How To Stop Negative Thoughts

The Enthusiastic Buddhist - how to stop negative thoughts

Nobody wants to have negative thoughts. But how do we stop them from arising, multiplying or increasing in strength? Preventing and eliminating negative thoughts from our mind forms two of the Four Great Efforts we should be trying to practice, (the other two are to cultivate positive thoughts and maintain them). One technique for abandoning negative thoughts is to remember that we don’t have to believe every thought that comes into our mind.

Many times thoughts arise due to wrong assumptions. For instance, let’s say we are expecting someone to reply to our email, and it’s already a sensitive issue, because we are waiting for them to accept our apology or some equally destabilizing issue that has unsettled our perceived equilibrium of the world. We might find ourselves then ‘stalking’ that person’s profile to see if they are online and engaging with others, which of course means they’re ignoring our email and not giving us the time of day! So surely this means that they must still be angry with us and they don’t want to reply. If we are on the insecure side we can become more squeamish and even feel the ground giving way beneath us. If we tend to lean towards arrogance, we might react with anger and indignation at their insolence – how could they not respond and leave me waiting like this? Either reaction and the associated feelings that arise are born from our thoughts. But how do we know the thought is ‘right’? Unless we can somehow get into that other person’s mind, we have no idea why they haven’t replied.

While we gorge ourselves with chocolate to make ourselves feel better or we sit cursing them till the sun goes down, we might find a surprising email lands in our Inbox. It turns out that:

A: They never received our email and they’re writing to us to ask why we haven’t replied.

B: They just spent all day lovingly writing an essay-long response to our email which professes their love of our friendship and the hope that things will always be fine between us from now on.

C: They’ve been having a really tough day with various other problems and they’ve only just found the time to reply.

Either way, we will soon be eating humble pie and regretting all the negative thoughts and suffering we just put ourselves through.

Just because a thought arises in our mind, doesn’t mean we have to believe it. If we cling to our thoughts and think they are right all the time, we will only continue to suffer. Instead, we should repeat to ourselves, ‘Not sure, not sure.’ Then peace will find its way to us easily, and the resolution to our problem will naturally unfold, without us having to put ourselves through any additional mental torment.

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