Ascent Publication
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Ascent Publication

Don’t know what to do with your negative thoughts? Here’s a good idea.

Image credit: Khara Woods, Unsplash.

The natural tendency of the human mind is to reset itself to negativity over and over again. You think of something nice and then you think: “Yes, but…”. We became the masters of “yes, but…” game. We can come up with negative scenarios and projections all day long. We are wired to be negative. We are the decedents of the most skeptical and negative individuals, who were cautious and played it safe to extend the species. No wonder we are afraid. That survival mechanism is in our genes.

But we don’t like our negative thoughts. Because they are… negative. We want to believe in “happily ever after” models. That everything will be good. That is the force opposing directly to our skepticism and negativity: lust for life, crazy optimism. A whole life is weaved of paradoxes and the two opposing forces (negativity and optimism) in each one of us are two sides of the same coin. Sometimes you flip one, sometimes the other.

The problem is that society very obviously favors only one side: the positive one. We are expected to be enthusiastic, cheerful, and fluffy, all about rainbows and unicorns 24/7/365.

(But it doesn’t work that way. Excessive positivism is neither natural nor healthy. It prevents us from seeing things as they truly are. It is unsustainable.)

In positive thinking, self-help sphere negativity is demonized. Yet all of us still have it and don’t really know what to do with it.

WHAT WE USUALLY DO WITH OUR NEGATIVE THOUGHTS

Pushing

Negative thoughts sometimes surprise us and make us feel guilty and shameful. “Do I really think that? If I really think that, I must be a bad person. No, I definitely do not think that.”

Often we’ll push the negative thoughts back. We will resist negative thoughts as much as we can because we all want to be positive, cool and manifest good things into our lives. We are praised for our enthusiasm, not for our negativity. So we’ll push.

The problem with pushing is that it requires conscious mental effort, which makes us unable to function well or focus on other things. Based on Newton’s third law, for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. What you resist, persists. Push your negative thoughts and they will push back. Complete waste of energy.

Numbing

Our negative thoughts are annoying and throughout the life, we all found ways to numb them. Some of us do it with alcohol, some with weed, some with food, Netflix or video games. I think you probably your favorite numbing option. In my undergrad days, I was the happiest when after a nice glass of beer crazy, negative voices in my head become silent and I can be free for a little while.

Numbing is another unsustainable strategy. Not only in terms of calories, money, and neurons. When we numb ourselves avoiding to feel bad, we won’t be able to feel good either. Numbing doesn’t differentiate between positive and negative emotions. Numbing freezes the entire emotional spectrum.

Believing

After long periods of negativity and not knowing how to deal with our dark thoughts, we start believing in them. We start identifying with them. We stop seeing thoughts as transient, rather we start seeing ourselves as a skeptical or a negative person. We forget to question our thoughts. We forget to seek for truth. We forget that we have the power to free ourselves from the prison we’ve created. We sit in captivity and let our negative thoughts overwhelm us.

WHAT TO DO INSTEAD

Knowing that our negativity is inherited and natural response to life, let’s please agree not to beat ourselves up for our negative thoughts or emotions. Let’s remember that these are perfectly OK, oftentimes informative and there is nothing wrong with them.

OK, then what?

SURRENDER

Surrender your each and every negative thought. One by one. Say: “I have this thought, I don’t know what to do with it. I am surrendering it.” You can imagine that you are surrendering your thoughts to God, Universe, volcano, fire, to whomever you want. You are not alone and you don’t have to carry the burden of your negative thoughts yourself. Surrender them.

Great exercise from A Course in Miracles is based on isolating your thoughts and saying: “I don’t know what is this thought”. The thoughts are products of our creation (or miscreation) and we don’t know much about them. Surrendering your thoughts is like a sincere admitting that you have a thought, you don’t know what it is or what to do with it and you are letting it go. It is freeing, natural and easy. We are not pushing the thoughts away, we are letting them pass through and surrendering them without emotional attachment.

A staple of Buddhism is letting go, which, as we all know, is easier said than done. Thus we have to start small. We have to start with our thoughts and deliberate effort of surrendering them. Huge mountains of mental garbage, darkness, fears, judgments piles into our minds. We need to clean the space so that we can focus on what matters more. We need to actively surrender the thoughts. One by one. Identifying. Isolating. Surrendering.

Marianne Williamson claims that “surrendering the situation to God”, actually means surrendering your thoughts about the situation. It is not the act of inactivity or irresponsibility. It is only surrendering our small and limited perspective. Surrendering is not giving up. It is not passive. It is active and intense. And freeing.

In White Hot Truth Danielle Laporte speaks about a spiritual teacher, Amma, who said to her students:

“My children, my babies, when you are angered, give your anger to Mama. Mama will carry it for you. When you don’t know what to do, give your confusion to Mama. Mama will carry it for you.”

It was a shock for Danielle, in her own words “overachieving, recovering Catholic”.

We were all taught at the certain point that we have to present nice, polished, representative versions of ourselves to one another (and to God, for that matter). “If you are angry, go to your room and come back with a smile on your face”, and similar practices. But it undermines the wisdom of our hearts. We have to swallow and dissolve negativity, all by ourselves. It is a lot of pressure. That’s why I am encouraging you to surrender all of your negativity to the authority of your choice. There is no shame, or blame, or guilt in it.

In conclusion

Of course, you are negative. We all are. But you don’t have to carry your burden alone. Surrender it every day and free yourself.

Before you go

If you are on Medium you are probably obsessed with creativity, just like me. I made a FREE ebook “100 ways to be creative today”, with 100 creative prompts, most of which require 5 minutes or less, $0 and no special skills. Go HERE to learn more and grab it.

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Milena

Milena

Engineer. Creator. Sustainability researcher. Obsessed w/focus, mental health, sobriety. On the quest to find gentler and more meaningful ways to live and work.

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