We think millions of thoughts every day. Most of them pass through our brains subconsciously, and we never give them the attention they might deserve.

Even when thoughts come to the forefront of our brains and try to get our attention, we still ignore them because of fear, uncertainty, or just plain ignorance.

Not only do we ignore some pretty important thoughts, we often let negative thoughts invade our brains and take over our lives.

You are probably reading this because you recognize how negative your own thinking is and you want to change that in your life.

Our thoughts have incredible control over us, but the good news is that we can rise above them.

According to Eckhart Tolle, this kind of compulsive thinking could actually be an addiction.

“This kind of compulsive thinking is actually an addiction. What characterizes an addiction? Quite simply this: you no longer feel that you have the choice to stop. It seems stronger than you. It also gives you a false sense of pleasure; pleasure that invariably turns into pain.”

What Makes Our Thoughts Addictive?

We derive a great deal of our identities from our thoughts: how we see ourselves, how we think others see us, what we think we contribute to our jobs and our communities, whether or not we think we are good parents, friends, lovers, workers, and so on.

We think all the time. We can’t help but think about things. Even when we are trying not to think, we think about not thinking.

You can see how this is turning into a cycle or pattern. And that’s just what addiction is: a cycle. It’s a cycle that can’t be broken. We try to quiet our minds, and we try to busy ourselves with day-to-day tasks, but the truth is that underneath all that buffering is real negativity that needs to be managed.

Otherwise, we are just wasting our days stirring in the negative when we could be basking in the positive.

Why It’s Hard to Stop the Cycle

As we are growing up, we tend to develop a sense of self based on what others tell us about ourselves and how we view ourselves through the eyes of other people.

If your parents told you that you were good at baseball and drove you to practice every other day and insisted you would play baseball all summer, then it’s likely that you associate yourself with baseball.

You were a baseball player. Maybe you still are. If, however, your parents told you that you couldn’t play baseball, and they didn’t want to pay for you to play baseball, then you might grow up thinking you can’t play baseball.

Not because you don’t have the skill or the ability to learn the skill, but because you believe in a version of yourself that you cast upon you, not created by you.

We do this to ourselves all the time. We tell ourselves we can’t leave our husbands or wives because we don’t want to identify as a “divorcee” when we could be looking at it in a positive light and call ourselves “happy.”

Divorce sounds terrible, and it is awful when a relationship falls apart, but no one ever stops to think about the positive that might come out of something like that.

We just take for granted the negativity that society has placed on concepts, terms, and even our identities.

According to Eckhart Tolle, this is what creates the ‘ego’:

“As you grow up, you form a mental image of who you are based on your personal and cultural conditioning. We may call this phantom self the ‘ego’. It consists of mind activity and can only be kept going through constant thinking. The term ego means different things to different people, but when I use it here it means a false self, created by unconscious identification with the mind.”

How to Overcome Negativity and Harness Your Thoughts

Getting a grip on your thoughts is the first step to taking back control over your life. The best way to do this, according to Eckhart Tolle, is to stay in the present moment.

The problem?

The ego doesn’t exist in the present moment:

“To the ego, the present moment hardly exists. Only past and future are considered important. This total reversal of the truth accounts for the fact that in the ego mode, the mind is so dysfunctional. It is always concerned with keeping the past alive, because without it – who are you?”

Yet, Eckhart Tolle says, thinking and consciousness are not synonymous:

“Thinking is only a small aspect of consciousness. Thought cannot exist without consciousness, but consciousness does not need thought.”

So, how do we rise above our thoughts and not be so attached to them? According to Eckhart Tolle, we need to become an observer of thoughts so we can live in the present moment:

“The beginning of freedom is the realization that you are not “the thinker.” The moment you start watching the thinker, a higher level of consciousness becomes activated. You then begin to realize that there is a vast realm of intelligence beyond thought, that thought is only a tiny aspect of that intelligence. You also realize that all the things that truly matter – beauty, love, creativity, joy, inner peace – arise from beyond the mind. You begin to awaken…The moment you realize you are not present, you are present. Whenever you are able to observe your mind, you are no longer trapped in it. Another factor has come in, something that is not of the mind: the witnessing presence.”

If you’re interested in how to practice meditation, check out some of these articles:

Thich Nhat Hanh recommends 5 meditation techniques that rewire your brain to live in the present moment

Osho reveals why almost everyone gets meditation wrong, and how to do it correctly

Meditation for beginners: 7 tips for those who say they can’t meditate

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