Say no to negative thoughts
Negativity, at some time or the other, attacks all of us. Prof. AVR Rao elucidates its mechanism and suggests ways of overcoming this debilitating tendency
Rarely do we find a human being who has never had negative thoughts. Negative thoughts are creeping fears, including those about things presumed to be hidden in the future and concealed in people, which take various shapes and attack us any time. It is the tendency, in some people, of expecting the worst. Paradoxically, when these thoughts are analysed and understood, it will become clear that there is no depth or stuff in them. They disappear like an iceberg in the hot sun.
Negative by nature
Very rarely do these negative thoughts originate from external causes. Your wrong interpretation of the external events and people gives birth to negative thoughts and strengthens them, often forcing you to believe them to be true. Some external causes are ill-health and physical weakness, situations of deep and unexpected grief, being a victim of great injustice, attacks of wicked but strong people, and so on. These can be won over with some effort and positive thought enforcement.
It is the other kind—the internally generated or imagined ones—that should bother you. Negative thinking is virtually self-talk which limits your ability to trust yourself and strengthen your potential virtues. Thoughts direct and control your behaviour and, therefore, their quality is of extreme importance.
Understanding negative thoughts is the first and essential step for banishing them from your life pattern. Whenever you are confronted by one or more of the kind of thoughts mentioned below, understand that you are being pushed into the bottomless pit of negative feelings:
• I am alone in this world and so helpless that there is no help during difficulties.
• The whole world is full of wicked and deceitful people, ready to pounce on me and finish me off.
• I am not strong like them but weak, inadequate, and helpless.
• Compared to others, I have no achievements in life but only a series of failures.
• I do not deserve to be among people of repute and fame.
• I can never succeed in any project. I am born to experience continuous failure and will never succeed in anything.
• I lack concentration and cannot do anything right.
Negative thoughts may, therefore, be understood as cognitions about the self, others, or the world in general, characterised by negative perceptions, attributions, and expectations, which are generally associated with unpleasant emotions and adverse behavioural, physiological, psychological, and health outcomes. The difference between positive and negative thoughts is identical to that of divine and diabolical tendencies.
An unbridled flow of negative thoughts is indeed the fiercest enemy sitting inside and posing as a friend. It induces the victim syndrome in you, making you feel that the whole world is against you, out to demolish all your plans, make you a failure in life, and destroy you completely. It saps your courage and energies by directing them towards an unnecessary fight against non-existent enemies. It makes you helpless and hopeless, inducing inaction where even a few simple but courageous baby steps could avert the impending dangers. In addition, it keeps you in constant and chronic stress, upsetting your hormonal balance, reducing the brain contents required for happiness, and, ultimately, destroying your immune system.
In due course, unchecked negative thinking forms into a habit and reduces your natural ability to think logically, reason effectively, and retain useful and happy memories. Negative thinking forms a vicious cycle feeding on itself and makes it difficult for you to control.
How to manage
Despite being aware of these dangers, these negative thoughts cannot be fully eliminated. Fortunately, they can be distanced and managed, resulting in their reduced impact. They are like weeds in a beautiful garden; they will inhibit the growth of positive thoughts and kill your self-confidence and self-esteem. Managing negative thoughts is both an art and a challenge. Below are some of the mechanisms of understanding, managing, and controlling negative thoughts:
• Just watch them pass by your thought process; they slowly fade away.
• Never fight them, but subdue their power by not allowing them to dominate you.
• If they do materialise, like the unusual coronavirus pandemic, then face them with courage and determination, with all the mental resilience you can muster. Normally, facing any fear courageously will drive the fear away.
• When gloom and doom stare at you from all sides, look within and you will find a stream of calmness fully protected from the external world; cherish this experience of the inner world.
• Think of the good things that God has bestowed on you—healthy body, loving family and friends, financial comforts, sound mind, pleasant environment to live in, etc. In the same breath, accept your limitations, inadequacies, and adverse circumstances. Try to improve upon them and see how you can turn them into advantages.
• Without encouragement, negative thoughts die a natural death; so, resist the habit of following through them and kill them.
• Keep away from negative people as they are the greatest destroyers of self-confidence and esteem. They are highly contagious in spreading their gloomy and doomy ways of analysis and thinking. Stop arguing with such people and trying to convert them; it is futile. Just keep a distance from them and avoid them.
• Positive and negative emotions cannot occupy the mind at the same time; so always choose positive thinking and feeling about everything and everyone. You have that choice in all circumstances; choose right.
Be highly selective about what you watch on TV and your interaction in social groups like WhatsApp and Facebook as they are the worst carriers of gloomy stories and rumours. They breed negative thinking and lead to disappointments and depressive moods.
Know for sure that negative thinking, either about others or yourself, can never bring you a positive and peaceful life.
Positive thinkers think of solutions and negative thinkers think of problems.
Engage yourself in prayer, meditation, the chanting of slokas or mantras, reading books, listening to soothing music, etc.
Benefits of managing well
The consequences of banishing negative thoughts are manifold and largely beneficial. The antonym for negative thoughts is positive thoughts. They both cannot exist simultaneously, and the latter has the capacity of driving the former away. Totally unexpected and unplanned favourable developments will occur when negative thoughts are substituted with positive ones. Mind you, whether it is the people or the pandemic, they are still in the external world. Do not allow them to intrude into the natural stream of calmness and peace of your inner world.
Gloom and depression, fear, and anxiety, and melancholy and misery might have spread their tentacles everywhere amidst feelings of pessimism and fatalistic thoughts. Leaving this negativity where it is, you can dive within yourself and find a stream of calmness and serenity fully protected from the external world, where none of the poisonous thoughts of the latter can penetrate and intrude without your will and invitation. The wild dance of negativity outside can be shut off if you determine not to let it inside you. Banishing negative thoughts can help you discover a fresh perspective on life and the human experience that is purely positive.
So take a solemn oath that you will never entertain negative thoughts about anything or anyone, even in times of intolerable situations of despair or disappointment. When you do so, everything will change in the mysterious schemes of God, and the future will have better days for us in its womb.
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