Should You Embrace Your Negative Thoughts and Urges?

by Stephen Mills on February 19, 2012

I know this is a rather strange suggestion, but I have recently finished an excellent book on willpower: The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do To Get More of It.  Towards the end of that book there was a chapter called “Don’t Read This Chapter: The Limits of ‘I Won’t’ Power”.  The key idea was that trying to put things out of your mind makes those things more likely to stay in your mind and thus more likely that you will act upon them.  It’s called ironic rebound.  Instead you should actually think about whatever it is you don’t want to think about or do and you will be less likely to think about or do it.

This is incredibly counter-intuitive.  If you crave something, pondering it should intensify the craving right?  Actually some research is showing that it does just the opposite.  The author describes experiments on chocolate, smoking, and dieting that show people who try to suppress their thoughts about a craving actually end up indulging to a much greater extent.  In one experiment women who were encouraged to avoid thinking about chocolate subsequently ended up eating twice as much of it as women who were encouraged to think about and express any thoughts they had about chocolate.

I’ve been trying this out myself and strangely enough it seems to work.  Whenever I have the urge to snack on something I know I shouldn’t be snacking on, I just imagine how it would taste and how it would make me feel.  Then I choose not to act on it and move on.  Instead of averting my eyes I look right at the tasty treat.  Amazingly this seems to dispel the urge and allows my mind release the thought.  Strange but true.

“When you stop trying to control unwanted thoughts and emotions, they stop controlling you.  Studies of brain activation confirm that as soon as you give participants permission to express a thought they were trying to suppress, that thought becomes less primed and less likely to intrude into conscious awareness.  Paradoxically, permission to think a thought reduces the likelihood of thinking it.

This solution turns out to be useful for a surprisingly wide range of unwanted inner experiences.  The willingness to think what you think and feel what you feel – without necessarily believing that it is true, and without feeling compelled to act on it – is an effective strategy for treating anxiety, depression, food cravings, and addiction.”

— Kelly McGonigal, The Willpower Instinct

The key is to think and feel whatever you want, but don’t act upon those thoughts and feelings.  This is just one of many ideas in this excellent book and I thought it was worth sharing with you.  It certainly seems to work for me.

arrow-small

Get Free Updates to The Rat Race Trap by Email here or via a reader in the top left sidebar.  I would love to have you on board.

If you liked this article and think it might be useful to others please share by clicking the share buttons below:

{ 36 comments… read them below or add one }

AnnaLou February 20, 2012 at 9:04 am

Hmmm…This is really inspirational and I want to thank you because of this post…
AnnaLou´s last blog post ..martin place residences

Reply

Latia February 20, 2012 at 1:32 pm

This post it helps me to realize a lot of things..Thanks for sharing to us..
Latia´s last blog post ..How To Stop Tinnitus

Reply

Ellai February 20, 2012 at 8:22 pm

I actually have learned a lot from this post and I am sure most people will be interested to read this…
Ellai´s last blog post ..Guest houses Paignton

Reply

Arline12 February 21, 2012 at 7:04 am

I believe that accepting other people opinions is the best way to improve your life, its about change the bad habits into good one and improve natural attitude t become more productive..
Arline12´s last blog post ..Cd Mastering Belgium

Reply

Wendy L. Conger February 22, 2012 at 1:45 am

Negative thoughts won’t do you any good and criticisms are good because it only meant that you have still room for changes and growth.
Wendy L. Conger´s last blog post ..Translate PDF to 75 Languages

Reply

Mrs.Batista February 22, 2012 at 9:12 am

hmmm very interesting post! a friend of mine always saying that negative thoughts should be let go you should embrace the positive ones if your urges are negative, let them go too if they are positive, then embrace.
Mrs.Batista´s last blog post ..Wedding Speech Jokes

Reply

Charryh February 22, 2012 at 6:01 pm

Negative thoughts and vibes are definitely should be taken away because it will just affect our performance and how we live everyday…
Charryh´s last blog post ..Natural Remedies For Yeast Infection

