Negative Reinforcement

Too Much Mind. Too Little Light.

Too Much Mind. Too Little Light.

FRESNO, CA—When it comes to spiritual development, I’m a big fan of negative reinforcement. If it sucks, you’ll tend to avoid it. So un-Buddhist of me I know, but it works (I’m not a Buddhist).

In this forum post, I respond to micherts comment about the analytical mind and how I use my dislike of the mind to strengthen the Love/Light in me.

Turns out, Thomas Merton might have been a fan of negative reinforcement too:

In humility is the greatest freedom. As long as you have to defend the imaginary self that you think is important, you lose your peace of heart. As soon as you compare that shadow with the shadows of other people, you lose all joy, because you have begun to trade in unrealities and there is no joy in things that do not exist.

-Thomas Merton

Volumes have been written about what Merton says in just three little sentences. Beautiful.

As long as you have to defend the imaginary self that you think is important, you lose your peace of heart.

In other words: If you keep defending your personal self (imaginary self), then your life is going to suck.

Bad dog! Bad! Drop that right now! You bad dog.

Negative reinforcement: Bad for dogs—good for you.

(All silliness aside, read those three sentences again. Powerful words.)

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6 thoughts on “Negative Reinforcement

  1. I definitely needed those words by Merton today…Tonight is my last night in this house that I shared with my girlfriend of over 16 years. It’s funny how I swing back and forth from being accepting of the whole situation and quite excited of the paths that lay in front of me to regretting “my mistakes” and thinking of attempting to try and make it work again. In the process of packing my things, I get the feeling of getting rid of almost everything that I have except the necessaries. I’ve accumulated so much things related to music, I played bass, CDs and LPs, I feel like getting rid of all of them, including my two bass guitars. What is that all about?

  2. Having spent some time involved in the Buddhist community, I did not get your comment about their acceptance, or non-reaction to suffering – if that is what you were referring to. Could you elaborate a little. Thanks.

    • Their aversion/attraction thing. Non-avoidence, non-attachment of them. As I said, I’m not a Buddhist, so it’s just a layman’s understanding of it. No offense intended (if so taken).

      • My experiences with practicing Buddhists is that they’re not totally adverse to avoiding things ~ like commercials. After all, theirs is the middle way. (And besides, isn’t that what the remote was designed for?)

  3. Hey Wayne,

    When it comes to experiencing more love/light as you say, I find any analytical thought detracts from the bliss. Negative reinforcement is also analytical thought – have you noticed any improvements from using this bad dog technique? The only technique I’ve found to be effective is to quieten the mind using focused meditation.

    Aka micherts 🙂

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