So whenever you feel driven by a compulsive, destructive urge, don’t analyze it; don’t talk about it; don’t dwell on it. Turn your attention away from it by throwing yourself into work for others. It can starve the desire away.
Eknath Easwaran says that just as houseplants need water, fertile soil, and careful tending to thrive, so many of our psychological problems and cravings require our attention to live. If we turn our attention to serving others, our problems and cravings and the suffering they produce will often wither and die.
I don’t know if this is true. It sounds too simple to be true in this age of sophisticated psychological understanding of the human mind and condition. Many would say that trying not to think of something unpleasant or harmful merely suppresses it in a way that makes it stronger and more problematic. But I can see how contemplating and analyzing it could also strengthen it by nourishing it with one’s prolonged attention when that attention could be directed to other, more productive matters.
Perhaps it depends on how we stop thinking about it. If we do it in a fearful, angry, or rigid way, we may make matters worse. If we do it with a kind of gentle firmness supported by a consistent spiritual or integral practice, it might do more good than harm.
Perhaps this is a matter for psychological study. Perhaps psychological studies have been done that show which approach is best for dealing with unwanted thoughts, emotions, and cravings. I’m sure such studies have been done, although I doubt that their results are definitive and universally applicable. I would like to do an informal study of my own by trying what Easwaran proposes and seeing what happens.
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