How Negative Thought Patterns Hurt Your Mental Health

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The Power of Your Subconscious Mind" by Joseph Murphy. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Do you often find yourself slipping into negative thought patterns, ruminating about the past, or imagining the worst-case scenarios in the future? Can negative thinking attract negative experiences?

According to Joseph Murphy, the author of The Power of Your Subconscious Mind, if you’re not entirely happy with your life experiences, it’s because you’re thinking “false” negative thoughts that contradict the positive force of Universal Consciousness.  These negative thought patterns leave an imprint on your subconscious mind which can further perpetuate the cycle of negativity. 

In this article, you’ll learn how your negative thoughts inhibit the positive flow of Universal Consciousness, prompting your subconscious mind to create negative experiences.

Why Your Negative Thoughts Are “False”

Murphy believes that, because you’re connected to Universal Consciousness, you’re designed to think thoughts and live in a way that aligns with this positive force. Consequently, your natural state is one of health, vitality, bliss, and forward motion because these are natural byproducts of this positive force.

Murphy argues that negative thought patterns arise due to your lack of faith in this benevolent higher power. If you trusted it to work on your behalf, you’d have nothing to fear and no need to struggle because you’d know that this higher power is working to help you. But, your lack of faith leads you to the false conclusion that you have to struggle by yourself and force things into place if you want to achieve any sort of success or happiness in your life. As a result, you feel alone and unsupported, and, when things don’t go the way you want them to, you suffer from low self-confidence and poor expectations. Your subconscious mind then fulfills these expectations by creating difficult and uncomfortable experiences.

Recall the stream made up of this positive force of energy: Each time you think a thought in opposition to this force, you throw a boulder into the stream. This boulder blocks the flow of the stream, slows down your progress, and leads you through long and uncomfortable diversions. The more boulders you throw into the stream, the harder it gets to make your way across the stream. In other words, the more you think negatively, the more blocks you place between yourself and what you want (good health, relationships, wealth, and so on).

For example, imagine you’re trying to make a major decision that will impact the course of your life. Your lack of faith in a higher power leads you to rely solely on your conscious mind to analyze the pros and cons of this decision. Because you don’t trust this higher power to work on your behalf, you magnify the weight of this decision and all of the disastrous consequences that could happen if you make the wrong choice—these consequences feel catastrophic because you believe that you’ll have to deal with them on your own. As a result, you feel blocked and anxious about choosing a direction. Your state of mind then delays any progress you make toward creating the life you want.

Faith in God Leads to Inner Peace and Fulfilment

Murphy’s claim that lack of faith leads to difficult life experiences lies at the heart of many dominant religions. For example, Pastor Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life, explains that God created you to fulfill a specific purpose that he planned for you. This purpose underlies the meaning of every aspect of your life. 

According to Warren, when you don’t trust that God has assigned you a specific purpose, you fail to understand the meaning of your life. This is because you allow yourself to be driven by a variety of external (materialism), emotional (fear), and moral (false beliefs) factors to motivate your thoughts and behaviors. Warren argues that these motivations destroy the possibility of peace in your life because you always feel anxious and unsure about why you’re on this earth. Consequently, your anxiety makes you feel like you always have to struggle through difficult life experiences.

On the other hand, when you believe that God has a purpose for you, you understand the meaning of your life and feel at peace. Warren claims that this is because, instead of relying on different motivations, you feel as if you’re being guided by a single clear motivation: to fulfill God’s purpose for you. As a result, you understand the meaning of your life because you’re able to appreciate the significance of your every life experience. This allows you to focus your thoughts and behaviors in a way that aligns with God’s purpose and leads to inner peace and fulfillment.

How Your Negative Thoughts Create Self-Fulfilling Prophecies

Murphy argues that every time you think negative thoughts, you block your subconscious mind from accessing both the useful information you have stored in your mind (this information is part of everything your subconscious mind has absorbed throughout your life) and the positive energy flowing from Universal Consciousness that creates positive experiences. As a result, your subconscious mind creates negative experiences that align with your fears and worries. 