Reply

Krizelle February 23, 2012 at 11:11 am

In order to attain every goal in life and looking for the step of success, we need to let go all the negative thoughts and urges because its a hence for all the greatness…
Krizelle´s last blog post ..Matt Huston Get Him Back Forever Review – Man’s Mind Revealed

Reply

Sarah April 25, 2013 at 10:05 pm

So much more influence comes from the positive side of thinking and that’s where my focus will remain, thank you…

Reply

Juanita Sanchez February 26, 2012 at 2:44 pm

NIce definition of ironic rebound. It never fails that when ever we try to suppress a thought it inevitably resurfaces. You have to deal with the issue andmake a decision before it stops.. Look at it as unfinished business.
Juanita Sanchez´s last blog post ..Acai Berry Select Reviews

Reply

YnnaRada February 26, 2012 at 8:19 pm

Great article to read! Negative thoughts and vibes is big challenge to overcome. But i will try the method you have mentioned here. I learn a lot on this post and i’m sure a lot of people will benefit from this. Thanks for sharing this to us.
YnnaRada´s last blog post ..Happy New Year To All Of You And Hope You Like The Aquarium Fish Photos Here …

Reply

Yronelle February 27, 2012 at 7:27 pm

Having negative thoughts in everyday life is normal…But we have to make sure that at the end of the day, we change it into positive ones…
Yronelle´s last blog post ..Waterfront Gold

Reply

shane26 February 28, 2012 at 7:48 am

I love the article you have shared to the readers…Negative thoughs may always just be there…But we have to remember we can change it to positive ones…
shane26´s last blog post ..Pencil portrait mastery

Reply

Nicole Schuman February 28, 2012 at 10:41 am

Great article! The wise way to get rid of negative thoughts is to surround yourself with good and positive people it will help make your day brighter and lighter. Thanks for posting!
Nicole Schuman´s last blog post ..ppi claim letter

Reply

Devhonn February 28, 2012 at 9:25 pm

I hope you can post more because there are a lot of people waiting for your next post here…
Devhonn´s last blog post ..disabled cars

Reply

Ayie February 29, 2012 at 3:42 am

This should be shared because most people need this, especially those depressed one and who are introverts…
Ayie´s last blog post ..Relaxation Techniques For Anxiety

Reply

carolynhoffman16 February 29, 2012 at 5:04 am

Thank you for sharing this inspirational post. This is very helpful for introvert individuals to manage their depression.
carolynhoffman16´s last blog post ..Celebrity Workouts

Reply

Arline February 29, 2012 at 2:16 pm

Thanks for sharing this useful and inspiring advice..I would apply this to myself..
Arline´s last blog post ..Looking For A New Jersey Bed Bug Exterminator? Tired of Sleepless Nights from Bed Bugs? Afraid To Sleep In You Own Bed Due to Bed Bugs?

Reply

wynonaelliott  February 29, 2012 at 3:38 pm

There’s no reason to embraced negative thoughts and urges because these are the hindrance of success and other attaining goals…
wynonaelliott ´s last blog post ..Tips To Lose Weight With HCG And Feel Great!

Reply

Mrs.Batista March 1, 2012 at 9:54 am

I totally agree with you.. I thinks we should not really embrace this kinda thought.. It will always hold you back.. That always what happens to me.. And I always regret it for having the negative urges.. As they say “no guts no glory”, how can you achieve your goal if something is holding you..
Mrs.Batista´s last blog post ..Acne Treatment

Reply

Francinne March 2, 2012 at 12:49 am

Introverts can definitely benefit from the post…Thank you for the thoughts shared here and I hope you can post more of this too…
Francinne´s last blog post ..The Collector

Reply

Brandon March 5, 2012 at 6:14 am

The reason why were here and face the reality of life is about embracing all the greatness and success of life, not embracing negative thoughts a reason to pull down one self and feel insane at a time…
Brandon´s last blog post ..Conference call on facetime

Reply

Tyler March 6, 2012 at 10:31 am

Negative thoughts and urges are a part of life. It is what we do with them that makes the difference. They are neither good or bad.
Tyler´s last blog post ..yeastrol uk

Reply

Rose37 March 9, 2012 at 6:56 am

Negative thoughts and urges are the factors that glorify one self and this is the reason why we are strong enough in facing every challenge of life…
Rose37´s last blog post ..Hotel in Paignton

Reply

Bianca March 22, 2012 at 4:22 am

Very inspirational post..
Thanks for sharing..

