Egos are tricky creatures. They’re slippery because we study them with our minds—which is the same thing that creates them in the first place. So it’s like a snake eating its own tail. But one thing you can rest assured of: if it’s talking it’s your ego. So just go quiet. Because otherwise your ego will have you tied in knots.
Here’s how it works: First you develop a sincere appreciation for the idea that your feelings do emerge from your thinking. When that makes more sense to you, you naturally start to try to be more conscious of your thinking. The first thing that happens is that—for the first time in your life—you notice how much you think, and how negatively. While it can feel worse, this is actually a victory because it demonstrates you are more aware. But always remember it is common for people to think they’re failing because they’re finally noticing how much they think. If you’re noticing your thinking—regardless of what that thinking is—then you are doing just fine. That awareness is what’s key. To have that you have to have the perspective of the real you–the originator of the thoughts.
The next thing you’ll do is you’ll focus all of your attention on those negative thoughts. So rather than focus on the thoughts you enjoy (as a way of learning to experience those feelings more often), most people will try to quash the negative thoughts instead. It’s like an anti-war rally when it could have been a peace rally.
The real problem with that is that then the people will start to add to the problem by criticizing themselves for being negative—but of course that’s just more negativity. So you can’t notice you’re thinking negatively and then try to scold yourself into peace. Quite the opposite. Allow yourself to have that thought but see it for what it is—something that has arisen in no other place than your own consciousness. And in doing that those thoughts will become less powerful and more malleable. In fairly short order you’ll find yourself having pretty good control over where your thoughts go for one simple reason: you will have practised doing so by being more consciously aware that you are making these thought decisions all day long.
Yes, in a way it’s fair to say that the point of all of this is to stop negative thinking. But that’s very simplified and really it’s more that you’re looking to be content. Content if things are going well, but also content if they’re not. You don’t want to wrestle a thought storm into submission, you want to recognize it for its ephemeral nature. You want to accept that your ego sometimes races. You want to observe the negative thinking dispassionately. It merely is but it is not good and it is not bad. It is merely happening and you are present for that event. Can you see the distance you want to gain from your ego? That you want to see it as an echo created by your society rather than some precious, fragile identity to be protected? You’re much bigger than that and only your ego convinces you otherwise.
Do not beat yourself up when you think negatively. Accept that without those thoughts you wouldn’t be able to recognize what you’re trying to avoid. Be grateful for whatever is happening so long as you are aware enough to know that something is always happening. Be okay with yourself. Your entire self. Including the piece that occasionally slips into ego. Because that part needs loving too.
Now go create yourself a terrific day. 😉
Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations around the world.
A serious childhood brain injury lead Scott to spend his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and identity. It made others as strange to him as he was to them. When he realized people were confused by their own over-thinking, Scott began teaching others to understand reality. He is currently CBC Radio Active’s Wellness Columnist, as well as a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.