I believe that every person has peculiar talents that help him/her reach his/her goals, build a successful life and help other people. On the other hand, he/she often has to struggle against negative ideas and behaviors to fully and successfully apply his/her abilities.
This essay is devoted to my experience of overcoming the problem of negative thinking with the help of the technique offered by Prochaska and Diclemente. Having walked through six stages of this program, I managed to bring the positive change into my behavior and get the habit of being a positive thinker.
Negativism is a human spirit that can be defined as a deplorable plight connected to whining, in the aim of finding an excuse for a situation. According to Chansky (2008), negative thinking is comparable to complaining that negates human happiness and obscures progress by causing confrontation cynic and apathetic feelings. However, the key to overcoming negative thinking is understand that it has the essence of an addiction.
Stages of Change Model
According to the American counselling association (ACA) (2011), the process of counselling requires some mental, physical or psychological measures to address well-being, personal growth, pathological development or career growth. The counselling programs have to be systematic, effective, and cognitive in addition to need for behavioural interventions. Considering that negative thinking can be also considered an addiction, it is reasonable to apply this approach in struggling with it.
It took me four months to go through Prochaska and Diclemente’s “Stages of Change Model”: pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, maintenance, and termination. Below, I describe the essence of each stage of the Model and describe my experience of fulfilling it.
The first stage of change model, which is pre-contemplation (Thombs, 2006), implies that one is not aware of the problem or is ignorant of the behaviour that requires change. At this stage, a person is not thinking seriously about any form of change being not aware of the problem.
He/she may notice that some problem takes place in the course of his/her life but perceive it as an impact of certain external factors and not show interest for any form of assistance. He/she may also try to defend “negative thinking behaviours” failing to recognize their effects and the necessity to make an effort to cancel them.
For a long time I did not admit I was a “negativist” and called myself a “realist” highlighting that one’s life is full of problems and troubles he/she is not able to avoid. I paid much attention to the problems that took place in my life and lacked enthusiasm when my first attempt of fulfilling some task failed.
Therefore, I did not take resolute steps and avoided working on tasks that seemed difficult to fulfil being afraid of a failure. My self-esteem was low despite evident achievements in studying and extracurricular activities, as well as successful communication with friends and acquaintances. Thus, at that moment, my slogan was: “Let it be anyone but me”.
The second stage is contemplation: a person is aware that the negative behaviour exists but is ambivalent about the necessity to transform (Sasson, 2011). At this stage, one recognizes the problem but is not ready to spend time and efforts to understand how this problem should be overcome and get the intent to start changing his/her behaviour.
I did not understand I was a negative thinker for a long time until I received a certain push “from the outside”: the example of outstanding people who had to struggle against incredible miseries to reach their goals. During the vacation, I get familiarized with Maya Angelou’s novel I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings where the writer tells about her childhood full of suffering and humiliation, and her way to becoming a strong, independent personality.
I had a discussion of the book with my friend who told me another fascinating case: I learned that Beethoven, the musician of genius, composed his 9th Symphony being absolutely deaf and even managed to conduct the orchestra while performing it. Having listened to the famous Finale from the Symphony, I was very impressed; these sounds helped me re-evaluate my life and understand that my problems are incomparable to those many people have to deal with. I understood I was a negative thinker.
According to Thombs (2006), the preparation stage implies that one is getting ready for change but needs time to find the willpower to engage a program during the “change of behaviour” process. The preparation process is a testing process where one tests whether it will be possible to accommodate the required change.
At first I did not believe that I could overcome my negative thinking addiction; seeing the problem and finding no way to deal with it was quite challenging and disappointing.
However, a case from my life helped me become ready for the process of change. My close friend asked me to help her with a social project, a holiday in the orphanage: it was necessary to develop an idea, construct the decorations, and play the parts. I refused to help her explaining that I would not able to cope with these tasks and that organizing this holiday was not a good idea in my opinion.
My friend was offended at me arguing she knew I was good at organizing events, drawing and acting, and decided that I just did not want to help her. This argument upset me and helped understand that with my negative thinking, not only do I miss my personal opportunities, but also do not use the chance to be helpful for other people. I decided to take part in the project, as well as work on my negative habit.
The preparation stage is very essential for the transformation into the action stage. This stage of putting the new behaviours into practice takes the longest period of approximately two months. The stage requires active involvement into behavioural change techniques. Much depends on a person’s readiness and motivation to change, as well as external support.
My first step was the analysis of my previous experience and understanding the causes of the problem: having low self-esteem and being afraid of a failure, I preferred to avoid responsibility and blame the circumstances for my problems; thus the World around me seemed to be very “negative” and hostile towards me. My second step was helping my friend with the abovementioned project. Besides, having read several brochures devoted to positive thinking, I chose a range of techniques I decided to apply to become a positive thinker.
Firstly, I tried to struggle my low self-esteem: I started working on tasks that seemed challenging and tried new hobbies. Secondly, I got the habit of accepting any trouble or failure with a joke and finding something positive in it. Thirdly, I decided to share positivism with other people: I made compliments, supported their ideas and initiatives. I followed my new rules for about two months.
While the action or will power stage enables one to practice new behaviours that trigger the transformation, after accomplishing the process, there is a need for one to retain the change. The maintenance stage of the model assists in ensuring that a person under counselling has a constant commitment towards sustainability of a newly accrued behaviour.
The positive changes that came into my life together with my new rules inspired me to continue following my strategy. To monitor the changes, I created a blog where I wrote three positive things that happened to me every day. Gradually, I became able to find 5-10 positive issues each time I wrote about my day. I noticed that positive thinking became my habit.
The last stage of the model implies the possibility of relapsing or falling back to the old behaviours. A person may fail to understand the importance or feel the easiness of changing a negative behaviour and thus revert to the habit even after accomplishing results.
The positive changes were so evident that I completely understood the importance of being a positive thinker and thus avoided reverting to negativism. My new achievements improved my self-esteem, and I became more resolute and courageous in struggling with my routine problems. Positive thinking had its result, and I felt no desire to be a negativist any more.
The essence of addiction can be defined as one’s desire to cope with a problem in the easiest way that takes his/her littlest efforts. In this sense, negative thinking can be considered to have the addictive nature: with his/her negativism, he/she defends him/herself from admitting the necessity to take more resolute actions and change his/herself.
The “Stages of Change Model” offered by Prochaska and Diclemente gives an opportunity to deal with negative thinking as an addiction and change one’s behavior. Having gone through all six stages, I managed to understand the causes of my negative thinking and overcome this destructive habit.
While I received certain push from the external environment, I nevertheless had to develop a plan of action and follow it precisely. The positive changes that came into my life demonstrated that my efforts were reasonable and inspired me to continue working on myself.
American Counselling Association (ACA). (2011). Information. Alexandria, VA: Retrieved 3 April 2011 from http://www.counseling.org/
Chansky, T.E. (2008).Freeing Your Child from Negative Thinking: Powerful, Practical Strategies to Build a Lifetime of Resilience, Flexibility, and Happiness. Massachusetts, MA: Da Capo Press.
McWilliams, P. & Sedillos, J. (1995). You Can’t Afford the Luxury of a Negative Thought. Los Angeles, CA: Prelude Press.
Sasson. R. (2011). The Power of Negative Thinking. Retrieved 3 April 2011 from
Thombs, D. L. (2006). Introduction to addictive behaviours. New York, NY: The Guilford Publication Inc.