The other day, someone asked me a simple yet important question. It is a question I get asked rather frequently, in fact. She said, “Sometimes I get so stressed due to an incident or a person, I become negative. No matter how hard I try to forgive and to forget but I’m unable to let go off the negative thoughts. What to do at that time? How to come out of it?”
In the past, I have briefly touched upon how to overcome negative thoughts and emotions, the art of being positive and other related topics. In this post, let me share with you an actual technique you can adopt, almost like first-aid. You may slightly modify it to suit yourself and your surroundings. Before I spell out the method, allow me to shed some light on the underlying thesis.
Emotions are the symptoms, they are not the cause. Please reread it: emotions are the symptoms, they are not the cause. Imagine it is a Friday afternoon and your co-workers invite you for a drink. You choose to go home instead to be with your partner. While driving back from work, you buy a pack of donuts. You envisage sharing them with the one who is already home. Let us say you two have a functional relationship, there is care, you share a bond, there is even some love — in other words, it is a normal marriage. For some reason, he is cranky today. You too had a stressful day at work but you think of buying donuts and washing your stress with a light conversation and a few laughs over a coffee. You get home and the following conversation ensues after the initial howdies:
“I’ve got donuts! Let’s pour a cuppa.”
“Oh, but I don’t feel like coffee.”
“That’s alright, you can just have a donut or two,” you respond with reduced enthusiasm.
“Donuts? Now? It’s dinner time!” he sounds irritated.
Well, that was that — any possibility of happiness or positivity just got assaulted. Brutally. But let us examine the conversation. He is not irritated with you. Had you brought anything else, regardless of the conversation you picked, you would have gotten the same reaction. Because it was not about you or what you brought, it was just his own emotional state. What you witnessed were the symptoms. Donuts or the conversation were not the cause; they were immaterial, inconsequential. This is what I mean when I say emotions and feelings are symptomatic.
You see, your day is made up of twenty-four hours, an hour constitutes sixty minutes, each minute has sixty seconds. So, your day is not just one day but a series of moments, thousands of them. The same goes for your thoughts and feelings too. When you are feeling bad, negative, it is not just one big unit, it is a chain of multiple thoughts, a queue of feelings. It is so interlinked that it appears indivisible, it feels like one cohesive unit, like multiple drops of water in a waterfall. Your emotions, therefore, are made up of a series of thoughts and feelings. Like the train changing its track can change the whole course, if you can learn the art of quieting your mind or diverting your thoughts, you can rise above any emotion. Is there a way to do it without the rigors of meditation? Yes; read on. Onto the method now:
Talk to yourself, hold a self-dialog. Yes, this is it. It is an effective technique. The first step is to immediately be aware and accept that you are feeling negative. You do that by talking to yourself. Tell yourself that you are feeling negative and hurt presently. Remind yourself that you are a human being. It is perfectly normal for you to experience negative emotions, to feel down, to feel hurt, to feel pensive. It means you are human. Never be afraid to be human. Humanity is the path to divinity. Hold a communion with yourself. You actually have to hold the aforesaid self-dialog. When people are negative, they often hold long conversations in their head and that leads to greater negativity. We just have to change the nature of such dialog. Remind yourself that it is natural for you to feel stressed. Do not feel bad for feeling bad! Do not think you are a bad person just because you are feeling negative. Remove the other person from the equation, just focus on yourself. Do not try to stave off negativity, you will end up feeling even more negative and down.
As soon as you become aware that you are negative and you accept it, the resistance will disappear. Resistance and conflict go hand-in-hand, you eliminate one and the other one self-destructs.
Destroy the source of your negative emotions, not yourself. And no, the source is not the other person so you don’t need a bigger hammer. Although this post is not just about negativity in a marital relationship, yet I couldn’t resist but to share a quote by the comedian Rodney Dangerfield. It’s a light bite, you may just enjoy it. Here: “We sleep in separate rooms, we have dinner apart, we take separate vacations; we’re doing everything we can to keep our marriage together.”