Don’t Add Anything

Feel the upsetness, but don't add a story of blame

Whenever you feel upset about something or someone external to you, think of it as some unease in your own mind that is being creatively translated into the experience of someone doing something “to” you. Something internal is being projected in the form of blame. Do not deny the upsetness that you feel. Just don’t add anything—don’t add the thought that it is being caused by something external to your mind.

When you are upset about something that happened in the past, think of it as some unease in your own mind that is being creatively translated into the memory of a past event that somehow wounded or limited you. Again, something internal is being projected in the form of blame.  Do not deny the upsetness that you feel. Just don’t add anything—don’t add the thought that it is being caused by something external to your mind now.

When you feel pain or sickness, think of it as some unease in your own mind that is being creatively translated into the form of the experience of physical discomfort being caused by something (i.e., your body) external to your mind. Once again, something internal is being projected in the form of blame. Do not deny the discomfort that you feel. Just don’t add anything—don’t add the thought that it is being caused by a body-thing that is ­external to your mind.

This is an exercise in deliberately re-interpreting your experience. The issue here is not whether so-and-so “really” did that thing, nor whether some past event “really” happened, nor whether the medical tests are “really” correct or not. For now, suspend those kinds of questions. Deliberately think of your experience of “something external making you suffer” as simply the creative projection of some unease within your own mind. Think of it as similar to the way in which some unease in your subconscious mind might express itself as a sleeping dream of victimhood and suffering. The purpose of this whole practice is to help you to realize that externality and blame are thoughts rather than simply given facts.

Remember, however, that this exercise is not about blaming yourself for your experiences of suffering. The purpose of this exercise is rather to discover how your experience changes when you let go of the thought that something external to you is the cause of your upsetness.

(From The Happy Mind, p. 134. See chapter 5 of that book for further discussion of this idea.)

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