Mindfulness Success Factor #4: Managing Negative Thoughts
Anything your mind perceives as negative or that voice in your head shouts is negative is a result of the intervention of your mind. In many cases these negative thoughts avoid you harm. You’re in the middle of a cross walk and the e-bike driver runs a red and if you don’t jump out of the way you’ll be injured. Negative thinking can mean the difference between life and death.
However in many cases negative thoughts are unnecessary and create and compound your suffering. The famous example is a man out on a hunting trip in an area hostile forces are seen now and then. Out in the open a group of marauders let loose a hail of arrows and the man is struck by an arrow on the ankle. The objective fact is that he is in pain. However soon that voice goes off in his head about how foolish he was out in the open that he was wearing bright coloured clothing that made him an easier target, that how was he going to get home, that he was foolish being in hostile territory. These superfluous thoughts simply add more grief to the situation and accomplish very little.
Imagine being caught in a traffic jam there is no way out of. How long before the criticism starts about what a bad choice of route you took or left at the wrong time so got caught up in the mess?
Lastly you are a work and literally swamped with work. Yet another problem arises. Panic sets in. How are you to finish this new task and the old tasks? What are your superiors going to think of you about how you handled this issue? If you make a mistake are you going to be fired?
Mindfulness isn’t the magic pill to eliminate negative thoughts but as a minimum it will teach you that negative thoughts exist and can be managed not by ignoring them but by acknowledging them and let them drift away unless they have relevance to the present moment.
I think it is fair to say at a certain point if your workplace stress is incredibly inhumane or you have an injured pet in your car and the traffic jam is preventing you from getting to the veterinarian controlling negative thoughts may be futile. This is where managing negative thoughts may be an insurmountable obstacle. Mindfulness isn’t perfect and neither are you. If you can in these challenging circumstances give yourself some compassion and perhaps the best that you can do.
When do you know the existence of negative thoughts? You might not have even realized you were making them. I think the value of mindfulness meditation may be to train you to recognize negative thoughts. If you can’t stop in a moment of peace and quiet to be aware of negative thoughts how are you going to manage them. If you don’t manage them they will manage you.