While we spit into the wind and complain about the insanity of our leaders, we might as well examine our own thinking. President Obama is not so different than you and me—when we are in an ego state-of-mind, we are in fascinated with our own thinking and the solutions that arise from our thinking.
No matter how dysfunctional our thinking is, no matter how much pain it causes us or others, we refuse to question it. We are in an abusive relationship with our own thinking, and we fail to see that we can open the door and just leave those thoughts behind.
My elderly aunt is in a nursing home. Although her physical situation is problematical, her mind is still “clear.” The only problem is she spends her days using her mind to rehearse grievances. My brother and sister-in-law live nearby, and the burden of my aunt’s care has fallen primarily on them. My aunt complains bitterly, almost daily, about my sister-in-law. No matter what my sister-in-law does for my aunt, in my aunt eyes, it is either not enough or she did it the wrong way. The other night, I had this conversation with my aunt.
Aunt: “Your sister-in-law has not been here to see me.”
Me: “That’s good; you complain about how much she upset you every time she comes.”
Aunt: “She should still come. She makes me upset whether she is here or not.”
Me (Attempting to get her to see the absurdity of what she is saying, laughing I say): “I’m glad you still have your sense of humor intact.”
Of course, a problem for my aunt is that she has no sense of humor. She would rather, metaphorically, grind glass into her hands each day, via her own painful thinking, than be interested in anything else. She is an extreme case—she is literally interested in little else than her own thinking. But, what she does is not so different than what you and I do.
Notice that my aunt uses the language of a victim when referring to my sister-in-law: “She makes me….” Ask my aunt if thinking about her grievances all day is helpful and she will tell you that she needs to remember and that she has no choice.
We all have a choice of two teachers; in our mind is a teacher of love and a teacher of hate. Which teacher we turn our attention to will determine the thoughts we will receive. The teacher of hate—our ego—will disguise itself. It will convince us that the thoughts it generates are appropriate reactions to the circumstances we are in and that we are being completely reasonable. Its teachings are rooted in erroneous interpretations of cause and effect. Often, it will disguise our inwardly hateful thoughts with appropriate social veneers.
While it may be marginally better to have appropriate social veneers, there is another choice we can make. We can stop inwardly sugar-coating our thoughts. We can stop justifying our thoughts, and we can become more aware of the pain that our thinking is causing ourselves and others. Once we reach that point, we can make another choice to begin to drop our dysfunctional thinking. With that choice we automatically choose a different inner-teacher.
For my birthday, I received a Logitech Internet radio. This is an ingenious device; in the flip of a button, I can listen to a classical radio station from Paris or a rock station from Seattle. The content of the radio’s output is exactly equivalent to the choice I make. And so it is with our thinking. We are not victims of our thinking—while we don’t choose each thought that arises, we choose the channel that determines the content of the thoughts we receive. Understanding this truth is not the end of our troubles, but it is the beginning of a process that helps us to make another choice.