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Ep #228: Unconscious Negativity

Most people would not describe themselves as negative (even if they are).

Many students come to me needing help with negative people in their lives but, in reality, they are the ones who are negative. Their programming and brain patterning are negative in such a way that, to them, it looks as if the negativity is coming from the other people in their life.

This week, we take a deep dive into the topic of unconscious negativity that plagues so many of us and explore how labeling others as “negative” actually cultivates this insidious quality in ourselves. We also take a look at the importance of noticing the judgment you impart on others and how that affects your ability to enjoy more positivity-filled thoughts.

Join me on this episode to find out how to gain an awareness of your unconscious negativity and how to navigate the tricky environment created by having that awareness in a way that actually serves you.

Grab your copy of our new Wisdom From The Life Coach School Podcast book.  It covers a decade worth of research, on life-changing topics from the podcast, distilled into only 200 pages. It's the truest shortcut to self-development we have ever created!

Listen to the show

What You will discover

  • What unconscious negativity looks like.
  • How to tell if you’re an unconsciously negative person.
  • The dangers of gaining that awareness and how to navigate them in a way that serves you.
  • Why it matters if you are unconsciously negative.
  • Why there’s no such thing as a toxic person.
  • How to express your ideas to someone who is clearly (factually) being offensive toward someone.

Featured on the show

Get the Full Episode Transcript:

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Episode Transcript:

Welcome to The Life Coach School Podcast, where it’s all about real clients, real problems, and real coaching. And now your host, Master Coach Instructor, Brooke Castillo.

What's up, my friends? Hi everyone, how are you guys? I'm so good. Such a good day. So happy, even though our topic is not happy. What we're talking about today is unconscious negativity.

Now, I want to tell you that most people do not describe themselves as negative. Even those of you who are. None of you come to me and say, "I'm super negative, can you help me? I'm being negative." I want you to guess what you come to me needing help with, most of you, negative people.

You ready? You come to me and want help with negative people. It's the craziest thing. The most negative people that I work with, and listen, when I talk about you as being negative, I'm not talking about you in your essence and who you truly are. I'm talking about your brain patterning, I'm talking about your programming, the way that your brain feeds you thoughts. Your thoughtmosphere, we'll call it, is negative.

And so, the way that it looks to you is that people in your life are negative, and so you come to me and say, "Hey, I need you to help me with my husband, he's so negative." "I need you to help me with my mother-in-law, she's so negative." And we always talk a lot about mirroring and if you spot it you got it and what you see in other people is really just a projection, and I will say with negativity, that is so true.

So the way that it looks is someone will come to me and they will be complaining about someone's complaining. They will be angry about someone's anger. They will be frustrated that someone else can't manage their own frustration. It is clockwork, you guys. I've been doing this 14 years. It's like recycled drama that we create.

So I think a lot of times - and this is for people that are in our industry, these are for life coaches, this is for people who think that they're very positive. And they don't recognize how negative they are because they feel like their judgment of other negative people puts them in the non-negative group. It's like, there's this group of people that are negative and I'm not them.

But as soon as you label other group as negative, then you are being negative about that group, you are automatically in that group. Isn't that crazy? So that's why I watch so much of this, especially around politics and especially around outrage. It seems like rage for - someone else is bad, and so you'll look at someone else's rage and be super angry about their rage, right?

And you'll be outraged about someone's rage and it's fascinating to watch because there's such a lack of self-awareness in that. And so, I want you to ask yourself this question, and some of you are going to be blown away by this podcast because you're going to be like, wow, I never knew I was a negative person but I totally am. And so, we're going to talk about some of the components of it.

Now, does it matter that you're a negative person? And what I mean by that is that you have lots of negative thoughts. Yes. Because it feels terrible. And when you give other people credit for your negativity, you can't change it. So you may not be walking around talking about how terrible life is and about how nothing works, and about how you're never going to be successful. That's what most people think. You know, kind of like that Eeyore or just really grumpy person.

That may not be you. It may more of this underlying thing, and that's what I see from most people that don't realize that they have this unconscious negativity. And just remember that the more negative you are, the less you recognize it, which I think is so fascinating.

