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The Power of Negative Thinking



We all know about the power of positive thinking, but I am pretty sure there is

power in our negative thoughts too. Rather than pushing away what we prefer not

to feel or think about, we might try leaning into those thoughts – to see what is there

and why we so much don’t want to think what we are thinking at times.

Buddhism talks about a system of leaning into your negative thoughts captured by

the acronym RAIN – which stands for;

R – Recognition – realize what you are thinking or feeling at this moment

A - accept that you are thinking or feeling it

I – investigate that thought with a clear mind. Where in your body do you feel this

feeling, this thought?

N- non identification. Realize that what you are thinking is merely a thought. It

does not define who you are.

I seem to get in trouble when I try to ignore my negative thoughts – or when I try to

talk myself out of what I am thinking or feeling. Let’s say for instance, that I am

annoyed with my husband. Usually I am not even aware that I am annoyed – I just

get quiet, or short, or “crabby” or withdrawn without knowing why. Next I

sometimes become aware that I am annoyed by some minor thing he is doing. Then,

I often begin to try to talk myself out of feeling what I am feeling. “I shouldn’t feel

this way. It doesn’t matter – Let it go.“ I barely recognize the feeling and I am trying

to convince myself not to feel it !

What if, instead , I used the RAIN approach?

R - When I find myself being “crabby” or short or withdrawn, what if I asked myself

“what I am thinking or feeling right now?” What if I could recognize “Oh, you are

feeling angry”. Not judging that feeling, that thought – merely acknowledging that it

is true.

A - And then what if I began to ALLOW myself to feel what I am feeling, without

judging that thought or feeling. “It is true – I am feeling angry.”

I - And then, having recognized and accepted the fact that I am feeling angry, what

if I began to investigate that feeling. Right now my jaw is a bit clenched, I am

breathing in a controlled way, my brow is furrowed. “I don’t want to have this

feeling.” “My feeling and thoughts are out of proportion to the trigger.” “The

problem is not what he is doing, the problem is that I am choosing to be angry about

what he is doing.” I see that I am not OK with this feeling.

N – And finally, if, instead of trying to banish my negative thoughts and feelings, I

turn towards them, I can learn something about myself. It is, after all, only a

thought, only a feeling, I know it will pass. After clear-headed assessment, I can

decide if or whether to act on this thought or feeling. But if I don’t even recognize

and accept the fact that I have a certain thought or feeling, I cannot make a choice –

I often simply act without thinking and that gets me into trouble! Recognizing my

anger and “working” with it does not mean that I am trying to banish it. I am trying

to accept that it is true and see how it impacts me and then to be in charge of if or

how I respond to this feeling or thought.

Most important of all for me is to recognize that because I have an angry thought or

feeling does not mean that I am an angry person. I am who I am. Like everyone, I

have oodles of thoughts and feelings. These change all the time. It is OK for me to

feel angry. It is not always OK to act on those thoughts and feelings. Sometimes it is

absolutely OK to act on such thoughts or feelings. But, I like the idea of realizing I

have a choice and of putting a little distance between the match and the fuse!

Here’s a poem by Rumi about all this;


Eyes shut Facing Eyes Rolling Around (excerpt)~ Rumi


Pay close attention to your mean thoughts

That sourness may be a blessing,

as an overcast day brings rain for the roses

and relief to dry soil.

Don’t look so sourly on your sourness!

It may be carrying what you most deeply need

and want. What seems to be keeping your from joy

may be what leads you to joy.

Don’t call it a dead branch.

Call it the live, moist root.

Don’t always be waiting to see

what’s behind it. That wait-and-see

poisons your Spirit.

Reach for it.

Hold your meanness to your chest

as a healing root

and be through with waiting.



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