How Do I Get Rid of Bad Qualities?


How to get rid of bad inherent qualities like obsessive compulsive disorder,easily getting angry when things are not going as how we believe to be and what is the purpose of this life?

—Sathya Krishna, India


Dear Sathya,

The most important thing you can do is raise your awareness of who you are in your soul nature: a child of God, an individualized spark of the Divine. The purpose of life is to realize this truth. The ‘inherent qualities’ you mention are not part of who you, are and the first thing to remember is not to define yourself by them. You are a soul and have an ego that allows you to act in this world. These qualities are habits that the ego has picked up over this life or brought over from other incarnations. Habits can be changed. These qualities are not fixed.

Habit patterns reside in our subconscious and are often how we ‘always’ react to circumstances. Some habits are helpful, such as how to tie shoes or brush teeth. No one wants to think through how to do these each time. Habits of anger or needing to control circumstances are negative ones that prevent us from living at our highest potential. The more we practice these negative habits, the stronger they become, and the more easily they are triggered. Brain research shows that whatever actions or thoughts we participate in repeatedly the brain will dedicate more neural pathways to it. We teach the brain that this is important and we want to do more of it. If we practice a musical instrument, the brain learns how to do that better and more easily. If we practice anger or a need to control, the brain learns how to do that better and more easily.

Your brain follows your desires. So if you desire to break a bad mental habit and really put your will behind no longer responding to circumstances in the same old way the brain will change to weaken the habit. Habits of anger and need to control are stored in lower more primitive portions of the brain — mainly the limbic system. These lower brain functions tend to run on reflexive, automatic pilot. The purpose of these centers is primitive self-preservation but most of the habits stored there have nothing to do with that need for physical safety.

Daily meditation is a wonderful way to reprogram the brain to access states of calmness and peace. Peace, joy, calmness, and other uplifting qualities are part of the function of the prefrontal lobes of the brain. The prefrontal lobes are responsible for the highest brain functions and are located behind the forehead. It is helpful to know that the prefrontal lobes and the limbic system inhibit one another. If limbic system activity is strong, it will decrease activity in the prefrontal lobe. And if prefrontal lobe activity is strong it will inhibit the limbic system. This is a great confirmation of the power of meditation to decrease negative mental habits because meditation activates the prefrontal lobes and thus inhibits the activity in the area of the brain where the bad habits are located.

First I suggest establishing a daily meditation practice. You can learn a simple and effective technique of meditation at Meditation Mini-Course, a self-study course which is free. You might really benefit from taking a 10-week meditation course which will provide lots of training, guidance and support for you to establish a practice. You can learn about this at Ananda Course in Meditation. Just establishing a daily meditation practice will decrease your reactivity to external events.

Once you begin to have some tools to calm your mind. you can start to apply them to specific triggers for anger or a need to control. It is good to start with smaller events before you tackle the big ones. When a trigger happens: pause, do not immediately respond in the usual fashion. You can slowly mentally count, or slowly chant “Om, Om, Om” at least ten times. Then start to watch your breath (you will learn this technique in either course noted above). You can watch your breath with your eyes open, so you do not need to have a private spot to do this. Do this for at least a minute or so. Watching the breath physically reverses that drive to react. Each time you interrupt your tendency to react, the habit will weaken, and you will find yourself remaining more centered in response to the event.

Overcoming these habits will be tremendously empowering to you. You will no longer be a victim of subconscious patterns that cause trouble. In addition, you will find your life increasingly filled with calmness, peace and joy-qualities of your soul. You have asked your question because you know there must be something better. There is!

Many blessings,
Nayaswami Mukti