Peace of Mind, Part III

Posted on August 16, 2016 by Robert Ringer Comments (28)

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In Parts I and II of this article, I emphasized that stress is a self-imposed mental state.  In today’s Part III, I’m going to suggest some healthy thoughts that I believe can help you overcome a stressful mind-set.

 

Shake the habit of fretting and stewing about non-existent problems.

It’s amazing how many people live in a “what if” world, and projecting medical problems is an all-too-common example of this.  My doctor once told me that medical students are notorious for imagining that they’ve contracted some terrible disease.

The reason, of course, is that they study diseases on a daily basis.  Because they are trained to be constantly on the lookout for the life-threatening symptoms they are learning about, it’s understandable that they would sometimes imagine they have some of those same symptoms.

Can there be a better definition of joy than the feeling you have when the results of your prostate exam, colonoscopy, pap smear, or mammogram come back negative?  Until you get that thumbs-up feedback from your doctor or lab, it’s very easy for your mind to play tricks on you and stress you to the limit.  It’s a classic example of being stressed over a problem that doesn’t exist.   The problem becomes real only if, and when, the results come back positive.

This is precisely what happened to me many years ago when I was told that my PSA reading was slightly on the high side.  I had recently watched a couple of shows on television about prostate cancer, and a 20/20 segment by Hugh Downs put me over the top.

To make a long story short, I began sweating heavily at night, my left leg was tingling, and I lost my appetite.  I found myself lying in bed thinking about what a prostate operation would be like, how much pain would be involved, how much recuperation time would be required, and if I would even survive.

Guess what?  It turned out that my symptoms were 100 percent self-induced.  When I visited a second urologist, everything checked out perfectly — including a PSA reading on the low side.

On reflection, however, I’m glad I had that experience, because it showed me how easy it is to induce stress — and even medical symptoms — through the power of the mind.  If you excessively dwell on bad things that might happen in your life — medical or otherwise — you only succeed in increasing the chances of their actually happening.

In the words of Thomas Carlyle, “Our main business is not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand.”  In other words, focus on today’s problems, because, in most cases, that’s a full-time job.

 

Recognize that for every negative, there’s an offsetting positive.

In Million Dollar Habits, I discuss a principle that I refer to as the Natural Law of Balance.  In pointing out that the universe is in balance, I use such examples as electrons and protons, night and day, male and female, hot and cold, and life and death.  The reality is that for every positive, there’s an offsetting negative, and for every negative, there’s an offsetting positive.  Balance is the natural order of the universe.

The nice thing about it is that when you understand and believe in universal balance, it gives you the mind-set to look quickly and automatically for the offsetting positive in every negative situation.  Put another way, think of every negative occurrence as nothing more than an illusion hiding something of value to you.  As Richard Bach so eloquently put it in his book Illusion, “What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the Master calls a butterfly.”

 

Accept the inevitable.

Notwithstanding the Natural Law of Balance, there are some things that are inevitable and over which you have no control.  However, it’s important to be able to discern the difference between inevitable and difficult.  For example, success can be difficult, but regardless of one’s circumstances, failure is not inevitable.  Accepting the inevitable is not being negative, it’s actually being positive.  What’s negative is not being able to ignore the inevitable and move on with your life.

As Charles Swindoll put it, “We cannot change the inevitable.  The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. … I am convinced that life is 10 percent what happens to me and 90 percent how I react to it.”

Accepting the inevitable and focusing on opportunities in your life is virtually guaranteed to lower your level of stress.

 

Refuse to react to the lies and negative remarks disseminated by others.

There is no person on this planet who cannot relate to this issue, especially those who have high public profiles.  Can you imagine enduring the hatred, slander, and defamation that someone like a Rush Limbaugh has had to put up with over the years?  I am convinced that what keeps someone like this going is a powerful capacity to ignore most of the vile remarks made about him.

In my early years as an author, I admit that I allowed the media to get to me.  It seemed as though every other sentence written about me was a total fabrication.  When I complained to my attorney, he explained three things to me that had a dramatic impact on how I handled the media fiction machines from that point on.

First, he told me to forget about filing lawsuits.  He said that after spending an enormous amount of time and money, I’d still lose — even if I won the case.  Why?  Because in libel suits, you have to prove damages, which is a near-impossible task.

