One of the problem habits (may be the strongest) to overcome is the mental habit of dissecting every outcome, person or circumstances which we encounter and labelling them as good, bad etc. We think our mind has a life of its own and is not conditioned by what happens in our current or past births (or genes as science says). But unfortunately the mind is not only a slave of past experiences but seems to be as much mechanical in its response as the body is when it reacts involuntarily.
It may be difficult to initially understand this, but if you start observing our reactions ( from a higher plane of the mind) you will realize we like or dislike persons or outcomes without any specific or valid reason and later the Mind will provide logic to affirm why it is reacting so.
No doubt when circumstances prevent us from achieving or attaining what we desire we react negatively, but even when it does not directly affect us we still seem to label all situations or persons. These patterns disturb our ability to enjoy life experiences and face life as it comes. These labels vary from person to person.
Someone will brand all persons with certain habits (like smoking, drinking, being non-vegetarian etc.) as bad (when they refer to such persons one can notice the contempt in their references). Some others will find the greatest pleasure in criticizing others - could be their lack of action or imperfect delivery of results or even physical appearance or behaviour. The same persons when they like another will justify why he or she should not be judged harshly or negatively by others with strong convincing arguments.
Similarly depending on how one feels at that particular time a set of circumstances will be accepted while a few days later the same set of circumstances may result in strong reactions and will result in labels of bad or unsuccessful being stuck on them.
Why does this habit not only arise but also get strengthened – Because it gives a feeling of superiority when we run down others or hide our insecurities. Secondly, it gives the mind a chance to externalize itself rather than create a space and time free from thoughts.
The stronger our beliefs, the more difficult we find to move away from labels. When we are sick many persons will want a label put on it – flu, cold, diabetes, cancer etc. and only then we will be satisfied. Once the label is defined, then fear will arise but the fact that a label has been got somehow seems to satisfy one. Therefore, they will go for repeated tests without realizing that while modern medicine requires this for treating one, it does not solve the general weakness, lifestyle or lack of immunity of the body which have caused the problems to arise.
Secondly, we will advocate our way of life is the only way to live – all other ways will be deemed as imperfect. All those who disagree will be hated / despised / put down or at the extreme even ostracized. In an organization counter points of view will be discouraged. No healthy debate would be possible.
Therefore the habit of labelling becomes the easiest way to escape from reality. This becomes such an ingrained habit that even as events unfold the mind will continuously chatter to itself giving motives passing judgments and labels. At one point the mind will even stop assimilating and only label words or circumstances. Sometimes there are a few persons who do not have this habit normally. They are labelled by others as ‘Simple’ or ‘Naïve’, rarely they are called “good natured”. May be they are the ones who are lucky or have good ‘Karma” but unfortunately unless they use that opportunity and move on to an Inner Awakening, this lack of negative reactions may not suffice in itself to progress to the next stage of evolution. There is no doubt a need to be aware of the other person’s motives for acting or saying something but the labeling takes one away from the reality of the words or actions and instead leads to emotion led reactions.
There is one more element to be understood. This habit is so collectively ingrained that everyone gets great pleasure in joining together and criticizing a common foe or friend, typically Government or persons of eminence. Only criticism will be made and rarely solutions given. Also unless one is in the other’s shoe, it is very difficult to judge others. So, while results need to be demanded, criticism does not lead to that. Therefore rather than leading to any action, this becomes a way of mutually reinforcing the habit and enjoying the feeling of relative superiority which arises out of these judgments being passed on to others. Rarely does positive labelling take place and if it happens it will be accompanied by how better it could have been.
This then becomes a corrosive ingredient in one’s thoughts and instead of taking at face value or enjoying the simple things of life, we label, compare and contrast. For example; when one is watching a beautiful sunset in Mumbai, the mind will instantly label the one last seen in Kochi or elsewhere as being better. This thought process then prevents one from experiencing the beauty or truth behind events and words.
The last aspect of this tendency is that not only does it prevent true experiences it also many times prevents learning from others. True learning takes place when one observes others actions or words without judgments or labels.
What is the solution to move out of this habit? First is what has been explained in earlier articles – the need to stop identifying with the thought which makes the labels arise. However, this non identification with the thought is not possible unless the Mind is trained to identify with the Spirit within. This would mean the minds chatter has to reduce and stop (even if only for a short while). A blissful silence then takes over even when absorbed in action. But more of this later.
Normally people tend to try and stop this negative vicious cycle by substituting positive thoughts but the past habits are so strong that this becomes a struggle and then leads to psychological labels being added!
Positive attitude, action orientation, selflessly supporting others overcome their weakness and most importantly avoid labelling persons or events will only be the first surface actions possible to enable one move on to that Inner Peace mentioned earlier. However, this step itself is so uplifting that the attempt is well worth the effort and leaves one to marvel at what would be the Joyful Experience awaiting one if the thought free state is attained.
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(The writer is the Joint Managing Director of TVS & Sons Ltd., and MD, TVS Logistics)