The Power of Negative Thinking

51052WYWKML._SL500_AA300_

I have a list of people I want to kill. Or maim. Maiming is better. Because they would know its me and hopefully they’d live a long life afterwards.  I’d maim them maybe by setting their face on fire and putting a hood over it. Or amputating both their hands so they can’t wipe themselves. The list starts with people I met when I was about five years old. It ends (as of now) with people I met last week. It’s a long list.

I saw this weird revenge movie when I was a kid. An enormously obese but very sweet girl was constantly made fun of in school. Made fun of in a sort of “Carrie” sort of way but she didn’t have any psychic powers to rain down pig blood everywhere. So she just had to put up with it.

(I just looked up the movie. Its from 1973. Starring Stockard Channing)

You know the sort of thing: guys would pretend to like her, she’d get all excited, and then the guy would start laughing, everyone would start laughing, and she would start crying. And that seemed to happen over and over.  Heck, that happened to me, but in reverse. Those people are on my list.

One day she gets into a car accident where her whole body is destroyed and then the movie becomes this bizarro version of the “Six Million Dollar Man”. She wakes up from her accident and she’s no longer obese. They had to “completely rebuild her”. She was now thin, beautiful, large eyes, big breasts, beautiful face. Everything was rebuilt. She even had a softer, sexier voice. In other words, she’s a young Stockard Channing.

So one by one she seduces every guy that’s ever made fun of her and then kills them, and that’s the end of the movie as far as I can remember. She reminds each guy right before she kills them that she was that fat girl. Then they get really scared because they know death is near.  I saw it at least thirty years ago and I can’t remember the name of it.

I had a whole article on how to deal with crappy people. I even had the FAQ on it. But I feel one more specific technique is needed for those special cases we hold dear to our hearts.

Sometimes it’s not so easy to simply ignore the people who have done the worst to you. You wake up thinking about them. While you’re reading or talking to someone else you’re thinking about them. Or it’s someone you work with, someone you live with, someone who you want to love you, etc. These are hard people to ignore. Your imaginary conversations and arguments with them fill the whole day. You turn from being human to being a monster when dealing with these people.

One person in the comments of one of my articles posted an exercise of what to do about these people.  WARNING LABEL: THE EXERCISE  THIS PERSON SUGGESTED WILL DESTROY YOU IF YOU TRY IT.

(if you try to be the Dalai Lama you might disappoint yourself and die)

I think it’s very damaging what this person suggested. In the exercise she suggested you imagine a world filled with love. You think of the people you love, and then you picture the people you hate and you imagine you have the same sort of love towards them.

This will break your brain in two. It will break your soul into pieces. Unless I suddenly turn into Jesus or Buddha I’m not going to love these people. Picture the person you hate most. Can you really suddenly turn that hate into love via mental visualization. That’s more like mental masturbation.

In an earlier article about leaks I mentioned three intensities of leaks: mild, moderate, intense. It’s the same here. You might be angry at someone in a mild way, a moderate way, or in a very intense way.

All are equally bad. But there’s no way you can go from “Intense” hatred to compassionate unconditional love. Gratuitous positive thinking for the sake of being positive just doesn’t work.  There are many deep, reasons, dating from childhood that you don’t even understand you might cause you to have intense hatred or anger. Trying to skip all of that so you can feel a fake love will only turn you into a fake and create even more of a monster.

There’s simply no reason to feel compassion towards anyone other than the people who you are closest to.

So here’s what you do. It’s a mental discipline. If you can do this, it not only deals with these people it will change your life so much you’ll feel like you suddenly generated super powers. Your productivity goes up. Your capability of dealing with pain and suffering goes up tenfold, and your ability to problem-solve turns you into a miracle man. You also might start to be aware of issues you never knew you had.

In other words, you’ll get luckier when everyone else is floundering around lost in their pathetic thoughts of murder and mayhem. You become human in a zoo filled with animals.

