26 Mar Why is right thought so important?
It is important because it influences our actions. It is important because it builds up character and a steadfast mind. It is important because upon it our well-being and the success of our whole life depend. It is important because it is by right thought that we can overcome harmful suggestion.
First of all we have to realize that thought is the cause of our actions and decisions. It is largely because of this that our circumstances depend upon our thoughts. If, for instance, we do not overcome life’s difficulties in our thoughts, then we can never overcome them in actual experience. By this I mean that our difficulties must be boldly met and conquered in thought, if ever we are to hope to overcome them actually. In a way it is good advice to tell people not to dwell upon their woes but to think of pleasant things instead, but it is liable to lead to a habit of thought almost as destructive as brooding over trouble. This negative application of what is meant to be good advice is responsible for the failure of those who say: “I have tried right- thinking, but it makes no difference.” The reason “it makes no difference” is that it is not right-thinking at all, but actually a form of wrong-thinking. Such people say: “I never indulge in wrong thoughts about my troubles, I refuse to think about them.” Just so, and it is here where the whole trouble lies. Instead of life’s trouble being met boldly and conquered in thought they are run away from. As soon as the mind comes up against an unpleasant thought, thought of an irksome duty that must be done or of a crisis that must be faced, or of a difficulty that has to be overcome, the mind “dodges” it and hits on to something more pleasant. The one who says: “I never think of my troubles” and who runs away from unpleasant thoughts of this kind finds that he can never overcome the actual difficulties when they arise. In fact his so-called right thinking prevents him from making decisions and from dealing firmly and sensibly with his difficulties. We must first overcome in our thoughts, if ever we are to overcome in actual experience.
The world may be divided into two classes of people: (1) those who overcome life, and (2) those who are overcome by life. Those who overcome life’s difficulties are those who do so in thought. Those who are overcome by life’s difficulties are those who do not overcome in thought. If the latter have not deliberately made a practice of “dodging” unpleasant thoughts in an unfortunate attempt to follow a form of wrong thinking which they erroneously believed to be right-thinking, they yet are passive; that is, they fail to overcome, in thought, the difficulty that must be overcome, sooner or later, in actual experience.
The secret of overcoming is in thought victory. If we continually overcome in our thoughts we develop a steadfast mind. Without a steadfast mind it is impossible to be victorious in life’s battle. On the other hand, there is no difficulty, capable of human solution, that cannot be overcome by a steadfast mind. Indeed, if a man’s mind is steadfastly directed towards a certain object, not only will he be truly successful, but the most remarkable things may happen or be achieved, beyond anything that might be hoped for or expected.
The mind becomes powerful, growing in strength continually, through meeting a difficulty, in thought; moving forward towards the difficulty, in thought; and then putting the weight of the mind and will behind it. Then the “whole man” moves forward, going right through the difficulty to the other side, victoriously. This generates inward power, that is cumulative, which, when we come to our difficulty in actual experience, helps us through it successfully.
Now this is quite different from worrying over things. Worry is a destroyer. By worrying over our troubles we not only stimulate fear, one of the most destructive of the emotions, but we also wear grooves in the brain, round which our thoughts revolve in endless repetition. The brain becomes so constructed or arranged, through the practice of worrying, that worry becomes a habit. That is to say, as soon as a thought of some impending trouble comes to us, or something goes wrong in our life or work, or we think that something has gone wrong or will go wrong, or we fear that it may go wrong, then immediately the cells used by worry are stimulated into action—being already fully charged with nervous energy, waiting to explode—and round and round the thoughts go, along the groove prepared for them. Then good-bye to our peace of mind; good-bye to sleep; and, in time, good-bye to health.
Some people are of a worrying nature. They inherit it from their parents. The writer is one of them. Some people, on the contrary, never worry about anything. If they were sentenced to death they would probably sit down and read a book; if the executioner stood beside them they would probably say: “Please wait a minute or two until I have finished this chapter.” A certain man of my acquaintance had once to be told that he was suffering from a disease that would rob him of one of his senses. “Now,” he was told, “you must try not to worry about it.” He laughed a quiet, untroubled laugh and then said: “I shall not worry; we are not a worrying family; we take things as they come, and we find they are not so very dreadful after all. There are always compensations.”
This shows the amazing difference there is in people’s nature and temperament. We think, however, that the proportion of people who worry is much larger than that of those who do not. As the subject of worry is such an important one, a separate chapter must be devoted to it.
But while we must not worry about our troubles or imaginary fears, yet we must meet them boldly in thought and will. On no account must we run away from them, for there probably is nothing more negative and destructive than this. Those who refuse to face their difficulties and who keep on dodging the issue are, generally speaking, the greatest of worriers. Avoiding the issue in thought increases the trouble, therefore there is really more about which to worry.
