Last updated December, 2017.
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It's time for another installment of "Question and Answer Tuesdays!"
"I enjoy your articles and get a lot from your blog posts. But, when I read something like what you posted on Medium last week (Stop trying to control your thoughts), it confuses me. I have a lot of negative thoughts, and thoughts that I don't want to continue. They put me in a bad mood, and they make me unhappy with myself. So I do want to control them to the extent that I make them go away/stop thinking them. What is your advice?"
Read your words - you said "they put me in a bad mood," and "they make me unhappy with myself."
My advice is stop judging yourself so harshly! Your problem isn't the thoughts, it's your aversion to the thoughts. This aversion perpetuates attachment - it's like the old saying:
"Whatever you fight only becomes stronger."
We are conditioned to judge what happens and label it as "good" or "bad." If we label it as good, we cling to it and try to keep it from changing. If we label it as bad, we push it away or try to repress it.
Both lead to suffering.
In your case, you want thoughts you label as bad to go away. But, when they don't go away (or go away and come back), you get frustrated, upset, and the cycle of judgment continues.
Trying to control thoughts is a futile task. Instead, learn to drop the labels and view what happens from a neutral perspective.
Cultivate awareness - learn to notice thoughts without getting caught up in them. And, develop the skill of moving your attention away from them when they aren't useful. This is commonly referred to as "letting them pass."
You will find that thoughts are temporary - they come and go. You can watch them pass like clouds in the sky. At that point, you realize the "content" of your mind doesn't matter.
Take the time and energy you previously spent trying to control thought and reallocate it to building a consistent meditation practice, and bring mindfulness to your daily life.
What are you trying to "cope" with?
Coping doesn't work - addressing the root cause does. We'll show you how.