Honestly, the best advice I ever read or heard or seen anywhere about anything is this: all psychological phenomena is rubbish. I remember first reading this idea over and over again in a Thai Buddhist monk’s book called Food for the Heart. The monk was Ajahn Chah and he kept reiterating the same simple message: if you want to know truth, if you want to seek enlightenment, you just have to recognize that everything you think or feel, and he means EVERYTHING, good or bad, is meaningless nonsense. You have no idea how freeing that basic truth is. At first your mind might reject it. At first you might be tempted to fight for some thoughts and feelings being noble and good and necessary. But after a while, you start to see just how inadequate your mind is at knowing the truth of being and you start to long for a deeper understanding.
When you get to that state, you start to realize that your thoughts are not the way to understanding the world, or to knowing it deeply. When that happens, your negative thoughts stop being so capable of possessing you. You start to cultivate a little distance between your mind and your sense of self. This is the beginning of mental mastery, the beginning of psychological discipline; it’s the separation of your ability to be aware of your thoughts from the thoughts themselves. And so here is MIND HACK # 1 to short-circuit those negative thoughts. They’re not true. They’re very simply just not true.
You get the same spiritual advice from the Toltecs, a spiritual Native American tradition of artists who study perception. They give names to the voice inside our heads that hits us with doubt, shame and pessimism. They call that voice, “the Parasite.” By giving this cognitive tendency a name it becomes a character and when it becomes a character it becomes easier for you to distance yourself from it, because you start to see it’s not YOU, and that it is a part of your personality. You might even one day be able to see whose voice it is you have internalized, it might be the voice of a caregiver or a teacher or a friend from childhood that over time became your own. Every time the parasite emerges, you notice it, you thank it for sharing its singularly unhelpful point of view, and then you let it go and get on with your day. Over time it loses its grip over you. And so, this is MIND HACK #2 for short circuiting your negative thoughts: personify them as a “parasite,” that’s separate and distinct, yet still a part of you, that you have internalized.
The third mind hack to short circuiting negative thoughts involves paying attention to how they manifest into physical sensations in the body. So now you are saying to yourself “that’s not true, that’s not true,” using MIND HACK # 1, or “thank you for sharing that,” when talking to the parasite, but in all likelihood the negative thought is still persisting. Now that’s fine, I personally don’t expect to never have a negative, self-defeating thought ever again, but I do expect that it won’t have as much impact on me as it used to. MIND HACK #3 says: “don’t try to fight or repress the negative thought, that will only make it stronger.” What you want is to short circuit the negative thought, not repress it. Remember what Carl Jung said, “what you resist, persists,” So, when the thoughts arise, pay attention to how they feel inside your body. Allow the thoughts to arise, allow the accompanying sensations to arise, allow them to exist, notice them, say yes to the experience, lean into the pain, look on the experience with an inquisitive curiosity. This approach allows the storm to pass more quickly through the body and mind. Tara Brach, a psychologist and therapist who uses Buddhist philosophy in her healing practice, calls this “radical acceptance.”
Samar Habib is a writer, researcher and scholar who lives in California. Check out more of her mind management resources in her course Quantum Mind: Stop Suffering and Take Back Your Life. You can get in touch with her on drsamarhabib [at] email [dot] com
Originally published at medium.com