Second, the more you complain about being defamed or slandered, the more attention you draw to the defamatory or slanderous remarks.  When we read or hear something negative about ourselves, we tend to blow it way out of proportion.

On more than one occasion when I mentioned a negative article about myself to someone, that person would respond with something like, “Gee, I read that article, and I thought it was pretty good.”  In other words, what I was reading into the article was very different from the interpretation of others who had read the same article.

Third, it makes you appear to be above the fray when you ignore the mudslinging, step back, and let your supporters defend you.  I’ve been doing this for years, and it’s always a great feeling when a reader sends me a copy of a letter he sent to a publication, blasting it for something it printed about me that was untrue.

In most cases, those who admire and respect you — especially if they know you well — will defend you when you’re attacked.  Just don’t make the naive mistake of expecting everyone to love you, because they won’t.  Remember, even Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated.

 

Intellectualize the reality that life isn’t perfect.

I say intellectualize, because just about everyone claims to understand this reality, but I don’t believe most people take the trouble to analyze what it really means.  In The Road Less Traveled, Dr. M. Scott Peck pointed out that one of the most traumatic moments of a child’s life is when he discovers that his parents aren’t perfect.

Likewise, I believe that one of the most traumatic moments of a parent’s life is when he/she discovers that their child isn’t perfect.  You can reduce your stress many times over by accepting the reality that there is no perfect child, parent, spouse, home, city, or job.

Learn to take life one wave at a time.  And if you get in the habit of focusing on the Natural Law of Balance, it will bring an abundance of peace and tranquility into your life.

In the fourth and final installment of this article, I’ll be covering two other components that I consider to be essential to achieving peace of mind:  (1) resisting the temptation to try to make the world bend to your will, and (2) maintaining control of your anger and resentment.

Robert Ringer

+Robert Ringer is an American icon whose unique insights into life have helped millions of readers worldwide. He is also the author of two New York Times #1 bestselling books, both of which have been listed by The New York Times among the 15 best-selling motivational books of all time.

28 responses to “Peace of Mind, Part III”

  1. Reality Seeker says:

    Beautifully written article….. loved every word.

  2. richard lee van der says:

    This is a super-excellent discussion and gives wonderful, practical advice! This one I am going to copy and rerere-read! I KNOW most of these ideas, but still don't practice them adequately. RE the latter point, Chaucer wrote a great poem titled "Truth". In it he writes (in Middle English, "Do not be tempted to fix everything you see wrong. Doing so would be like banging your head against a brick wall." I tend to stew about things beyond my control and have to remember Chaucer's words AND AA's "Serenity Prayer". We all need to "accent the positive, and negate the negative", to paraphrase the old song. For some of us, it is a daily battle. I know. Thank you, Mr. Ringer! This is exactly what most people, I believe, need to hear! I know I am one and will be rerere-reading your exceellent analysis and advice.

  3. Marcus says:

    Dr. Seuss said it best: "those the matter don't mind, and those that mind don't matter".

  4. R Diamond says:

    I will be sharing this one with my friends and family. And picking up a copy of the "Illusion" book to see what that is about – thanks!

  5. Jody Pilkington says:

    I really needed this article today Mr. Ringer.

    Thank you.

  6. richard lee van der says:

    I am an American living in the Philippines. We found and rent the ideal house. Quiet, and no near neighbors. Then all of a sudden a crew of builders came to build a big house not only next to ours, but, jammed up against MY wall! So, as it is being (noisily) built, I fantasize all the disturbance the new "neighbors" are going to create! I am more than often upset! AND, it hasn't even happened yet! And, there is nothing I can do about it anyway. Yes, I have fallen into one of the many mind-traps Mr. Ringer writes about. (Certain Laws are here.)

    • DDDDDuane says:

      Hey Richard….Being a renter you could find another place pretty quick….
      Where in Philippines do you live? A sojourn there is on my bucket list….

      • richard lee van der says:

        Hi Duane, Yes, I could move, but that is expensive and a move is a big hassle getting set up again elsewhere. But, yes, may have to do that, depending.
        Regarding the Philippines, I live near Barretto which is about an hour from Angeles City where I suggest you try first. Unlike where I live, there are MANY kinds of excellent restaurants in Angeles City, and more kinds of businesses for shopping. And if you are into Clubs, that is THE place. Let me know if you come over here. Better AFTER the Rainy Season is finished tho. Good Luck, Amigo!

