Do you seem to hold onto hurts with more energy than you count your blessings? Most people do. When I give a workshop that requires members to fill out evaluations, I get mostly positive comments. I love reading these comments but the negative comments tend to hang out longer in my brain and get replayed more frequently. It’s like my brain automatically memorized the negative comments and vaguely remembers the positive ones. Why is this?
Recently I came across this quote:
“Learn to write your hurts on the sand and carve your blessings in stone”
Notice the first word in the quote says “learn”. It’s true that this attitude does not come naturally. I’ve written many blogs and posts about how our brains are developed to focus more on the negatives than the positives. This helps us survive. But of course the down side is that
the thoughts we have that produce anxiety get more attention
in our brain than do thoughts that are related to our blessings.
As I looked for the author of this quote, I found the following story. I never found the author but I found the story used in Christian, Muslim and Hindi websites for teaching morals! Clearly this story has universal truth.
The story tells that two friends were walking through the desert. During some point of the journey they had an argument and one friend slapped the other one in the face. The one who got slapped was hurt, but without saying anything, wrote in the sand…
“TODAY MY BEST FRIEND SLAPPED ME IN THE FACE."
They kept on walking until they found an oasis where they decided to take a bath. The one who had been slapped got stuck in die mire and started drowning. But the friend saved him. After the friend recovered from the near drowning, he wrote on a stone….
“TODAY MY BEST FRIEND SAVED MY LIFE."
The friend who had slapped and saved his best friend asked him, “After I hurt you, you wrote in the sand and now, you write on a stone, why?"
The other friend replied…
“When someone hurts us, we should write it down in sand where winds of forgiveness can erase it away. But, when someone does something good for us, we must engrave it in stone where no wind can ever erase it."
Most of us do just the opposite of what this story teaches. We allow the hurts to become more ingrained in our brain (as though etched in stone) than the positive things that happen.
If you suspect that you this is true of you too and want to shift this, here is an exercise that can have great power. Michael Thompson, career/communication coach and writer talks about a similar exercise and says that it may feel a bit awkward but "I don't know about you but I’d rather feel stupid for a minute than spend the entire day with my head in the gutter." So give this a try:
Imagine that you are at the beach (feel the sand and smell the ocean air), look around and find a stick or shell and write a worry in the sand. Become aware that it is a worry thought and ask yourself if there is anything that you can do about it right now. If not, watch as a wave smooths out the sand and washes the worry away. Next, immediately choose a blessing and picture yourself carving it in a stone. This takes more effort and time. Just like with our thoughts it is much easier to write on sand (focus on the negative) than carve in stone (focus on the positive).
This exercise not only helps with the concern of the moment. As you spend more time with the positive thought, you will be teaching your brain to find the true balance. By the way, imagery is a very powerful tool - ask pro athletes, just saying...
I am currently publishing a book titled I'm Not Good Enough: How the Stories You Tell Yourself are Ruining Your Life. By following my blog, you will be notified when it is ready for purchase. I would love to hear from you. Please scroll down to the bottom of this page (past the banner of recent posts) to leave a comment.