Negative thoughts can sometimes feel like a can of worms – once opened, they can sprawl in many directions and become difficult to contain. It’s perfectly normal to have negative thoughts, but how we deal with them can affect our lives.
Some of us may turn to internal coping mechanisms or seek outside support to help us process frustrating or discouraging thoughts, but many of us find that they can persist, despite our best efforts. In truth, most of us probably battle negative thoughts, at least to some degree, on a regular basis, in an effort to make our lives better.
How difficult that battle is can have a lot to do with personality traits. To better understand this, we asked our readers if they agreed with the statement, “You have trouble controlling negative thoughts once they arise.” About two-thirds (66%) agreed overall, but there were major disparities within certain personality aspects, especially Energy, Mind, and Identity.
Let’s take a closer look at the data below.
Diplomats and Analysts (74% and 72% agreeing)
The Intuitive personality trait that Diplomats and Analysts share clearly played a role in this study: Intuitive types overall were 14% more likely than Observant types to agree that they have trouble controlling negative thoughts (73% vs. 59%, respectively).
Diplomats and Analysts tend to devote a lot of energy to examining things mentally before they engage with them in reality. Imagination is a key part of their process for understanding life, creating plans, and taking action, but sometimes these personalities can take imagination and contemplation too far. When negative concepts are at play, they’re more prone to getting carried away with “what-if” possibilities and allowing them to become mixed with feelings of fear, anger, or stress.
Observant personalities like Explorers, on the other hand, are more down-to-earth than their Intuitive counterparts, which helps them more easily shrug off troubling yet intangible ideas and return to the business at hand. Observant types surely have negative thoughts, it’s just a bit easier for them to bounce back to reality rather than getting lost in them. Explorers in particular tend to be action-oriented and may be more likely than other personality types to handle or confront the source of their negative thoughts head on.
Although a modest majority of Sentinels agreed with our statement, these Observant personalities proved to be the most confident in their ability to overcome negative thoughts. Sentinels’ Judging trait gives them a slight edge over Explorers. Decisive and focused on the facts, Sentinels are realistic about the problems they face and practical in how they deal with them, an approach that helps them keep bad feelings in check.
Constant Improvement (88% agreeing)
The Mind and Identity personality aspects were both critical factors in this study: Introverts were 15% more likely than Extraverts to agree (75% vs. 60%), while Turbulent types were a whopping 44% more likely than Assertive types to agree (86% vs. 42%). Why might this be? First, let’s look at the case of Constant Improvers.
As Turbulent personalities, Constant Improvers are far more likely to experience low self-esteem, stress, and emotional turmoil to begin with. Worry about the future, regret about the past, and frustrations with their own performance can make satisfaction elusive for these perfectionists, opening them up to a steady stream of negative thoughts that can be very difficult to overcome. Furthermore, as Introverts, they usually prefer solitude and may be hesitant to reach out to others for comfort when negativity takes over.
Two Constant Improver personality types – Turbulent Logicians (INTP-T) and Turbulent Virtuosos (ISTP-T) – tied as the most likely to agree with our statement (91% each). Despite being known for their highly logical, adaptable minds, Logicians and Virtuosos are not immune to restless, troubling thoughts.
Perhaps in part because their minds are always working, Logicians tend to second-guess themselves and struggle with a fear of failure that can potentially lead to a sort of paralysis, an inability to move forward with ideas and plans. Virtuosos, although not necessarily prone to negativity, do tend to be out of touch with their emotions. Negative thoughts and feelings can take them by surprise, making them harder to cope with when they arise. For both personality types, these tendencies are made all the more intense by the Turbulent Identity.
Social Engagement (83%)
Although Social Engagers also have Turbulent Identities, their Extraversion can be an important tool for combating negative thoughts. Because these personalities actively seek to engage with their surroundings, with other people, with new experiences – in other words, with the external – they have more outlets for their energy than Introverts do. This can help assuage – or at least distract them from – the frequent negative thoughts and stressful emotions that their Turbulent Identity tends to stir up.
Confident Individualism (48%)
The Assertive personality trait makes a drastic difference for Confident Individualists. The self-confidence and easygoing attitude that comes with an Assertive Identity means that negative thoughts come up less frequently to begin with and are easier to control when they do.
Enjoying a relatively stable emotional keel, Assertive types also tend to be more self-satisfied in general, which might relieve a lot of the stress and worry that can make pessimistic thoughts expand out of control. So despite being Introverts who prefer to rely on themselves, even in times of trouble, Confident Individualists are better prepared than their Turbulent cousins to do so.
People Mastery (38%)
Agreeing well below average, People Masters possess the internal assurance of their Assertive Identity, and they’re also externally focused and socially inclined. These Assertive, Extraverted qualities combine to give these personalities good natural control over negative thoughts. Rather than dwelling on their problems or troubling ideas, People Masters may reconnect with people close to them, get out and try something new, or focus on the positive things around them in order to stay optimistic.
Of all the personality types, Assertive Consuls (ESFJ-A) agreed at the lowest rate (27%). These highly sociable, well-liked People Masters put a great deal of time and energy into bolstering and boosting other people, an activity that in itself can encourage a more positive outlook. And when Consuls find themselves fighting negative thoughts, they usually have a strong support network that they can rely on to help them in return.
Although everyone is subject to negative thoughts from time to time, certain personality types clearly experience them more frequently and more intensely, making them more difficult to overcome. This is especially true of individuals with Introverted, Intuitive, and Turbulent traits, who may find themselves turning inward, ruminating on their troubles, and allowing their stress and negativity to snowball into something that seems insurmountable.
When times get particularly tough for those of us who struggle with negative thoughts, it can take some serious reflection and work, along with encouragement from friends and loved ones, to reset ourselves to a more positive state of mind. If we understand how our personality traits influence the way we react to negative thoughts and situations, we can start to identify strategies and techniques to face issues head on, before they become overwhelming.
What about you? Do you have trouble controlling your negative thoughts? What methods do you use to overcome or improve your thoughts? Let’s talk about it in the comments below.