Getting rid of negative thoughts

The other day I was walking along the coastline, listening to Mozart (the quite happy and carefree 9th piano concerto to be precise), when some forgotten thoughts started coming back to me. Not the welcoming nice thoughts, but negative incidents where something bad had happened. Accidents. Arguments. Career failures. All sorts of things. It was then that I realised: I always manage to get over them but there is usually a bitter after-taste.

It is true. We can all to get over them.

It occurred to me that it is at random times and usually during the quiet moments when I try to relax or when I go for a walk or jog and let my mind wander off, that these thoughts keep coming back to me. Perhaps I was mistaken to have described them as the equivalent of an after-taste. Just think about it: an after-taste is experienced immediately after the taste (I know you don’t need brains to figure this out). In case of an unpleasant experience, the memory of it lingers for quite a while (and sometimes forever). Is it possible to get rid of it completely and treat it just like an after-taste?

In my opinion, even to call it an after-taste or treat it like one is to diminish its therapeutic qualities. There are things to learn and mistakes to avoid — in other words, it involves a whole healing cycle. Still, it’s true that even when you get over it, the negative thoughts could persist.

So is this how life is supposed to be from now on? A continuation of random occurrences of negative experiences?

The short answer is no. But bad memories will certainly continue to resurface. And for some of us, the way our brain circuits function is such that these incidents might last longer and be more intense. There are, however, some steps that can be taken to counteract these.

  • First, acknowledge that this is only a memory. That is, just a thought. The negative experience exists only as a distant occurrence in your mind, you know this because not all details can be remembered. You are not relieving the actual event, but only bringing back certain recollections.
  • Having acknowledged that it is only a visual image, realise that there are thousands of people, millions even, who undergo the same exhaustive process of recurring negative thoughts. Even the moment you are having them. Even when you are reading this.
  • Remind yourself that it now belongs to the past, and you were strong enough to have gone through it.
  • Tell yourself that the chance of something similar happening again is small, but now at least you know what to expect.
  • If you believe in mediation, mindfulness, or positive thinking, go ahead and meditate. Meditation is one of the easiest things to do at home, all you need is a quiet place. There are tons of articles online on how to meditate (just be sure to find reliable sources), many books you can read or even professionals who could guide you. Sometimes mediation can be as simple as closing your eyes, focusing on your breathing until you relax and then visualising a calm scene of your choice. Next time your brain drifts away to to negative thoughts, try to bring back the setting you have created through visualisation. By doing that, you gradually train your brain to associate moments of relaxation with a peaceful visual image instead of letting negative thoughts come to the surface.
  • If visualisation is not your thing, then try to remember a specific success, an accomplishment in your life. Something you have achieved and were congratulated upon. Or think of an instance where you did something good for someone else and how you both felt by that action. Try to stick to this positive situations and replace it with the negative though.
  • Sometimes thinking of someone or something of breathtaking beauty is enough to make you temporarily shift away from negative thinking. It can even be a place or a favourite film or book.

So next time your brain wanders off to past negative experiences just bear this in mind: it is only a past image created in your brain, this means it has already happened, it‘s not occurring now, and that it is only normal for the brain to bring it back. This happens to everyone. Just then, by telling your brain to think about positive incidents or personal accomplishments you are training it to avoid such thoughts.

Photo by Tom Podmore on Unsplash

What happened to witty flirting?

dating, chat up lines, dating techniques pride and prejudice

That means flirting through clever dialogue, no chitter-chatter.

I’ve been witness to the following, goofy efforts:

  • Offensive chat-up lines: “I thought I saw you staring at me, let me introduce myself…”
  • Silly compliments: “Those three tiny moles on your shoulder look like the Bermuda Triangle and I’m ready to vanish into it.”
  • Childish accidents: “Sorry, my friend who’s quite drunk accidentally pushed me towards your direction, I didn’t mean to spill my drink on you…”
  • Buying a drink for the stranger at the end of the bar and waiting for him/her to come and say thank you. Who do you really think you are?
  • Real slutty dress code reaction, like when a guy pulls up his sleeves to show his biceps (yes, we all have them) or a girl “rearranges” her neckline.
  • And most of all: enough with the intense staring. Unless you have the charisma of a James Bond or Marlo Brando you’ll make an uncomfortable situation. This needs tact, and just plain staring is usually associated with stalker tactics.

Of course, there is the no-nonsense approach of “Do you want to go back to my place?” which usually works but a) is as cheap as anything, b) implies your motive is sex only, c) doesn’t give you a sense a fulfilment (after all anyone would say yes to a free meal).

Instead of the above silly methods, why aren’t we more old-fashioned?

There is some kind of pleasure in the pre-flirtatious games. You know, for instance, when trying to guess the mysterious aura that surrounds the other person: Not just who they are, but what they might like, the way they move, their facial gestures, their body language. Where could they be coming from? What are they seeking? What are their failures and ambitions in life?

Of course in the 18th and 19th-century people used witty dialogue to flirt with each other. You should already know that if you’ve read your Jane Austen and Henry James. There is nothing sexier than trying to stimulate the senses through the brain. Being intelligent with a good sense of humour (no slapstick comedy style allowed), showing you are really interested in finding out about the other person’s character instead of just gossiping.