(i’m not kidding. You WILL become a superhero)

How to cultivate Non-Hate

Everytime you are thinking about someone on your list, try to catch yourself. This is the hard part. Stop yourself for just a second in the middle of your mental maze of anguish. Label the thought you were thinking “useful” or “not useful”. If someone shat on my face and now I’m thinking about my mental argument wth him or her. This is “not useful”. If you label enough thoughts “not useful” then “Intense” anger might turn into “Moderate” anger. “Moderate” anger might turn into “Mild” anger.  This is how you cultivate non-hate instead of compassion. It works. I do it. I can tell you it works.

You might still have to deal with this person (at work, for instance) but your entire dynamic with the person will begin to change and you will see results. They will feel the dynamic. The world will feel it. Everything will change. Not overnight but over time. Intensity on this major leak of your energy goes down. And this is a MAJOR leak.

The hardest part is stopping yourself long enough to do the labeling. The “not useful”.  But if you can do that you’ll find this technique also comes in handy in other parts of life.

Like where you feel greed or envy towards someone (“not useful”) or where you feel delusional (daydreaming about what you’d do with the billion dollars you’re going to make on the sewing machine you’re going to invent – “Not useful”). This also goes for when you are talking to someone else about the person who makes you upset (angry gossip is “not useful”) or when something bad happens to the person and you think that’s just fine (“approval” of bad things is “not useful”).

(I’m envious of Larry Page. Not useful).

Most things in life, in fact, aren’t very useful to think about (“The IMF”, “Greece”, “most politics”, “family I don’t like”, “ex-friends/girlfriends”, etc)

What’s the outcome of all of this if you get good at this labeling? Its as if you’ve been in a horrible accident that ruins the body you spent a lifetime creating. Suddenly you’ve been rebuilt. Everything that was ugly and hideous sheds away. You become beautiful.

 

Enjoyed This Post? Get Free Updates

  • C. Martin

    I like the advice, James. I’ll have to remember this post. I actually don’t hate anybody at the moment but I like what you said about jealously and other “not useful” thoughts. I find myself being envious of others pretty often. It’s really not useful and emotionally brings me down a lot. Time to work on it.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_U5G3EQIX6VVJJPUC22TJJFQCTE VWVagabonds

    Negative thoughts have a purpose.  They are part of a skill that makes us unique in the animal kingdom, our ability to look ahead and anticipate the future.  Trouble is, they are very enticing and when we give them more attention than initial processing we are being self-destructive. 

    Back in the early 1970s researchers at Stanford University did a series of experiments with children in the university’s preschool daycare program that was later dubbed the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment.  They offered a marshmallow to each child then explained that if the kid could resist eating it for a short period of time he would be given a second marshmallow as well.  About 1/3 of the children were able to practice enough self-control to receive the second.  Years later the researchers discovered that those same children did better in school, had higher SAT scores, got higher paying jobs, had more fulfilling relationships and were all around more successful than their more indulgent classmates. 

    What’s interesting here is how the kids were able to control themselves.  They did not stare at the marshmallow.  The didn’t touch it or play with it.  They did the opposite.  They distracted themselves from it by singing a song or turning around in their chair.  Most importantly, the researched found that this was not necessarily an innate ability within the children, it was a learned behavior that could be taught to others. 

    Negative thoughts are the marshmallow induced sugar-high propelling our brain around in self-destructive circles.  I’ve found that the best way to deal with them is to turn the chair around in my mind, shift my attention to something more productive and move on.  Make tomorrow’s todo list.  Think about the next big vacation.  Envision that personal-best I’ve been trying to reach in a 10K.  In short, I use positive distractions to move attention away from the negative and toward a positive.  

    One caveat:  We live in a world chock-full of NEGATIVE distractions.  I always try to be mindful that the distraction I use is positive. 

    • Dorr_ring

      Sounds like all the successful children decided it was “not useful” to think about the marshmallow.  It  seems to have turned out well for them.  I just decided it was not useful to spend my time replying to this post. 

    • James Brian Peterson

      ”Detached reflection cannot be demanded in the presence of an uplifted knife” Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes:Brown v. United States,256 U.S. 335

    • Goodnessknows

      it is empowering to say the least…denial cleanses the soul

    • Goodnessknows

      this is not about negative thoughts but of denial . suspending pleasure for a greater payback later on…. it’s about self control..

