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November 24, 2023

The 5 Cs of Negative Thinking

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I heard this from Price Pritchett on Lewis Howes podcast, which I found to be an interesting framework about the 5 Cs of Negative Thinking. The 5 Cs are complaining, criticizing, concern, commiserating, and catastrophizing. With even a baseline understanding of these words, you can see how they can lead to cycles of misguided negative thinking. And what’s interesting is each has a slightly different version that is healthy and helpful. Let’s dive into each!

First is complaining. Complaining is more than just expressing dissatisfaction, it's getting stuck in a loop of focusing on problems without seeking solutions. It feels good to complain because it separates you from what’s happening, but it becomes a habit that hinders growth and progress. It’s like a relief valve that feels good the moment it opens up, but when it closes it just fills back up with the same problems.

Next is criticizing. At first, pointing out flaws might seem like a way to improve things, but truthfully criticism dulls the shine of achievements and stifles creativity. That’s because criticizing isn’t done with the intention to improve, but rather the intention to bring something down. Shifting from criticism to constructive feedback ignites growth and fosters a more collaborative environment.

Then we have concern. While having concerns are helpful to serve as warnings, and could be positive when coming from a place of caring, it can easily be overdone and turn into worry. We gravitate toward worry because we need a way to express the uncertainty, which evolves into overthinking about things out of our control and is draining.

Next we have commiserating. Gathering with friends to share experiences and woes can feel therapeutic initially. But when these discussions get repetitive and stuck in sharing grievances, it can make feeling bad for yourself more acceptable. Ultimately the version of this you’d like to incorporate comes from a place of sympathy for others and acceptance for yourself, so that you can reroute your behavior to something more constructive.

And the last C is for catastrophizing. This is when things are blown out of proportion and you picture the worst case scenario. It makes you feel powerless because you’ve made the obstacle out to be so much bigger than it is, and it paralyzes you from feeling like you can take any meaningful action against it. 

So if you want to delete negative thoughts when they come up, try to label them with one of these 5 terms and transition your way away from them. The most important conversation you’ll ever have is the one constantly happening in your head!

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