(Shortform note: While Murphy argues that your negative thoughts create negative experiences by blocking the positive flow of a higher power, Wallace D. Wattles (The Science of Getting Rich) claims that these thoughts create negative experiences by communicating directly with this power. According to Wattles, this power’s job is to manifest thoughts into tangible forms—every time you think a thought, it responds by manifesting into something that reflects the nature of your thought. Therefore, when it senses negative thoughts, it manifests something negative.) 

According to Murphy, these negative experiences can manifest in several ways:

Negative Thoughts Impact Your Mental Health and Your Ability to Experience Success

When you allow your negative thoughts to dominate your positive thoughts, you develop unhealthy mental patterns that lead to low self-esteem and psychological problems such as anxiety, addictions, and phobias. Murphy argues that these mental patterns prevent you from seeing the best in yourself and others, and they encourage you to develop negative expectations about everyone and everything around you. As a result, your subconscious mind creates failure instead of success and happiness. 

For example, your habitual negative thoughts make you feel insecure about your relationship with your partner. The more you focus on the negative things that could happen (he’ll leave, he’ll cheat, he’ll get bored), the less able you are to notice what’s working well in your relationship. Instead, you constantly feel threatened and your insecurities make you act in ways that push your partner away (jealous, overbearing, critical). According to Murphy, your fear of abandonment turns into a negative expectation. Your subconscious mind believes this negative expectation and ensures its manifestation by creating circumstances that both align with and fuel your insecurities.  

Negative Thoughts Inhibit Your Subconscious Mind From Accessing Information

Murphy argues that when you struggle to come up with new ideas and solutions, it’s because you’ve blocked your subconscious mind from accessing both the information you have stored in your mind as well as relevant inspiration from Universal Consciousness. For example, when you’re anxious about an exam, your negative focus blocks your subconscious mind from recalling the information you need to ace the exam. As a result, you feel uninspired and this inhibits your ability to respond to the challenge in front of you.

(Shortform note: Research backs up Murphy’s claim that negative thoughts impact your ability to recall information. According to these researchers, negative thinking leads to cognitive decline and problems with memory, and it increases your risk of developing dementia. This is because negative thoughts leave a high number of harmful protein (tau and amyloid) deposits in your brain. Prior research reveals that the accumulation of tau and amyloid deposits in the brain are the cause of Alzheimer’s disease, as well as a number of other cognitive disorders.)

Negative Thoughts Harm Your Body

According to Murphy, your subconscious mind uses its connection to Universal Consciousness as a “positive power source” to regulate your bodily functions and keep you in optimum health. When your conscious thoughts align with this force, the positive energy moves freely around your body to heal and rejuvenate you. On the other hand, when your conscious thoughts are out of alignment with this force, you disrupt the flow of energy and prevent your subconscious mind from maintaining your body. As a result, your body suffers from health issues, and it degrades and ages faster than it’s meant to.

(Shortform note: Murphy argues that all physical ailments are a result of thinking out of alignment with Universal Consciousness. While research confirms that negative thought patterns are bad for your health (for example, stress impacts your digestion and sleeping patterns), various scholars and scientists have raised concerns over the view that your mental state is the sole determinant of your health. These critics assert that illnesses and diseases have a wide range of physical causes that must be addressed by modern medical therapies in conjunction with any holistic methods you choose to incorporate.)

How Negative Thought Patterns Hurt Your Mental Health

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  • How your subconscious mind creates your life experiences
  • How to improve your life experiences by using your conscious mind to influence your subconscious
  • Why we're all designed to experience happiness

Darya Sinusoid

Darya’s love for reading started with fantasy novels (The LOTR trilogy is still her all-time-favorite). Growing up, however, she found herself transitioning to non-fiction, psychological, and self-help books. She has a degree in Psychology and a deep passion for the subject. She likes reading research-informed books that distill the workings of the human brain/mind/consciousness and thinking of ways to apply the insights to her own life. Some of her favorites include Thinking, Fast and Slow, How We Decide, and The Wisdom of the Enneagram.

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