The Truth About Cutting Out Negativity
Hilton Head Island is covered with gorgeous leisure paths for cyclists, runners, joggers, skaters, and walkers to find their way to the beach and explore the natural beauty and historical artifacts of the island. A few houses up from where I live there is a fork in the path. This is one of my favorite places in the world. Each time I approach the fork, I bask in its symbolism. Where do I want to go? What path do I want to take?
The choice is mine, always. My choice inspires everything I say or do. So, what or who do I want to be? Now? This moment? What inspires me most? What expression of myself makes life worth living?
Will I be bold?
Or will I be small?
As you develop new habits and practices to free yourself and protect your thinking from the influence of the Mountain of Lies, it may be tempting to start cutting out things in your life that make you feel uncomfortable. We find plenty of encouragement to cut out anything negative from our lives, like these unsound quotes on social media:
Unfriend those that don't share your same opinion, philosophy, or political persuasion. Cut off family and friends you deem negative or unsupportive. Cut. Cut. Cut. The lie is that if you do this, it means you love yourself. The truth is that if you do this, it means you deny yourself (and others) the opportunity to grow.
Please don't make this mistake.
The lessons in Journey Back to Me are intended to equip you to lead a large, bold life -- fully equipped to handle whatever life and circumstances throw at you and to become increasingly effective in the face of fear and negativity. The lessons are not meant to help you lead a small, sheltered life, protected from anything that might make you feel uncomfortable.
"A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are designed for."
To live large requires a proficiency in dealing with the various forms "negativity" takes. And that is what you were designed for -- adventure, growth. And to weather storms.
Cutting someone off because you have deemed them to be negative is not an act of self-love. It's a justification to stay in your comfort zone disguised as wisdom or proof you have given up on someone disguised as self-care. You're lying to yourself.
Before you go cutting someone off, there are a few things you should know.
First, cutting someone off is avoidance of an issue, not a resolution. It makes the symptoms disappear, but the root cause remains unaddressed. The root cause that can make the entire problem go away is not over there with the the condemned and banished. It's over here, with us. We are the ones cutting ourselves off from the opportunity to grow. And to make a difference for the other person. (There is no power waiting for them to change.)
Second, the short-sighted solution has long-term impact on you and your peace of mind. The toll you must pay for lying to yourself is collected in the background. You may not be aware, convinced everything is fine, but the high price is extorted all the same. The more you avoid something, the more difficult it gets to confront its underlying fear. Nothing disappears through avoidance. Instead, the thing you work to avoid increases its power over you.
So, you may not see or talk to the person you voted off your island, but you are far from free, far from complete. Especially if you didn't have a conversation for closure; you just cut off all communication -- one last punishing action to prove how well you take care of yourself. And then you bury it deep. And commend yourself on the wisdom of your actions.
It is inevitable. Years later, even though you haven't seen the person for years, you see a reminder of that person and POW. There it is. That thing. That little jab in your gut that says something's not right. The little reminder that proves YOU ARE NOT FREE. You never were. You were lying to yourself. Because cutting someone off is not an act of love. Period. Hint: If it was an act of love, it would be called something else. Likely, boundary setting. :)
If you have read Journey Back to Me, it's like collecting a grievance coin. Instead of throwing the coin away (forgiving), you tuck the grievance away in your mind, unwilling to let it go. Hidden in the back of a drawer, the grievance coin grows more heavy on your heart as time passes.
Stop, you say. Isn't it prudent to surround myself with those that are encouraging and supportive? Yes.
Isn't it judicious to safeguard myself from intentional maliciousness? Yes.
And limit my exposure to conflict? Only when you are intentionally building the muscle to deal effectively with the conflict in the future. You know you are on a slippery slope when you limit your information consumption, conversations, and companions to only those you agree with -- cutting yourself off from opposing or varying points of view.
Isn't it wise to structure my life to avoid as much negativity as possible? No. Or cut yourself off from those you love for this reason or that? No. No. No. Even if you have good reasons. Good reasons are insufficient for you to endure the hidden long-term pain.
There is a huge difference in honoring the temporary need to rejuvenate yourself and honoring the desire to permanently avoid the fear/dread of dealing with another.
To achieve anything of significance requires overcoming obstacles and will almost certainly require dealing with negativity. How will you increase your effectiveness in the face of conflict, resignation, criticism, pessimism, sadness, grief, different opinions, or anything "negative" if you shield yourself from it? Simply said, you can't. It takes practice. And these are opportunities to practice.
Victory over negativity trumps avoidance from it any day of the week.
If you are around "negative people" or in a "negative environment," one of the following can happen:
Your energy and mood drop to match the environment (which is what you fear and try to avoid when you cut people out of your life) or worse, you spiral even lower
You are able to maintain high energy and stay positive
You are able to elevate your energy and positivity despite the negativity
You are able to help shift the energy and uplift the people around you, including the "negative" ones. You are unfazed by what others may define as "negative".
This is a natural progression of what's possible through practice. Just as with Liza, your liberation is a function of freeing your mind from negativity -- not avoiding what or who you currently perceive as negative in your outside world. By definition, your practice will include victories and non-victories. Each is a gift.
Don't succumb to internet wisdom.
The next time you approach that beautiful fork in the road, which path will you take? Will you be bold? Or will you be small?
You choose! Always.
Excerpt from Journey Back to Me
I open a drawer. It is heavy with green coins identical to the ones in my pocket.
“Your collection of G’s,” explains the voice.
“Your grievances and grudges. We collect them and carry them with us as if they hold some future value, but they never do. They only weigh us down.”
The green coin feels heavy in my hand. I know what grievance it represents. I toss it to the floor. It disappears. I feel lighter. The eyes light up with approval. I grab handfuls of coins from the drawer, toss them down, and watch them disappear as they hit the floor. “I don’t need these!” I shout and proceed to discard my grievances.
After a while I ask, “Why are some coins much heavier than others?"
"The weight of the coin is equivalent to the burden we feel and the strength of our justification to keep it. The more we hate, fear, or avoid, the heavier the coin. The irony is if you do not toss the coin, the very situation you resist or avoid is bound to recur. That gives your grievance even more weight.”
“And the probability it will show up again.”
“Yes. A coin is easier to toss early on and becomes heavier and more difficult to toss the longer you keep it.”
My arms tire so I select the lightest ones and continue to toss them to the floor. Is the lightness I experience when the coins disappear real or imagined? My thoughts quibble over the answer. I sense it is real.