Affair healing Blog
I recently listened to a podcast* in which the guest reported what his therapist, a neuroscientist, told him:
"We can now prove fearful, negative, hateful thoughts are like Velcro; the neurons grab around them and solidify... Positive, grateful, loving thoughts are like Teflon; they slide off unless you savor them consciously for at least 15 seconds."
This concept is actually a combination of numerous studies that indicate our tendency to focus on anything perceived as a threat and the ways in which many focus so intently on these negative perceptions and feelings that they become unable to hold on to positive ones.
Following an affair, many betrayed spouses experience the "Velcro effect" as negative thoughts latch on as quickly as they come to mind. They stick so easily and securely that efforts to eliminate them seem ineffective. And like Teflon, our brains cannot seem to hold on to any contrasting thoughts of peace, joy, or hope.
Hopeless? No. But making negative thoughts slippery and positive thoughts sticky does require effort. The good news is that you really are in control; you simply have to start making the consistent choices that help the good thoughts stick. Here are four steps that will help weaken the Velcro and Teflon tendencies in your brain.
1. Recognize your tendency to focus on negative things.
This simply means you take ownership of the fact that you are turning attention to things that end up hurting you, not helping you. It would be impossible to stop all those thoughts from coming to you, but recognizing your inclination to latch on to them or investigate them further is an important step toward change. As the old adage states: "You can't stop a bird from flying over your head, but you can keep it from making a nest in your hair."
Don't accept the false belief that you are a victim. You cannot stop the bad thoughts from showing up at your door, but you can stop treating them like uninvited guests that you let hang around despite their rudeness.
2. Be intentional with gratitude.
Trying NOT to think negative thoughts is a fruitless endeavor. Rather, you need to start intentionally replacing the negative thoughts even though you may not feel like it right now. Do it anyway. Start by spending at least a few minutes each day (or several times throughout the day) thinking about what you are grateful for. Write these down. If you're using a journal to process your negative thoughts, don't stop but make sure you end with statements of gratitude. Using a Flip Journal™ approach can help you do this.
3. Look for evidence of positive things.
Every day, you are confronted with evidence of hope, goodness, and well-being in your world. They are there, but they will slip right past you if you don't look for them. Start each day with a goal of noticing and least five good things. (If you want to be more specific, look for five expressions of hope, or five expressions of love, or five things to be thankful for.) You'll see them if you look for them.
4. Spend time with any good thought that comes your way.
Remember the Teflon analogy? "Positive, grateful, loving thoughts are like Teflon; they slide off unless you savor them consciously for at least 15 seconds." So when you see the evidence of something good, take time to think about it for at least 15 seconds before you start thinking about something else.
4 for 4
Try doing these four things, every day without fail, for four days straight. If you forget one day, start over again. You know what will happen? The good stuff will start to stick.
*The Liturgists Podcast: Episode 35, The Cosmic Christ with Richard Rohr