Why do I have thoughts that make me feel bad?


The brain does not know which thoughts
make you feel “bad” or “good”.

To the brain, thoughts are just electro-chemical pulses used to react to your environment.

There are no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ thoughts.

Unfortunately, though, this means that we have thoughts that make us feel bad
– even if that doesn’t seem to be what we want.

How does this happen?


Your brain created pathways a long time ago
that affect how you see the world

Your first thoughts about the world came from what was around you.

As a child, you probably got the same messages over and over again

For example, if as a child, you grew up in a household
where there was a lot of yelling and fighting, you may have had the thought more than once
that “the world is a negative, angry place”.


It may have even been more subtle, like

“people are easily irritated by me,”

“I’m the reason people are unhappy”.


Each time we have a thought, cells in our brain send ‘pulses’ to each other.

It could look like this:

X –   –   –   –   X

The more we were around those people,  the more those cells continue to ‘talk to each other’.

X- – – – – – – -X


Since we’re in the same environments over and over again, those cells tend to ‘talk to each other’ a lot.

The brain then starts to ‘invest’ in those pathways by sending white fat to cover the connection between those cells.


That white fat covering (called myeline) makes it so those cells have faster connections and are the first to activate when we are in different situations.


This means that… if, say, you were around really stressed out or angry people growing up…

there’s a good chance you have opinions about yourself based on those stressed out/angry/ depressed/anxious people’s beliefs about life and you.


Because you were around them a lot, you may have these ‘thick connections’
in your brain related to negative thoughts about yourself.

These pathways are not the ‘truth’ about you –
they were just created based on you reacting to the stress/anxiety of other people around you.


When you are really upset, there’s a good chance
you’re having negative thoughts that are coming from the past
– and those ‘thick connections’.


One way to lower the stress that comes from all of that ‘negative’ wiring is to simply be more aware…
you can do that just by asking this question the next time you get really angry or depressed about something:

“is my reaction to this event based 100% on what is happening only in this moment…  Or is it possible that part of my reaction comes from stuff that happened before this that makes me think this thing is worse than it is?”

This video explains this idea even further!



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2 thoughts on “Why do I have thoughts that make me feel bad?

  • Hi Lisa! Thanks for your comments!
    As for the dark cloud of unfinished projects… well, there are times where procrastination is not a bad thing (see this article)… but in my experience not wanting to do something sometimes has to do with a) not seeing the point of it; b) not feeling a sense of urgency; or c) falling victim to my usual triggers/habits that keep me from achieving goals.
    Something that comes to mind is this:
    Many of us get lost in the pile of things that feel ‘urgent’ versus the things that are truly ‘important’ (watch this short youtube from Marie Forleo on the topic)
    There are some things that if you haven’t made a commitment to someone else surrounding it, it may be time to ask if this is really a project that is aligned with what you are trying to achieve? Perhaps you created this idea/project a while back, when you were operating from information you had back then, and since then, you got more information that has made you see that this project – or the form of this project – is actually not the best way to achieve what you want to achieve. If it’s something you committed to someone else to do, it may be worth talking with that person about how to find a fresh way of achieving the same goal, but with a different approach.
    Get really clear on why this project exists – what are you trying to achieve with it? Sit quietly and reflect on that, journaling would be great at this point. Take a few minutes to meditate by making the intention of the meditation to get clear on what you want to achieve with this project. You may not get an insight during the meditation, but at some point in the near future, you will likely get an ‘aha’ moment of – ‘that’s what I’m trying to do!’… when that gets clear, you will either a) realize how important that project really is and feel a new sense of urgency and discipline about it, or b) realize that the format the current project is in doesn’t actually fit what you’re trying to do.
    Let me know if that brings you and clarity!!

  • Stefanie,
    I have read some of your articles and they really hit home with me. You have inspired me to choose a mantra and now I better understand why I choose to organize the junk drawer over writing my course of study. Help me understand why the dark cloud of “writing my course of study” looms overhead ALL THE TIME. Is it just me that can’t let it go? I feel like unfinished projects silently nag at me and steal my joy.

    Thank you, I enjoy your sense of humor and approach in making these concepts available to everyone!!

    Lisa York

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