    • Jah80

      Beautiful post. Thank you.

  • Guaisman

    very much of a buddhist method… the labelling of thoughts gives you awareness on them… “right mindfulness” as stated in the eightfold path… the trick is… it requires extreme concentration, and that it s kinda hard to do when you are so mad

  • http://www.736hundred.tumblr.com 736hundred

    Hatred is a waste of energy. Figure it this way: your life is a bottle filled with energy, once the bottle is empty you are dead.

    You choose how to spend your energy, moment by moment.

    • CMS

      …and that a person tends to become what they hate.

      • http://www.brookefarmer.com Brooke Farmer

        I think I needed to see this comment in this moment, CMS. 

        • CMS

          Good.

          I think the goal is to acknowledge that you dislike something but not to hate. Hate: the irrational compulsive thinking about something you cannot change. I try to be very independent (you sound similar) if I find myself thinking too much about something or someone in a very negative manner, I remind myself that it is probably the goal of their action; and that I cannot, with my independence in mind, allow them to have control over my thoughts.

          • CMS

            And, of course, don’t think that every time someone pisses you off, they did it on purpose. That’ll lead to paranoia. But in negotiations, if someone does something to make you mad, their motive may be for you to take your eye off the prize.

    • CMS

      …and that a person tends to become what they hate.

  • Hotei13

    Resentment is like drinking poison hoping someone else dies. Now……the question becomes….if I didn’t put the resentment there in the first place, how do I remove it?

  • Deba_sinh

    Good article. I will try to remember the points. At this time it’s a little difficult to switch to a “not useful” mode when I come across a bunch of my co-workers. Will take time and practice. 

  • Anonymous

    I am glad to say that I have never hated anyone in my life.

    My Father was death on the word. His stance was that, if you really hated someone, you believed that the world would be a better place if they had never been. He said that it became a moral imperative that they be removed.

    We are all our Mother’s children; at some point in our lives we are loved. To hate is to remove the humanity of the hated and to dehumanize the hater. Investing that much of yourself in someone who means you harm or has hurt you allows them to hurt you in a more intimate manner than might have been the case in the first instance. Indeed, they will have maimed your soul.

    This article is so needed in this world.

    Thank you, James.

  • Alex

    The inner smile exercise is not actually from Buddhism, it’s from Tao / Chi Kung.  It doesn’t really have to do anything with other people, it’s only about clearing your own personal energy field.  It’s only about you.  It’s simply a tool to harmonize your energy and help you feel peaceful and free from negative emotions, which in Chi Kung are considered unnecessary and can be transformed into positive emotions by exercise.  

    The step one of the exercise (breathing in smiling loving energy and breathing it out into your own organs) suffices by itself.  You can try step two (breathing out smiling energy towards others) if you feel like it, but you never need to do it if it feels bad – the point is to do it with relief and pleasure, never to force yourself.  It’s perfectly fine to only send out loving energy towards people you feel genuinely good about.  This is what I said in the original comments: 

    “You can do this exercise with people you love and also with complete strangers on the street, on the train, before/during/after business meetings, dinners, everywhere.”  

    I.e. with people you love, and strangers towards whom you are neutral – but not people you actively hate.  The goal is to feel genuinely good.

    This exercise is from Mantak Chia’s book:
    http://www.amazon.com/Healing-Light-Tao-Foundational-Practices/dp/1594771138

    • Sooz

      “breathing out smiling energy towards others”…:))

  • Richard

    What comes to mind when reading this post is “easier said than done”. 

  • http://twitter.com/kamalravikant Kamal Ravikant

    Love the simplicity of the exercise.  Just a simple choice, which takes care of the rest.

    • http://twitter.com/kamalravikant Kamal Ravikant

      Been trying it for last hour.  Wow, immensely helpful.

      • http://twitter.com/kamalravikant Kamal Ravikant

        Doing this, I’m discovering one very interesting metric – the ratio of “useful” to “not useful” thoughts in my mind. “Not useful” is far higher.  Now, if I practice this, and “useful” goes up while “not useful” goes down, wow, can only imagine the quality of life and peace of mind this results in.  Exciting!

        • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

          Thats what happened to me also. It was amazing the difference. I’m days when I’m disciplined enough to apply it.

          • Anonymous

            Tips on how to be disciplined enough to consistently apply this method would be gratefully accepted.

  • Travis Fields

    Pretty practical.

    In truth, I think it’s healthier to practice compassion than indifference — but only if you mean it.
    That means really genuinely meaning it and feeling it. As you say, fake compassion is no good.

    You seem to be saying:

    “Try to label your anger so you know whether or not it’s useful, and it will subside”

    You might try also saying:

    “Be Compassionate, but only if you mean it, and are strong enough to protect yourself”

    Anger, Indifference (Detachment) and Compassion all serve their purpose.
    Perhaps today we need Anger to defend ourselves.
    Tomorrow we’ll need Detachment to keep Anger from outliving its usefulness.
    Eventually though, we may need Compassion to gain understanding and closure.

    Detachment seems safer than Anger or Compassion…
    but taken to an extreme, Detachment leads to Deprivation.

  • http://www.toddandelin.com Todd_Andelin

    One of my family relatives has serious personality issues.  My Physician uncle always reminds everyone: “treat his behavior clinically since it is a medical/physiological issue”
    So I come away thinking that it is actually easier to accept this person.
    They might not be able to change. 

    Not that this should be an easy excuse to label everyone with, but it has its place.  I just keep the idea in my mental toolbox and sometimes it comes in handy dealing with people.

    • CMS

      Good point.  I try to think about what lead a person to act a certain way.  Being an huge asshole is not normal. 

      Being an asshole from time to time is normal, and should be backed up with an appology ASAP.

    • CMS

      Good point.  I try to think about what lead a person to act a certain way.  Being an huge asshole is not normal. 

      Being an asshole from time to time is normal, and should be backed up with an appology ASAP.

    • Greg365

      What do you do when the relative is a physician himself?

  • accorn

    So needed this today – thank you!

  • http://twitter.com/purvirajani Purvi Rajani

    You always write what I need when I need it. Thanks again for a great post.

  • Voyager

    James, please please apply your wit and new-found approach to other subjects.
    This one’s a dud. It makes me cringe for you….Best wishes.  

  • http://www.facebook.com/zafkastudios Jim Kasper

    Hey James,
                         I like this!  My favorite 12-group says to pray for them, but I was never able to follow that suggestion. From just a few weeks ago, after that crappy article of yours, I quit referring to an associate (when I would relate stories at home) as “expletive”. Now if the person comes up, I will refer to them as my valued colleague “—–“, who you might remember by some other term.  I am moving forward in micro steps!
    Keep up the good work.
    Regards,
    Jim

  • http://www.feed.us RacerRick

    I have not gotten to the point where I want to reduce the anger and hate that is contained within me.   

    I’m sure at some point I will feel that it has become overwhelming.

    For now, it fuels me.

  • http://www.feed.us RacerRick

    I have not gotten to the point where I want to reduce the anger and hate that is contained within me.   

    I’m sure at some point I will feel that it has become overwhelming.

    For now, it fuels me.

  • Ed

    Great advice

  • Ed

    Great advice

  • Mahesh

    James,
    thanks! I am going to start Useful/ no useful technique.  If you were in India, you would be known as GURU Shri Shri James   and started  “James – Art of living ”

    • Raoul

      But then he wouldn’t have been a notoriously successful venture capitalist, so he wouldn’t have a stunning and beatiffically lovely yogi wife. There are blessings in keeping your eye on the maya.

  • Paul

    A pastor once told me, “The red-ass only hurts the one who’s got it.”  The truth is that absolute apathy toward someone’s existence is even more negative than abject hatred.  So I try to move beyond hatred into complete apathy.  

  • Caromusa

    Great, great post. Very clarifying of something I’ve been trying lately: the last time I got very angry at some idiot, I thought: “this anger just makes me feel even worst about what he did, but my anger can’t hurt him or change him or teach him a lesson, so the only loser in this situation is me, if I remain angry”. Then I thought “I’m punishing myself with this anger, I have to get rid of it quickly, because if he knew how angry I was, he would be happy”. And believe or not, it kind of worked. The anger didn’t disappear, but diminished a lot. And I felt better. I still do, if I ocasionally think about that person. 

