coach in Brooke Castillo’s life coaching program.)
You know the old idea of television broadcasting that opposing political candidates need to be given equal time on air?
We use that exact idea for our thoughts.
So, if your mind is going to town on a negative fear fantasy, you give “equal air time” to the opposite idea.
In my COVID fear fantasy above, the opposite movie might go like this…
…What if I go to the farmer’s market, and it’s just a great experience? There’s lots of sunshine and fresh air and I’m wearing a good mask. The persimmons are incredible this time of year and the beautiful bright green and orange bunches of fresh carrots. I get my shopping done, share a joke with the farmer lady, and get my food home with no problem and no COVID. It’s all good and I’m so grateful for the chance to shop this way and stay healthy.
For the resentment fantasy, equal air time could be this…
…Hm, what are some positive thoughts I could think about John and this situation? Let’s see…John’s actually a decent person. He’s got good hair, I’ll say that for him, and he knows a lot more about public policy than I do. He has helped me out a few times, and that was nice of him. He may have forgotten I wrote that thing, and even if he didn’t, so what? It’s no skin off my nose. I know myself that I wrote it and feel good about the work I did. I made good karma on that. I’m not 8 years old and needing constant approval from people. I’m learning how to nurture and approve of my own damn self!
If it’s hard to think of positive things you know about the person you resent, you can always use the “What if…” strategy.
“What if John is actually a really, really nice person? What if he takes care of his sick grandma at home…What if he had a horrible childhood. etc. etc.”
For me, this tool has been a major game changer.
When I catch myself in any kind of negative mental loop, I literally think, “Wait, Equal Air Time!” and I focus on creating some kind of opposite positive story.
It’s not that I automatically believe the new story, but more that my belief in the crappy story gets shaken a little.
I’m no longer quite so certain about the bad story.
And I begin to feel free of that story, which is an amazing feeling.
Now it’s Your Turn
I invite you to give Equal Air Time a try.
And I’d love to hear from you, if you feel like sharing, if you plan to try it on a fear loop or a resentment loop? Or maybe on some other kind of negative thought loop?
Please let me know by leaving a comment below.
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