Flipping Negative Thoughts: A Story About My Mother

When I work with clients about the benefit of flipping negative thoughts, my mother is often in the back of my mind. A good woman, but her nature was to respond critically and abruptly and sometimes get angry about little things that ultimately didn’t matter, especially when dealing with my father. It was a negative, reactionary pattern, and she was stuck in it.

I am grateful to tell my mother’s story because she did something amazing. She created her own wake-up call, a realization of who she was and how her behavior was affecting her life and those around her. It came from within, not from any specific event. At this time, she was in her late seventies and knew she didn’t want to be so angry anymore. She wanted to live feeling like she was loved. There was no end-of-life situation here—just a desire to change what life she had left.

And she did! My mother starting by mentally pressing the pause button when negativity surfaced. When she didn’t like the way my father loaded the dishwasher or how he cleaned the kitchen, she stopped and thought about one of the many good things he did for her or one of his wonderful qualities, such as going with her to doctor appointments and being kind to a stranger. She practiced being aware of her thoughts, stopping before she raised her voice, and then flipping her negative thoughts to positive. Her negativity and criticism became less frequent, and, as a result, their home became more peaceful. She had a more loving relationship with my father.

And, because my mother also wanted to be a more loving person before she died, she started focusing on more acts of kindness, especially to the elderly—volunteering and inviting those who had lost their partners to dinner and sending cards.