  • http://www.736hundred.tumblr.com 736hundred

    Perhaps the emotion of anger/hatred is working correctly, exactly as it should. It helps us identify adversaries/wrongs and then it punishes us if we continue to dwell on it.

  • Sooz

    Tarhini…(grin) slipping a school of perona fish into that deep large pool while they are resting after a long day of splashing around on a steamy hot summer day might do the trick.
    I’d much prefer to have friends/neighbors with pools then to have one myself. Instead, join a swim club. It’s the best thing I ever did for my children. They have fun all summer while being a part of swim/tennis team. (4~5hr swim meets can get pretty BORRrrrring after all these years). 
    When your children are invited over, my kids started team at 3,4,5yrs respectfully..the youngest still using wings, they’ll swim in his stadium size pool with ease.

  • CMS

    When I catch myself thinking about something that I shouldn’t (I actually have a ‘NOT to do list’, not just for actions that I shouldn’t be doing but also for things I shouldn’t be thinking about, mostly arguments with people) I say the words “cancel, cancel” as a cue to change my line of thought. I also do this when I find I’m daydreaming too long about worst case scenarios, so not not hypnotize myself into finding and following a path to the worst case. Too much negative thinking is not productive as one is not putting in the time to tackle the questions that lead to the desired goal.

    About the movie. I remember going on a date with a woman who told me she was writing a book about a broken-hearted girl who goes around killing her x-boyfriends. I didn’t stick around to find out if it was an autobiography…

  • Sooz

    have you ever turned the tables and thought that it is ‘YOU’ who is destroying your son bit by bit?
    I will never in my life understand why two adults who bring a child into the world can use them as a tool for hate/revenge!!
    I’d suggest that you put yourself in your childs shoes and imagine what that feels like!! There is not a child on this earth that deserves this.
    Brooke, I am a single mother with three beautiful teens, now 14,15,16yrs old respectfully, and I chose to do what was right for them. Every decision I have made and continue to make up to this day are on behalf of them. Once my ex was on the same page(took a bit of time and pulling him to center) after explaining to him(initially over and over again) during some very ugly times that decisions being made should  ‘NOT’ be about him or I, things were civil and kind.
    I see him more now then I did when we were married(a decision he has made to be invoved in his childrens lives). Many people in this community find that very admorable!!
      All for the children who now realize how very lucky they are because they know other friends that live very broken and sad lives.

  • Sooz

    have you ever turned the tables and thought that it is ‘YOU’ who is destroying your son bit by bit?
    I will never in my life understand why two adults who bring a child into the world can use them as a tool for hate/revenge!!
    I’d suggest that you put yourself in your childs shoes and imagine what that feels like!! There is not a child on this earth that deserves this.
    Brooke, I am a single mother with three beautiful teens, now 14,15,16yrs old respectfully, and I chose to do what was right for them. Every decision I have made and continue to make up to this day are on behalf of them. Once my ex was on the same page(took a bit of time and pulling him to center) after explaining to him(initially over and over again) during some very ugly times that decisions being made should  ‘NOT’ be about him or I, things were civil and kind.
    I see him more now then I did when we were married(a decision he has made to be invoved in his childrens lives). Many people in this community find that very admorable!!
      All for the children who now realize how very lucky they are because they know other friends that live very broken and sad lives.

    • Sooz

      all these years of fighting and all that wasted energy towards hate and the one who has suffered the most is..your son.

    • Sooz

      all these years of fighting and all that wasted energy towards hate and the one who has suffered the most is..your son.

    • http://www.brookefarmer.com Brooke Farmer

      My ex and I were at that point for several years. Despite the violence in our marriage. I did work toward that and have been exhausting myself trying to work back to it. In roughly the past year or so something on his end changed drastically. He isolated my son from his entire family (on his side and mine), has been feeding my son food that is toxic to his body (he has an auto-immune disorder called celiac disease), has told my son that he (my son) has destroyed his (the father’s) romantic relationship. Every email I send with an enquiry regarding my son or with information about how he is doing is met with threats, insults and expletives. 

