Do bad thoughts make me a bad person?
Are you a good person if you randomly think bad thoughts — strangling your annoying co-worker, perhaps? What about if bizarre (and scary) thoughts like, “I just want to die,” cross your mind. (Note: This article isn’t geared towards those with serious mental disorders, but those who feel stable and maybe a little neurotic — aka most people in the world.)
The answer to whether you’re a good person if bad thoughts arise: Of course you’re a good person!
Here’s an affirmation for when you question your innate goodness: I am a good person because if I was a bad person, I wouldn’t care about being good.
However, when bad thoughts arise, it can be difficult to love yourself. You might even question your sanity. In a world where we place so much emphasis on thoughts — changing them, analyzing them, inspiring them — it’s easy to focus too much on the endless chatter running through your mind.
The most important thing to understand about thoughts is they don’t matter that much. Thoughts are always there; it doesn’t mean you have to interact with them. You can just let them exist, as you do during meditation. Notice them and, if it serves you, wonder, “Oh, that’s interesting. I wonder why I think that.”
Two things matter regarding thoughts: Whether you believe them and what meaning you give them.
I believe in an energy-first philosophy. This means that the essence of who we are is energy. Thoughts are a manifestation of that energy. When your energy is pure and loving, your thoughts will be pure and loving. When your energy is low, your thoughts will be low.
Yet still, bad thoughts arise. So what do you do?
1. Remember that bad thoughts are not necessarily beliefs.
You can think any number of crazy thoughts. The important question is — do you believe it? If you think racist thoughts when someone of another ethnicity walks by, does this make you a bad person?
Not unless you back that thought up with an evil intention. The thought alone only highlights inner work needed in this area. Thoughts result from both conscious and unconscious programming.
Some programming doesn’t even belong to you, but the society you live in. The spiritual journey is one of becoming aware of all your thoughts. These thoughts highlight not whether you’re good or bad, but the type of programming your mind computer has.
Awareness is a good thing. Awareness gives you the power of choice.
The path of consciousness requires you to notice your thoughts, decide if you want to believe them, and investigate their source. A thought is only a problem if you identify with it, and it causes you suffering.
If you allow yourself to stop identifying with those thoughts you don’t believe, they can no longer make you suffer. A so-called bad thought is no problem. It’s a problem if you identify with it.
If you don’t want to identify with it, simply let it go. If it’s not yours, it will be easy to let go.
2. Become curious.
When thoughts you don’t like arise, instead of judging yourself for them, become curious. Ask yourself, why am I thinking this way? It’s a great opportunity for self-discovery. Thoughts aren’t good or bad, they’re neutral. The meaning we ascribe to the thought makes all the difference.
Assume you’re innately good instead of innately bad. Allow this thought to illuminate parts of yourself and life that could use extra love. Love heals. Loving yourself more heals the energy block that’s creating the thought in the first place.
3. Tune into the energy underneath the thought.
Several years ago, a scary thought use to arise all the time: If X doesn’t happen, I’m going to kill myself. I know this seems scary, but maybe you’ve also had random, similar thoughts.
It didn’t happen in the middle of a depression, and I didn’t mean it seriously. It didn’t concern me, but shocked me into realizing how seriously I was taking my life.
It was a call to lighten up, to value myself and my wellbeing over the outcome of a specific event. To release control and accept that life doesn’t always go perfectly, and that’s okay.
Soon, I noticed these thoughts typically arise under certain conditions — when I’m not showing up for myself. When my self-care has slacked and I’ve been seeking external validation.
Maybe I was tired, had been pushing too hard and needed a break. Maybe I hadn’t been having enough fun, hadn’t allowed myself to play without purpose.
If you’re seriously depressed, please get help. But if you feel stable and aren’t actually considering harmful behavior, just tune into the bad thought. Cozy up to it. Connect to the love you seek.
The beauty of the spiritual journey is that it’s a process of illuminating all the dark corners of your heart and soul, bathing them all the sweet, loving light of awareness.
4. Use dark thoughts as an opportunity to love yourself even more.
Unconditional self-love matters the most right now, when you’re not sure if you’re worth loving. The answer is always of course! Of course you’re worthy of love.
Tune into your higher self, the quiet, gentle giant that’s always there inside and out. Think about the great infinite love that never judges you, but only feels endless compassion. Have compassion for yourself in this time of mental turmoil.
Cultivate the sense that you are your own best friend, always there for yourself, never judging. We all want a safe place, and to find people with whom we can feel safe, not judged. Create this safe, judgment-free zone for yourself, in your own heart.
This is an essence of unconditional self-love. Noticing these thoughts, especially those that lend themselves to harsh judgment, and tune in to them. Run towards them, not away, and ask yourself, How can I better show up for myself right now?
How do you cultivate love for yourself, even when bad thoughts arise? Share your tips in the comments below.
p.s. Know someone who needs help loving themselves? Forward this article to them. They’ll appreciate you for it!
p.p.s. I haven’t been offering coaching for awhile, but feel called to offer it again. If you’re interested, reply to this email or click here for more details.
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