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Notes on counselling

Conquering negative attitudes

Dr. Soumitra Basu


Negative attitudes that go on repeating and ruminating actually invite negative consequences in life. The physical mind at the lowest end of the mind-range is characterised by automatic thoughts and needs to be enlightened by higher powers. A methodical discipline can break the impasse and enhance the receptivity to higher thoughts by invoking silence, peace and Ānanda.

A continuous harbouring of negative attitudes invites negative consequences in life. Clinicians take great care to distinguish between pure anxiety states and real cardiac problems. Subjects with anxiety disorders are considered for counselling or cognitive behavioural therapy to allay their fears and apprehensions and assurances with a certain degree of conviction that they are not suffering from any serious physical ailment. But now studies are suggesting that negative emotions like anxiety can actually act as independent risk factors for cardiovascular disease. That persistently held negative emotions can lead to a deterioration of health is a well-documented fact.  

All types of negative emotions like anxiety, anger, jealousy and hatred are damaging but I would like to dwell on one particular negative emotion — the persistently nagging habit of thinking, anticipating and apprehending in pessimistic terms, continuously dwelling upon a negative world-view, continuously complaining and cursing oneself, an abject inability to hold on to faith and trust, all culminating in the loss of joy in life and meaning in existence. It is important to realise that apart from all the biochemical imbalances and psychological attributes associated with such a negative emotional attitude, there is an occult perspective too. The habit of constantly anticipating and harping on negative and pessimistic consequences invites adverse forces in the cosmic consciousness to rush over and take possession of the hapless subject so that very often the anticipated apprehension becomes a real possibility and finally an eventuality.  That is why it is not uncommon to find subjects with pessimistic world-views actually suffering immensely from illnesses or a pile of unfortunate life events. 

In terms of Integral Yoga Psychology, the habitual thought-patterns that go on endlessly ruminating have their origin in the ‘physical mind’ that is at the lowest rung of the mind-range. The physical mind deals with physical things, depends on sensory feedback, draws ideas arising from external situations and knows no other Truth unless enlightened from above. It is the part of the mind-range that is closest to the Inconscience (1). The Inconscience itself represents a negation of consciousness and this negativity is imparted quite spontaneously to the physical mind which then goes on ruminating and magnifying it. 

It may be insisted that all habitual movements arise from repressed elements but from the perspective of yoga psychology, this does not always hold true for it is the nature of the physical mind to go on automatically rotating, ruminating and harping on the same theme again and again.  In fact, it is now believed that in many areas (like ADHD), Freudian repression has been replaced by the modern sense of ‘automaticity’   as a causative factor for maladaptive habits (2). Such automaticity is the traditional characteristic of the physical mind in Aurobindonian terms. The impasse can only be resolved by a double movement, an upward shift to a higher poise of the mind-range and the descent of a higher Light to illumine the physical mind.        

The first task to get off the hold of the physical mind is a selection of physical exercises, especially those where the mind and body coordinate for a particular task. It is not enough to do bodily exercises without the concomitant collaboration of the mind for otherwise the mind would go on ruminating negativities while the body is exercised. Unless the body and mind move in harmony, it is not possible to get out of the clutches of the physical mind.  

It is important to note that having the habit of ruminating negative thoughts does not imply that the subject may not have any faith or may lack any ideal around which life can be organised. On the contrary, many such subjects have faith and conviction and are open to higher influences. The tragedy is that due to their persistent habit of dwelling on negative thoughts, they cannot steadfastly hold onto their faith, cannot cling to a eulogised ideal. In fact, this contradiction makes them suffer more, inviting further negativities and eventually landing in a vicious cycle of negative energy. One powerful and effective remedy is to replace the habit of dwelling on repetitive negative thoughts by invoking repetitive positive thoughts. However repetition of positive thoughts alone cannot be successful (for they must have been tried by such subjects to allay their own suffering) unless these thoughts are invested with a certain degree of power or dynamism. This is the reason why all spiritual and mystic traditions prefer some form of japa, dwelling on a powerful dynamic mantra that galvanises the physical mind.  

The next important step would be to silence the mind, learning the art of making the mind silent and empty. It is difficult to achieve a state of silent mind as usually we dwell in the market-place of thoughts. Often guided imagery is useful as an initial step, which can be discarded once the subject has acquired the art. The mind needs to be silenced not because thinking has to be abandoned but because the trivial ruminations of the physical mind and the resultant negative energies have to be cleared to make way for higher, constructive, creative and intuitive thoughts. Once the art of silencing the mind develops, one can then invoke the descent of peace into one’s system. And when peace has stabilised, one can then invoke joy or Ānanda unto oneself. It is then that a substantial victory can be achieved over the habit of constantly dwelling on negative and pessimistic thoughts.  

One should however be cautious that joy or Ānanda cannot be prematurely and forcibly invoked unless there is a consolidation of peace and silence; or else the result would be disruptive, precipitating turbulence and disharmony.   

An exaggerated harping on the ruminating nature of the physical mind would lead the trajectory of thought to a dead-end. Modern psychology devises cognitive behavioural approaches to overcome the deadlock but the relief is partial and temporary. A more enduring victory is assured by yoga psychology as it acknowledges the outstretched hand of higher forces that can be invoked. An integral perspective of yoga psychology charts out a methodical discipline for invocation and descent of peace and Ānanda to break the impasse.  

“Alive in a dead rotating universe 
We whirl not here upon a casual globe 
Abandoned to a task beyond our force; 
Even through the tangled anarchy called Fate 
And through the bitterness of death and fall 
An outstretched Hand is felt upon our lives (3).” 


1. Basu. S. Integral Health. 2nd ed. Pondicherry: SAIIHR; 2011, p.. 173. 

2. Brown, TE. A New Understanding of ADHD in Children and Adults. Executive Function Impairments. Special Pharma ed. New York: Routledge; 2014, p.2. 

3. Sri Aurobindo. Birth Centenary Library, Volume 28. Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust; 1970, pp. 58-9.

Dr. Soumitra Basu, a practising psychiatrist and member of SAIIIHR, is the Director of a school of psychology, Integral Yoga Psychology. He is also one of the editors of NAMAH.

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