Unless you have a meditation practice, you might think you don’t have one. We generally associate mantras and meditation. In Hinduism a mantra is a word or sound you repeat like a prayer. In current usage it can be an oft-repeated phrase or truism.
You have a mantra if you say:
I’m the kind of person who… (fill in the blank)
- Can never lose weight
- Can never get a break
- Can’t learn things quickly
- Can’t get along with…
- Would make a lousy employee, boss,
- Never has enough money
- Is always late
- And so on…. Always and never, always and never (you fill in the blanks)
The more we reinforce labels about ourselves, the truer they become. Out of all the mantras I hear people say about themselves, most of them are negative.
So what makes us repeat over and over a negativemantra of who we think we are?
They say human beings only do what we think serves us, so how does a negative mantra serve us?
Negative mantras allows us to hide. They allow us to avoid responsibility. A negative mantra is a defense we use when we don’t want to change, even when the situation calls for change, even if a change would make us happier! Because change might make us look inept or foolish as we try new attitudes and behaviors.
I’m the kind of person who… says: the world must accommodate me, just the way I am. Don’t expect me to experiment with more effective behaviors. Don’t you dare suggest I see myself in a different way.
Mantras allow us to feel comfortable, justified, dare I say righteous, in doing nothing or in repeating a self-defeating pattern. We get to reconfirm our beliefs about who we are and most people would rather be right than happy.
I’ve worked with people who have mantras about money, time, social media, relationships and a host of other things. I’ve seen how a belief repeated in a mantra influences our actions, and then our actions create responses in others that confirm our belief.
How can I recognize a mantra? I’ve had a number of doozies myself, so I know for sure how limiting they are AND how important it is to break them.
How do you break the viciousness of a negative mantra?
When you find yourself saying, I’m the kind of person who…
- What benefit does stance or belief give you?
- If the opposite were true, what would be the benefits and risks?
- What would you have to change?
Let me know what you discover. Until next Tuesday.