Bill Cottringer

“Anything, anything would be better than this agony of mind, this creeping pain that gnaws and fumbles and caresses one and never hurts quite enough.” ~Jean Paul Sartre.

Life involves a certain amount of painful, unpleasant suffering we would rather avoid altogether, but we can’t. There will always be some bruises, bleeding and broken bones from the inevitable, negative things like physical injuries, unemployment, relationship break-ups, financial crises, death of loved ones, family dysfuntionality and a litany of other things that can take away our happiness and contentment. Unfortunately these things go with the territory of living and we have to figure out how to deal with them in a way that is best for us.

But, by way of the gift and curse nature of our self-consciousness, the mind often adds an unnecessary layer of mental suffering above this necessary suffering, to make matters even more difficult. This unfortunate mental habit—which is not usually conscious to your immediate awareness—can easily lock you into a vicious circle where you end up worrying about worrying, getting angry about being angry and feeling more depressed about being depressed. These kinds of vicious circles to the no-where zone can drain you of all the energy needed to break lose from this bear-trap treadmill.

Knowing that you do this is not enough to stop it. In fact sometimes, the more you become aware of the shadow of what is going on, the bigger it gets. This vicious circle can spin out of control adding additional layers like worrying about worrying about worrying. You can even worry so much that you end up not even knowing what you are worrying about and then start worrying about that.

In reality this is negativity being imagined rather than happening, and paradoxically you can’t think your way out of what you thought your way into. This is where you have to act your way out of the unwanted reality to allow your mind to catch up. But, this takes the energy that is being wasted in maintaining the vicious circle below the surface. What a dilemma!

The key to untangling this mess lies with feelings. Feelings are even more unconscious then the thoughts that start them. But somewhere along the line of trying to understand and untangle the interactive pretzel of thinking, feeling and behaving, we over-analyzed feelings and made more categories than were really necessary. In essence, we really only need to understand the distinction between two types of emotions—the positive and negative ones, along with their fundamental purpose for our well-being.

Positive feelings like pleasure, happiness, peace, joy, contentment and appreciation of truth and beauty serve the basic purpose of letting us know we are moving in the right direction on our journey. This is half the Yang and Yin equation of the giant behavior modification program that life was designed to carry out, with our eventual well-being as the fundamental intention.

On the other hand, the other half of the equation of life—negative emotions like fear, angst, jealousy, insecurity, frustration and anger—serve the purpose of warning us to slow down and rethink our approach to something because we probably aren’t moving in the right direction in our journey. Making anything more of this distinction can be imaginary thinking that will take more acting to escape this vicious circle in the making.

So, the very next time you feel positive about something, keep moving in that direction and appreciate the experience fully. When the negative events and reactions start, which they will, slow down and be open to trying a new approach in dealing with the negative event, more to your benefit and well-being. Sound too easy? It really is a simple choice, but it takes a lot of practice to sink in and replace the bad habit in order to break free of the imagined vicious circle holding you hostage below the surface.

Author's Bio: 

William Cottringer, Ph.D. is President of Puget Sound Security in Bellevue, WA, along with being a Sport Psychologist, Business Success Coach, Photographer and Writer living in the scenic mountains of North Bend. He is author of several business and self-development books, including, Re-Braining for 2000 (MJR Publishing), The Prosperity Zone (Authorlink Press), You Can Have Your Cheese & Eat It Too (Executive Excellence), The Bow-Wow Secrets (Wisdom Tree), and Do What Matters Most and “P” Point Management (Atlantic Book Publishers), and Reality Repair Rx (Publish America) This article is an excerpt from an upcoming book Reality Repair. Bill can be reached for comments or questions at (425) 454-5011 or