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Posts Tagged “insecure thinking”

Right and Wrong: Painful Thoughts

Many of my clients are intensely engaged in a fruitless, frustrating effort to prove others wrong, or to get others to say or do what they expect. They come in angry and resentful because these people are “ruining” their life or “making” them miserable. They hang their happiness on getting what they think they “need” from people they who have “let them down”.

When”, I always ask them, “is the last time you complied with an angry, accusatory person who insisted that you do or say something?”

The usual response is, “Huh?” That is usually followed, “But you don’t understand. I’m right.”

Of course, in the state of mind we happen to be in, we all think we’re right. And, there’s the rub. Unless we know that “right” is our own thought, we are doomed to righteous indignation and seeking the company only of people who agree with us while demanding satisfaction from those who don’t.

Here’s an example. I was talking to someone who had gotten through a bitter divorce and arrived, painfully, at a shared custody agreement with her ex-husband regarding their young teenager. He started giving the teenager a tremendous amount of freedom, lots of money, and every material thing the teenager asked for. She was attempting to set boundaries, limit spending money and encourage her teenager to work for things that felt important. It wasn’t long before the teenager was playing one off against the other, and manifesting a lot of negative behaviors. So the mother demanded that the whole family go to counseling.

After one session, the counselor told her, “Well, of course, you’re right, but he’s not going to do anything you ask him to do. He feels if he supported your parenting style and helped you, it would be doing something for you, and he doesn’t want to do anything for you. He can’t stand you. So I think you have to work with things as they are, or maybe try to renegotiate your custody agreement.” The woman was devastated. She wanted an answer about how to create change, not a suggestion that she needed to get resigned to an untenable stand-off.

Right now, we live in a world that does not recognize that all people have the capacity to see their thinking for what it is and change their minds. We live in a world where resignation or argument is as good as it gets. We live in a world that assumes each person’s thinking is the way it is and nothing will change. We live in a world that gives all the power to situations, and no power whatsoever to the thinkers of the thoughts that created the situations in the first place.

In the resilient, dynamic, inside-out world represented by the Principles of Mind, Consciousness and Thought,Our life is what our thoughts make it - inspirational word by Marcus Aurelius on a slate blackboard with a white chalk and a stack of books against rustic wooden table that makes no sense at all. When our clients tell us that someone or something else is making them miserable or doing them wrong, we do not focus on “fixing” the situation or reinforcing their negative view. We focus on the only true source of power, the creative force of each person’s ability to think and think again, and see things for themselves, and appreciate their own unlimited power to change.

All of these situations we address are microcosms of the general failure to solve big problems in the world. People feel victimized by “intractable” situations, rather than seeing that their thinking about the situations is what is holding them in place.

Is it possible that a resentful ex-husband could come to understand that his negative thinking about the past is the source of his hateful feelings about his ex-wife, and question the wisdom of acting against his child’s best interest? Is it possible that an insecure ex-wife could see how her thinking, as well as his, played into the nastiness of the divorce, and question whether her own insecurity was preventing her from finding common ground about what is best for their child? Is it possible that a mental health educator who understood that thinking is a power we all can understand how to use could help resolve this situation?

Yes, Yes, and Yes.

Wake up, world! Wake up to the universal wisdom that could set us all free to resolve conflicts (large and small), create solutions (at home and in the world), and live at peace. It is one thought away from every person on the planet.

To find that thought — whatever healing insight is needed for the situation(s) we are in — all we need is a moment of truth, a moment in which we see for ourselves that we are creating our reality, and we can change it, a moment of quietude into which wisdom flows.

Here is a little talk I offered in 2013 about finding peace on earth, my vision for the 21st Century:

 

 

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Feeling Our Way through Life

Keyboard close-up with three smiley keys (emoticons)

Keyboard close-up with three smiley keys (emoticons)

People seek help from counselors when they feel bad. No one has ever come into a session with me to complain about their thinking. They come in to say, “I’m really depressed.” “I’m sad and I can’t seem to get over it.” “I am so anxious that I can’t concentrate.” “I get so angry I feel like hitting my children.” That kind of statement.