I just worked with someone pretty intensely on this and one of the things that can happen, and I want to make sure that I kind of preempt you for this because - especially if you're already in a negative place, this is definitely something that can happen is that you will start recognizing your own negativity in your brain and then you'll become negative about your own negativity. You'll start judging yourself about your own judgment, which of course just compounds the problem.

And that's what was happening with this client she was working with. She started to recognize how negative she was and then she started like, really beating herself up for it, which of course is the opposite of what we want to do if we're trying to be more positive in the way that we're thinking.

So here's what I want you to consider, and I'm going to go through some kind of criteria. Do you complain about negative people? Do you see negative people in your world and do you complain about them? That's an indicator that you have unconscious negativity. Do you really notice when other people are being negative and does it really bother you? That's an indicator.

Do you blame other people for the way that they act? Do you get mad at other people because they're unkind? Are you easily offended by things? That's an indicator. If you think other people are doing their lives wrong, like they should be better at their lives - now listen, I'm not talking from personal experience, but I pretty much know how everyone else should live their life, right? It's like, we get into our minds that wait, you're doing it wrong, you should do it this way.

Like, I think everyone should be an entrepreneur. I'm totally confused when people aren't entrepreneurs. I'm like, what's happening? What's going on? You're doing it wrong. And of course, not everyone wants to be an entrepreneur, and not everyone has that skillset or has any desire to do that. So I notice myself with that negativity sometimes in my own brain.

Here's another one that is kind of insidious with a lot of my clients, especially - and this is so fascinating to me - especially when they've worked with me a long time and they start really evolving in their own life, they start believing that they're better and more evolved than other people, that they get it and other people don't get it.

And as soon as you start thinking that you're better than someone else or more evolved than someone else, or you have the secret and they don’t, you are being negative just by being positive about yourself being better. It's in relation to someone else, and so all of a sudden you have to make them less than you, which is a negative stance, right?

How you view people is really important. When I come clients that come to me and start talking about toxic people, when they say other people are toxic, then I know that the way that they're interpreting other people is severely negative. Isn't that crazy? So if you have someone in your life that you think is toxic, and people love to use that word, and toxic means like, poisonous, right? There's no such thing as a poisonous person. I know, isn't that crazy? And there's no such thing as a toxic person.

There's only the way that you think when you're around someone, and is it easier to think positive thoughts around some people than others? Yes, but that doesn't mean it's because that other person is powerful. It just means that it's easier for you to manage your mind around certain people rather than other people.

So if for some reason you have a hard time - let's just use a benign example. Let's say you have a hard time being in hot weather, like, I'm at home today and it's 100 degrees outside, but I love the hot weather. I don't have a problem with the heat, and so if I was someone that really had a hard time with hot weather, I could say, you know, hot weather is toxic. It's not good and nobody should deal with hot weather, and so I'm therefore never going to ever be in hot weather again.

Now, just because I have a hard time in hot weather doesn't mean that hot weather is toxic. Just because I have a hard time around a certain person doesn't mean that certain person is toxic. It means the way that I'm approaching it, interpreting it, and experiencing it because of the way I'm thinking, I'm labeling it as toxic.

So if you start looking at the world that way, like you need to delete things and remove things from your life because they're bad and toxic in that sort of way, I think it's important for you to recognize what's going on in your brain. Now, let's give the example of maybe you're in a relationship. Like, I've been in some relationships that were not healthy for me. And here's what I've come to learn is that the reason the relationship wasn't healthy for me was because of how I was in the relationship. Not because of the other person.

So the other person may have been doing certain things or acting in a certain way that made it easier for me to play that role, but it's always 100% me and my choices to be acting the way that I am in that relationship. And you know what's fascinating, like, I think about some of those relationships that I had in my life before that I don't have in my life now, and I imagine myself kind of re-entering those relationships now, and they would for sure not be unhealthy for me because I'm not unhealthy for me.

And I can't even tell you how important that is for you to recognize in your own life that there's no such thing as a toxic person. There's just you acting in a toxic way within your own mind.

If you hear yourself in your own mind thinking that people should be different than they are, then you're indulging in some negativity there, and sometimes I'll hear - it'll sound like this. People will say, "I just don't like them. I just don't like that, it's just a personal preference." And we start to like, talk about our desires and our likes and our wants as if we don't have control over them, as if we just notice that that's our preference instead of really understanding why we're actually making a choice to like something or not.

