What Happens When Meditation Goes Wrong?

What Happens When Meditation Goes Wrong?

Meditation can be done in many different ways, but if we were to nail down the basic principles of being an observer and being in the present moment, it sounds simple. Now, there is of course a dark side to meditation, so what happens when meditation goes wrong?

Meditation can be a very intense experience that not everyone is prepared for, and more often than not, it’s a very small minority that reports negative experiences with meditation or it simply goes wrong. 

Now, when I say “going wrong”, it can be interpreted in two ways, either the meditation didn’t achieve anything for the individual practicing it, or it yields negative effects. 

Nothing Happening

Most of the time, this happens with newbies, and it’s normal. They set high expectations with meditation, but the session doesn’t line up with what they thought the experience was gonna be, and they make no progress and stay at the same place. Now, it takes time and practice to get the mind to remain in the present moment. 

But nothing happening or everything staying the same is the more preferable scenario when meditation goes wrong because at least, it’s not gonna be at the expense of your well-being, which is an important determining factor on whether you choose to continue with meditation or not. 

Losing Interest

Losing interest is common for those that don’t see results with meditation because it’s common for the practice to be associated with something boring. But boredom can be a blessing in disguise since it’s often a way where you can put your real self to the test against the mind. 

One of the ideas of meditation is to break free from the mind feeling like it wants to do something destructive for ourselves, but gratifying in the short term and we often pay the price in the long run. This is why meditation is so crucial for many, especially those lacking any type of self-control. 

It’s easy for almost anyone to give in to temporary desires while sacrificing their long-term more gratifying desires. After all, we live in times where we want things now without wanting to be in the now. 

But one of the faster ways to get feedback from the meditation and keep it from going wrong is following up with yourself, either by journaling or doing necessary adjustments to the practice to the point where you can see some sort of progress. 

If you stop believing in meditation, you’re unlikely to stay for the long haul and the only way to create some sort of belief is to get some kind of validation that something is changing in your day-to-day thanks to the practices. 

Associating Meditation With Something Negative

This is one of the lesser desirable outcomes of meditation, but common. Those that have managed to push past the stages of boredom and held on to their discipline with meditation, often find themselves fortunate enough to enter deep meditations

This is often where you start to see the changes people often talk about with meditation, and you start to be in the now, so what could possibly be so negative about consistently being in the present moment? Well, the mind often travels back to the past, or even forward to the future because what’s in the present isn’t always pleasant, and the mind has been conditioned to live anywhere but the present. 

Sometimes, the mind extracts some of the traumas stored in the past and brings them to the present, because we have a clear mind which gives us an environment to confront a side of us that’s never been addressed, and many will be turned away from meditation as a result of this because meditation can go in any direction. 

No matter if you try to steer it in a positive direction. As a result, you might start associating meditation with something negative and you could say that it goes wrong. 

Achieving The Opposite of What’s Intended

Many are in a quest for peace and calm when they start meditating. It’s a way to escape one world to instead, enter our own world of self-exploration. But we ourselves can be a bit of a jungle to navigate, and we often find ourselves on a journey to conquer ourselves during meditations. 

This can happen directly or indirectly. But while achieving the opposite of calm and peace is pretty rare with meditation, it does happen to some practitioners that have been in the trenches for years. 

For instance, the interview on YouTube I’ve linked below goes into the details on how meditation actually can cause anxiety in some cases and dissociation, all from too much meditation

Many meditation teachers would deny that these adverse effects are a thing in a portion of meditators, which is why I always recommend taking everything you read and learn with a grain of salt and letting yourself and your own experiences validate how much of what you learn applies to you. Since everyone is different. 

When we hear of meditation, we often only get to hear the good side of meditation without taking into account there’s another side to meditation, where things can go wrong. These individuals might need additional help from professionals to recover, even if, from what I’ve seen, it’s a minority of meditators. 

Is Meditation Too Risky?

Considering that meditation can go wrong, even if the cases are rare, many believe there’s a risk with meditating. 

Well, there might be a risk but there are far greater risks than meditating that we do on a day-to-day basis. For instance, driving a car always carries the risk of an accident, but that doesn’t mean you should stop driving altogether. 

The average individual has everything to gain from meditation and nothing to lose, since meditation, at its core, only boils down to shifting your attention to the present and abstaining from living in the future or past, since neither exists. 

With meditation, you can always stop the practice at any moment if you feel it’s too overwhelming, whereas with driving if you’re on a highway, good luck! 

Keep in mind that meditation can be practiced in conjunction with anything else you do, and doesn’t necessarily involve sitting still. 

Don’t Suppress Negative Experiences

Were you better off when you meditated or were you worse off? Sure, meditation isn’t about interacting with your thoughts but more about observing them and letting you coexist with them while you are in the session. 

That’s not to say you should suppress what you feel afterward if meditation makes you feel worse. Meditation is all about acceptance and embracing what you are feeling since it’s only then that you can change it. 

But even if the association with meditation is overall negative, you can always choose to stop the practice, which is what’s beautiful about meditation, it isn’t addictive and something available to you at all times, whenever you need or want to do it. 

Meditating Less Frequently

If the meditation you are doing goes wrong to the degree where you believe it’s affecting you, you can always meditate less frequently, or not meditate at all in some extreme cases. Not everyone needs meditation but many, if not most, will benefit from it. 

You may not want to abandon the practice but you also may find that the practice is too intense. At this point you could also reduce the time you spend meditating or meditating less frequently, but still to a degree where you feel the benefits. 

It’s okay to skip days of meditation if you feel like inconsistent meditations work for you. Even though I frequently remember to do meditation consistently to get into the habit, the exception is there if the meditation goes wrong for you.