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Putting our negative thinking into perspective February 16, 2012

Posted by Dennis Mellersh in Solving Problems.
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In our efforts to accelerate our personal development potential many of us read a lot of material from people who are regarded as experts. Essentially, in readings this personal improvement literature, we are seeking advice on how we can grow and be happy and fulfilled  in the face of the many problems that are an inescapable part of daily life, or what the philosophers call the “human condition.”

In my own reading, a constantly appearing suggestion I find from experts is that we should think positively, and so we make efforts to get rid of the negative thinking which we all engage in periodically. But, often, no matter how hard we try to dismiss those negative thoughts, they continue to resurface. In fact, it can sometimes seem that focusing on eliminating those negative thoughts just seems to reinforce their intrusiveness in our thought process. Our potential for developing personal happiness seems to be captive to an endless and destructive loop of negative thinking that we cannot escape.

It may be however that our focus on trying to dismiss our negative thoughts actually reinforces their presence. If we are to believe the principles of the law of attraction, what we think about is what we are likely to become. So ironically, by focussing on eliminating our negative thoughts, our focus may be manifesting as more negativity. We can become frustrated and depressed that particular thoughts, which we do not want to have, continue to enter our heads.

In his book, You can be Happy no Matter What, Richard Carlson, Ph.D., makes the following point: “There is an important distinction between understanding thought and denying it. Understanding our ability to think allows us to see that thought, in and of itself, is harmless. The fact that something comes to our mind does not necessarily make it worthy of our concern. Denial, on the other hand, suggests a sort of pretending that we are not thinking about something, or that a problem doesn’t bother us. The two are not related…if we deny that we are thinking about something or that something is bothering us, we will still feel the effects of the thought we are denying.” In a later chapter Carlson book Carlson comments, “Common sense will tell you that the more you think about something, the more those thoughts will grow in your mind and become real.” (See Note below)

No matter how much we understand our thought processes however, it is almost impossible to prevent, or get rid of, all negatives thoughts. Someone hurts our feelings, we see or read a disturbing news item, an unpleasant personal interaction event happens at work – it is normal to be bothered by these “negative” situations. But usually, as time passes and other positive events fill up our days, for most of us, such thoughts will usually fade into the background.

For a major problem affecting our lives however, a problem that has become a “worry” that we keeping thinking about, taking some sort of action towards resolving the situation can be the best way to lessen our constant preoccupation with it. The great majority of us have the potential to take some sort of positive actions on our major problems, or worries, such as difficult financial situations or health concerns, for example.

Before taking action, and to help alleviate continuing to worry about the problem, it is important to put the problem into perspective. There is a prayer, which can also be used in the form of a non-religious spiritual intention, which reads something as follows: “God grant me: the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.” Although this appears to be simple advice, it is difficult to do –  it takes tough intellectual work to put all of our worries into this perspective.

Speaking for myself, I have found that many of my personal “problems” grow and develop because of my habit of procrastination. I put off doing my tax returns, but continue to think about it, until it becomes a last-minute crisis, and has to be completed with a lot of stress right at the filing deadline. My small problems thereby have the potential to become big problems because I often procrastinate taking action on dealing with them.

Once I do take action, however, I usually find that the situation I have been procrastinating about does not take as much time as I thought it would, nor is dealing with it as stressful as I had anticipated.

Note: My copy of You can be Happy no Matter What is a paperback published by New World Library. It is not long, at about 150 pages, and perhaps because of its conciseness,  I have found it contains a lot of helpful guidance that has proved useful to me.

The book is divided into two main sections: The Principles; and Applying the Principles. The section on principles contains the following sub-chapters: the principles of thought; the principle of moods; the principle of separate realities; the principle of feelings; the principle of the present moment and a brief review of the principles. Part 2 is about Applying the Principles, and features the following: relationships; stress; solving problems; happiness; habits and addictions; and a checklist for your life. The introduction that Carlson wrote to the book is helpful in outlining the concepts he presents, and showing us to use the book effectively.


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