Any time we make that choice to like something or not, it's for a certain reason. Now, people are like, "Well, what about peaches?" I just don't like peaches. Okay fine, peaches are an example, but why don't you like peaches? What is it? You don't like the fuzzy skin? Does it freak you out when it's in your mouth? Okay. Is that a good enough reason not to like peaches? Are you upset with yourself over that reason?

No, it's fine not to like peaches. But if the reason you're choosing not to like a person is because you think that person makes you mad or makes you upset or whatever, and like, people will say, "No, it's not any of that, I just think they're dumb." Whatever that sentence is that you describe that other person, notice if it's a negative sentence.

"I just think they're rude." "I just think that they're selfish." You having that opinion of someone else is a negative opinion. Isn't that crazy? And people will say to me, "But I like that reason. I think they're selfish. I think they're loud. I think they're obnoxious, I think they're rude, and therefore I think that's a good enough reason for me not to like them."

And of course, it is, and you can make any choice you want in your life on what you want to like or what you don't want to like. But just notice the judgment and notice how it feels. And oftentimes, it will become a pattern for my clients.

So they'll notice, well, I don't like this person because of this, and I don't like this person because of that, and I'm totally fine with not liking those people. But then the negativity about those people and the justification for not liking them spurs on more negative thinking.

So if I'm going to spend time, say, with my mother-in-law - my mother-in-law has passed and I loved her, but I'm just using her as an example, okay? So let's say I'm spending time with my mother-in-law, and I decide that I don't like her. And I'm okay with not liking her, and that's what people say. They justify it as if like, it's totally fine. And it is, except that you're the one that is living with the dislike. And your justification of it - and we kind of justify it in kind of an arrogant way. I'm totally fine with not liking them. It's totally fine.

It's like, okay, but here's what I want you to think about. When you're with her, when I'm with my mother-in-law, and my main thought is I don't like her, what am I looking for? What is my brain trying to confirm? That she's not likable. So that's what I'm going to see. And that's what I'm going to create, and that's what's going to happen, right?

And then what I notice is like, if she says something that is kind of rude or whatever, I interpret it as, "Gosh, she's so rude, I knew I didn't like her." But if my best friend said the exact same thing, I'd be like, "Oh my gosh, she's hilarious."

Exact same thing. And they've done all these studies, it's so interesting, all these studies like, even in politics where they present a document as if a Republican wrote it or as if a Democrat wrote it, or an independent wrote it, and then depending on how it's pre-framed, then that's the interpretation that somebody takes away from as they're reading it.

Like, I either agree with this or I don't, when they haven't even started reading it. It's so fascinating. Those studies trip me out. But it's also true in our life. We're always trying to confirm what's true. So when we make a decision not to like someone, we will prove that true. And all of the proof that we are going to find for a negative thought will be more negativity.

So you won't even know that you're going down the negative spiral. You'll think you just don't like someone and you don't think you have a choice. You just notice that you don't like them and then everything that follows is a negative about that person and about anything that they say or do or whatever. Like, ugh.

And I watch this happen with my clients because I will present them with the idea that hey, if someone else did this would you be responding the same way, and the answer is usually no, I would be responding totally different if my beloved was doing that same thing.

So think about the things in your life that you "don't like," as if your preference is predetermined and you don't have a choice in the matter. And I always love the analogy like, if you go to your own wedding, the chances are you're going to love everyone there because it's all your friends and all your family. And wouldn't it be great if your whole life was like that? You just loved everyone in your life.

But people don't recognize that that is a choice. You can love everyone. You can manage your mind in a way that you can appreciate everyone, or you can train your mind to dislike things and to dislike everyone. It's not like, anything anyone says, and that's when you go into that negativity.

So I have a couple friends that were talking to me about each other, which is hilarious, and talking about how the other one's negative, and they complain about the littlest things. And it's just so much easier not to complain about little things, and I find myself sometimes complaining for no reason and going into that unconscious negativity with no upside.

So it's kind of like you go somewhere and there's a long line. Immediately, you start to complain in your head. Or you go to a restaurant and they say there's going to be a long wait, and immediately start complaining.

Now, my husband - so fascinating. My husband's kind of the opposite of this. Everything is totally fine. Totally fine. His brain does not go to negativity. Always gives everyone the benefit of the doubt, just naturally it's like his brain is programmed for it's all good, everything's good. Especially if there's a bar at the restaurant, like, who cares that it's a three-hour wait, right? We're just going to go hang out at the bar and talk.

