How to Deal with Negative Thoughts (Don’t Fight Them!)
Should we be embarrassed by the fact that we sometimes think negatively?
We hear about many methods to “stop,” “banish,” “remove,” and “eradicate” bad ideas almost everywhere we go, including social media platforms, the internet, and innumerable publications.
We also notice that there are more high-minded and spiritual blogs out there with the intention of helping us to “conquer” and even “convert” negative ideas into good ones.
Under the pretense of “self-improvement,” all of these blog articles, advice columns, and step-by-step instructions may have been written with the best of intentions in mind; yet, what they are really doing is increasing our level of suffering and forcing us to struggle against our own selves.
The truth is that attempting to improve your happiness, sense of calm, and overall well-being by eliminating negative thoughts is a reactionary and cognitively muddled way to achieve these goals.
Those that encourage you to think more positively by telling you to replace negative ideas with positive ones aren’t really doing you any favors in the long run.
In point of fact, the practice of positive thinking tends to result in more negative outcomes than positive ones. I’ll explain why in this post that I’m writing.
Why Having a Positive Attitude Isn’t the Solution
Undoubtedly, practicing positive thought patterns may momentarily improve our mood.
It is even possible for us to teach ourselves to adopt a more positive attitude, which enables us to see life, as well as ourselves and others, through a lens that is more hopeful.
However, despite the fact that attempting to change our negative thought patterns into more positive thought patterns feels wonderful and may momentarily make us feel better about ourselves, this is not the solution.
In point of fact, positive thinking is in reality a sort of spiritual bypass since it is employed by individuals to sidestep their underlying concerns such as chronic dissatisfaction, deeply entrenched rage, and emptiness. In other words, positive thinking is a spiritual bypassing technique.
There is a reason why positive thinking makes us feel nauseated and why excessively cheerful individuals irritate us to no end-and that reason is because, deep down, positive thinking seems artificial and dishonest to us.
Positive thinking makes us feel like we are being lied to.
Positive thinking is still playing by the black-and-white laws of dualism, which is a way of perceiving the universe that is fragmented and unrealistic from a metaphysical point of view.
When we have negative ideas, our natural inclination is to feel that the solution lies at the other end of the spectrum, which is positive thinking. In other words, this is a knee-jerk response.
The trouble here is that we are still puppets of the mind; we can’t perceive that there is genuinely a third way that transcends thinking entirely, a path that does not entail connecting with thought in any way.
This is why we can’t understand that there is a way out of this situation.
The practice of positive thinking requires a significant amount of evaluation as well.
When we tell ourselves to “think positively,” we are, in essence, telling the rest of our negative ideas that they are wrong and attempting to conform to a method that we consider to be “better.”
When we judge our negative ideas to be wrong or undesirable, we are really producing more negative thoughts, but this time we are dressing them up in the guise of “positive thinking.”
If you have ever attempted positive thinking, you will know (if you are self-aware) that positive thinking is always accompanied with a feeling of subtle underlying worry.
If you have ever tried positive thinking, you will also have noticed this.
You are terrified, on some level, that you may lose the capacity to perceive the world in an optimistic light and, as a result, your happiness.
This is because you are under the impression that thinking good thoughts will make you happier.
Because of this underlying dread and anxiety, people have a tendency to passively and phobically demonize unpleasant ideas and any other kind of negativity.
Have you ever seen a “positive-vibes-only” sort of person respond passively aggressively to any source of negativity in their environment?
A person who is observant will always be able to perceive an underlying fear in someone who has a fear of rage, even if they give off the appearance that they are lively and cheerful on the surface.
This dread is a direct result of the individual’s resistance to life and everything that is seen as “evil,” poisonous, or unpleasant.
People who only let good vibrations into their lives seem to be especially fearful of and resistive to the dark side, despite the fact that it is logical that anybody would wish to keep negativity out of their lives.
Ironically, this fear of negativity and underlying fixation with being positive really creates large quantities of repressed emotions, which leads to an unstable psyche and personality in the individual.
The reality is that in order to maintain a good frame of mind, one must constantly maintain a certain degree of resistance to the bad; this is just how the game is played.
Because many individuals are so engaged in the idea that positive thinking is the miracle remedy to all of their issues, it is extremely difficult for them to see this.
Unfortunately, this is the case. On the other hand, if you look at the practice of positive thinking in an objective and honest way, you’ll realize that it really does more damage than benefit.
Here Are Three Good Reasons Why You Should Give Up Trying to Fight Your Negative Thoughts
The ideas shift, but you remain the same. Let go of the ideas that come and go, and focus on the self that does not change.– Sri Ramana Maharshi
The following is a list of the three most important reasons why you should quit struggling against your negative thoughts:
1. You are not able to exert any control over your thoughts.
Do you have complete control over your thoughts? Through the use of positive thinking, it is possible for you to give yourself the sense that you “control” the situation.
However, in reality, you are not in charge of your negative ideas; rather, you are only layering good thoughts on top of the ones you already have.
It is true that you may retrain your brain to have more positive ideas via the use of repetition and habit, but at the end of the day, it is impossible to completely rid yourself of negative thoughts.
