When having difficulties, feeling sad, frustrated and disappointed. It’s very hard to be positive all the time but know that everything will work out in the long run. Somethings are just a learning experience. I know I should be giving positive meanings to everything that’s happening to me.” I went on and on trying to be positive, but I was really feeling miserable. Haven’t you done the same thing? Haven’t you done your best to put a positive spin on what was happening to you, when deep inside you felt very unhappy? Most of us do that because of the conventional wisdom that it’s better to be positive than negative, optimistic instead of pessimistic. We are constantly admonished that we shouldn’t be victims; we should look at the bright side of things. And of course it is important to banish negative thoughts from consciousness so they don’t manifest.
Unfortunately, pretending that you don’t feel what you actually feel doesn’t make the feelings go away. Yes, you can suppress them so that you aren’t fully in touch with them for a short time. But feelings that you are not in touch with your feelings still affect your health and your behavior. Suppressed fear will still inhibit your behavior and suppressed angry has been linked to heart disease. In fact, suppression doesn’t even work in the long run; suppressed feelings usually pop back into consciousness when you least expect them. So working directly on feelings to try to get rid of them doesn’t work. By dissolving the meaning we give events we are able to simultaneously dissolve any negative feelings caused by the meaning. And if events have no inherent meaning, they can’t make you feel anything. Your feelings come primarily from the meaning you ascribe to events and sometimes from stimulus conditioning.
It should now be clear that pretending you feel good when you really don’t doesn’t work, that suppressing negative feelings doesn’t help, and the only way to really get rid of negative feelings is to dissolve the meaning that is causing the feeling. First, recognize that all meaning exists only in your mind, in other words, that events have no inherent meaning. Second, when you are having negative feelings, allow yourself to experience them fully. Don’t try to cover them up with positive thoughts. Third, ask yourself what meaning you have ascribed to the event facing you that is causing the feeling. Fourth, make a clear distinction between the actual event and the meaning that exists in the world. The only reason the meaning is able to affect you is that it appears to be part of the event, in other words, inherent in the event. As soon as you disconnect the meaning from the event and recognize that the meaning exists only in your mind—and not in the event—it is no longer “The Truth.” At which point it loses its power to create feelings. As a result, when the meaning dissolves, the feeling it causes does also.