The attachment to what you believe is often way too strong to be broken just by saying to yourself, “I’m done with this. I want to stop.” Obsessive or addictive behavior like overeating or smoking is rarely changed by putting a sign on your refrigerator stating, I’m thin, or I’m smoke free. Your behavior is an expression of your beliefs and cannot be changed simply by changing your mind.
Letting go of something is a lot like true forgiveness. Consider the act of forgiveness. Are there people whom you have not forgiven? Are there things you have done that you have not forgiven yourself for? Why not?
Often, we just can’t forgive. Although we may want to completely let it go, the debate in our minds and the emotion tied to the event are too strong, especially when the offense has occurred repeatedly over a long period of time. Our insistence on the arguments that support our position become a jewel of immeasurable value. The attachment is very powerful, much like the tale of Gollum from the book trilogy The Lord of the Rings, and his addiction to his “precious”—the One Ring.
When You're Not Able to Forgive
Listen to the discussion in your mind when you don’t forgive, when you just can’t let it go. It’s all about what you did and what they did. Who should have done this or who should have done that. Who’s right and who’s wrong. It sounds like an argument. It sounds like a lawyer arguing a case.
When lawyers come before the judge to plead a case, they provide evidence, cite precedent, and present an argument with one specific goal in mind. They are there to prove they are right. If you listen to what you say to yourself when you think about someone you can’t forgive, what you hear is an argument about being right. You can’t forgive because you can’t let go of the conviction that you are right.
The reason you can’t let go of what you have come to believe—even if it is making you unhappy, even if you now strongly disagree—is because you are the champion of that point of view and will defend it at every turn. You need to be right.
Many times old wounds live on long after those who caused them have passed away. Why? Because we take over. We nourish the wound, care for it, and even embellish it. The point of the belief thrives because we are right about it.
Addicted to the Need to Be Right
Have you ever listened to someone complain that what they really want is impossible to achieve? If you listen closely to what they are saying, they will present all sorts of evidence to prove their point. If you suggest another way of looking at it they will likely respond, “Yes, I hear what you are saying . . . but.” The yes, . . . but indicates they are addicted to their need to be right.
In order to let go of an agreement you have made that has been reinforced thousands of times—that has your attention, hooks your mind with its point of view, and has an emotional perspective that is overwhelming—give up the need to be right. Giving up the need to be right stops every avenue where the belief is expressing itself. It suspends justification and evidence gathering, blocking the primary source of belief-nourishment—YOU!
Deciding to give up the need to be right is not just a thought but a far-reaching action that releases your investment of faith. Faith in what you believe.
Giving Up Your Interpretation
Giving up the need to be right does not mean what you observe isn’t accurate. You just give up your interpretation, because that’s where the attachment is to being right.
As an example, suppose you see a homeless man on the street. He appears to be sick and doesn’t seem to have much energy. His clothes are torn and tattered. He looks dirty, as if he hasn’t bathed in a long time. In your mind you may start to think about how you might help him. Maybe you can even save him from whatever has gotten him to this place. Perhaps you start thinking about how this person is lazy, and if he just got a job like everyone else he wouldn’t have to live on the street. Maybe you are disgusted by anyone who would let themselves get into such sorry shape.
What you notice about the homeless man and the condition he’s in is most likely correct. The rest is your assessment, your interpretation. Whether you are going to be the hero, the social worker, the reformer, or the judge is all about the need to be right.
Giving up being right starts by noticing the habit of needing to be right. Being right often appears as: defending, justifying, acting offended, incensed, or outraged. Intolerance, arguing, applying semantics to your arguments, condemning, being overly critical, acting condescending, sarcastic, or being addicted to accuracy are typical behaviors of being right.
Have you ever gone over and over in your mind how someone has offended you, arguing to yourself why they are wrong and you are right, and when you finally confront them you are overwhelmed by a powerful emotion?
Emotional energy feeds your limiting beliefs, and a sure way to manufacture that food is by being right about your story.
Why Give Up Your Need To Be Right?
Everybody defends their point of view. Nobody likes to be wrong. So why give up your need to be right? It’s such an integral part of our culture. We are trained from a young age to be right. Being right is a way to be accepted. Being right is a way to avoid the sting of criticism. Being right is a way to win. Editorials; call-in shows; courtroom battles; terrorism; debates in coffee shops, classrooms, and the bedroom all touch on the need to be right.
Perhaps you could try to convince yourself that you should give up your need to be right because of some moral argument about forgiveness or because it sounds like a reasonable thing to do. For me, there is only one good reason to give up the need to be right. Because it feels good.
Years ago I went on a trip to the Inca ruins at Machu Picchu in Peru with don Miguel [Ruiz]. One day he asked me, “Why am I here?”
I thought about it and I said, “To teach us.”
“Nope,” he replied. “Wrong answer.”
I thought about it some more and said, “To change the world.”
“Nope,” he replied. “Wrong answer.”
He was in a particularly feisty mood that day and although I had several clever answers come into my mind, part of me knew I was still headed in the wrong direction.
“Okay,” I said, “tell me. Why are you here?”
“For pleasure,” he replied.
It took me a very long time to understand what he meant. At first, I thought it was about physical pleasure, like getting a massage or lounging in a hot tub and sipping fine wine.
What I began to understand was that he deliberately acted in certain ways because of the emotion it invoked— because it felt pleasurable to him. He loved to play, laugh, and have fun. No matter what kind of exchange I had with him, there was always a sense he was meeting me with kindness, respect, and love without conditions. So I tried it too.
The emotion tied to treating myself and others with respect, kindness, and compassion was highly pleasurable. Learning to Stop the World, turning off my mind and riding moment to moment in a sensation of feelings with no words to describe it, was delightful. Merging with nature, breathing it in and allowing it to infuse me, was exquisite. I learned that when I aligned my will with the creative power of pure being, and gave up being accurate, I felt tremendous pleasure.
When You Can't Forgive...
When you can’t forgive someone for an offense, the simple fact is that you are using them to abuse yourself. Being right and being upset only hurt you. Thus the most compelling reason to give up the need to be right is pleasure.
If you take the time to notice how you feel when you take any action, without using words to define your perception, you may discover that your emotions provide invaluable advice based on how you feel.
If you are struggling to give up a belief, give up the need to be right about it. When you do, your attachment to the belief you want to change will crumble, igniting an emotion that is simply delightful.
To stop feeding an old belief that is no longer serving you, give up the need to be right.
This excerpt was reprinted with permission of the publisher,
Hampton Roads Publishing. ©2003, 2014. www.redwheelweiser.com
The Toltec Secret to Happiness: Create Lasting Change with the Power of Belief
by Ray Dodd. (Previously published as "The Power of Belief")
About the Author
Ray Dodd is a leading authority on belief, helping both individuals and businesses forge new beliefs to affect lasting and positive change. A former professional musician and engineer with many years in corporate management, Dodd leads seminars, applying ageless wisdom of the Toltec to life and business. Visit http://beliefworks.com/