Quitting Negative Thinking is Like Quitting Smoking

If you’ve been following along, you know that I’ve been working on finding useful ways to transform my life by changing the way that I think.  I really have to concentrate all day on consciously thinking positively, stopping negative thoughts as they enter and rerouting them.  I feel like a traffic cop.  To be honest just doing it for a couple of days has made me feel pretty tired mentally.

Today I woke up and I was feeling good and had some great things happen – like my neighbor bringing over the shut-off valve or offering to let me borrow his leaf blower.  As the day wore on I noticed that I was feeling anxious and panicky.  The tension turned into a knot in my neck and eventually a headache.

I couldn’t understand what was happening at first.  I tried everything I could think of; breathing deeply, repeating my affirmations, lying down for a bit, getting active, distracting myself.  Nothing was even taking the edge off and it only made the panic worse.  Meanwhile, I had to head out to the store to exchange some things I’d bought online and so I had to get a move on.

I hopped into my car and said, “Dear universe please help me understand.  I am at a total loss.”  No answer. Ugh.  I started getting mad at myself.  I felt like I didn’t understand.  I spent the whole car ride just trying to breath away the tightness in my chest.

My whole trip was a mess.  The traffic was awful.  The GPS took me to the wrong place (the store had moved and my GPS didn’t have an updated location).  When I arrived, there was construction and people were frustrated in the parking lot looking for a spot.  There was a lot of aggression around me.  I get into the store and head towards customer service and there is a line out to the front door. Inhale, exhale, keep listing things I’m grateful for. Damn it!  Why isn’t this working already!!!???

I finally get my items exchanged and pick up a few more things in the store.  As I’m standing in line, I reach for a drink and this lady behind me pushes her cart flush against the back of mine.  I said, “Mam, could you back up your cart so I can get in here?”  She proceeds to tell me that “I have issues” and then bumps her cart against my bottom.  I grabbed her cart and said, “yes mam I do have issues and one of them is you banging your cart against me.  I need you to stop doing this.”  That’s when she decides to call me “a dumb white bitch with issues who has parents who are fuc*** up like me.”  At this point I turned away and the man behind the check out counter says, “Just let it go.  It’s not worth it.  Don’t let her get to you.”  I take yet another couple hundred deep breaths while the lady continues to insult me without pause.”

Finally, I get out to my car, pop a few ibuprofen and pray that I just make it home safe and sound.

As I’m driving home, the answer to my earlier request comes to me (“dear universe please help me understand”) in the strangest of ways.  “It’s like you felt in the beginning when you quit smoking”.  And it clicked.

I smoked for 15 years and though I knew it wasn’t good for me, I couldn’t find the motivation to quit for all those years.  I tried halfheartedly several times, but I always went back. The longest I quit was a month.  I saw the negative impact it had, but I was also pulled towards the familiar, the comfortable, the cycle of addiction itself.  It was a part of my life for better or for worse.

About 8 months ago, I woke up one day and said I’m done smoking.  I put on the patch, grabbed my nicotine gums and I knew deep inside I wasn’t going back.  I was ready.  It finally hurt enough.

During the first 2 months I went through so many mental, emotional and physically uncomfortable changes, that there were many times that I started to question my choice.  I reminded myself that although – I can’t focus, incessantly think about smoking, my stomach is constantly upset, I’m bloated, I’m getting ulcers in my mouth, can’t sleep, feel constantly irritated, cry out of nowhere, etc. – going back to smoking now just means that someday I’ll have to go through this whole process again. That kept me going.  8 months later, I’m so glad I made the change even though in the beginning I was in hell and I had zero proof that it would be better for me.  In fact, it was much worse!

So when the universe answered me that “this is just like when you quit smoking”, it all made sense.  The “habit” of negative thinking is something that develops over many years.  It becomes so much a part of your life that it is second nature.  What’s more, most of us were raised with the idea that criticizing what someone does will lead to better behavior.  You may get the desired behavior, but you also get a lot of shame and guilt passed on with it and that all comes out somewhere too.  So we grow up and beat the crap out of ourselves and others because that’s what we know how to do.

To change a thinking pattern that’s not only ingrained in your mind, but in the mind of a whole social structure is no small task.  You could say we’re all addicted to a way of thinking and don’t even realize it.  For some people, it becomes uncomfortable enough that they are ready to change.  I felt this when I was finally ready to quit smoking and I feel it now as I work moment to moment to change my thoughts towards the positive end of the spectrum.

Whether it is quitting and addiction, a way of thinking, a bad relationship or whatever else you feel burdening you, there is temptation to slip back all around you.  It takes real effort in the beginning to keep yourself on the new path.  There’s not as much proof for your new way as there is for your old way.  It’s all about having faith in the unknown, in the dark.

Today, I reminded myself that I am human.  I am to be congratulated for the steps I am taking towards creating a better life.  I am not to be criticized for struggling to get there.

Finally, I could take my first deep breath again.

To quote Louise Hay, ”

All is well.

Everything is working out for my highest good.

Out of this situation only good will come.

I am safe.

If you take away nothing else from this post remember this: 

Whenever we exert the effort to change we are working against what we’ve come to know. The mind finds comfort in the familiar.  We are creating new connections in our brains after a lifetime of doing it another way.  Be patient with yourself, be gentle with your heart, and congratulate your beautiful soul for each success no matter how small.  No more shame.  No more guilt.  Throw away the criticism once and for all.  It has never served you well and it never will.  

With love from aneternaltraveler 😉

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