How to overcome negative forecasting

We all know the old saying "hope for the best, fear the worse, and nothing in between will surprise you". Unfortunately, some of us find ourselves stuck in the "fear the worst" part, and get caught in a cycle of negative forecasting. This can have a huge impact on the decisions we make (or don’t make) in our lives; however, these overly pessimistic predictions can be reframed using solution focused hypnotherapy.

What is negative forecasting?

We’re all constantly using something called "affective forecasting". This is the process of making decisions based on how the outcome will make us feel. As you can imagine, it’s not the perfect way of foretelling our future happiness, but it’s a start, and it’s healthy to "hope for the best". Negative forecasting is when you assume there'll be no happy outcome.

As we've discussed in previous articles, if you're experiencing anxiety or depression, the primitive amygdala part of the brain takes control, and this starts to cause negative thought patterns. It always behaves in the same way in its attempts to keep you safe. So, by warning you against making a positive decision, it automatically looks at the worst case scenario. Great for keeping you safe in your prehistoric cave, much less helpful for enjoying your 21st-century life.

What problems does it cause?

In its attempts to keep you safe, the primitive brain can limit your lifestyle as it perceives more risk. Negative forecasters find it hard to enjoy activities that would bring them pleasure. Lack of activity and social contact sadly worsen feelings of isolation, reinforcing anxieties of a bleak future.

Negative forecasting is one of the feelings that fill up our "stress bucket". This analogy describes how we feel when we become anxious, stressed or depressed. Every time we have a troubling or negative thought, up goes the level in our stress bucket. Negative forecasting, along with overthinking past events and negatively analysing ourselves, all add extra to the already-full bucket. Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep helps us process events, emotions, suppressed emotions to "file them away" as a healthy narrative memory, however REM is limited to about 20% of our sleep, and the brain will wake us up in the night if it goes over this, resulting in disturbed sleep. This gives the double-impact of an overflowing bucket and exhaustion.

But – we can empty our stress bucket, and we can replace a primitive fear of tigers with positive plans for the future! By creating a state similar to that we experience in REM sleep, hypnotherapy techniques can help you to reframe those negative thoughts.

How can hypnotherapy help me overcome negative forecasting?

Solution focused hypnotherapy combines hypnosis with psychotherapy to produce a less anxious, more positive mindset. We create a contrived trance state, where the primitive and intellectual sides of the brain work together. In this state, we can start to replace those negative forecasts with positive thoughts, and focus on the future that you really want, not the future you’re scared of.

Don’t deny the negative thought – but don’t let it overwhelm you. Acknowledge the thought, but challenge it. Involve the intellectual side of the brain; write things down if it helps. If you keep going over negative memories, consciously stop and ask yourself, "how is that important now? What is important to me now instead?" And take a real positive step.

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Written by Debbie Daltrey HPD,DSFH,MAfSFH,SFH Sup.(Hyp), MBACP, MNCH (Acc)

Debbie Daltrey is a clinical hypnotherapist at Great Minds Clinic based in Manchester and Altrincham. Specialising in solution focused therapies combining hypnotherapy, psychotherapy, NLP, EFT, counselling, and CBT skills to help clients with a variety of issues to build confidence, positivity and emotional resilience.… Read more

Written by Debbie Daltrey HPD,DSFH,MAfSFH,SFH Sup.(Hyp), MBACP, MNCH (Acc)

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