I don’t agree that we can’t afford the luxury of a negative thought; “bad” thoughts and feelings can give us essential life guidance, including on quite primal survival issues, and can become a source of useful energy when we learn to work with them rather than succumb to them. However, I am firm in my conviction that we cannot afford the luxury of a negative mantra.
I hear good people who should know better bringing themselves down every day by saying things like:
“I’m too old”
“I’m a klutz”
“I don’t have the money to do what I want”
“My job sucks.”
“I can’t draw” (or write, or hang-glide, or speak in public)
I’m no good at…” (fill in the blank)
“I have no choice”
“It’s not up to me”
I also hear people harping negative beliefs about the world and the people around them in ways that limit possibility and invite bad experiences, because when we project bad expectations on the world, the world will respond in kind.
A negative mantra is a repetitive thought, that you energize by speaking in your mind or, worse still, out loud. Every time you repeat a mantra of this kind, you close doors in front of you and put yourself inside a box. You bring into operation that principle that Thoreau expressed very well: “A man who stands in his own way will find the whole world stands in his way.”
Go on like this, and you can help to generate the condition that is symbolized, for me, by the 5 of Swords in Tarot: mind-induced defeat. My personal name for this card is “Harpies Crapping On My Head”. The harpies in question are the parts of me that keep harping on thoughts and memories that bring me down.
I recommend the following: Every time you catch yourself – or a friend catches you – committing a negative mantra, spit it out. I mean literally. Go outside, or into the bathroom, and get it out in a way that your body can believe. We hold experiences and beliefs in our bodies, so somatic release may be essential and of course to do a thorough job of that you may want to go beyond expectorating. But spitting it out is something you can do almost anywhere, any time. In my workshops, I send people outside to do it when we catch them committing a negative mantra. Newcomers are sometimes thunderstruck and disbelieving when they receive the instruction, but they are almost always lighter and freer and happier after they have followed it.