“How do I get out of this downward spiral?” “How can I let go of this constant anxiety about my life?” “What can I do to get out of my head and feel better about the situation I’m in?” These are the questions that come up quite often in my circle gatherings.

I also many times go through phases where I experience a negative mindset. Sometimes I’m aware of it when it happens, but too often I recognize it only when looking back. But over time I notice a few insights within my experience that help me be a witness of those negative mindsets, rather than be at the mercy of it:

1 – Saying It, Out loud. 

For one, verbalizing or saying what my challenge, pain, fear, or shame is out loud has a powerful effect: it creates a new relationship with the uncomfortable feeling, one where I don’t identify myself with the pain, but rather separate myself from it. Naming the pain creates some distance and helps me realize that I am not my situational drama. 

2 – Be Curious About Where It’s Coming From

One challenge that I always run into is getting clarity on the root cause of my discomfort. The initial naming has a cathartic effect BUT sometimes I still miss the mark. Why? Because I’m still looking for something to blame on rather than understanding where my discomfort is deeply stemming from.

 For example, my friend once said something ignorant and it really got me upset. I don’t exactly know why, but it was enough to piss me off and make me angry. And what bothered me was precisely my reaction. So in this instance, I was able to name my problem: I didn’t like the fact that I let my friend’s ignorant statement get such a reaction out of me. Now, why did it affect me so much? Where did this reaction come from? In this case, I might have thought: “Ah, ok… maybe this threw me off because I grew up with an uncle who had terrible views on life and it was bothersome for me to be around his energy. My friend seemed to have triggered those same feelings. I need to explore that some more.”

3 – Explore Some More

Openness has been a slippery slope in my process: sometimes I tell myself “yes, I am open to looking at this situation differently” but in reality, I’m not. Instead, I keep looking for validation that my situation is indeed bad and that external factors are to blame for it. Openness requires to erase the old ways of approaching a situation and see it in a whole new light. This allows us to break free from the “ego-protective” mindset that initially shaped our perception of the situation in the first place.

4 – Reframe, Re-orient

When we start to have a clear view of our given challenge, we realize that most of our issues have common roots. In my case, I started to understand that whatever uncomfortable situation I was dealing with was yet another reminder that I needed to address a deeper pain of unresolved emotions. So when I reframed the way I viewed my challenge with this knowledge in mind, I was able to re-orient my uncomfortable feelings about my challenge towards one that was more open and curious to better understand the journey that led me to this discomfort, instead of trying to fix the situation or blame myself and/or others for it. I find this approach of “problem-solving” to bring a greater sense of empowerment over the challenge.

It gets easier as you go.

Following these steps when approaching any negative cycle allows you to gain perspective: you understand that your life journey is WAY BIGGER than what you imagined, you get to FEEL in your body this awareness that “this shall pass” which invites more ease to any situation, and you manage to bring yourself to a place where you can truly accept what is and allow the unfolding to happen more naturally.

You become more gentle towards yourself and others because you understand that this is all part of the human experience and not a fight against life.

Be slow, be patient, be observant, and be easy.

For me, following these steps have been enormously helpful in finding a better, more joyful path to the inevitable challenges of life.

What’s your experience with breaking-free from a negative mindset?