How to Beat Your Negative Thoughts – Laugh at Them

by Lisa Rothstein on 01/12/2011


“My Personal Demon”, courtesy of cartoonist Chris Browne

Negative thoughts and fears that you or your creative work isn’t good enough, regret and guilt over missed opportunities, procrastination and “woulda-coulda-shouda’s”  — these negative thoughts poison your day and your work like nothing else.  But somehow, they’re also like a drug that we DaVinci types can’t seem to get enough of. We are champions at beating ourselves up for the past and fretting about the future.  After all, there’s so much we could/should do and haven’t done, and we can’t decide, which is another reason to berate ourselves. The results can be paralysis, despair, irritability at those who don’t understand us, and acid reflux (I’m singlehandedly keeping the Tums people in business).

But there is an easy and fun solution. Stop taking yourself so damned seriously. Laugh at your own craziness. Trust me, if you look for the humor, you will find it, because most of this thinking really is pretty ridiculous. It only has power because it goes unchallenged.

Pictured above is my newest cherished object in my life — a drawing created for me by my friend and colleague Chris Browne (the cartoonist of the lovable Viking Hagar the Horrible). He posted one like it on Facebook from a recent art show, and when I said I wanted to buy it , he made one just for me.  I now have  “My Personal Demon” hanging on the wall next to my desk. I love how miserable and forlorn he looks.  He doesn’t want to be mean, he just can’t help it. That’s how I feel when I say horrible things to myself. Seeing it in funny cartoon form makes me laugh, and reminds me to lighten up. Also, “objectifying” my demon as a distinct character puts it outside my head where I can tame it and tell it, “Shut the hell up, I’m working.”

To laugh at your own negative thoughts and feelings, try these ideas:

  1. Think of what your own “demons” of self-criticism, fear, regret, etc. would look like and draw them as ridiculously as you can.  If you don’t draw, cut out cartoons from magazines (or even print out this post, I’m sure Chris would not mind!).
  2. Write down the negative things you say to yourself. Now say them out loud, over and over, using various silly voices. Extra points if you can do it after sucking helium from a balloon.  Sound as dopey and comical as possible.
  3. Simply ask yourself during your next funk or fit of anxiety, “What’s actually funny about this?” . If your brain growls back, “NOTHING!” , then ask, “Ok, then what could be funny about this if I wanted it to be? ” Maybe you could write a scene of sitcom-y dialogue based on your negative thoughts, a silly poem or a joke.  Imagine yourself in your current situation as a character in a movie, if that movie were a comedy. What would happen next?

You’ll find that once you make enough fun of your inner meanie, as with any bully, it will just slink away. Or you may find, as I do with my “Personal Demon”, that it’s actually kind of cute and charming, and I just want to tell him to take a rest, I can handle it from here. Trust me, that will really disarm him.  🙂

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Melanie Kissell January 13, 2011 at 12:21 am

Chris Browne did an awesome job on your personal demon drawing, Lisa!

I’m a big proponent of laughter — especially laughing at oneself. And I’m a true believer that a sense of humor is a person’s greatest and most valuable asset. 🙂
Melanie Kissell recently posted..Inspired Action Is Sparked By Your Creativity

Lisa Rothstein January 13, 2011 at 3:55 pm

So true….I remember one day making the distinction that I should take my WORK seriously — i.e. show up every day, give it my best, etc. and myself less so. Wish I could remember this every day!

Robert Britt February 1, 2011 at 12:09 pm

Worlds collide and positive outcomes can be had. Without the destruction of Krypton, Superman would have never come to earth. Sorry.. off on a tangent.

I listen to your interview on the GIP Boomers Edition (I was the Inspiration Scout for the first year of the GIP) and visit your site to see what you have to offer – great stuff – and the second post I look at, there is my friend Melanie commenting. Small world isn’t it. And she’s prodding me on my blog to do more with my comedy and edutainment, and you are here talking about self doubt. It’s tough for multi-talented folks to focus (why am I reading blogs and not writing my musical) hmmm.
good to not take ourselves too seriously and enjoy what we got. I like the silly voice thing, and I have found that when I don’t concentrate too much, I sometimes get my best ideas.
wow, this was a random series of statements in one comment.. see ya, and thanks
Robert Britt recently posted..Education Entertainment Edu-tainment

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