Bad experiences sometimes leave deep wounds on our psyche – scars that take a long time to heal. While time generally does heal most wounds, we don’t do ourselves any favors by going back and picking at them. In fact, replaying bad experiences over again in your mind is a recipe for disaster, for the negative thoughts and emotions that were buried can be brought back to life with explosively destructive force, just like a landmine buried long ago in a forgotten war. The cultivation of greater mindfulness, however, can help us navigate through this personal minefield, alerting us whenever we get too close to danger.
Some of us do a better job than others of just going with the flow of life, and not spending too much time looking back with regret, recrimination, or guilt, to name just a few of the toxic emotions that can accompany our memories. But for almost all of us, there have been some particularly painful moments along the way, and these are the landmines that we must map out and stay away from, lest we unleash a damaging flow of thoughts and emotions. The emotions associated with past traumas don’t just make us miserable; they also have creative (which in this case means destructive) potential, transforming the events that transpire in our outer reality as well as the inner landscape which can often be bad enough by itself.
What sort of events have you buried?
- An argument with a co-worker or family member?
- An accident that you caused?
- The death of a loved one or pet?
- Rejection by an object of your affection?
- Getting fired from a job?
- Failing a test at school?
- Saying something that hurt someone else’s feelings?
- Betraying a friend’s confidence?
- A period of severe poverty and insecurity?
- The time other people abused you verbally or physically?
Obviously, the list is endless. There’s a pretty good chance that you’re working on something in your own list right now. Our inherent “negativity bias” is almost irresistible, constantly drawing us back to the worst memories and the most negative expectations for the future. That sort of thinking once made sense in an earlier evolutionary environment, where the avoidance of real threats to our survival was paramount, but in today’s generally much safer world, this default “doom and gloom” setting does us no favors at all.
Awareness of the Danger Will Protect You
While conventional mindfulness practices, which teach us to be aware of what we’re doing, moment-to-moment, with our minds, can tell us when we’re dwelling on negative memories, they don’t do nearly enough to inform us about the very real danger of this type of thinking. Buddhist mindfulness does not embrace the much more modern New Age concept that we create our physical realities with our thoughts and emotions, and simply confines itself to inner reality.
While there is undoubtedly real benefit to be derived from a more harmonious inner life, the real danger we must avoid is the physical manifestation of our negative thoughts and feelings. This danger is very real, and the power of our most upsetting memories is particularly likely to expose us to harmful manifestations. For unlike the positive manifestation goals so beloved of self-help authors like Rhonda Byrne, we know exactly what these bad experiences feel like and we can remember every little painful detail in technicolor glory. In short, it’s much, much easier to create bad realities than good ones, and we have to police ourselves constantly to protect ourselves from these self-inflicted wounds.
So the next time you catch yourself dwelling upon the worst events of your past, just stop. No matter how justified you feel you are in rehashing that event, you must remind yourself of the power of your thoughts and emotions. A simple way to manage yourself is to ask whether you want to relive that experience – or something very similar to it – again. Because if you don’t watch out, that is exactly what will happen.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
When replaying past events, one of the most damaging thought patterns we must avoid is that of self-blame. Critics of the New Age use that issue as an argument against the reality-creation principle, but it is – ironically – a strong argument in favor of New Age ideas. To see why, visit this thoughtful Meditation Blog.
- Recovering our True Self: The Journey Out of Our Negative States (mediumsworld.wordpress.com)