The 7 Drivers of Old Habits of Thinking

When it comes to negative experiences, we have habitual ways of responding to what triggers us. But we can learn to step out of and stay out of negative thought cycles.

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Our patterns of negative thinking are often based on old, well-practiced, automatic cognitive routines (often repetitive). They are motivated (usually ineffectively) by the goal of escaping/avoiding distressing feelings or problematic life situations. These unhelpful routines persist because we remain in a cognitive mode characterized by a number of features. I call these the 7 drivers of old habits of thinking:

Living on “automatic pilot” (rather than with awareness and conscious choice). Relating to experience through thought (rather than directly sensing). Dwelling on and in the past and future (rather than being fully in the present moment). Trying to avoid, escape, or get rid of unpleasant experience (rather than approach it with interest). Needing things to be different from how they are (rather than allowing them to be just as they already are). Seeing thoughts as true and real (rather than as mental events that may or may not correspond to reality). Treating yourself harshly and unkindly (rather than taking care of yourself with kindness and compassion).

The good news is that we can learn how to step out of and stay out of these ruminative thought cycles. The first step is be mindful (aware), let…