  7. richard lee van der says:

    (Certain Laws are LAX here.)

  8. Jitin Anand says:

    This is why I open your every email. Just with a hope that this one might be Mr. Robert''s classic. It proved true 3rd consecutive time. Thank you.

  9. ◄Dave► says:

    I have noticed how rarely you even respond to negative feedback, and are always gracious when you do. I have also noticed how often the rest of us regular commenters and admirers, leap to your defense for you. Excellent strategy, Sir.

    Personally, my attitude toward thoughtless negativity, is encapsulated in a little ditty, which I composed years ago:

    Why should I care what others think?
    Most clueless sheeple don’t.
    Emoters choose instead to feel,
    Dogmatic faithful won’t.

    I thoroughly enjoy discussing and debating rational ideas. Emotions and mysticism, not so much. 😉 ◄Dave►

    • Jim Hallett says:

      Dave, I never knew your blog title (until clicking it today), and it is counterpoint to the libtard media title of "thoughts allowed", as they try to control them all. Robert is right in that we, his loyal readers, will defend him because we know him well and are not jumping to irrational conclusions. I am thankful that as I age, I have developed a great talent for not caring what others think, since I know I can't control that and try to adhere to the notion that what others think "is none of my business." I attempt to be congruent and that gives me peace of mind, and I am fine with others doing and thinking what they will.

      • ◄Dave► says:

        Thanks, Jim. Your always thoughtful participation there would certainly be welcome.

        Yes, just imagine what the world could be like, if everyone spent a lot more time trying to effectively use their own minds, and a lot less concerning themselves with what might be going on in others. The very notion of thought crimes, or the attendant thought police, strikes me as ludicrous. ◄Dave►

  10. larajf says:

    I'm at a transition in my life…my daughter is leaving to go away to university in another state. It's going to be a big change for both of us. And whenever I start to feel sad or anxious, I try to replace it by feeling excited. Excited for her next big step. Excited for me entering into another stage of life. And you're right…it's better to consciously focus on the positive rather then getting mired down in the muck.

    • Rock Roach says:

      Just drove my child to Northern Iowa University from Biloxi for graduate studies.I am kind of glad she is 24 instead of 18.(I still didn't want her to make that long drive by herself).What I will say is from the time she got to
      21,her thought processes impoved exponentionally.And I think that it is smart if your child can attend a local
      college at least for the first few years of schooling.Also since she has worked in her field for several years,
      I am confident she will work hard for that graduate degree(she is paying for 95 percent of it) and know what waits for her at the finish line( a nice job in the occupational therapy field).

  11. Avery Horton says:

    It is kind of funny, Robert, that you posted this article today. I have been pondering whether or not we really experience life or do we compare it to the stories we tell ourselves? When you see something or someone you find attractive, you start storytelling. Thinking how great it would be to have it or them in your life. Many times reality smacks us upside the head and doesn't measure up to the story. Some call it expectations. And the same is true when you see something or someone you don't find attractive. You tell yourself stories. Ever finally cave in and taste something you have rejected only to find out you love the taste? It is never the thing, it is what we associate with the thing. I believe that is one of the keys of life. Looking forward to the next installment.

    • patg2 says:

      An example. The first time my mother served us fried okra, I was decidedly not interested. But the rule is, taste one bite. I ended up eating all the leftovers, and since then, I often seek out opportunities to eat it. Sometimes I even crave it, like right now, thinking about it.

  12. Sue says:

    Excellent article!

  13. Donna says:

    Re: "fretting and stewing"… My grandmother used to quote the Bible verse where Job says "The thing that I have greatly feared has come upon me." She called it "borrowing trouble". It really is a useless way to spend time.

  14. Shelley Ross says:

    The iceball theory still has me Robert! Waiting for 4th Installment! Anticipation (think Carly Simon!)

  15. patg2 says:

    This article is mostly a bunch of common sense. Also, biblical, for what that's worth. Jesus said not to worry about tomorrow.