Now i know of how to overcome Negative thoughts and urges..
Bianca´s last blog post ..b & b Paignton

Reply

Jeff April 12, 2012 at 2:28 pm

I believe it’s called Exposure and Response Thereapy.

Reply

Derek J. Maak June 18, 2012 at 1:34 pm

I’ve never really thought about it from that perspective. Usually if I don’t want to think about something I just try to keep it from occupying my mind by doing other things. But maybe that’s why it lingers.

If you decide to think about it, the key is to still have the willpower not to act.
Derek J. Maak´s last blog post ..Can I Text Him First Or Should He Make The First Contact?

Reply

Ann Cotilard July 27, 2012 at 5:57 am

Yes, it is very important to embrace the negative thoughts and urges since these can be able to let you understand everything and this can develop your personality as well.
Ann Cotilard´s last blog post ..Natural Ways to Enhance your Penis Strength and Length

Reply

Vanessa Worth August 15, 2012 at 12:08 am

If we want to survive on this harsh world, in my own opinion we must not embrace our negative thoughts since it can give negative impact to our life. I have experienced it and I got a negative result on embracing these negative thoughts.
Vanessa Worth´s last blog post ..Male Potency: Male Herbal Supplements for Being a Potent Man

Reply

steven September 21, 2012 at 6:41 pm

hi everyone 😉 i thought you might like to see a movie called WHAT THE BLEEP DO WE KNOW! very interesting its on netflix it will make you think alot! best wishes to all

Reply

Sarah April 2, 2013 at 7:02 am

Hi,
After dieting unsuccessfully for years, I found this to be true as well. If I focus on what I need to give up it becomes my obsession. Instead I implement positive changes, redirects and rewards to myself, this in turn makes it easier to reach my intended goal…

Reply

Organization April 21, 2013 at 9:28 am

Do you wish to a good way to put in order your whole through internet existence in less than 5 minutes? I am going to tell you about a website that makes surfing the internet, paying your bills, blogging, accessing your favorites from anywhere, the most easy and enjoyable experience. This free service even works on smart phones. The website has no spam or garbage and it is totally free. There are no gimmicks, this is just a free service I offer to the public.

Reply

shoping April 21, 2013 at 4:21 pm

Are you interested in a simple way to combine 100% of your on the web life time in less than 5 minutes? I am going to tell you about a website that makes surfing the internet, paying your bills, blogging, accessing your favorites from anywhere, the most easy and enjoyable experience. This free service even works on smart phones. The website has no spam or garbage and it is totally free. There are no gimmicks, this is just a free service I offer to the public.

Reply

pawn shop chronicles cast August 21, 2014 at 12:14 pm

I do agree with all of the ideas you’ve presented
on your post. They are very convincing and will definitely
work. Nonetheless, the posts are too short for novices.
May you please extend them a little from
next time? Thanks for the post.
pawn shop chronicles cast´s last blog post ..pawn shop chronicles cast

Reply

Review Of SizeGenetics Extender March 25, 2015 at 1:04 am

The penis enhancement tool is usually comfy. Making use of the device appropriately and also not excessive using the tool will certainly leave you with a completely comfortable penis increasing the size of encounter. To do this, I suggest wearing the device at a maximum of 9 hours every day. You will certainly notice that you could put on the tool for an hour below, or 3 hrs there, and also your gains will certainly remain permanent. The result of the gadget is such that any kind of dimension rise you make will visit you, the outcomes will be seen to be available in 2-3 weeks, as well as they are long-term.

Reply

Aaron T. Bray March 29, 2015 at 1:00 am

SizeGenetics does not make use of the principle of pumps and also weights. Weights were utilized since the ancient times, while penis pump was the very first penis enhancement tool presented in the market. There are still a whole lot of threats connected with these ideas since they are expanding your penis making use of hazardous systems.

Reply

Leave a Comment

CommentLuv badge