Let Go of Your Opinions

There’s an old Zen proverb that says, “Do not seek the truth, only cease to cherish opinion.” To me, this means that the truth is all around you, and all you have to do to see it is to stop covering it up with your own flawed interpretations and expectations.

For example, let’s say that you’re driving on the freeway; it’s rush hour, and you’re in the middle lane. Suddenly, somebody cuts in front of you from the next lane. You swerve to avoid a collision, and you think, “Idiot! Are you trying to kill me?!? Do you really think you’re going to get there any sooner than I am in this traffic? Jerk!

(Maybe you even say this out loud. In an angry voice.)

Your Opinion

All that angry stuff you added to the situation (about the other driver being an idiot and trying to kill you) is only your opinion. The other driver may have been swerving to avoid hitting another car or an animal that ran out from the shoulder of the road. They may have been simply distracted or preoccupied. They may even have been having a stroke or a heart attack.

Of course, it’s possible that they were in fact being impatient and inconsiderate, but what they almost certainly were not trying to do was kill you. They may not even have been aware of you.

The Truth

But you don’t know any of that. All you know for sure is that a car cut in front of you and you had to swerve to avoid it. That’s the truth. All the rest is your opinion.

And your opinion did nothing to help you in that situation: by the time you formulated and expressed your opinion, the situation was already over and done with. The car cut in front of you, you reacted by swerving to avoid the collision, and that was the end of it.

Your Opinion Can Hurt You

In fact, your opinion in that situation could go well beyond merely not being helpful to being actively harmful; if you allow it to perpetuate itself, you may become increasingly angry, decide that “you’ll show them!” and start driving in an aggressive or reckless manner, putting yourself — and the other drivers out there with you — in danger.

Your Opinions About Quitting Can Hurt You, Too

It’s much the same with craves when we’re quitting smoking: the truth of the matter is that cravings are a normal part of recovery. They’re nothing special. And the truth is, when you get a crave, you only have two choices: feed it, or starve it. But we add our opinions to the mix, and all sorts of mischief begins.

We fear the craves before they arrive, thinking that they’ll be horrible and hard to resist, and the fear becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, because it adds to their power before they even arrive.

Or we try to avoid the craves (which of course we can’t; they’re a normal part of recovery) and the energy we put into trying to avoid them just adds to their power once they inevitably do arrive.

Worse still, we try to fight the craves when they arrive (but of course, as we’ve discussed before, resistance is futile) and the energy we put into fighting them just gives them more power.

The Truth Will Set You Free

If we’d just accept the truth, and deal with it appropriately without adding our opinions to it, we’d have a much easier time recovering.

How do you do that? Simple: when you get a crave, acknowledge it (“Oh; having a crave.”) without adding your opinion (in other words, it’s not “OMG! I’M HAVING A CRAVE!!!“, it’s like you’re saying, “Oh; the sun came up in the east this morning.” No big deal, no surprise, and no drama; you’re just stating a fact), decide what to do about it (feed it, or starve it), and then just do whatever you need to do next without thinking about it again.

Is it easy to do this? No, not at first, but it gets easier the more you practice it. Eventually, you’ll get to the point where you won’t have any opinions about your craves at all, and they’ll come and go without disturbing you a bit.

Try It

And then come back and let me know how it’s working for you.

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