So, intuitively, we know that bad feelings are a sign that we need help. But we believe the bad feelings are coming from the events, people and circumstances in our life. The expectation people usually start with is that a mentor or counselor will help them to “deal with” their feelings.

They don’t anticipate actually feeling that much better, just coping much better with how bad they feel. They’re usually looking for techniques or strategies, eager to tell me about all the things they’ve already tried that haven’t worked over time. Yoga. Meditation. Art therapy. Long walks. Medication. Massage.

Here’s the thing. If you make a recipe that doesn’t taste good, it’s not going to taste any better if you eat it by candlelight, or eat slowly, or serve bread with it, or use better cutlery, or put flowers on the table. You cooked it. You don’t like it. Smart money says you toss it aside take the recipe out of your recipe file, and stop making it.

Our feelings are the experiences we cook up with the thoughts we bring to mind. If we don’t like them, getting over them is no more of a big deal than scraping a plate into the garbage, avoiding that recipe, and moving on. If you keep cooking up the same combination of stuff, you’ll keep getting the same unpleasant results. We don’t do that with food. Why do it we do it with ourselves?

For me, it was simply not knowing where my feelings were actually coming from. Until someone pointed it out to me, I never noticed that the same people, events and circumstances did not always produce the same feelings, that I often felt completely differently about things at different times. I had just accepted the prevailing view I grew up with that we were always reacting to life, that life could and would make us feel bad or good.

It was a revelation to me that my thinking had anything to do with it. I rejected the whole idea at first. What? I was making myself miserable? I would never do that on purpose! How dare anyone suggest that? But it very quickly dawned on me that if I had the power to make myself miserable, I had the power to make myself anything. Maybe that was actually good news; I could change even if people, events and circumstances around me did not change. Wow!

The only thing in life we really do have any control over is ourselves. We can’t force other people to change; we can’t prevent life events; we can’t pick the historical or demographic circumstances into which we’re born. But we come fully equipped to make the most of our lives, whatever they are. Again, Wow!

We’ve learned to go over and over our same old thinking, trying to understand ourselves, or figure out why we think this or that, or resolve our past traumas by re-living them, hoping they’ll look different to us. As we do this, we feel worse and worse. In my experience of working with people, though, the hardest part of my work is to get them to stop talking about all the negative thoughts they have. “No, but let me explain. You have to see how awful …”

Stop! I’ll stipulate that it’s awful, and I will win the bet every time that if you continue to bring it to mind, you’ll continue to feel awful. I will suggest that as soon as your mind calms and turns elsewhere, you’ll feel different.

This is very clear to me because I stumbled into the Principles that describe how we create our experience of life, the Principles that show us that experience doesn’t create us. We use the energy of life to generate thoughts, constantly. Our mental activity begins when we come into this world and ends when we leave. We constantly create thoughts, which, when they form in our minds, sets a whole bio-psycho-spiritual chain of events in motion, affecting our chemistry, and thus our feeling state. Bad feelings are not our enemies; they are our navigation system. As soon as our feeling state starts to drop, we can be 100% certain that our thinking is not healthy, wise or functional. Whatever we’re bringing to mind, it’s taking us in a direction we don’t want to go. So bad feelings are not something to cope with; they are something to appreciate and use as a guide to slow our minds down. We can just let our thinking pass without paying a lot of attention to the details, until our minds quiet and better feelings return. They always will. And it happens very quickly because thoughts unexamined pass quickly. We are naturally self-righting, but we also have the free will to keep ourselves off balance. As soon as we let go of trying to figure out, organize or control our thoughts, our innate resiliency brings us right back into balance.

Better feelings, good feelings tell us to trust the thoughts we’re having. Once we are operating from a clear head and a quiet mind, the very “problems” that looked so horrible come into perspective. The past takes its place as the past. Present troubles seem more like situations than insoluble problems, and we start coming up with solutions, rather than frustration and upset.

It’s great to know that we are set up to enjoy life. Yes, we can disrupt that by using our power to think against ourselves. Enjoyment and optimism return quickly when we navigate by our feelings, and recognize when to leave our thinking alone.

