I live with negativity. My hunch is that you do too. It’s part of the human condition.
Now here’s the surprise. All that negativity?
It comes from me.
When my boss calls my work scattered, it is my response to his comment that creates the bad feeling in me, not the comment itself. Is he right? Am I going to get fired? Do you think he’s been talking to the baker I worked for when I was 16 who yelled at me for not keeping my mind on my work and dropping a tray of custard creams?
I label it negativity. I judge him as negative. I become depressed because his comment on my work pushes my buttons. I blame him for my paranoia about losing my job and leaving my family homeless. But, in reality, all those buttons are MINE.
My wife says, why don’t you EVER take out the trash. If she hadn’t said the word ‘EVER’ we’d be fine.
Is she actually saying I’ve never taken the trash out in our nearly 20 years of marriage? She exaggerates. She’s making a point. I get that. And if she has her way it will have its intended effect. I will get angry, yell something mean back at her, take the trash bag out and throw it against the refrigerator. Then I’ll feel bad, pick it up, wipe the smelly stains off the floor and take it out. See? That was my fault.
When I verbally attack the owner of a local bar for serving underaged drinkers and staying open ’til 4am so the police have to patrol and stop the fights of the drunks at all hours which is giving the town a bad name, he tells me politely but firmly that the town changed the parking rules to feed the meters until 11pm so no one goes to his bar anymore and he’s had to hire a chef to actually sell real food and change the dynamic of his establishment. I am left with this creepy feeling that my negativity got the best of me; that if I had just asked him how’s business, he would have told me the same thing without me throwing verbal punches.
Why do I need it so badly? What does all this negativity give me? Evidently I need to be right. The side of good is always my side, right? Whether I’ve thought two seconds about what I’m saying or not.
It’s surprising because when I look into the mirror in the morning, I’m pretty happy with my self, but sometimes when I look in other people’s eyes, and see the fear and trepidation and knee-jerk yesses on their lips, I’m a monster. Which is the real me?
That’s why I figured I needed a better mirror. One that shows that negativity so I can face it BEFORE I go out into the world.
That’s what my Buddhist practice does for me. The absolute worst thing looks better and becomes much more well-considered from my side of the mirror when I have chanted in the morning. I have no idea how it works. I know how it doesn’t work though. It doesn’t work on a level of intellect, knowledge or consciousness that my rational brain can predict or understand. It pushes me out of the brain roads I tend to travel. I just know that if I don’t face myself each day this way, all the negative stars come out shooting. This practice is like the sun. When I do it daily, the sun comes out and the shooting stars disappear. When I don’t…watch out for me.
If you need a hedge against your own negativity as I do, make a practice of taking a faith action strong enough to remind you that the thing that’s really bugging you…is you.
I agree, and often think of a comment that a biology teacher friend of mine made years ago.
He said evolution programmed us to notice what’s wrong for survival purposes. Unfortunately that alertness keeps us attuned to the negative.
Spiritual practice quiets that side of ourselves and helps us notice what is going well.