The more I learn about the human mind, the more fascinated I become – and the more I come to understand the connection between thoughts and feelings, the more I tinker with my own thinking. I guess you could say that I am my own test subject.
, a pioneer of Cognitive Behavior Therapy
(CBT), and creator of Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy
(a form of CBT) coauthored the groundbreaking classic, A Guide to Rational Living
. In this book, he explains that the key to living healthier happier lives lies within our thinking. He asserts, “Human feeling largely stems from thinking,”
and ” . . . when people change their beliefs or philosophy about something, their emotions and their behaviors also significantly change.”
Numerous research studies have supported this theory.
Thoughts —> Feelings —> Outlook
Thoughts have the power to color our reality. In general, negative thoughts give rise to negative feelings, and positive thoughts beget positive feelings. Thoughts conjure feelings and, in turn, those feelings, positive or negative, can affect our frame of mind. In thinking more about this, I considered the everyday activity of decision-making, and that we regularly face situations where we are required to make a decision, state a preference, or express agreement/disagreement.
Two of the most powerful words in the English language are YES and NO. They can either create barriers or open doors, and many times these words can evoke positive or negative emotions within us. Regardless of the question being asked, YES feels positive (because it affirms), and NO feels negative (because it negates). Even if we are very comfortable saying NO, it still can create a sense of interruption in the flow of positivity – internally, as well as between ourselves and others.
When our minds sense something negative, internal negative feelings can manifest in a change in body language and conversation, and for those who are not comfortable asserting themselves, having to say NO can actually create a sense of anxiety. Perhaps they feel bad about disappointing others, or fear that they may come across as disagreeable. For this situation, I think it would be helpful to consider reframing their understanding of what it actually means to say NO.
is a philosophical term which refers to the ability to be true to oneself. It means being true to our desires, beliefs, values, and standards, without wavering in the face of external pressure. It means:
- Committing to our goals
- Asserting our needs
- Acting on our convictions
- Keeping the promises we’ve made to ourselves
With this understanding, consider this: Any time we face a decision, it is a test of our authenticity.
Q: When does NO mean YES?
In my previous posts, Changing the Frame
and The Secret to Happiness
, I explained the concept of reframing – the process of placing a situation in a more positive frame. In light of reframing, I think it becomes easier to say NO once we realize that we are in essence saying YES.
Each time we say NO, we are saying YES to something very important – to our convictions, needs, values, and standards. Saying NO is about acknowledging our core truths and always saying YES to them. The word YES is affirming, which generates positive feelings. Therefore, reframing our decisions to where we are always thinking YES grounds us in a frame of always affirming, which is something for which we can feel positive.
How does this work in real life?
- Each time we say NO to negative relationships, we are saying YES to our desire for positivity and peace.
- Each time a student says NO to going out drinking with friends, choosing to study instead, they are saying YES to an activity that supports their academic goals.
- Each time a young adult says NO to a career suggestion for which they have no interest, they are acknowledging and saying YES to their own interests and need for fulfillment.
- Each time we say NO to unhealthy food choices, we are saying YES to a commitment to care for ourselves.
It is my belief that focusing on the underlying AFFIRMATIONS that exist in the word NO can help us to feel more positive about the decisions we make.
Don Your Cape
As I mentioned above, the words YES and NO wield a lot of power. This power, if used properly, transforms us into protectors of our own truths. Reframing our thinking to where we are always saying YES, even when we say NO, is simply another way for our inner superheroes to use their powers for good.
“This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.”
~Shakespeare, Hamlet Act 1, scene 3, 82–84~
Do you have a hard time saying NO? Do you normally consider your core values and beliefs when making decisions?
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