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War and Peace

It is ultimately a matter of war and peace whether people across the world come to understand the role of their own and others’ thinking and fluctuating states of mind.

Security:InsecurityOne person at a time, when someone comes to understand how thought works and what is creating their experience of reality, they become increasingly secure. When a person feels secure, not living at the mercy of external factors, life does not look threatening. Secure people remain calm and exercise judgment, and look for insight and wisdom, rather than reacting or over-reacting without perspective. They recognize the power of beliefs within the context of knowing that each person becomes committed in their own way to their own beliefs, and nothing but their own insights will change their minds. They see with increasing clarity that people are all the same deep down: all people are constantly creating thoughts and then experiencing those thoughts as “reality”. Reality changes as our thoughts change. Knowing that, we lose our attachment to particular thoughts and gain awe for the very ability to keep thinking, to see beyond what we’ve thought so far. Respect for the shared human power to change keeps hope alive and allows us to see possibilities. It allows us peace within ourselves.

On the other hand, those who have no idea where thoughts come from and why reality looks different to different people are always prone to feel insecure, and cling to their thinking to ward off worsening insecurity. It is an either/or. Either we see the fluidity and creativity of thinking and understand that thoughts come and go and reality “shifts” as our thinking/feeling shifts — or we don’t see the fluidity of thinking and believe that thoughts have a life of their own and we have to hang onto our habitual thinking or fall prey to outside forces. Insecurity pushes people farther and farther away from tolerating differences and encourages the creation of elaborate systems of thought to make their own closely-held points of view feel/seem superior. It introduces the need to defend one’s position at all costs.

Two things are important to realize. Things that make absolute sense to us and seem quite obvious when we are insecure do not make any sense to us whatsoever when we are feeling secure. And the reverse is also true; things that seem quite appropriate and clear to us when we’re secure don’t make any sense at all when we are insecure. So as our states of mind change, the things we say, do and pursue are very different. A child who is angry and frustrated will stomp on and break a brand-new toy. In a quiet state, the child would pick up the toy and play with it.

What does this have to do with war and peace? War doesn’t come out  of the blue. War starts to make more and more sense to people who  are frightened and insecure and have no room in their thinking for “others”.  People who are calm and secure experience peace in their hearts and  minds, and thus seek and nurture peace.

Nations are assemblies of people who share a prevailing state of mind and perspective about the world. When people generally feel hopeful and optimistic, they make choices that reflect their level of security. They are inclusive and generous-spirited, and look for solutions that will do the least harm. When people start feeling frightened and pessimistic, they make choices that reflect their need to protect themselves and ward off enemies. They are exclusive and small-minded, and look for solutions that will keep them safe no matter if others experience harm. Out of a world dominated by leaders who live in fear and insecurity come many wars. The more brutal the fights, the more frightened people become, so they become trapped in a downward spiral of pain and despair. Nothing but war and more war makes sense to them — in that state of mind. In a moment of security, it would make no sense to them at all.

It is innocent because no one would choose killing and destruction if it appeared to them they actually had a choice. The key is understanding the illusion of that downward spiral, that insecurity breeds further insecurity until the moment we understand that all of it is built from our own thoughts. Stepping back, allowing the fear to pass and getting a fresh look can change everything.

Every human being on earth wants to have a happy life, but every human being on earth does not — yet — realize that that happiness is internally generated. No one has to suffer so that I will not suffer. When we realize that all people are creating their own thinking within the context of their own variable states of mind, we truly understand what creates human experience and behavior. We know not to pay attention to the thinking that comes to mind when we’re in an insecure, upset state of mind. And we know we can count on our thinking when our thoughts change and we feel calm and secure again. We navigate by the feeling of security. With the knowledge of how life is created from the inside out, we know that an instant of quiet into which one new thought comes can change everything. With that clarity about life, we know that peace is never more than a thought away, and we simply allow the thoughts that take us in the other direction to pass through our minds, just as we would watch a train cross the tracks, knowing that no matter how long it is, every train has a caboose!

“Thought, like the rudder of a ship, steers us to the safety of open waters or to the doom of rocky shores.”  Sydney Banks, The Missing Link, p. 56.

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