No matter how hard you try, you will never be able to rid your mind of its pessimistic outlook.
Why does this happen to be the case?
The fact that we have no control over our ideas is a universal reality that has been recognized by innumerable wise people throughout history.
Like waves in the surf, our ideas just rise and fall as they pass through our minds. One second, we are thinking one thing, and the next, we are thinking something else.
If you were to answer honestly, would you be able to state that you know what the next idea that will enter your head would be? Or the following, or the following?
Do you not believe that if you had complete control over your thoughts, you would choose to think positively all the time and focus on the positive aspects of life?
Take some time to meditate, pay attention to what’s going through your head, and then decide for yourself what the reality is.
2. You are not the same thing as your ideas.
We have a propensity to make the erroneous assumption, on autopilot, that we ARE our ideas, without really investigating the source and nature of our thoughts.
Because we believe that WE are the ones responsible for producing our negative ideas, we develop an unhealthy preoccupation with the concept of “thinking positively.”
In addition to this, we think that our ideas make up who we are.
To put it another way, we unconsciously connect with our ideas and accept as real whatsoever any notion claims to be the case.
In reality, the source of our misery is found in the fact that we identify with our ideas.
How are you even supposed to develop your own ideas if you have no idea what the next thought that will pop into your head will be? How is it possible for you to be something that is so fleeting and temporary?
The reality is that your ideas are not the same thing as you. If your ideas are not within your control since they appear on their own in your head at random intervals, there is no use in trying to combat them because they have no bearing on who you are.
The only time that your ideas have any significance is when you give them that significance.
3. The more you struggle against your ideas, the more agony you will experience.
Attempting to control, get rid of, or eradicate your bad ideas actually contributes to the misconception that “you are your thoughts,” which results in an increase in the amount of pain you experience.
If you give credence to what your thoughts are telling you, you may experience a wide range of negative feelings, including rage, fear, despair, insecurity, self-hatred, paranoia, and many more.
Even covert and guileful methods of conflict resolution, such as the practice of positive thinking, contribute to the misconception that “you are your ideas” and that your thoughts have some bearing on who you are.
Why not just accept the fact that a thought is only an idea and it doesn’t have any bearing on who you are until you give it credence by believing it?
Rather than attempting to think more positively. It is far more beneficial, in the long run, to learn how to cease struggling against and repressing unpleasant ideas and instead learn how to watch them and detach from them as an observer.
There are many wonderful instructors out there who can assist you in seeing your thoughts for what they are, which are just thoughts.
Some examples of such teachers are Noah Elkrief and Byron Katie.
Learn to Observe Your Thoughts Rather Than Engaging in a Battle with Them
As was previously shown, negative thinking itself is not the issue; rather, the issue is when you associate yourself with your ideas.
Solutions such as practicing positive thinking actually do more damage than good because they perpetuate the delusion that you “are” your thoughts, that your thoughts represent anything about you, and as a result, they encourage you to repress and reject everything that is not judged to be positive.
Sages and enlightened people have recognized for thousands of years that the way to end our suffering is to learn how to see it and to remove ourselves from our thoughts.
This is the key to being a witness. In point of fact, the purpose of a great number of effective spiritual practices such as meditation and self-inquiry is to assist us in seeing our ideas for what they really are—fleeting fluctuations of energy.
These are only ideas, and we don’t have to believe them; instead, we may learn to observe them without buying into them or associating with them.
Putting witnesser awareness into practice looks like this:
- Don’t be afraid to give your ideas names. Notice the many sorts of ideas that are running through your head and label each one. You may do this during meditation or at any other time during the day. You may refer to some types of thoughts as “sad thoughts,” “angry thoughts,” “busy thoughts,” “depressive spiral thoughts,” or “judging thoughts,” for instance. When you give your ideas names, you will be able to establish more space and distance inside yourself, which will make it easier for you to avoid quickly identifying with them.
- Meditation should be done. This is a somewhat apparent issue, yet it should nevertheless be brought out because of its significance. If you have had difficulty meditating in the past, you should try your hand at a few different ways. For instance, I prefer to begin my meditation practice by doing a mindful body scan, and I like to end it by noting the arising and passing away of my thoughts. If you find that meditation doesn’t accomplish anything for you, you could benefit from doing some further study and trying out a few other approaches to the practice.
- Take it easy and organize your priorities. Moving swiftly, which makes it extremely easy for us to get lost in our own thoughts. Find moments during the day when you may relax and take it easy.
- Make use of the triggers that your emotions provide. Whenever you find yourself feeling nervous, unhappy, angry, or depressed, it’s important to examine the ideas that are driving those feelings. Next, put your beliefs to the test by asking yourself, “Do I know that to be absolutely true?”
You have the ability to experience great inner peace and satisfaction no matter how good or negative your ideas are if you fully realize that the only time you suffer is when you identify with and BELIEVE your beliefs.
This knowledge frees you from the prison of suffering.
I really hope that this post has shed some light on why you need to quit battling against your negative thoughts and has provided some insight into what you may do instead.
Please comment below and share any views or opinions you have about this matter.
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