Exterminate Infestations of Negative Thoughts

Our negative thoughts can feel as if they are reality-based.

Our negative thoughts often feel as if they are reality-based.

Negative thoughts are like termites that chew up and spit out our happiness. Many of us are frequently overwhelmed by such worrisome, anxious, fearful, and hateful thoughts. These thoughts gnaw at the fabric of our life, yet we’re often oblivious to basic knowledge that can eradicate this intrusive infestation.

These thoughts often seem reality-based. Certainly, it’s easy to believe the content of these thoughts. They seem to capture objectively the nature and extent of our plight. When they overpopulate our mind, they can produce an ugly reality, a self-defeating acting out of our negative outlook and worst fears. We must understand, though, that they represent a subjective impression rather than any deeper truth about us or our life.

Before getting to the liberating knowledge, let’s look at a list of common negative thoughts. (This list is bleak and grim, and we can insert a little levity by reading this section as experimental poetry noir.) I’ve separated this list into three categories that are explained further on:

A. Negative thoughts associated with inner passivity: No one understands me or knows what I feel; I’ll never make it; I can’t get started; I’m so weak, helpless, and out of control; I can’t get things together; I can’t finish anything; I don’t think I can go on; I feel like I’m alone against the world; I know I have a serious disease; I’ll never be healthy and happy again; What’s the point of trying?  [Read more...]

Stubbornness: The Guts to Fight Reality

Fighting reality can get painful.

Stubbornness is, essentially, a determination to fight a losing battle with reality, while accepting as a “reward” for the effort the gift-wrapped deadweight of rigidity and resentment.

My apologies to Frank Sinatra fans, but I believe the theme song or anthem for stubbornness is the old favorite, “My Way.” One stanza stands out:

Yes, there were times, I’m sure you knew/ When I bit off more than I could chew./ But through it all, when there was doubt,/ I ate it up and spit it out./ I faced it all and I stood tall,/ And did it my way.

Sure—my way or the highway! When we’re smart and wise, we don’t put the emphasis on my way. We’re just pleased and grateful to find a good, sensible, or brave way to travel “each and ev’ry highway.”

Of course, stubbornness can sometimes be a virtue, as when we adhere bravely to a sound principle in the face of opposition. This post, though, is about the self-defeating expression of it.

Stubbornness and denial are two rotten eggs in the same basket. The former tends to be a conscious expression of opposition—as in stubborn denial of global warming—while the latter is likely to refer to an unconscious form of the behavior—as in denial of one’s buried anger toward a parent.

Stubbornness is usually a reaction to underlying emotional issues. If we can make these issues conscious and keep them in focus, we have a good change of letting go of our mulish attitude and the suffering it brings on. Basically, obstinacy is a symptom of three different emotional issues in our psyche. [Read more...]

Underlying Dynamics that Breed Bullies

Self-doubt concerning personal value influences both the bully and the victim.

If we want our society to put a stop to bullying—an excellent goal, of course, one embraced by President Barack Obama, educators, and celebrities—we can help the cause by better understanding the underlying psychological dynamics of bullying and by teaching this knowledge to our kids.

What are these underlying dynamics? The bully—girl or boy, man or woman—appears bold and confident on the surface. But this person is emotionally entangled in substantial self-doubt. All of us grow up with some degree of self-doubt. This feeling can be quite conscious and intense, or it can be repressed and inconspicuous. Our self-doubt produces uncertainty concerning our value, significance, strength, goodness, and worthiness. Even more so, it can produce deep emotional convictions that we are lacking in value, are deeply flawed, and are deserving of disrespect.

Self-doubt is a universal condition. We compensate somewhat for the painfulness of it when others give us recognition, acceptance, praise, and validation. The existence of self-doubt is evident in the human passion for fame, glory, power, and wealth, all of which bestow an illusion of value and superiority. Self-doubt is also evident in bullies who belittle and abuse others in their desperate need to feel superior and more powerful in themselves. [Read more...]