There’s a new way of thinking about how to overcome negative thoughts that can affect our lives. Think of a problem that has plagued you for a long time — your weight, a loved one’s bad habits, or low self-esteem. No doubt you’ve tried to control this issue, your efforts aren’t working. What if your real trouble isn’t the issue you brood about so compulsively, but the brooding itself?
Psychologists who subscribe to something called acceptance and commitment therapy say there are two kinds of pain. “Clean” pain what we feel when something hurtful happens to us. “Dirty” pain is the result of our thoughts about how wrong this is, and how it proves we — and life — are bad.
They say the vast majority of our unhappiness comes from this secondary response — not from painful reality, but from painful thoughts about reality. Rather than trying to change these difficult thoughts, the solution, they say, is to accept them, and to diffuse them by recognizing that they are simply that: thoughts.