Gathered around the table, each of us with a cup of coffee, she leaned forward conspiratorially as she prepared to tell me the secret she needed to share.
“I killed him,” she whispered. “I killed him with my thoughts.”
This elderly lady, a family member of mine who I will call Lili for this post, confessed this secret to me one afternoon many years ago. We were in warm weather, an afternoon in Miami. But suddenly to me, it felt like February in North Dakota.
She shook her head. “I know it sounds crazy, but it must have been me. You can’t dislike someone that much and not cause them harm.” She lifted her thin hand, the skin nearly translucent against the light. “My hand might as well have been on his heart, stopping it from beating.” She was shaken, a natural reaction to the news of someone you know dying. But even more than that, I could feel her guilt, her overwhelming emotion about the fate of this man. She felt responsible for his death.
I was very surprised by this confession. This was not a superstitious woman. My first instinct was to dismiss her concerns and reassure her, and that’s what I did. “Of course your thoughts didn’t kill him,” I argued. “He died of a heart attack, he lives all the way across town from you and you haven’t seen him in months. If your thoughts could kill people, don’t you think there would be a ton of dead people everywhere dying of unknown causes every day, many more than already do? How many evil, hated people throughout history have lived long lives? Don’t worry, I assured her, you may have hated him, but your thoughts didn’t kill him.”
She’d simply nodded, as if wanting to accept my explanation and what she logically knew was true, but still unable to shake the feeling that she had done something wrong.
I don’t know why I thought about this conversation recently. Maybe because its getting closer to Halloween. Maybe because I’ve been reading a lot of gothic novels lately and I have eerie subject matter on my mind. Or maybe just because I’ve always liked spooky things (my dream house growing up was the Haunted Mansion at Disney World). But regardless, I’ve had Lili and this odd conversation on my mind lately.
Lili is senile now, Alzheimer’s has left her trapped in her own mind, confined to a wheelchair, with no memory of any of us. I don’t know what she thinks about now, but I very much hope its not about him. I certainly hope its not with any guilt.
Are there killer thoughts? Thoughts that are dangerous just because they exist? Not just because they lead to action but because they are intrinsically so filled with anger? The Dalai Lama said that “holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” But what if they really did?
I had a friend confess to me that she knew someone who had been cursed. She swore that this person had lived a miserable life, all after fighting with a neighbor who had cursed her, telling her that she would never be happy. Sentenced to eternal misery, her life had played out the way the neighbor had predicted. My friend believed it, she was sure that the negative energy had somehow wreaked havoc on the life of this friend. Self-fulfilling prophecy or something more?
I don’t think that thoughts (that are not eventually followed by some type of action) can kill in the bodily sense. But I do know this. Thoughts can kill dreams. They can wreck your soul and bring you to the ground and bury you emotionally. Anyone who has ever fought anxiety or depression can tell you that. Your thoughts have incredible power over your attitude, your state of mind, your self-esteem, virtually every aspect of your life. To be consumed by negative thoughts is like living in a dark purgatory, never able to escape, to get close enough to the light to claw your way out.
How do we use our thoughts for good, to bolster ourselves and direct that positive energy towards our goals, rather than spending our time holding in anger and punishing ourselves with negativity? I think that’s what we’re all striving for, at least I know I am. It’s hard not to be consumed by righteous indignation, by negative, self bashing, killer thoughts after someone hurts us. Because even if they start out directed towards others, ultimately they come back on us–tearing us down, making us feel bad, taking away our time, blurring our logic, destroying inspiration, and overall filling our lives with soul-crushing self-doubt and negativity.
And that’s when they can really kill.
Wherever you are, and however you’re feeling, I wish you so much peace and good energy. Stay postive!