Mental Jujitsu to Fight Your Negative Thinking

In this article, we'll be talking about mental jujitsu. Read on!
Mental Jujitsu to Fight Your Negative Thinking
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 15 November, 2021

Jujitsu, also known as the martial art of flexibility, can also be applied to your thought life to defend yourself against negative internal dialogue and attack thoughts that are violating your self-esteem and well-being.

Mental jujitsu is an exercise in reflection where you can deactivate negative and useless thoughts. It’s a simple strategy that we should all apply for an obvious reason: most of us deal with that exhausting internal dialogue that likes to erode away our potential. These mental wars could be reduced if you decide to use this interesting resource.

Mark Twain said, with his own unique style of humor, that his mind must be quite prodigious, because of the fact that he had to have so many hard-fought battles with it in order to stop it being his enemy. There’s a lot of truth in this reasoning. People are eternal captives of mental reasoning that doesn’t always work in their favor.

In that internal overgrown garden, there’s an abundance of phrases like “I can’t”, “I have to” and “what will others think of me if I do or say this?” It isn’t easy to deactivate them or tear them out of your personal terrain like weeds.

The reason is a very simple one: they’ve been with you for many years. Your negative internal dialogue is like an uncomfortable travel companion that you’ve given too much power too. However, it is possible to free yourself from it. These simple techniques will help you carry out this essential task.

“You might be poor, your shoes might be broken, but your mind is a palace.”

-Frank McCourt-

A woman who needs mental jujitsu.

Three mental jujitsu strategies to deactivate negative internal dialogue

Jujitsu is a Japanese martial art that uses a wide variety of attack and defense strategies. The ultimate goal is not to use weapons of any form. Japanese warriors used these techniques to deal with armed and heavily-armored Samurai.

It’s also said to be one of the most effective martial arts. The objective is to ensure that the adversary surrenders, but without using unnecessary or extreme violence. For this reason, jujitsu is also known as the art of softness or flexibility.

The approach of this practice is really useful for dealing with our negative internal dialogue. Here’s what mental Jujitsu consists of:

1. More peace of mind, less self-boycott

When we commit ourselves regularly to carry out a practice such as meditation or jujitsu, there is one sure result: negative emotions are reduced, and we feel calmer and more focused.

One of the purposes of mental jujitsu is to achieve an internal balance. This balance will aim to reduce your “aggressive” negative thoughts, including self-boycotting, self-criticism or the typical ‘I can’t’ or ‘this isn’t for me’.

There’s one interesting thing you should take into account. Dr. Jason Moser, in a study he carried out at the University of Michigan, explained that, when it comes to managing and deactivating the negative internal dialogue, you must make use of the third person.

In your mentally tiring universe, it’s common to always talk to yourself in the first person. When, however, you start making use of the third person, then suddenly there’s another voice that starts to emerge with authority. This voice can really change things and make an impression on our lives.

Some phrases that can be very helpful are: “calm yourself and focus”, “don’t question or criticize yourself”, “value everything that you do more”.

2. Mental jujitsu: The art of immobilizing what isn’t useful

Marital arts don’t seek to harm other people or knock them down. What you’re trying to do is simply to immobilize them and prevent them from acting aggressively towards you. In the same way, in your daily mental jujitsu exercises, you’ll find this strategy very useful. Another name for this is psychological kata.

What you’ll need to do first of all is detect which thoughts aren’t helping you at any given moment.
Sometimes, for example, you may overdo self-criticism. You do need to criticize yourself occasionally, for example, to become aware of the things you’ve done wrong, and to help yourself improve and do things better. However, there are times when the voice of criticism is constant and almost obsessive.

In these cases, you’ll need to apply mental jujitsu to immobilize it, take hold of it, and stop its incessant negative activity. You can say something like the following: “I’m telling you that now isn’t the time. You’ve crossed the line with all your questioning and the way you’re belittling me. Stop criticizing me; only do it when it’s really necessary and useful. The only criticism I’m going to accept is that which will help me grow and learn”.

A man with a circle painted on his forehead.

3. Tear down the thoughts that harm you

The third mental jujitsu strategy requires you to be a little more forceful. The goal is clear: to tear down the useless reasoning. Tearing down the ideas that immobilize you is also necessary, as well as getting rid of everything that hurts us and slows down our ability to be happy, free, and emotionally mature. So, how can you tear down negative thinking? Here are some guidelines:

  • Detect the harmful thoughts that affect your well-being.
  • Confront them and turn phrases like “Don’t show up for that job interview because they won’t take you, it’s not worth it” into:
    • Is there any real reason why they wouldn’t take me on?
    • What’s the problem with simply trying?
    • What’s worse: having made the effort or staying at home trapped in my fears and insecurity?
  • Discard, tear down, and replace: The idea that it isn’t worth going to that interview isn0t at all useful to me. For that reason, I’m going to stop letting it take over my thoughts. Instead, I’m going to replace it with another one: “I’ll go to that interview, I’ll do my best, I’ll feel comfortable, and I’ll trust in myself. That way, I’ll be able to take pride in what I’ve done”.

To conclude, as you can see, mental jujitsu can be really useful if you work on these strategies on a daily basis. Investing time and effort into cultivating a more healthy, confident attitude, free of irrational thinking, will allow us to have a happier and healthier outlook on life.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Tod, D., Hardy, J., & Oliver, E. (2016). Effects of Self-Talk: A Systematic Review. Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology33(5), 666–687.
  • Hughes, J. S., Gourley, M. K., Madson, L., & Blanc, K. le. (2011). Stress and Coping Activity:Reframing Negative Thoughts. Teaching of Psychology38(1), 36–39.
  • Moser, JS, Dougherty, A., Mattson, WI, Katz, B., Moran, TP, Guevarra, D.,… Kross, E. (2017). El diálogo interno en tercera persona facilita la regulación de las emociones sin comprometer el control cognitivo: evidencia convergente de ERP y fMRI. Informes científicos , 7 (1).

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.