There is an insidious quirk to your brain that, if you let it, can drive you insane. Tell me if this sounds familiar to you:
You get anxious about confronting somebody in your life. That anxiety cripples you and you start wondering why you’re so anxious. Now you’re becoming anxious about being anxious. Oh no! Doubly anxious! Now you’re anxious about your anxiety, which is causing more anxiety.
Or let’s say you have an anger problem. You get pissed off at the stupidest, most inane stuff, and you have no idea why. And the fact that you get pissed off so easily starts to piss you off even more. And then, in your petty rage, you realize that being angry all the time makes you a shallow and mean person, and you hate this; you hate it so much that you get angry at yourself. Now look at you: you’re angry at yourself getting angry about being angry.
Or you’re so worried about doing the right thing all the time that you become worried about how much you’re worrying. Or you feel so guilty for every mistake you make that you begin to feel guilty about how guilty you’re feeling. Or you get sad and alone so often that it makes you feel even sadder and alone just thinking about it.
Welcome to the Loop from Hell. Chances are you’ve engaged in it more than a few times. Maybe you’re engaging in it right now: “I do the loop all the time, I’m such a loser for doing it. I should stop. I feel such a loser for calling me a loser. I should stop calling myself a loser. I’m doing it again. See, I’m such a loser.”
Calm down. Believe it or not, this is part of the beauty of being human. Very few animals on earth have the ability to think compelling thoughts, to begin with, but we humans have the luxury of being able to have thoughts about our thoughts.
Now here’s the problem: Our society today, has bred a whole generation of people who believe that having these negative experiences(anxiety, fear, guilt, etc.)is totally not okay. I mean, if you look at your Facebook feed, everybody there is having a great time. Look, eight people got married this week! And some sixteen-year-old got a Mercedes for her birthday. And another kid just made two billion dollars inventing an app. Meanwhile, you’re stuck at home looking at your belly. And you can’t help but think your life sucks even more than you thought.
The Loop from Hell has become a borderline epidemic, making many of us overly stressed, overly neurotic, and overly self-loathing.
Back in Grandpa’s day, he would feel like $h!t and think to himself, “Gee, I sure do feel low today. But hey, I guess that’s just life. Back to farming.”
But now? Now if you feel like $h!t for even five minutes, you’re bombarded with 350 images of people totally happy and having amazing lives, and it’s impossible to not feel like there’s something wrong with you.It’s this last part that gets us into trouble.
We feel bad about feeling bad. We feel guilty for feeling guilty. We get angry about getting angry. We get anxious about feeling anxious. “What is wrong with me?”
This is why not caring about anything is a key. This is why it’s going to save the world. And it’s going to save it by accepting that the world is totally screwed and that’s all right, because it’s always been that way, and always will be.
By not caring about what you feel bad, you short-circuit the Loop from Hell; you say to yourself, “I feel like $h!t, but who gives a f*(*?” And then, you stop hating yourself for feeling so bad.
The desire for more positive experience is itself a negative experience. And, paradoxically, the acceptance of one’s negative experience is itself a positive experience.
This is totally mind meddling, right? So I’ll give you a minute to straighten your brain and maybe read that again: Wanting positive experience is a negative experience; accepting negative experience is a positive experience. This is what is usually referred as “the backward’s law” -the idea that the more you pursue feeling better all the time, the less satisfied you become, as pursuing something only reinforces the fact that you lack it in the first place. The more you desperately want to be rich, the poorer and unworthy you feel, regardless of how much money you actually make. The more you desperately want to be sexy and desired, the uglier you come to see yourself, regardless of your actual physical appearance. The more you desperately want to be happy and loved, the lonelier and more afraid you become, regardless of those who surround you.
“You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.”
Ever notice that sometimes when you care less about something, you do better at it? Notice how it’s often the person who is the least invested in the success of something that actually ends up achieving it? Notice how sometimes when you stop caring about what others think, everything seems to fall into place?
What’s interesting about the backwards law is that it’s called “backwards” for a reason: not giving a f*(* works in reverse. If pursuing the positive is negative, then pursuing the negative generates the positive. The failures in business are what lead to a better understanding of what’s necessary to be successful. Suffering from your fears and anxieties is what allows you to build courage and perseverance.
Seriously, I could keep going, but you get the point. Everything worthwhile in life is won through overcoming the associated negative experience.
Any attempt to escape the negative, to avoid it or quash it or silence it, only backfires. The avoidance of suffering is a form of suffering. The avoidance of struggle is a struggle. The denial of failure is a failure. Hiding what is shameful is itself a form of shame.
Pain is an inseparable thread in the fabric of life, and to tear it out is not only impossible but destructive: attempting to tear it out unravels everything else with it. To try to avoid pain is to care about pain. In contrast, if you’re able to not care about the pain, you become unstoppable.