      And yes, I have considered the possibility that it’s all me. And I have no doubt that I have made mistakes. We all do- especially when it comes to parenting. But I have never used my son as a weapon or a way to wield power over others the way my ex has done repeatedly and I have always offered him love and attention (when he would take it). And despite all my ex-husband has put me through I never speak poorly of him to my son. If there is a question I cannot answer honestly without being negative (i.e. when my son asks why his father and I split up) I tell him that it isn’t something for him to concern himself with and those are things his father and I need to handle on our own. 

      On the other hand, when my son was three or four his father lost the right to his income tax return because he hadn’t paid child support. My son came home from his visit with Dad and asked, “Mommy, why are you a bitch and stole my daddys tax money?”

      • Sooz

        Why would any judge on this land grant your ex the responsibility of rearing your son if he is incapable? Either the system has failed you or there is much more to know about your situation in order to place the pieces together. 

        • Sooz

          Brainwashing a child is very disturbing. Don’t  underestimate how smart your son is and it will (unfortunately) be up to him to sort out this mess when he is old enough to do so. 

          • Sooz

            That day will come(maybe not soon enough for you)..it will come..:))

          • Sooz

            Put all your energy into imagining that day. It will come sooner than you imagine! 

        • http://www.brookefarmer.com Brooke Farmer

          There are a lot of pieces to the puzzle. I am nearing the end of a six week visit with my son and it has been an incredibly healing time for both of us. 

          I would love to link to a blog post that sums it all up here, but even if I linked to a dozen of them I think the story is incomplete. Suffice it to say I thought he had changed and we were moving forward and working together for my son’s sake. That was a year ago. We had been in (what I believed to be) strong communication for about four or five years. My son wanted to live with his dad. Badly. I thought he had reached an age (12 at the time, 13 now) where he could go, get to know his father, form his own opinions. 

          I thought his dad had changed. I thought our son was a higher priority for him than he’d been in the past. 

          I thought I was making the right decision. 

          Now I am trying to pick up the pieces and determine what my next step for my son is. 

          • Sooz

            “I thought I was making the right decision.”

            Brooke,
            It was your son who made the decision and you supported him..:)
             Maybe that is where the lines get blurred and the guilt takes control.

            I’m glad you had this healing time.  
             

          • http://www.brookefarmer.com Brooke Farmer

            I love him so much. I don’t think you can make a child understand how much you love them. As children we love our parents more than anything and we think that is as much as we can possibly love. It is as much love as we can comprehend. 

            Then we have children and realize how small our love for our parents is by comparison. 

  • Joejay

    Thanks for the article.  Holding onto anger and hate is self-destructive.  Obsessing about them is even worse.  These thoughts are truly “not useful” (except as a trigger for introspection, or immediate counseling if you’re on the verge of going postal).  Crappy people do not generally deserve your compassion or love, so it’s difficult to “turn the other cheek”.  The trick is to make peace with *yourself* about being wronged.  That’s easier said than done, but thinking “not useful” or “not helpful” is a good start!

  • Joejay

    Thanks for the article.  Holding onto anger and hate is self-destructive.  Obsessing about them is even worse.  These thoughts are truly “not useful” (except as a trigger for introspection, or immediate counseling if you’re on the verge of going postal).  Crappy people do not generally deserve your compassion or love, so it’s difficult to “turn the other cheek”.  The trick is to make peace with *yourself* about being wronged.  That’s easier said than done, but thinking “not useful” or “not helpful” is a good start!

  • Gina

    Wonderful. 

    I really enjoy reading your posts; my first time commenting.

    I don’t necessarily ‘hate’ those that have done me wrong but I do find myself thinking an awful lot about them.  Applying “useful” and “not useful” labels to these thoughts has already improved my day.    Thanks!

  • Turtle Boy

    I’m not a particularly religious fellow, but I’ve always liked this passage from the Bible and find it useful:
    whatever things are true, whatever things are honest, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

  • Turtle Boy

    I’m not a particularly religious fellow, but I’ve always liked this passage from the Bible and find it useful:
    whatever things are true, whatever things are honest, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

  • Jacob Johnson

    Too bad they don’t store an extra set of your house keys and have hot baby-sitters over to their pool, maybe that would make the situation better:)

    • http://www.dinosaurtrader.com dinosaurtrader

      Turning a negative into a positive. I like the way you think, Jacob.