At the risk of repeating myself I must again point out this most vital and important truth that we must overcome in thought. The teaching that bids you merely to dismiss your trouble from your mind and think of pleasant things, or to indulge in a day-dreaming, can be positively followed, but as usually applied is quite negative. When applied in a negative way it weakens the will, robs one of initiative, and destroys one’s power to decide and act. Instead of avoiding the issue, whenever the thought of the impending trouble or difficulty rises into consciousness, we should meet it boldly, affirming our ability to overcome it and be victorious. If, every time the thought arises, it is met with an affirmation of power, overcoming and victory, then when the time arrives to meet the difficulty in actual experience, we find that we have ample power to overcome and go victoriously through the experience. We find ourselves steadfast in mind and possessed of a reserve of power that surprises us.
Meeting thoughts of failure, difficulty or fear in this way has an effect upon the subconscious mind. It receives a definite lead and realises what is expected of it. Being a faithful servant it does not fail us. These affirmations may be of various kinds and must of necessity vary according to the type of person using them. To one no affirmation that is not scriptural and devotional in character can be of any assistance. To another a “religious” type of affirmation would not be helpful, but a more psychological form might be satisfactory. Each must choose that form that appeals to him. One who starts with a psychological form of affirmation may finally adopt a religious or devotional one. The form that appeals to one “at the present time” is the right one at the present time.
When, therefore, the religiously-minded person encounters a thought of difficulty, trial or fear he can meet it boldly with the counter thought or affirmation: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthened me, therefore I will go right through this trouble in the power of Christ which is mine to use now and always.”
At the same time he can picture himself going through his difficulty with a push, being carried along by invisible powers. In course of time a mental habit is formed of meeting all difficulties and fears mentally with a victorious push. Instead of running away from them in thought, they are met, naturally and habitually, by a “feeling” of victorious push. One who does this becomes very strong, steadfast, persevering, persistent and “big” in character.
Another type may not be able to use the religious form of affirmation, but he may use something similar but in a different form. He may meet the thought of trouble or fear by merely repeating the words: Success, victory, overcoming; at the same time picturing himself going through his trouble or difficulty triumphantly, sustained and strengthened by powers he does not understand, but which well up within him.
Through cultivating this habit of mind the life becomes greatly changed, simply because the character is improved out of all knowledge. Instead of life’s difficulties overwhelming him, the student overcomes them. When he has achieved this victory he finds fresh fields to conquer, new and beautiful vistas opening before him. He finds that he can mould and shape his character, and by this means, mould and shape his life.
Some people think in the form of mental pictures. The nature of their life and the character of their circumstances, depend upon the character of their mental pictures. Therefore, if they are those of trouble, failure, etc., they should be reversed into their positive opposite. Some people are naturally given to negative mental picturing. When they think of quarter-day they picture themselves as unable to pay their rent, and the awful consequences, such as forced sale, eviction, and so on. When they think of business, if a proprietor, they see a picture of bankruptcy, and of themselves in the Court, being cross-examined by the Official Receiver. If they belong to the employed classes, they picture themselves as out of work, homeless, one of the thousands vainly seeking employment, and suffering all the ills and discomforts that such a position entails. If they see an accident, they picture themselves as a victim, all mangled by the roadside. If they see or read of a hospital, they mentally see themselves as an inmate, undergoing a fearful operation, or saying good-bye to their weeping relatives, as they pass on to a less terrible world.
Unfortunately, allowing such mental pictures to occupy the mind is liable to attract to them the very conditions that they fear and visualise; therefore, it is of the utmost importance that all such negative mental pictures should be reversed into their positive opposites. By this means, not only are the evil effects of such harmful picturings avoided but the very opposite states are made possible in one’s experience. If instead these mental pictures of failure, poverty, disaster, accident, disease and death are transmuted into pictures of success, prosperity, health, protection from danger and a happy old age, then these desirable states tend to manifest in the life, in place of the undesirable ones which might have appeared otherwise. For instance, if instead of seeing a mental picture of eviction, or of being “sold up” as a result of not being able to pay the rent, a mental picture is persisted in of rent paid, a comfortable home, with no care, then this happy state of affairs is likely to manifest—much more so than would otherwise be the case. As mental picturing is probably the most powerful form of thinking, too much importance can hardly be paid to its right cultivation. The effect of such cultivation is to bring about a state of positive-mindedness, a most desirable condition. It also builds up character, making us strong where once we were weak, and able to achieve many things which we were before quite unable to undertake.