    We're living the considerations in this article. Serious illness from which recovery is expected has caused us to focus on things we used to take for granted, and learn how to accept the present situation as a stepping stone to growth and restoration. Not dwelling on imagined problems is a very real part of what we discuss. Also, anticipating, we are seeing in a dramatic way how inappropriate anger actually does real damage, and are learning and re-learning how to control anger. There is righteous anger, but we're not talking about that, but self-serving anger that is focused on protecting one's self-interests to the point of tearing down those we love.

    • Reality Seeker says:

      Good comment. Yes. Nothing concentrates the mind like a close call with death and/ or a serious illness.. Jesus's believe system was totally amazing. Especially when you consider the context of the times in which he lived. I, too, thought of his words:. "Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?…..Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."

      Put into proper context, Jesus's advice amounts to "don't worry too much" about the future because it won't help. This, of course, doesn't mean we should not seriously think and plan for "tomorrow", but there's peace of mind knowing that ultimately our future is in God's hands. This is the priceless "peace of mind" that a Christian enjoys.

      God speed your recovery. I nearly lost my son to a flesh eating bacterial infection last year, so I understand what you're going through.

      • patg2 says:

        We agree on much. I agree with your interpretation of what Jesus said. The peace that Christians experience passes all understanding, we are told. I know that core of peace even in the most troubling situations. God has always met our needs, through rarely our wants, and that's fine with me. This doesn't stop us from worrying, of course. But I always tell people, don't worry, pray. It works better. Worry is inward-focused. Prayer is focused toward God, Who can change things. We were created to have a relationship with God, and we don't have the answers someplace deep inside us, only more questions. I have known seekers who are never satisfied.

        I am the caretaker. I have experience with the bacteria in question in a couple of contexts. It can be nasty. They can treat it with certain antibiotics. You sometimes hear of people having their limbs eaten away. The most famous is the woman who got shark bites. This is not common. She had too much trauma to her body. They could have saved everything by giving her hyperbaric oxygen treatments, and I am outraged that they don't do things like that.

  16. pubfilm.ws says:

    i enjoyed reading this article thank u for sharing pubfilm.ws

  17. Avtar Avtar says:

    This is real insight, i like the article, peace of mind is so crucial in life, we all need it, some find it in God, and in the Countryside, or with flowers. I have been aware of Robert Ringers, works over the years, and enjoy his emails, i looks forward to this next book, when it comes out, apparently Stress can kill people, so, be careful what goes in your head. Happiness is a topic, i think is related, David Cameron our Prime Minister, spent about £2 million a year to find out if the public were happy or not.

    It can be tough be tough out there, i think mostly i have had an easy life, good health, being the most important.

    I know he comes from the USA, remember Europe is bigger than the U.S, bigger may not be better, your very fortunate, and lucky to have, Robert Ringer on your doorstep, his works i really like, and is a wonderful public speaker, who i enjoy listening too, A very talented individual, i feel honored to have his works, which are available to all who want them.

    Thank You,

    Avtar
    Great Britian

  18. Raj says:

    I loved this article by Robert and forwarded the link to my old-boys group. Here are some responses:

    -Great reading. Thanks for the forward. There is a whole lot of meaning in it.

    -All my pains went away, thanks

    -Feel good reading.
    All the pains remain as they were before I read this….but became more bearable !!!??!!!
    After reading I thought "apun kya, sab ka yeh hi halat hai…pareshaan…including the author Ringer."
    Thanks for sharing.

    -Thanks for sharing
    The prayer of wisdom effectively summarizes Ringer….but then mind is a monkey!!!
    God grant me the serenity
    To accept the things I cannot change;
    Courage to change the things I can;
    And wisdom to know the difference.
    (attributed to Reinhold Neibuhr, 1892-1971)

    -Thank you so much for this gem…recommend reading it as a reminder once every few months…

    -Nice one, thanks!

    -By now we would have realized and monetized our worth !
    So live for the day, let someone else solve the leftover problems….

  19. Mike Pinsker says:

    Well done, Robert. I have followed you and SWcott Peck (RIP) for more than 40 years now. I have the final tape cassette of his Road Less Traveled series but have misplacxed the (5?) other tapes in this excellent series. Are you able to recommend to me where I might purchase either the missing cassettes (Now old technology) and/or as CD/DVD with the whole set? Thanks much

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