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Where Negative Thoughts Come From

Learn where negative thoughts and emotions come from, the effect they have on your day-to-day life and how to manage these intruders in your daily life.
Managing your thoughts and emotions can keep you glowing and happy. Image of a smiling woman on a beach.

Have you ever gotten negative thoughts and wondered where they came from?

Or perhaps you struggle with a pattern of negative thoughts and have tried (and failed) to manage them.

In this article, you’re going to learn where negative thoughts and emotions come from, the effect they have on your day-to-day life and how to manage these intruders in your daily life.

Where do thoughts and emotions come from?

Forget about negative thoughts for a moment, let’s look at thoughts in general. Where do they come from? Do you create them or do they just linger in space, waiting to harass the innocent bystander?

Thoughts and emotions are vibrations. The answer to the question above is both. You can create thoughts and they can be lingering in space.

Thoughts that linger in space

Let’s address this first.

Perhaps you’ve noticed that when you’re in a particular place or with a particular person, you feel a certain way – different than you normally feel. This is because that place or person is vibrating at that frequency. If you’re with someone who is angry and violent, you will start to feel the same way. If you go to a site where a tragedy happened, you will start to feel immense negativity and heaviness.

These vibrations are associated with that place or person.

Don’t worry too much about these vibrations as they can only affect you to the amount that you allow them to.

If you prefer not to be affected by someone’s negativity, simply stop spending time with them. If that’s not an option, limit contact as much as you can. When you must be around them, be mindful of the conversation and steer it to clearer waters whenever you notice the person getting agitated.

negative thoughts | Where Negative Thoughts Come From

Protect your mind by steering clear of places that arouse negative thoughts and emotions in you. If this is impossible, start a practice designed to manage negative thoughts and emotions. (Keep reading, I talk more about this later on!)

Thoughts you create

Thoughts are a form of stress release. You may have noticed that certain patterns of thoughts arise in particular situations. These thoughts are rooted in a deep stress associated with that particular situation.

What do I mean by deep stress?

To understand this, you need to have an understanding of your Self.

You’re more than your physical body. In the yogic understanding, there are 7 distinct layers of you (these can then be grouped into panchakosha or 5 layers of the self, but if we’re being explicit, there are seven).

From gross to subtle, the layers of your existence are:

  • Physical body
  • Breath or prana
  • Mind
  • Memory
  • Intellect
  • Ego
  • Self

Thoughts and emotions first appear in the mind either from an external place or person as we discussed above or as your reaction to an external stimuli. Then, your mind becomes attached to this thought.

Attachment to a thought can look like resistance to it:

‘No, that’s not what I think. That’s a terrible thing to think. I’m not that type of person. I would never say something like that to someone.’

Another form of attaching yourself to a thought can be identifying with it.

‘Yes, that’s true. Why should I have to do this? This is not my job. I don’t want to do this. Who said that it’s my responsibility?’

Imagine that you’re sitting by a river watching fish swim by. The fish are thoughts and your reaction to them creates a net around them. This prevents the thoughts from moving on and leaving you in peace. The more that you think about this thought, the more intricate the net becomes and the more difficult it becomes for the fish / thought to move on.

negative thoughts | Where Negative Thoughts Come From

This intense resistance or identification with the thought ensnares you. This is how thoughts and thought patterns begin to solidify in your ego as a part of who you are. The thoughts are now becoming the roots of your behavioural patterns and ultimately they show up as self-limiting belief systems – things that keep you in a cycle of misery.

Any time you experience the same situation or object that those negative thoughts are associated with, the cycle will repeat itself.

The more you identify and entertain certain thoughts, the more they will linger in your mind. The more they linger in your mind, the more they become a part of your identity and define the way you see and interact with the world. The more you allow yourself to follow this pattern of thinking, the more you will experience the same types of thoughts which in turn reinforces the initial identification with the thought.

negative thoughts | Where Negative Thoughts Come From

An illustrative example

Your ego is who you define yourself to be. Any and all labels that you place on yourself and the world around you, fall into the regime of the ego. From here, comes your character, belief systems, morals, behaviour, thought patterns, and every other aspect of who you are.

Let’s take the example of the identification: I am a woman.

Now let’s say that throughout your life, you’ve witnessed and experienced the subjugation of women. Starting from when you were a child, there were stark differences in the way that girls and boys were treated. These differences related to perceived intellect, athletic ability, expected behaviour, roles in society, so on and so forth.

