A little scenario: You're perfectly happy and going about your business, maybe even delightfully surprised by the realization that you're all right and all's well with the world. Suddenly, in the midst of all that feeling good, a little thought creeps up. Microscopic as that teeny nugget of negativity is, it still manages to overtake that other feeling of goodness and peace until it becomes all you can fixate on. And perversely enough, you actually find yourself believing that the act of thinking this thought will somehow save you in the long run, as if by focusing on it now, you can exorcise it from your consciousness forever.
When all's said and done, this is the strange quandary that has befallen me: choosing to fixate on those stealthy negative thoughts because I've convinced myself that by dealing with them now, I'm getting them out of my system and making myself a stronger person. What's so ludicrous about this is that the negative thought is obviously not the same as a neutral thought about something that could be construed as negative. That's because the latter is something I am capable of considering from multiple perspectives and with a sense of rational, uninvested detachment. No sirree Bob--this negative thought is hyperbole personified and it's got you persuaded that it's more important, more worthy of your physical and mental energy, than any friggin' beautiful sunset or warm fuzzy feeling you're apt to be afflicted with now and then. The funniest thing, to me, is that the thought seldom has anything to do with a tangible problem that can be identified as occurring in the actual present--I am, in fact, more likely to get all worked up over a memory of the school bully stealing my ice cream when I was nine years old rather than something that poses an actual threat to my life right now.
I think that for me, seeing how I perpetuate negative thoughts by allowing them space and importance is a profound realization and one of the first steps to actually learning to let such thoughts go altogether. Of course, by affirming the negatives and letting ourselves get caught up in the minor dramas of worry or anxiety or compulsive thinking, we're not--as I mistakenly have told myself--simply making ourselves stronger and attending to our stuff. By getting caught up in the swirling eddy of emotion, we are doing the exact opposite--perpetuating those destructive beliefs so that they keep recurring at the most inconvenient times, like when we're actually happy. This enervates us and makes us weak and helpless in the face of things like love and beauty and joy--rather than embracing those things, we retreat to the simplest solution for the ego: focusing on the rotten eggs. In truth, there is nothing easy or effortless about feeling down in the dumps. It takes up precious energy and time that could be spent soaking up the majesty of the moment.
By learning to watch our minds rather than take the images on the movie screen of our consciousness for granted as real and true, we can learn to say "no" to the negatives and embrace the vitality that is accessible to us at any moment.