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Negative Thoughts: 3 Causes, 7 Solutions

I’ve seen it in my office, over and over again. A wonderful person opens his mouth, and says something negative about himself that is clearly, unequivocally, just plain wrong.

Then he continues talking, as if what he just stated is an obvious fact.

I’m not really all that smart, you know.

I’m the ugly one in my family.

I’m a boring person.

I might as well not try because there’s no way I can do it.

14283277989_f9f0d3cef2_positive-thoughtsHow do we get negative thoughts such as these embedded in our brains? To make matters worse, over time the thoughts have a way of taking root. And we begin to experience them as fact.

3 Possible Sources of Negative Thoughts

  • It’s the voice of someone in your childhood. In her new book titled, Says Who, Ora Nadrich describes the powerful, negative impact of growing up with parents who direct negative statements at you. She talks about how, over time, those statements are internalized, and those voices play in your head, over and over.
  • It’s the voice of depression. Depression has a way of darkening your horizons. Literal changes in your brain chemicals color your whole world gray. Your altered brain is fertile ground for negative feelings and thoughts, which are far more able to spring forth from nowhere, take root, and flourish unchecked.
  • It’s your child voice, filling the empty space. This happens when you grow up in a family that gives you a shortage of feedback. When your parents are not noticing you or responding to you enough (Childhood Emotional Neglect), you end up with no accurate, realistic view of yourself. You, a child, are left to figure out for yourself who you are. In this situation you have a 50% chance of filling the vacuum with negative observations and thoughts instead of positive ones.

Whatever the cause of your negative thoughts, they are damaging you. Your negative thoughts are far more powerful than you probably realize. And they will hold you back in your life.

But only if you let them. You can fight back.

Seven Questions to Ask to Disarm Your Negative Thoughts

Taken From the New Book, Says Who, By Ora Nadrich

  1. Says Who? Whenever a negative though pops into your head, ask it: Says Who? The question exposes a negative thought for exactly what it is: a doubt that can disrupt your life and damage your sense of well-being.
  2. Have I heard someone say this thought before? So many of the voices in our head are actually echoes. They’re old words we heard someone else say to us, such as a parent, spouse, or boss. By identifying the originator of the thought, you can find out if it really belongs to you. Many times, it doesn’t.  
  3. Do I like this thought? Go ahead and ask yourself: Is this thought desirable or appealing? If not, then ask yourself: why am I thinking it? If you don’t like what you’re hearing, you don’t have to listen.
  4. Does this thought make me feel better? Negative thoughts tear us down instead of build us up. They seep into our psyches, wreaking havoc. Ask yourself: Is this thought making me feel better or worse about myself? If it doesn’t enhance your self-esteem in any way, why are you thinking it?
  5.  Does this thought work for me?  Is this thought useful or productive for you? With this question, you can take a look at whether or not a thought supports your desires or goals. If not, why are you thinking it?
  6. Am I in control of this thought? – Does this thought have any kind of hold or power over you? Or, are you in control of it? If not, ask yourself why you would let a thought have power to control you. Remember, you are the commander of your own thoughts, not the other way around.
  7. Do I want to keep this thought or let it go? With this question, you’re finding out if you want to hold on to a thought that serves no useful purpose for your well-being. If it’s not doing you any good, it’s probably doing you bad. So let it go.

To learn more about the full impact of Childhood Emotional Neglect see and the book, Running on Empty.

To learn more about your negative thoughts and how to fight them, see the book Says Who by Ora Nadrich.

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Negative Thoughts: 3 Causes, 7 Solutions

Jonice Webb PhD

Jonice Webb, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist who is recognized worldwide for her groundbreaking work in defining, describing, and calling attention to Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN). She writes, speaks, and trains therapists on the topic, and is the bestselling author of two books, Running On Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect and Running On Empty No More: Transform Your Relationships. She also created and runs the Fuel Up For Life Online CEN Recovery Program. Since CEN can be difficult to see and remember, Dr. Webb created the CEN Questionnaire and other free resources to help you figure out if you have it. Take the CEN Questionnaire and learn much more about CEN, how it happens, and how to heal it at her website

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APA Reference
Webb PhD, J. (2016). Negative Thoughts: 3 Causes, 7 Solutions. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 26, 2020, from


Last updated: 1 Oct 2016
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