The Negative Cycle

One of the worst things we humans do, in my experience, is create negative cycles in our head. It’s one of the main goals of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to find and remove these things, to solve current problems and change unhelpful thinking and behavior.

The Negative Circle, as diagrammed when described by CBT practitioners.

Generally, it works a little like this: Our negative thoughts lead us to have negative feelings. These negative feelings lead us to have negative behavior. This behavior, in turn, gives us more negative thoughts. At some point, we need to break that cycle and create new patterns. Naturally, this is much easier said than done.

For me, I’ve noticed that I’m generally a very happy-go-lucky person. I expect the best in every situation, and I rarely assume that things will go badly for me. Generally, this works out well for me, and I have been very fortunate in my life so far. Even in very dark situations, such as when my father was dying of cancer, I was able to see the bright side of everything; he would be out of his suffering soon, he’s lived a full and complete life, he’s been a great father to my sister and me, etc.

My own Achilles Heel, however, comes in relationships. My first ever panic attack came during the months following the end of my longest relationship. We had been trying to patch things together, but I’d come to the conclusion that it wasn’t going to work. I had the same kind of anguish-like scenario pop up when my most recent girlfriend and I decided to go our separate ways — despite loving each other very much, there were simply too many outside factors that complicated things for the relationship to work.

For me, the negative circles almost always appear in relation to petty things like jealousy and the often irrational fear of losing a romantic partner. It gets worse when I do lose a romantic partner; it’s like my brain works overtime to create all kinds of (often wildly unlikely) negative thoughts, which leads to negative feelings, which leads to negative behavior — and back again.

I haven’t been able to figure out why it happens in situations related to romantic relationships and almost no other situation, but it’s definitely something that I feel I can afford to work on.


Originally published at on July 9, 2015.

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