The real “secret” to stopping bad thoughts is very counter-intuitive to what we’d normally do. The reason being is because there’s no stopping involved whatsoever. It’s completely natural for us to want the thoughts to be gone or different. Let’s face it no one wants to experience thoughts which we find to be disturbing.
I think this is because we have been constantly told our whole lives that resistance to thoughts is strength. Whereas in actuality, it is futile and destructive. So we accept this as the way things are and we resist the activity of our mind regardless of how this resistance makes us feel.
But from my experience any resistance we create towards the bad thoughts will just empower them and make them seem far worse than they actually are. It’s our negative perception and resistance to the thoughts which creates the most inner turmoil.
Even though we can’t actually stop the thoughts from coming up in our heads we can change the way we look at them. But why can’t we control our thoughts? Well think about it. If we could be the controller of our thoughts, then we would never think negative thoughts, would we?
And when we perceive the unwanted thoughts to be bad (which we do naturally), we actually make the experience a lot worse than it needs to be. This labelling of our thoughts creates a negative attachment and makes us feel internally claustrophobic and full of negative energy.
What would happen if we started to perceive any thought to be neither good or bad, but just a thought? We would detach ourselves from thoughts and be more at peace.
It’s all about letting our thoughts be as they are. What keeps this negative energy in place is the tendency to want our thoughts to be gone or when we suppress them. Suppression might seem like a good idea at the time but it actually allows a lot of negative energy to build up.
When we try to get back to our natural state of emotional balance, then without realizing it we actually keep the suffering in place. It took me years to realize that the wanting of the thoughts and feelings to be gone was what actually stopped me from returning to balance.
When we leave our thoughts alone, our mind settles back down into stillness, like a lake. The disturbance of the lake happens when a stone is thrown into the water and ripples are formed on the surface. After a while, if there is no external interference, the ripples will fade and the lake will settle back down.
“The secret to stopping these thoughts is to detach from the mind because you cannot fight mind with the mind.” Sen
Our minds work in the same way. When we try to change the thoughts or get annoyed with ourselves, it’s like prodding the water around with a stick. If only we put the stick down then it naturally settle.
What we normally do when we experience a negative thought:
- Panic or try to escape it.
- Resist the negative thoughts.
- Try different techniques which only have short term benefits.
- Try escaping them through the use of excessive drinking or any other bad habit.
- Try to think positively. This just takes far too much effort. It feels like we’re in a constant battle to fend off our negative thoughts when using positive thinking. In my experience, it always backfires.
What we can do to actually stop “negative” thoughts:
- Stop labelling the thoughts as “negative or bad.” Of course we don’t wish to experience them but it does no good telling our mind that because then it just responds with resistance.
- Allow our mind to settle back down all by itself
- Give up the control – No matter what people say, we cannot control what thoughts pop up in our minds. It’s actually liberating to understand this because then we can just let our mind do whatever it wants, when we allow this and drop the tendency to control our mind, it quietens down.
- Our minds are always trying to get back to the presetting of psychological balance, but when we unconsciously interfere with the turbulence, we keep the suffering in place.
- Focus on something we’re grateful for in our lives
- Focus on things we enjoy doing. After doing this for a certain amount of time, we will just forget about what we were thinking.
- Exercise, has been known to put people in the flow state (myself included) which allows people to drive out their unwanted thoughts. Click here to read about the flow state.
- Stop wanting them to be gone. This may sound a little crazy and stupid, but it actually takes away the negative energy because we are no longer giving the thought a reason to trouble us. It’s when we want our current experience of thoughts and emotions to be different that causes us to suffer the most.
As an experiment, we can try out both methods and see which one is more effective. The intuitive method is to resist the thoughts. The counter-intuitive method is to no longer place any expectations on the thoughts that enter our mind. So that means not wishing they were gone or different but allowing them to be exactly as they are. When we give our thoughts freedom to be, they will have much less power over us and thus we will come to a place of natural peace.
Where I got the information from