And I love that about him so much because my brain immediately wants to be negative, and if I'm not paying attention to that, it'll just start. And I'll think the reason I'm upset is because of the wait. I think I'll upset because of the line. But really, I'm upset because I haven't monitored my brain and I haven't managed my brain.

And this is the same thing that's true for how you view your day, how you view the people in your neighborhood, how you view your house, how you view your kid's behavior, and most importantly, how you view yourself.

So when you start paying attention to this, I want to let you know that you will start seeing so much more negativity in your mind and what you say than you ever realized was there. You'll be like, "Oh my gosh, that was another complaint. Oh my gosh, I just said I didn't like that. Oh my gosh, I just said this sucks." On and on and on with the negativity.

And I just want to warn you, please, please, please do not use that as a reason to be negative to yourself about being negative. That doesn’t serve the purpose. And I also want you to use it as an opportunity to separate people from your thoughts.

So one of the exercises that we do in our coach training, and I've taught you on the podcast before is separating out facts from thinking. And when you think someone is being super negative, when you think someone is being obnoxious or rude or saying totally inappropriate things, whatever it is that you're making a judgment about, I want you to be able to separate out like, what they're actually saying from your interpretation of it.

And what's super interesting to do, and maybe you have to do this after you're away from the person, but if you loved the person or if you thought the person was funny, or you thought the person was delightful and charming, how could you reinterpret every single thing that they said? Or would you just dismiss it?

Like, if someone said something that was inappropriate, how would you dismiss it in a way that wouldn't be upsetting for you or you didn't feel like you had to manage another human being or you didn't have to expect them to be better than they were? How could you have approached that situation totally different?

And the reason why this is super powerful is you'll start to recognize that the other person has very little control over how you think, how you feel, and what you do no matter how they show up. Even if they show up super upset or super rude or super inappropriate, like, that's on them. That's their stuff. But how you decide to believe about it is on you.

So the minute you think they should be different than they are, you're going to feel resistance. The minute you think they should be kinder, better, more appropriate, less offensive, any of those things, you're going to start getting yourself in a blame loop where you will feel more powerless.

So when you can just let other people be who they are, oh, that's them, that has nothing to do with me. Now, I've brought this up and taught this before and people say, "When people are inappropriate, you should let them know, especially if they're unaware, or you should let them know that you disagree with them."

And I'm okay with that totally, of course, if you want to. But just make sure you're doing it from a place of just expressing your opinion from a loving place instead of trying to control what they do. You could just say - instead of saying, "Hey, you should say that differently," you could just be like, "Hey, when you say that, I just want to let you know that it's offensive and here's why."

And I don't ever do that because I'm just not easily offended but - if it's towards me. If it's towards someone else that I know might be interpreting in that way, I bring it up in a very loving way. And you can do it in a non-negative way, and that's what I'm suggesting. I'm not suggesting that you don't ever speak up or express your ideas about something, but just notice, are you coming from a positive, supportive place for everyone involved or are you coming from a negative, outraged, angry place that isn't going to serve any kind of situation, right?

And if you're judging the person negatively, they will experience you speaking to them from that energy and it may create shame and you just want to make sure, is that your intention or are you trying to present yourself in a way that is positive and loving? And most of you I think genuinely want to come from that place and we sometimes don't because we're reacting from negativity that we aren't even aware that we have.

So I just want - especially if you're one of my coaches, when you guys are working together, I find it really important to point it out to each other in a loving way of course, and also when you are doing your own self-coaching work, are your thoughts really negative about yourself and other people? That's where a lot of unconscious negativity can come into your life without you even realizing it.

And the first step is just to become aware of it without judgment. And so that's what I'm going to invite you to do is just notice how often do you complain and get angry and get upset and think other people are bad or wrong or toxic. And the more you're aware of that, the more you can decide if you want to continue to keep thinking that way and if you want to continue feeling that way, or if you'd like to change it.

I'm not saying you have to change your morality or your opinions about right and wrong. I'm just wondering if you could change your thinking in a way that doesn't come across to yourself and to others so negatively so you can enjoy having more positive filled thoughts.

