Some of us secretly love bad news. We love disasters and mishaps and stomach aches and car crashes, because it means we can go around telling everyone all about the horrible stuff happening to us. But much energy loss in life comes from resistance to that which we cannot control. When we resist what is happening, we often create a story around it which we replay in our mind and our lives, turning a bad moment into a bad day or week. The urge to create stories around situations is very human, but humans are neurotic. Do you want to be neurotic? Do you want to revel in your Woody Allen-ness and always have some horrible tale to tell. Or do you want to be happy? If you want to be happy, start by taking the energy away from the bad in your life. Here’s a practice to try which will disengage you from all your stories and perhaps give you a glimpse at the larger soul that watches from inside us.
How to Lose Bad News: Don’t Give Replays
Activity: the next time something mildly bad happens to you, something that did not really change your life much but perhaps just stunk for a little bit, try this: don’t tell anyone about it. For example, you get cut off in traffic, or your computer crashes, or you have to wait in a long line at the DMV. Have the experience, feel the annoyance, get through it, then move on. But most importantly, tell no one. See what happens. Compare it to previous times when you told everyone about it for two weeks. Does it drive you nuts that you can’t revel in the bad news? Are you almost exploding to tell someone? Then you might be a secret bad news junkie.
Sadly, because we celebrate bad news in our world, we relive the worst parts of our life over and over by retelling, remembering, recalling, rehashing. Skip all that and see how it feels. If you love telling people all the horror stories of your life, it might not feel good right away. You’ll miss the reaction and the attention. If you are a gregarious, extroverted person who needs human contact to gain energy, that’s fine, tell someone all the good stuff that happened. But skip the bad, at least once, and see how it feels.
I learned this years ago while working at a center for students with extreme behavior issues. I realized that when I went home and retold all the horror stories to my wife, I put my body through everything all over again. I relived fights and verbal abuse and failed lesson plans. My heart rate rose, again; my blood boiled, again; all the badness was reinforced. I created stories that lived inside me much longer than they had to. It became part of my identity for a while—the beleaguered teacher at a rough school. Remarkably, when I tried to really recollect a few good things that happened during the day, I usually could. Even if nothing happened, by not celebrating the bad, I could move to a neutral state.
Many modern spiritual teachers make much of the ego, and the fact that we are trapped with a “story” and an “I” that dictates much of how we react to our lives. Bad news junkies let the disasters be their focus. Letting go of bad news before it becomes a complex can be very healing over time. You might notice you hang onto problems less. People might notice you’re less of a drag. You’ll feel lighter. You fume less.
Another deep spiritual practice which is even harder, is to do something really good and not tell anybody. Just once. Donate a sum of money or volunteer, and tell nobody. See how your “I” feels; see how difficult it is to not tell everyone, how hard it is not to let your good deed slip into conversations.
Both methods are ways for us to separate ourselves from our “stories,” our ego, for a few seconds. Both might feel painful at first and then liberating.
GIVE UP taking credit, taking blame, AND DIE to all your horror stories (for at least a little while). You’ll be glad you did.