Why negative thoughts seem to be more prevalent than positive thoughts?
A struggle with negative thoughts is a secret battle we wage in the mind every day. Amid a beautiful experience, a negative thought may suddenly come up and spoil the whole experience. Negative thoughts are sticky, and they settle deep within, while positive thoughts are hard to hold onto, at times it requires significant efforts to import and keep in the mind.
Changing the orientation of the mind is not as simple as replacing negative thoughts with positive thoughts. It will become an endless and ultimately futile pursuit. The sheer volume of thoughts is too big to change en masse.
Understanding the underlying mechanisms of the mind may help us come up with a lasting solution to negative thoughts.
There are four significant components concerning any given thought.
1. Ego which gives a sense of ownership
2. Desire which adds longevity
3. Expectation which adds value based on an expected result
4. Perception or awareness
The foundation of the mind is the ego or the individualized self we call as the "I." It is the seed and the 'magnetic center' of the mind. It embeds into each thought, ensuring that no thought escapes the mind. Whether we engage with a thought or not, once a thought emerges, it is stored indefinitely.
Desire adds longevity to thoughts. We all carry desires in the mind, some of which remain unfulfilled for years. For every desire, there is a corresponding expectation. The expected result is assigned a value in relation to our current situation. The deeper the desire and the higher the expectation, more is the value assigned to such a thought. Thoughts of 'high value' keep resurfacing in the conscious mind as if to remind us to take the corresponding desire to fruition and fulfill associated expectations.
Wherever there is an expectation, fear is a natural consequence. The 'what ifs' create and sustain fear. When we set a positive expectation, fear can easily replace that expectation with the opposite, a negative outcome. Through imagination, fear can play havoc with our state of mind.
When it comes to personal desires, everyone's expectations are for a positive result. Before the result every comes about, the mind is involved in the play of opposites. When we desire one thing, the mind uses our expectations and plays up the fear of the opposite coming to fruition. That is the genesis of negative thinking.
If there are many negative thoughts in the mind, it implies that there are a lot of unfulfilled desires and expectations. Through desires and expectations, negative thoughts tie us deeply to the ego. Such thoughts make us inward looking towards the individualized ego while positive thoughts are freer and more outward looking.
Besides the ego, desires, expectations, the fourth component concerning thoughts is perception or awareness. We can perceive the ego, desires, and expectations. But when perception is from the context of the ego by which we say, "I am perceiving," the ego becomes invisible, just like the eyes can see the world, not itself.
Along with the inability to view the ego through awareness admixed with it, desires and expectations may also not be visible. What we then see is a thought cloud populated with scenarios that may run counter to our thoughts and desires, which fear generates. When the ego uses the power of awareness, trapping it within, such perception is 'inside looking out' (see Figure). No matter where our attention is in the mind, the ego always assumes the central point when perception is 'inside looking out.'
Another way of perception is 'outside looking in' (see Figure) wherein awareness is not intertwined with the ego. Through such awareness, we can perceive the ego, our desires, and expectations more easily. The mind can be viewed from many different angles, not just the viewpoint of the ego. When we perceive the link between the ego, desires, expectations, and fear, which creates negative thoughts, we begin to understand that the cascade begins with us and has little to do with the outside world. Desires and expectations are created and managed within.
Awareness of a desire, an expectation, and of our ego can come about when we are in the present. The present does not live in the mind or the thoughts. It is not something that we can imagine or believe. The present is the screen onto which ego, desires, negative thoughts, fear, and expectations project.
Free awareness perceives the screen of the present, and the projections onto it that come and go. Negative thoughts come and ago as do positive thoughts. It is not replacing negative thoughts with positive thoughts that change the mind, but understanding the relationship between the ego, desires, expectations, and fear and the screen of the present. Only awareness can bring about such an understanding.