Thursday, 23 July 2015

A Short Course In Mindfulness - 6 - Replacing the Negative

No, it's really not hard.

What do you do when you argue with someone? Be it out loud or in your head, or maybe shouting at the TV?

You replace their opinion with your own.

That's it. That's what an argument is.

You say "I reject that idea, my idea is better."

You don't do this consciously, because it's a practised thing.

Mindfulness is exactly the same - eventually.

At first, because you are working on your thoughts, you see the process. You are aware of the negative thought that came up in your head. You "heard" it. But you chose to say "No, that's not the right thought, it should be this...." You argue with yourself, and you replace the original thought with a new one.

It will happen faster and faster, with the bad (negative) thought being briefer and briefer until it isn't there.

Feeling the urge to say something tactless? Count to ten. We all know that one.

But instead of saying to yourself "I shouldn't say that" say to yourself "I shouldn't think that".

While you're having this argument with yourself, the negative side will ask why.

"Why shouldn't I say that? It's true!"

There are so many different reasons why not.

You'll hurt the person's feelings.
You'll make them angry.
You'll embarrass others listening.
You'll regret it later.
You may be wrong.
You'll look like a jerk.
Nobody will want to to talk to you.

What do you care about most, the first or last in that list?

Well, inside your head, only you will know what you were thinking. So where's the harm?

You won't notice it at the time. It's a cumulative type of harm.

One very good reason to think positively about others is that it helps you think positively about yourself, here the benefit can be seen quite clearly. Conversely if you are frequently negative about others, chances are that you are also hard on yourself. This is one reason that many people will tell you that to love others you must love yourself. That's not strictly true, as some of the kindest, most loving people I have ever known have had very negative attitudes towards themselves, but what a struggle that must be? Sometimes also, it means that they are doing their "kindness" exclusively out of a sense of duty. That can break a person, and is not recommended.

Which brings us to the next lie.

"I don't care."

Yes, you do. You care a lot. But caring is hard. It asks too many questions, and requires too much effort.

I get told that mindfulness causes people to repress feelings. I dispute that, but let's pretend it did. Let's pretend that thinking mindfully and consequently acting mindfully, involves repressing. What would you be repressing. The urge to shout? The urge to accuse? The urge to say something cruel?

OK, let's turn it around. If you say you don't care, what does it mean? I contend it means "I am repressing the urge to care."

On balance, I can't help feeling you're better off caring.

So what do we mean by "I don't care?" An example might be:

"Wow, you really tore him off a strip, he's really upset."

"I don't care."

You think he deserves to be upset. You think he did something wrong, and had to be punished.

Will this stop it happening again? Or will he just resent being chastised in that way?

If we don't care about the feelings of others, it means we don't care about ourselves. How? Obviously a very selfish person thinks he reserves all his caring for himself, or at least that's the plan, and yet in fact, by being selfish he is actually harming himself. It is the greatest irony.

"No, I mean I wash my hands of it. I've had enough. I don't want to deal with it any more. I've stopped caring."


Nobody can switch off caring like that. The negative is humming away in there. No matter what you say out loud, you are fooling yourself. The negativity is inside, and it harms you.

You actually have to change your thoughts, not just your words and actions.'s hard. It's hardest if you allowed yourself to become frustrated or angry. Burning off that negativity take so long.

Now, there is nothing actually wrong with being angry for the right reasons. There are things that we should get angry about, and yes, I said should, and I meant it. Should is a word I reserve for deserving occasions just like anger.

But you know, and not just because you read it here, that people's anger is so often not in proportion to the event. This is something huge that I try to teach.We've all seen the videos of people going completely crazy on You Tube over their drive thru order being wrong. What does that person do extra when somebody runs over their dog?

We all have bad days. We all snap and snarl over little things. But if we make a habit of it, what's left when the shit REALLY hits the fan?


The way to deal with all of this is to stop. Stop before you throttle your co-worker. Stop before you open your mouth. Stop at the first sensation of frustration. Take a deep breath. Replace the thoughts in your head. Do it every time. Practice. Practice. Practice. Instead of repressing the urge to be negative, don't give it room. Spit it right out, and REPLACE IT, with something positive.

Even if the very best you can do is think "I must explain myself better so that my instructions are followed".

This is a start.

1 comment:

  1. I really do like this on-going series on mindfulness. The act of replacing the negative can really be a kind of art form. As you said, it does get easier the more we practice/do it, for all the many reasons you described.

    And when it comes to "caring" that is a pendulum that can swing wildly. Take voting...or leave it, as many apathetic folks might with their "I don't care" response, and we are faced with what can be described as a potentially negative scenario. When we hear that another person 'does not care,' we immediately rush to the judgment that there must be something wrong with them. That negative attachment "can" be mindfully exchanged with the positive choice (!!) to delve a little deeper, and find out the "why" behind their statement. Is it the choice in candidates or the overall process itself that leaves one feeling voiceless and that extends the "uncaring" attitude?

    And consider the possibilities when some of these 'negative' issues might be discussed/worked out with less attachment behind them.

    There ARE those who cannot believe in the idea of letting something go; those who feel that hanging on to the negative is all they have left. We see this when a really bad relationship breaks up and one or both parties hold on to the pain and the bad times, never seeing any of the good. Short of attempted murder (and even then?) there may be redemption to be found in some bit of time spent together with another, even if it is to recognize that the negative time served as a lesson in how to never be treated again...which takes mindfulness as well to see. ~ Blessings! :)