Your identification with being a woman comes with all of these stereotypical ideas. If you perceive yourself to be worse at mathematics, then that’s exactly what will happen. Your intellect is directly affected by this association.

negative thoughts | Where Negative Thoughts Come From

A little bit more on psychological priming here.

How does this association affect your day-to-day life?

This is when it becomes really interesting.

You and 4 other people can be witnessing the same scene play out and at the end, there will be 5 different versions of what happened.

What’s happened here?

All of you have different conditioning and associations and therefore, your minds are all different. Your world views are affected by your egos and so is your perception.

To illustrate, let’s continue with the example of the woman. Let’s say she’s heterosexual and has been in multiple abusive relationships. She has had a recurring trauma and therefore has created a complicated association and expectation in her mind between men, love and violence.

Her thought patterns are affected by this association.

The emotions that she feels in a relationship, specifically during an argument, are very different than what another woman who has not been in an abusive relationship would experience. Like in the instance of priming, her subconscious expectation for violence to be involved in arguments may lead her to behave in a way that provokes violence, this may even go as far as instigating violence herself in the name of self-defence.

It’s important here to understand that the traumatized woman’s day-to-day thoughts and emotions are a lot more unstable than her untraumatized counterpart’s. In this way, mental conditioning directly translates to perceived reality; if the traumatized woman perceives danger, she will act accordingly. Whether or not her thoughts and emotions are based on her current reality is immaterial. Her mind is taking her on a trip and she has no idea that her perception of reality is skewed.

In this way, the ego’s ideas and identifications trickle through all the layers of your existence.

negative thoughts | Where Negative Thoughts Come From

The effects of negative thoughts on your day-to-day life

This is a question you already know the answer to. After all, that’s why you’re here. You’ve experienced the tremendous impact that your thoughts – specifically your negative thoughts – have on your life and now you have an idea of how that process begins.

To really take this point home, let’s look at negative thoughts and emotions in the context of pursuing goals and finding happiness and purpose in life.

You want to do something in life, something that matters. You want to become someone influential who works toward the common good of all life on Earth. You start imagining what this would look like and then you get a thought, ‘What will everyone think?’

Following that thought comes a barrage of others: ‘What if I fail?’

What if I end up on the streets?’

What if I’m poor and can’t afford to eat?’

What will everyone say then?’

What if I’m poor forever?’

negative thoughts | Where Negative Thoughts Come From

Anxiety starts to rise up and yet another thought comes along, ‘Everyone will laugh at me.’

No one will love me if I have no money.’

What if I die alone?’

You gulp and turn back to your computer and continue click-clacking away at the keyboard, ‘No, I’m not ready,’ you think to yourself. ‘Maybe when I have some more savings.’

A lot of the time, this process – from idea to negative thought cycle and uneasy feelings to going back to work – happens in a split second. It happens subconsciously and only appears to you as uncertainty and fear.

You aren’t even aware of what’s happening in your head and what’s stopping you from pursuing your goals. You’ve attributed your hesitation to fear and anxiety but the more you look into the feeling, you’ll start to see that behind the fear is a string of negative thoughts.

Actively managing negative thoughts and emotions

Managing your thoughts and emotions can be as simple as observing them.

In practice it’s both simple and complicated. If you’ve ever sat to meditate, you know what I mean: the string of thoughts is endless and they make you physically uncomfortable. You’re literally unable to sit still to meditate.

Thousands of years ago, this problem was addressed through the practice of yoga. The eight limbs of yoga were enumerated for the exact purpose of freeing you from the cycle of negative thoughts and emotions.

The practice of yoga brings you so much more than flexibility and better sleep; yoga is a spiritual path. One that will release deep stress and reconnect you with the deepest layer of you – your Self.

Being grounded in yoga means taking life in stride and being balanced regardless what happens. Everything in life becomes just an event: it’s neither good nor bad, it’s just something that comes and goes without having any effect on you whatsoever.

negative thoughts | Where Negative Thoughts Come From

Imagine truly being able to believe that the universe is benevolent and everything you want in life is coming to you.

Imagine being able to take that step in the dark and trust that the path will make itself clear as you go.

This is what you stand to gain.

So what are you waiting for?

Start your practice today.

Parm Saggu

Parm Saggu

Hey, I'm Parm! I help people who long for a deeper meaning in life but feel caged by societal expectations to break free, uncover the secrets of life, and forge a path to be the difference they want to see in the world.

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