Chasing our suffering
"With every negative emotion comes more pessimistic behavior. And with more pessimistic behaviors comes even more negativity basically because one feeds the other. "
Whether we like it or not, we are made to create thoughts all the livelong day.
Most of us spend a lot of time inside our own mind, worrying about the future, thinking about events in the past, and generally focusing on the parts of life that we are not happy about. Some thoughts are helpful, while other thoughts are full of fears, worry, and pain, preventing us from enjoying experiences, distracting us and draining our energy. Additionally, if we are prone to anxiety, our mind may create more negative thoughts than usual because our mind has amazing ways of convincing us that our inaccurate thoughts are true.
Even though negative thoughts are perceived as bad, it's normal to have them. It's part of our evolutionary heritage. We’re constantly scanning our environment looking for problems to fix. Negative thoughts themselves aren’t the problem, the problem is the power and the attention we give them. If we believe our negative thoughts are facts, we will probably feel trapped, but if we choose to perceive them as information or the same way we view the millions of sensations, and judgments, then they will have a minimum impact on us. We, human beings, are trying as much as possible to eliminate our distorted thoughts but the paradox is that although we are looking for positive thoughts, we still choose our negative ones - it’s like we are constantly chasing our suffering. And why is that? Why do we choose our suffering even though we want to escape? We return to our suffering, because fundamentally this is our comfort zone particularly if we are used to think negatively for a long period of time and as a result this is how we know how to behave. In addition, although oxymoron, there is somehow a joy in experiencing tension or drama. If vivid, negative thoughts can reproduce the adrenaline we were experiencing when we were under stress and this is why we might chase suffering to feel this adrenaline again as some of us are addicted to adrenaline.
Some other times we focus more on negative thoughts because we want to understand our pain more clearly and eventually figure out how to let it go. If we know the cause and what needs to be done we will know how to take care of ourselves. Our addiction to suffering is at some level driven by a desire to feel better. But regardless, the result is that it makes us feel worse and causes us to suffer more than we actually need to. We’re also deeply attached to our thoughts, because we replay them so many times during a day and as a consequence its hard to stop bringing them back into the present moment, even when they are no longer useful or active. We keep nourishing our thoughts and with repetition, negative thoughts grow in strength.
In other occasions, when we are in the negative loop, we have the tendency to search for information that confirms our beliefs or hypotheses. This tendency is called confirmation bias and it is a type of cognitive bias and a systematic error where people gather or remember information selectively, or when they interpret it in a biased way. Once we have formed a negative view, we embrace information that confirms that view while ignoring, or rejecting, information that casts doubt on it. Thus, we don’t perceive circumstances objectively, but we confirm our prejudices. That way, we may become prisoners of our assumptions and support our suffering.
Instead of arguing with our mind, we need to accept our chaotic thinking while putting our focus on thoughts that are helpful. We can’t stop ourselves having spontaneous negative thoughts. Our brain is always generating thoughts with a stronger preference on negative ones. That’s just how it works and by accepting that we can start making peace with our mind and taking action on how to focus more on things which help us feel better.
"We can either work on the negative things and turn them into positive things, or we can accept that the negative is negative and leave it at that. "