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Thinking a Different Way

In my last post, I reviewed the implications of Shakespeare’s quote from Hamlet, “There is nothing good or bad but thinking makes it so.”
When we tap into the power of this statement, we can liberate ourselves from a great deal of unnecessary distress and suffering. One way of doing this is trying to refrain from judging situations as “good” or “bad.” As soon as we judge something as positive or negative, the corresponding emotions will be activated. For many situations, we can totally circumvent unnecessary suffering by practicing “nonjudgment.”

Here’s an example from my life. One evening, I was planning to go to the gym for a group fitness class. I could not find my car keys – a maddening situation to which everyone can relate. I was growing increasingly frantic and frustrated…I was about to miss my class! I finally told myself, “This is not good or bad. It just is.” That totally relieved my distress. I found my keys, but too late to go to the group fitness class.

So, I just went for a jog in the neighborhood. Did I really miss out on something significant? No, I didn’t. I still got my exercise in and could enjoy my run in the neighborhood. After all, jogging was not inferior to the group fitness class. It was just different.

Now, I want to make clear that I do not always do this successfully, but I have gotten more proficient over the years with practice. Also, it can work well for the day-to-day frustrations in life but is not really intended for tragedies that may befall us (e.g., a friend dies in a car accident). Still, the principle is a powerful one and worth a try because most of our distress in life comes from the day-to-day events. Consider keeping a journal in which you track your use of this technique. It is not just an effective strategy, it can become a way of life that liberates you from a lot of unnecessary suffering.

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