How we brand ourselves and see ourselves is often what we become. We evaluate the status of a behaviour (something we do) into an identity (who we are). People who have an addiction whether it is smoking, drugs, alcohol, gambling, tend to label themselves as such: “I am a smoker ”, “I am an alcoholic”, or “I am a gambler”. This then creates a (negative) identity which the person holds onto and conforms to, making it harder for them to change. Through changing not only would they be breaking a habit, but losing an identity . This is just as true for people with a lack of self-confidence, or indeed any other negative emotional label: “I can’t do this, because I will screw it up”, “I’m a bad person”, “I am an angry person” creating an identity relating to failure. This mental attitude then becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
According to psychologists an attitude, be it positive or negative, is a learned tendency to evaluate certain things in a particular way. Attitudes can be either explicit (you are consciously aware of them), or implicit (not consciously aware of them), but they still have an impact on our lives. Attitudes about ourselves, people, issues, and events, are influenced by many things, but on the whole are formed when we are young , by life experiences and the attitudes of others around us.
When we have negative thoughts these create the negative emotions of fear, anger, and stress, which don’t make us feel good. These emotions relate to the ‘Flight or Fight’ mechanism, causing the mind to narrow its thoughts and focus on the immediate. Useful if you are in danger, but not so useful in the long term as they restrict our general over view of other options and choices available. Positive thoughts however, do the opposite, creating the emotions of joy, contentment, and love, which in turn broadens your sense of possibility. This opens the mind to more options and the potential of learning and building more skills creating even more possibilities.
So, does positive thinking work, and what happens when we have a positive image of ourselves, promoting self-worth and confidence?
The idea of positive thinking is not something that is new; in fact it was first looked into by William James in 1890. Neuroplasticity, which is the study of how thoughts can change the structure and function of the brain, proves that positive thinking and positive activity can actually rewire your brain and strengthen the areas of your brain that stimulates positive feelings. Barbara Fredrickson is a positive psychology researcher at the University of North Carolina. Her ‘Broaden and Build’ theory of positive emotions (Frederickson (1998, 2001)) substantiates that by adjusting our mental attitude to one of positivity towards our self and our life, this can have a positive impact on our cognitive, psychological, social, and physical well-being. The ‘Broaden and build’ theory explains how positive emotions have a direct correlation to diffuse opportunities, which in turn momentarily broadens people’s attention and thinking, creating a wider and more creative concept of ideas. These heightened outlooks often then lead to development of personal resources. This then has a positive emotion affect and the process begins again. Put simply, positive emotions widen people’s outlooks, this then makes them feel good, and reshapes who they are in a positive way. Positivity creates positivity.
Hypnotherapy helps to identify negative behaviour patterns and by working with the subconscious mind can retrain the mind to discard unbeneficial habits and concepts. Hypnotherapy can support you to develop a positive mind and healthy attitude to yourself and life.
By John Patching