It’s the little details that matter in a conversation and, alas, it seems that we have lost the art of fine speech.
Why? Well, for one, people can’t seem to engage in clever conversation anymore. Blame it on text messaging, the social media, the fast pace of modern life, the Internet. Or let’s just get rid of any lame excuses and just blame it on incompetence.

The big question is: do we need to be among these people?
Should we take it as a compliment if one flirts with us, even if the flirting technique is downright dopey?

A search for witty on a thesaurus bring ups the following results:
sparkling, ingenious, lively, entertaining, clever, smart, sharp-witted, piquant, quick-witted, waggish, epigrammatic, scintillating, facetious, original, jocular…

Which makes you think: so many words for an art that is lost…

The importance of not waiting for others

It is important not to wait for others, at least not always. Sometimes it is important to just do things on your own. This can be anything from having fun, travelling or taking a spiritual journey. Let’s say you want to stream a new series or movie online. You have flatmates or friends who’ve said they want to watch it with you but they keep finding excuses. They are tired or lazy that day, they’ve had last minute arrangements with their girlfriends or boyfriends, or they’ve just decided to make unimportant phone calls and gossip with other friends first. Well, screw them! All I know you could have watched not one but two new episodes of that series. Or two different movies and manage to get some work done in between (and we all know how much more productive we can be when there’s a treat waiting for us). As for us the most highbrow fellow, how many times did we want to watch that obscure film from that Scandinavian director but our dear friends (or others) kept asking us to wait for them. Why should our spiritual development (because that is what high art is all about) depend on the laziness of others?

If you’re like me, having to wait for someone usually makes you unproductive. Let’s say you arrange to meet with a friend downtown to grab something to eat or for a quick coffee and chat. Most people would usually try to get some productive work done until then. But if you’re the type of person who gets easily worried about things, your focus will be on the meeting, no matter how informal it is. What happens is you might start working or running some errands but your mind is going to be on that meeting. You are aware of time going by and the meeting approaching. Then you receive a text message from your friend asking you to meet one hour later instead. You are being polite so you say it’s cool and, what the heck, an hour later is fine. Still, you try to do something with your free time but you can’t focus 100%. And things get really bad when you receive a new text cancelling the meeting with some lame excuse. Then you start to get really upset. Not only have you wasted so much time when you could have been working or doing something you had planned to, but you also miss your chance to get out. Had you known in advance you’d have made arrangements with someone else instead.

When I used to live in London, I’d often go to classical music concerts or to the cinema, usually once or twice a week (student tickets were really cheap back then so it was easy for me). In the beginning, I’d usually ask friends of mine to come along. They’d say sure and sometimes they’d ask me to book tickets for them too. Of course, being really polite, I went ahead with the bookings. Only to receive a text message on the day of the event (never a phone call, always a text) with another lame excuse asking me to cancel the tickets. Sometimes it was too late for me to do so and I’d pay the extra cost. Of course, I’d usually text back and play it cool. “Sure no problem, I just don’t think I can get the money back for the booking at this time,” I’d say. Sometimes my closest friends would text back right away to reassure me that they would definitely pay the ticket price. But more often than not they didn’t.

I had learnt my lesson. After a few similar incidents (OK, after many similar incidents), I decided I would go to the events on my own. And you know what? If people wanted to come along, I’d tell them that I’d already booked my ticket (which was true). Sometimes they would join me anyway. But after a while, I realised that I got too much pressure from them. Quite often they wouldn’t like the concert or the movie. Feeling responsible for that, I’d try to cheer them up. You know, offer to go and buy them a drink afterwards, try to talk about a topic they like. That would work. But I’d feel exhausted after a while. So I took the decision to start going everywhere on my own. And guess what. All of a sudden I started enjoying more all these events without worrying what the person sitting next to me would be thinking. What is more, now I was even free to express myself. I’d laugh out loud with a slapstick comedy joke without worrying that my friend mightn’t have found it funny. I’d let myself be moved by the sheer beauty of a concert.

There are two incidents worth quoting here. The first one was a viewing of the Kieslowski Three Colours trilogy at an arthouse cinema. I went there with a good friend of mine. For those who haven’t seen the trilogy, I won’t give away any spoilers, but let me just say that the trilogy culminates in the finale of the last film (Red). I recall anticipating that moment, that great climax where the trilogy makes sense as a whole, and when that moment finally arrived my buddy burst out laughing. He was like, “Isn’t it funny how the director pulls this off at the finale?” OK, now… Funny??? Jaw-dropping, maybe. You could perhaps say magisterial. Virtuosic even. But funny, ha-ha funny???

I vividly remember another occasion: it happened to be my name day and to celebrate it I went to a concert of Beethoven’s 9th (either at the Barbican or the Royal Festival Hall, can’t remember which one). A friend of mine had joined me, someone who also shared a passion for classical music. I remember being totally moved by the slow movement and its emotional impact overwhelmed me so much, I was doing my best to hold back my tears.

After the end of that movement there was a brief pause, the perfect moment for me to reach out to get a tissue, sniffling, my eyes watery, at which point my friend whispered to my ear: “Oh dear, I hope you didn’t catch a cold on the way here!” For me, that had been the anti-climax of the whole evening and I still remember finding that comment so off-putting. Needless to say, I couldn’t enjoy the rest of the concert. The Ode to Joy turned out to be an Ode to Frustration for me.


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