Spirit Grooves Blogs

Published on November 4, 2014

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By any other name it still is a downward spiral, so let's talk about that.

I am not always positive. I do my best, but every once in a while I wander into negativity and I seldom even see it coming. It seems to just happen and it is a bummer every time.

My teacher, Khenpo Rinpoche, gives the analogy of the pig who wants to get into the garden. The time to stop the pig is when he first sticks his nose through the picket fence. That is when a whack on the nose may keep him out. Once he gets in, it is very difficult to remove him and we tend to just chase him round and round while he tramples on everything. My negativity is like that pig. Once it gets in, it makes a terrible mess.

Most of the time I am pretty upbeat and positive but, as mentioned, every now and again I trip up and find myself on a downward spiral – spiraling down. And the nasty part of it is that I usually don't even know I am being negative until I eventually wake up to that fact, always too late for my taste.

Theoretically I know the secret of all this, which the occult scholars might axiomatically state as "Always read life from the inside-out, not from the outside-in." Putting this another way, don't read from the outside and internalize it. Rather, read from inside the mind and bear it out. However, understanding this is one thing; living it quite another.

In other words, don't speculate or draw conclusions, one of the hallmarks of Buddhist logic; don't alter the mind with our speculation or as the Ven. Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche used to say "Your guess is as good as mine."

I like to keep my options open and to extend any goodwill I have to others, but every once in a while the process gets reversed and I fall into the deadly habit of reading from the outside world of events or signs and interpreting them negatively. We could open the whole can of worms psychologists have offered us and call it paranoid, masochistic, and all of that. I am not saying these words are not descriptive, but whichever words apply, the end result is that I start to see myself as a victim. I victimize myself, so to speak.

Once that starts to happen, the pig is in the garden, and I am in free flight and on that downward spiral I mentioned above. One observation leads to another and before I know it (seriously: before I know it) I am on a downer trip, often one that I find very difficult to recover from. It is just like one of those airplanes that go into a downward spin they can't come out of, what is called a "death spiral." I can do that too.

They say there are just two kinds of people, those who have experienced serious back problems and those who have not had real back problems…. yet. When the back goes out, more often than not, there is no big sign like a Charley Horse or a scream of pain. No, more often it is a tiny little "ping" that we feel, followed by our back just going out, leaving us flat on the floor and crawling to the bathroom for a week. This downward spiral is like that. We don't hear it coming.

I slip into it every so subtly. Without it giving me notice, I gently reverse gears and am tempted to give the stream of events I am now locked into a negative interpretation, and I think I am just telling the truth, seeing things as they are. Before I know it, I am reading and interpreting whatever events that I am hypnotized by negatively. I am taking it in and putting a negative spin on it, which spin I then proceed to take personally. My "feelings" get hurt and my mental or psychological airplane begins to go into that downward spin. And most of us are not good enough mind-pilots to pull out of it, so we eventually crash or get sick or whatever, after which we perhaps can snap out of it. Some of us just have to go and lie down. That is the idea.

As I mentioned earlier, the biggest problem for me is recognizing that I am being negative. You would think it would be easy. The transition from positive to negative is so seamless that I fall into it without realizing it. And I find it hard to pull out of it. Typically, I will try to get a witness, someone who agrees with what I am seeing. You know, misery loves company and all of that.

But I find that others are not that willing to abandon their more positive view in favor of my very negative view, even if that negativity is justified. In other words, what I see as negative may be just-so, but how does that help anything? The problem with criticism is making it constructive. It is often easier to tear something down than it is to remodel it and build it better. I should know. I made my living as a music critic of sorts for quite some time, and by nature I am very discriminating, which is just a clean-word for being critical.

William Blake wrote "Enough or too much." Too much criticism is easier to come by than just enough. In the same vein, too much negatively is hard to stop once it heads downhill. We go along for the ride and it is not a pretty sight.

Negativity is like a virus. No one wants to get it and when we show signs of negativity, everyone wants to wash their hands of us. You can't blame them. It could be catching. It is a brave soul who will comfort us without joining us, as we tend to ask. Of course, we want confirmation from others as to the negativity we see, which is not something we made up. Often it is just too true. However, that negative view is at best a diagnosis, not a remedy.

It is the remedy we seek, and that is more than just catabolic, tearing things down. We have to somehow transform that negativity into something creatively useful, and that requires more than a simple diagnosis. For example, almost all of us have diagnosed that Congress is next to useless in our behalf, but where is the person with the remedy? I don't see it yet. Anyway, you get the idea.

This is a difficult problem. I learned to handle deadly poisonous snakes relatively early-on without getting bitten. We all have to do the same thing with negativity. It can be dangerous if we get attached to it and carried away by it. Few people can help us when we get into that negative rut.

In my own life, my dear wife Margaret is learning to reach out to me when I get like that "without" agreeing or joining me in my negativity. Some comfort and support of me (not of my negatively) can pull me out of it so that I realize I am being negative instead of just being negative. Once I realize what is happening to me, I come out of it quickly and am fine again.

And please, don't tell me I am the Lone Ranger in these negative downward spirals. I know better.