That's what I have for you today, my friends. I hope you're enjoying your gorgeous summer, and I'll talk to you next week. Bye.

Hey, if you enjoy listening to this podcast, you have to come check out Self-Coaching Scholars. It's my monthly coaching program where we take all this material and we apply it. We take it to the next level and we study it. Join me over at the TheLifeCoachSchool.com/join. Make sure you type in the TheLifeCoachSchool.com/join. I'd love to have you join me in Self-Coaching Scholars. See you there.

14 Comments

  1. Boom!!! This information is sooo powerful. You have to want to change to see it. But once you do, your life will shift on it’s axis and you’ll view life so differently, in the most amazing way. Taking charge of your own thoughts is your greatest power!

  2. I recently discovered your podcast and I LOVE IT!! I love it so much in fact that I can’t get enough, but that’s the problem. I devoured episodes, 2-3 a day on my way to and from work and even more when I had a long drive, but then…I got to the episode where you specifically address slowing down and applying each episode over the week between episodes. I have been passively acting by just consuming everything as fast as I can, but I see the value in slowing it down and taking action on your weekly lessons. So, my question is how do I start from here and apply a new episode each week without missing out on all of the awesome previous episodes you have posted??

    1. Hi Courtney,

      Thank you for listening and writing! We would suggest listening and focusing on self coaching yourself each week. Using the model to process your thoughts. Then, schedule once per week to listen to an old episode, preferably one that compliments the episode of the week. We have many episodes on the model, thoughts, boundaries, taking action, etc.

      Hope this is helpful!
      –Lori

  3. Thank you, Brooke. I’ve recently discovered you and your podcasts through prayer and seeking to receive new and positive guidance and wisdom, which has since been coming at me like a floodgate being opened. You are Changing. My. Life. Every single podcast I’ve heard has shone so much truth and perspective into my mind and soul, which is helping me to make long put off decisions to finally pursue my purpose and passion – I am filled with so much joy and excitement about my future theses days; I didn’t even realize what I was missing — it had become such a habit to settle for feeling crappy about myself and my every day life and future because I though what I did was who I am, but oh, boy, It ISN’T!?! Whaaaat!?!?. This podcast on unconscious negativity was spot on. What do you recommend we do when we have it (and conscious negativity, too)? Is there a podcast you’d recommend that answers that? It didn’t seem to be a real thing for me until you explained it. How do I turn it off or around? Opportunities to have it are just everywhere and ugh, it consumes so much. Thank you!!

  4. Hi, I’m not sure if this is the right episode, but I have a question. I LOVE LOVE LOVE the info about circumstances=thoughts=feelings=actions=results! Game. Changer. Once you figure out the thoughts that are causing the results, how do you work on those thoughts? Again, eye opening information!

  5. Hi Brooke
    I agree with what you’re saying about choosing your thoughts and how you decide to be negative or positive in how you react to people. I struggle with in the moment when someone is rude or disrespectful and how to react? Then I’m mad at that person, not sure if I want to “dump” this person or is this ok even though they’ve hurt me? I need some comebacks! Thank you I really enjoy your show.

  6. I just recently discovered your podcast and your take on our thoughts has been eye opening and helpful. I was hoping to have you answer a question on the podcast some day if you can. You talk about being able to just accept our bad feelings and not try to avoid them. But what if you have a chronic stress in your life that will never go away? In my case, I have been battling depression because I have a special needs child who is very severely impacted by autism and other disorders. Yes, I have some control over my thoughts and happiness is my choice. But there is no way to feel fine when your child physically attacks you and others when he can’t have his way. Every time. So day after day I deal with meltdowns while he is in therapy or can’t have what he wants. Then there are the messes that most 12 year olds would not be making. I’ll leave it at that. But he is mine, I love him and want to do the best I can for him. He’s my responsibility and my husband works, often 7 days a week. My mother passed away 2 years ago and I have no other family who will help me. I have a 1 year old baby and my attention has to be divided between them. I want to rise up every day and be my best and find a way to work my business effectively for the income and my own enjoyment. But I do find myself completely exhausted and just trying not to drown. How can I healthfully deal with my constant stress since my situation is not going to change?

    1. Thank you for your question. Brooke will be responding to questions in an upcoming Questions and Answers episode. Stay tuned! –Felicia

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