I was introduced to this great technique for battling negativity by a friend who I have wonderfully interesting conversations with. He has had some really heavy issues to deal with in life and through his recovery towards healthier ways of thinking came across this great technique which he shared with me. It is a technique that allows for an instant supercharged level of ‘metacognition’.
But ...What’s metacognition?
For those of you who have tried a bit of mindfulness maybe you have come across this idea. It’s the idea of watching your own thought processes. Meta means, with or ‘alsongside’ or ‘beyond’, and cognition is your thinking. So metacognition is being beyond your thoughts. A little bit like suddenly sitting back in a cinema chair watching your thoughts on the big screen. It allows for a bit of space between you and your thoughts.
It more importantly allows you to distinguish yourself from your own thinking through the process of watching it. For those of you who have tried mindfulness but never quite got it, this is one of the helpful skills that's developed by paying attention in the present moment. The more you practice, the better you become at ‘waking up’ and seeing your thoughts.
So what’s the technique?
We all contend with negativity and negative thinking in our life, unfortunately some have become well practiced at it and the behaviour has become well ingrained. When you next find yourself contending with such negativity, try this.. close your eyes... and imagine you are on a circular platform in a darkened auditorium. The light of attention is on you, but you can hear voices coming from the darkness around you. You then say “Can we have the lights on please, who’s talking right now? To your amazement you see a crowd of individuals who make up various aspects of your personality. Bashfully, Mr Negativity raises his hand, Mrs irritable rolls her eyes and slowly puts up her hand too. You come to see that the same individuals have been hogging the sound space by calling out negative comments. Now it's important to thank them for their contribution (after all, negative viewpoints can be just as valid) but you would like to know if there is anyone else who would like to speak? You call out for other viewpoints. “Has anyone else got anything to say on this matter?” Suddenly other more reasonable or positive voices can gradually be heard as they are given permission to speak. You ask them to speak up a little more and elaborate on their points. Some have been shut up over the years, but the more you give permission for them to speak, the more confident they feel at expressing their opinion. Your positivity grows as you start to change your internal dialog.
The hardest parts of this practice are catching yourself. This is the mindfulness equivalent to ‘waking up’. By practicing mindfulness regularly you become more aware of your bodily sensations and ultimately your own thinking. The more you practice it, the better you get. So get practicing!