Have you ever noticed what happens when you try to avoid a thought or an emotion is, we get more into it? If I want to avoid thinking of someone – you’ll observe that you end up thinking more about them. If you want to avoid feeling a certain emotion like anger, sadness, or disappointment, you end up feeling more of it. Your best attempts to resist, help you do only that much – Resist temporarily and eventually succumb to it big time. Hence, it’s time to find better ways than trying to resist or forcefully stop something. 

The more you avoid it, the more it will seem like a monster lurking around the corner, which is ready to attack you anytime you drop your guard. Instead, observe it. When I say observe, it doesn’t mean hug it, identify yourself with it, and dwell in it. Imagine this, look up at the sky – you see those white clouds floating? What do you do when they are floating? You try to make out some familiar shapes at times, but otherwise, you just see them pass, don’t you? You don’t try to own them, avoid them, or chain them. Thoughts are something like that. Can you just observe and let them pass. Don’t give any importance to them. In trying to avoid them, you are giving a lot of importance to them. The minute you give importance, the size of the cloud, or the thought will increase. If you avoid a gentle drizzle, you might get caught up in a storm. To win the war, you have to let go of the battle. Observe the thought, don’t own it. It’s a floating cloud. Don’t act on it. Don’t judge it. Don’t evaluate it. Just dispassionately let it pass. If it helps, look at it from a distance, where you are a bystander and the thoughts are random clouds. Imagine they are black and white. (Add some funny song or tune to it mentally – if you think it helps). But don’t spend too much time paying attention. Let it pass.

Likewise, any emotion too. Like loneliness, or fear, or anything else. Avoiding it will be like an active volcano – any slight trigger and you’ll be waiting to erupt. Face it so that you will emerge on the other side and will be able to see clearly what it was all about. The ones that you are ready to face, cannot threaten you. The ones you try to avoid are the ones that scare you. To face it, you need to believe in yourself that you can see this through. You have gone through a lot in your life and emerged out of it until now. Trust that you can do this too. 

The thoughts and emotions that eventually kill us are the ones that we have desperately tried to avoid. Face them, stand tall – know that you are much bigger than any thought or emotion. Each cloud is a small fraction of the sky. The cloud can never engulf the sky. The sky is much more massive. The cloud can cover up the sky for a short bit but it has to pass. It doesn’t have the stability or the power in itself to stay stuck to any part of the sky ever. Just like your thoughts and yourself. Don’t fear a thought. Don’t fear an emotion. They cannot damage you without your consent. Don’t give your consent. Remind yourself you have an infinite number of thoughts apart from that one silly, odd thought that seems to question you or threaten your existence. If you stop holding on to this one, the next thought will immediately come in – and in that, you might find something nice for yourself.

An interesting data point while we are on this topic – we have around 12000-60000 thoughts per day. And we aren’t fully aware of all of these thoughts. So what makes you think that one particular thought about that person or about that feeling is going to kill you or make your life impossible? It’s your excessive attention to it. The importance you are attaching to that one thought is making you feel like you can’t exist with it. While all the other thousands of thoughts aren’t threatening your existence because you aren’t giving them that importance. In fact, you may not be paying any attention to them even! Let alone giving them importance!

You have to face it to emerge out of it. Yesterday’s blog on impact bias also says how we overestimate the emotional effect of any incident. So, it is not going to be as bad as you are imagining. You own yourself. The thoughts don’t own you. They are mere, powerless clouds. You give them power by giving them importance. That’s when they come down on us like a storm. If you stop feeding those clouds, you’ll have clear skies. A gentle rain once in a while, will not hurt you anyway. 🙂 Wishing you pleasant times!

6 Replies to “This is why you shouldn’t try to avoid a thought or an emotion.”

  1. Outstanding article

    1. Thank you so much

  2. gsriramamurty 2 years ago

    Interesting subject. Reviewed at large intelligently. You may expand on it. Not giving importance to the thoughts and observing them and let them pass is something related to Vipassana meditation where you learn to observe the sensations. God bless you.

    1. Thank you so much 🙏

  3. Vasanthi G 2 years ago

    Thanks for writing it. It helps in a larger extent why we shouldn’t control emotions, as i imagine in this way- I create a big elephant and keep it inside my room and control myself not to look at it and my whole life will be battling with the elephant. I like to read the sentence ” You owe yourself” – simple but powerful intense meaning attached to it. It is what we allow to ourselves, good or bad, until we give the power to it, it has nothing to do with us. Thanks Narmatha for your perseverance to enlighten people’s mind.

    1. Thank you so much Vasanthi. . True. Nice metaphor of the elephant in the room. Thank you for the kind words. I am learning too as I write. 🙂

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