The Price of One Negative Thought

Levi Ben-Shmuel - May 24, 2013

" negative thought can insidiously create a downward spiral of destructive thoughts..."

Flickr: justmakeit

In a post I wrote a few weeks ago, I explored what genuine justice means. I found the timing synchronistic that last week, I was given the chance to see justice in action through being called for jury duty. Close to 150 of us were interviewed to be jurors on a high-profile murder case.

Since justice has been on my mind, I was intrigued by the prospect of being part of this trial. I knew nothing about the case and had a completely open mind about it. Even so, I noticed my mind trying to figure out if the man sitting before us was guilty based on observation and pure speculation.

Fortunately, these thoughts didn't go very far. I recognized them as the beginning of a slippery slope I did not want to go down. The experience reminded me that if we are not careful, one negative thought can insidiously create a downward spiral of destructive thoughts and feelings that can leave us depleted, fearful, isolated, and wrong.

An example of negative thinking's slippery slope that has stood the test of time is found in the Bible. King Saul, who trusted David early on in their relationship, came to view him as a threat and an enemy. Saul's jealousy over David's success in battle depressed him to such an extent it turned into an obsession to kill him. No matter what evidence was presented to show Saul that David loved him and was a loyal warrior, he could not return to sanity and see the ugly truth of where his jealousy had led him. One negative thought led him to actively pursue David's murder.

Years ago, I heard a lecture by a well-known yoga master, titled "Soul Food." In it, he said you can do all the yoga you want and eat the healthiest foods you can find. But one negative thought has the power to negate the benefits of good work on the physical level.

Positive thinking is a good thing. But without being vigilant about the power of negative thinking, all the good thoughts in the world will not defeat negativity if you give it space to flourish.

I was not selected to serve on the jury for the murder trial. But I wonder if one piece of evidence or testimony will trigger a negative thought in one or more jurors that will snowball in their minds. Will it lead them away from being present and evaluating the rest of the evidence in a fair and balanced way?

Sitting in court, I remained awake to the danger in letting negative thoughts and judgments percolate. Herein lies is the key to defeat them: the skill to be conscious of negative thoughts as they arise, to recognize their potential for creating harm, and to politely (or not) let them know that their services are not required.

Do you entertain negative thoughts about yourself or others? Have you noticed the power they can have over your life? What strategies have worked for you to overcome them? As always, I look forward to hearing about your experiences.

This blog was orginally published on the Huffington Post.