I have a confession: I am as guilty of negative thinking as anyone else.

Just this morning, my friend asked me about my work.

Within a few minutes, I was describing everything awful about it, going into minute detail about the hardships, inconvenience, and utter meaningless of what I had done the previous day.

I launched into a description of some of the people I worked with and how awful they were.

My friend then dived into how terrible things were for him, too, and how his past was always ruining his future.

Finally, the conversation rolled around to the state of the country, the crimes of history, and how life was not worth living.

“Thomas Hobbes, the 17th Century English political philosopher, was absolutely right.” I said, “When he described human life as ‘solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.’”

Then on that grim note, we parted ways, and I went back home to do some writing for a client.

The Shock of Awareness

But I was not able to do any work after my coffee outing. Sitting in front of my computer, I suddenly became aware of what I had done and how I had foolishly dissipated all my energy and my will to work and produce results.

Before I met my friend for coffee, I had woken up from a deep and refreshing sleep, started the day with pranayama (breathwork) and then done some asanas (yoga stretches). As a result, I was in a wonderful, serene mood. My brain and body had been optimized with life-energy and were ready to take on the world.

Why Did I Do it?

Since my friend can’t get a job, I launched into how awful work can be to reassure him that he wasn’t missing out on much. He is also a cynical person and I wanted to match his cynicism.

Another reason was that I found a perfect opportunity to vent my frustrations, hoping to get some relief. (It did not help but only magnified my issues in my mind.)

Finally, my ego was competing with my friend’s ego. “You think you’ve got it bad…wait till I tell you what I’ve been going through.”

All this was happening unconsciously, of course, and I only realized it afterward.

Reflecting on My Day

Now in the evening as I write about this encounter with my own shadow self, I still feel ashamed of the whole episode.

I did not have to do any of it. I was unconscious at the time. Later when I came home and was surrounded by the comfort of familiar things, I became conscious. I went from stupid to smart in 30 seconds flat.

My desire to be empathetic had taken me to a dark place. Instead of affirming gratitude for all that I had recently received — an abundance of well-paid work after a period when the volume of work and money had been low, I focused on all the wrong things, frustrations that can be expected in any job.

Waking up From Sleep

Since what I have just described happens to almost everyone most of the time — an addiction to grousing, complaining, and moaning, then — you might be wondering why I am making such a big deal about it. After all, those were just idle words. And everybody does it, right?

When I was speaking those vitriolic words, I was unconscious. Although physically and mentally alert, my ego had hijacked my consciousness, reducing me to ranting and raving lunatic for no good reason. 

I was not mindful, not aware, totally absent.

Later, back home, noticing my enervated state and bad mood, both of which I had created, forced me to become conscious. It was as if I had abruptly woken up and only then realized that I had been having a nightmare in my sleep.

So, instead of being aware, I had fallen into the trap of egoic thinking — but did not realize it at the time.

This thinking then triggered all sorts of latent emotional pain within me, and my emotional body became even more painfully swollen when my friend shared his emotional pain. We amplified each other’s negativity.

In essence, we had both poisoned ourselves when we had that negative conversation.

If I had not woken up to notice what I had just done, then I would have continued to ruin my day by thinking about all sorts of past miseries.

Toxic Thinking

Thinking negatively is like drinking poison. It makes things worse. It breaks our will to win, amplifies what is not working, and begins to corrode the rest of our thinking.

 If we keep at it long enough, we will experience health issues, become increasingly neurotic, and do and say things that will make life worse for us.

It’s also an addiction. 

I’m not suggesting a Pollyannaish attitude where we deny all problems that need to be addressed, but toxic thinking is something that we as a species must learn to overcome to get to the next level of consciousness, a stage where we can be active co-creators in making this a better world.

I’d like to end this confession by promising you I’m committed to never letting it happen again, but I’m still working on resolving this tendency to miscreate my reality with my emotionally-charged words.

Saleem Rana writes to inspire people to change their lives for the better. After college, he traveled around the world as a business journalist. Later, he earned a master’s degree in psychology and became a psychotherapist. Today, he writes books and articles on productivity and self-improvement.
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Saleem Rana writes to inspire people to change their lives for the better. After college, he traveled around the world as a business journalist. Later, he earned a master’s degree in psychology and became a psychotherapist. Today, he writes books and articles on productivity and self-improvement.

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