      -DT

  • Midianite Manna

    I have a little list, I have a little list… great, now I have The Mikado stuck in my head!

  • nysepete

    You make some excellent points, as usual.
    I just happen to think the title doesn’t fir the content precisely.

    Or maybe because I often equate “negative thinking” with having a negative outlook on the future.  Without actually knowing what the future is – I can easily crank out the worst case scenarios – and convince myself they will be the most likely.  Not to say I give up [I sometimes do] but often thinks turn out much better [or at least much differently] then I expected.

    Yet I continue to repeat that process over and over again.  Despite my ability to adequately convince others not to!

    That’s what I was hoping for here.  A way to fight off anxiety without meds.

  • nysepete

    And another thing — I can make excellent arguments for why something “not useful” makes more sense than it actually does.
    My best logic often follows that “at least I’m prepared” for a possible negative outcome rather than just live in the moment and see what happens as it does!

  • Scott Thomas

    I tried this yesterday. Whenever I felt homicidal toward a co-worker I labeled it “not useful”, but then it left a vacuum in my head.

    With what do you fill the vacuum?

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Nothing.

      Not trying to be facetious with that answer. Just leave it alone. “Not useful” is all you need. Your brain will find something to replace it. And if that’s not useful, then go for the next thought. Eventually something “useful” will arrive. Say hello to it. Throw it a party.

  • Erwin_arsenio

    as an amateur inventor looking to make a new sewing machine, I resent that reference in this article. But seriously, I have seen hate of pretty much all types all around my existence in this earth, that I realized there is nothing useful carrying all that around everywhere you go. I don’t know about other folks, but I think this here is a great idea, but I still have to try and catch myself.

  • Patty O’Green

    This post is just amazing! Really! I read it many times…I’ve spent too much time reading stuff about turning hate into love (not useful for me) ;) I just can’t do it. I’m sure some people can do it, but personally, it only makes me feel guilty not being able to be “perfect”…So thanks for the technique, just reading it makes me feel happy :D

  • MikeW

    “He who ignores what his neighbor is saying or doing or thinking, and cares only that his own actions should be just and godly, is greatly the gainer in time and ease. A good man does not spy around for black spots in others, but presses unswervingly on towards his mark.”

    Marcus Aurelius

  • http://isomorphismes.tumblr.com isomorphisms

    You know what’s the best revenge? Watching people destroy themselves … so they can’t blame you or any external agent.

  • http://isomorphismes.tumblr.com isomorphisms

    Re “not useful”: I agree but, you don’t want to become some utilitarian emotionless productivity machine. Rage purifies. If you can feel intense anger then you can feel intense love. I wouldn’t want to be a stone.

    In my opinion the uebermensch keeps it together enough to get shit done but also feels all human emotions at some point in extremis.

  • Misgif

    Thank you.  The past few days have thrown me backwards, facing mistakes long past and I have been unable to shut the constant replay of memories that I had struggled so hard to lock away.  It’s like a broken faucet and I can’t stop the flood.  Your idea of stopping the thought and labeling it…perfect…because right now every thought is “not useful” and the onslaught has every part of me in turmoil.  This was useful, thank you.

  • Ladyboop718

    Make a difference by learning indifference. That is my little motto I say in my head!

  • guest

    i also carry baggage of past insults, disappointments and hatred. i used to get all angry even thinking about them which would happen on its own any moment of my day. but lately i am forgetting things.it is going away. i just cant seem to think about them. i feel tired if i cant avoid these subjects. i think i am losing it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/timothy.paul.5011 Brent Wildermuth

    I understand the point of labeling something as “not useful,” but certain things just catch me the wrong way, and this is why I’m leaving my comment. James, you don’t simply think of things as useful or not do you? Honestly. As a guy who promotes thinking and exploring with our minds I don’t believe you can label things as useful or not, while at the same time being happy in wasting time (useful.)