First published on October 15th 2019
It can be a real challenge to stay calm and peaceful when you’re being overrun by negative thoughts.
Fear thoughts, worry thoughts, doubt thoughts, judgement thoughts appear in your head—unannounced and uninvited—and start wreaking havoc.
You feel powerless and overwhelmed.
And the more attention you give them— wrestling them, wallowing in them, chewing on them, creating mental disaster movies—the more they grow in strength.
Your fragile peace doesn’t stand a chance. In no time at all, it is extinguished—buried beneath a landslide of mental noise.
How to break free from this downward spiral of negativity and get your peace back?
To answer this question, you first have to understand why your thoughts SEEM to have so much power over you.
Armed with this knowledge, you’ll then see why it’s possible to remain calm and peaceful—even with a head full of negative thoughts.
The truth is, you don’t even need to get rid of them.
What you DO need is a different strategy for dealing with thoughts as they arise.
What If They Weren’t Your Thoughts At All?
Where do thoughts come from?
If you were to ask most people who the thoughts in their head belong to, they would look at you as if you had a screw loose.
“They belong to me of course,” would invariably be the answer.
But if you observe your mind closely to see where thoughts originate, you will see that they appear by themselves, apparently from nowhere.
There’s an exercise in mindfulness training called “recognising the restless mind,” which clearly demonstrates that thoughts arise objectively— without any help or input from ourselves.
Thoughts appear by themselves, linger for a moment and then move on again.
We never have any idea what the next thought will be. Its appearance has nothing to do with us.
So, why do we believe they are ours?
We naturally assume they are ours because everyone else does and we’ve never thought to question it.
It’s The Mind’s Job To Churn Out Negative Thoughts
The mind is very much like a computer. The thoughts it churns out are determined by your cultural conditioning and your unique set of life experiences.
The thoughts you are experiencing are determined by your background and history. They couldn’t be any different.
Your thoughts are not personal. They are part of your programming.
Negative Thoughts Have No Inherent Power To Affect Your Peace
Now we’re getting to the interesting stuff!
We have seen that thoughts, positive and negative, appear by themselves out of nowhere, as a natural functioning of the mind.
So why do they affect your peace?
They affect you because you identify with them. You think there is something wrong with them being there—the negative ones, that is.
You have no issue with the positive thoughts. You are quite happy for them to hang around.
The only power that thoughts have is the power you give them through identifying with them. Leave them alone and they will leave you alone.
Here’s a quote from my book, “Kick The Thinking Habit.”
“Don’t be concerned about the thoughts that come and go. Leave them alone and they will leave you alone. Leave the mind in peace to do its dance, and it will leave you in peace to do yours. Don’t touch it at all, and you will remain untouched by it.
3 Ways To Guard Your Peace — Whatever The Mind Throws At You
Here are three practical steps you can take to prevent thoughts from stealing your peace.
1. Treat All Your Thoughts Like Honoured Guests
Or, as my teacher used to say, “Roll out the red carpet.”
Most of our suffering comes, not from the thoughts themselves but from our resistance to them.
Let’s say the thought, “You’re such a loser,” appears in your head.
What is your normal reaction when such a thought comes knocking at your door?
First of all, you judge it as negative. You want it to go away—to leave you in peace. Perhaps you also judge yourself for having it?
Is it the thought itself that causes all the trouble or your reaction to it?
What if you were to say YES to it rather than rejecting it — to invite it in with an attitude of non-judgemental acceptance?
What if, knowing it’s just part of the mind’s programming and is not personal, you didn’t mind it being there?
I am guessing it wouldn’t affect your peace in the same way.
2. Take Everything The Mind Tells You With A Large Pinch Of Salt
Learn to question everything the mind comes up with. It tells more lies than Pinocchio.
Just because it tells you something doesn’t mean there’s any truth in it. If your mind is trying to convince you that you’re a loser, deeply question whether this is really the case.
Be particularly suspicious of generalisations such as ‘you always…’ or ‘everything you do…’
Think of some of your positive achievements in life. Are these really the work of a loser? Like a detective, build up a case that supports the opposite.
Most beliefs rapidly crumble when subjected to even a little scrutiny.
3. Don’t Get Lost In The Mental Movie Jungle
What happens when we dwell on negative thoughts?
They turn into mental movies.
The worry thought about your finances triggers a mind movie imagining the worst possible outcome. In your head, you are already destitute and living on the street, your life in ruins.
Individual thoughts come and go like clouds in the sky. Let them come. Let them go. You suffer when you get sucked into the jungle of mental movie making.
To stop, all you need to do is notice you’re doing it—to be aware of the tendency to overthink and get bogged down in imagined outcomes.
The moment you are aware you’re thinking, you’re already present again.
You have no idea what will happen next in your life.
A huge upturn in fortune may be just around the corner?
Individual thoughts trigger mental movies. Don’t go there. Don’t dwell on your thoughts. Choose for peace instead.
Peace Is What Happens When You’re Not Thinking
There is one time in the day when every person experiences perfect peace.
It is the brief period in the morning when you’ve just woken up but haven’t yet remembered anything about yourself or your life.
It’s an experience of pure awareness, free from mental activity. In the absence of thought, you are neither male nor female, rich nor poor, young nor old. You just ARE — consciousness aware.
In the absence of thinking, there are no worries or problems.
Peace is an attribute of your true Self, the consciousness that you are. It is not something you have to go looking for.
Why don’t we experience this more often?
It is because our compulsive preoccupation with the mind causes us to overlook the backdrop of peace that is ever-present.
Leave Your Thoughts Alone And They’ll Leave You Alone
A head full of negative thoughts can be overwhelming, depressing and can drive you to despair.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Although they may appear to be the enemies of your peace, in truth, thoughts don’t have nearly as much power as you may think.
They are like clouds that appear from nowhere, float around for a bit and disappear again when their time is up.
There is nothing ‘bad’ or ‘wrong’ with negative thoughts floating across the sky of your awareness. You don’t even need to be free of them to experience peace.
They can only affect you if you engage with them — if you identify with them, believe them, fight them, chew on them or make mental movies out of them.
Leave them alone and they’ll leave you alone.
Use the information in this post to change how you relate to thoughts and they will cease to have the same impact on your peace.
Check out my book “Kick The Thinking Habit” for a more in-depth look at how to rise above mind-created suffering.
The next time your mind tries to convince you that there’s something wrong with you (as it will), embrace the thought. Humour it.
Recognise that it’s just the mind doing its thing. Don’t believe it, Don’t resist it, Don’t dwell on it or think about it. You don’t need to give it any attention at all.
Recognise that all thoughts appear against a backdrop of peace that can never leave you.
Learn to keep your attention there.
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