Negativity vs Positivity
I have always thought of myself as a happy person. Always consider myself to be an optimist. I believe in the basic good of people, and of myself. But at times I have been confronted with evidence to the contrary: parents growing up, spousal arguments and good friends risking our friendship to call me out on being negative.
I can be snappy. When I am faced with a stressful situation, or new challenging information, my mind shuts down briefly while I process this information. If I haven’t had enough sleep., or have not eaten recently, I get crabby.
Negative Thoughts as a Habit
This automatic response of being negative when faced with something new is my biggest fault. Many of us have developed a pattern of negative thoughts. Maybe we picked it up form parents, teachers and friends telling us over the years that our dreams and ideas were unrealistic or unsuitable. Our forward movement was shut down. We lost the ability to delight in the new and different.
Sometimes we develop negative responses as a defense mechanism. Maybe some childhood injury grabbed hold of us and cautioned us not to trust ourselves, to stay out of danger.
Often we are negative to others because we are upset with ourselves. If I haven’t done what I was supposed to (or wanted to) do, I have a tendency to get upset and lash out at others. I have to remember that when I am angry or disappointed in myself, not to spread that to others unfairly.
Most of our behaviors develop in patterns over time. We don’t realize we are reacting to situations, people and events in the same automatic way. Then we don’t realize we are spreading negativity or hurting our friendships and most beloved relationships. We are presenting ourselves in way we do not intend.
Positive Encouragement from a Friend
A collaborator and good friend called me out recently on some of these behaviors:
“Of all the things about you there is only one which shocks and unbalances me. That is a slight negativity when you are down, attacked or depressed. It is a habit of mind, a habit of speech with you: only when you are foiled and negated by your environment, only then… so, how could I say more directly to you to become a beacon of light and hope, a poet of the creative principle itself.” Glenn Guillory
The email that contained that statement hit me right in the soul. Here I have been talking so much about my calling to spread creativity and share the good outcomes of my spiritual journey, and then hear that my everyday behaviors were negating that very message. I really had to spend a day thinking about this.
Have people hurt me? Have people violated my trust? Do I have good reasons to be defensive in daily exchanges? Has life been unfair? Yes, yes, yes, and yes. And yet, as I thought about it, I realized that by choosing to focus on the negative in my life, I was preventing myself from growing. I was refusing to enact the principles I have been learning, the things I truly believe in my life. Is it just possible that I could choose my attitude and let my core beliefs affect my everyday reactions?
My Positive Focus
I also knew myself better than to make a big pronouncement like “I will never be negative again. Will never snap at people again. I will live the rest of my life using positive energy.” This kind of thinking would not work. First, that is not humanly realistic. Second, I do not do well with absolute rules. In fact, I really don’t believe in very many absolutes. Third, I think that positive and negative energy and emotions both have roles in play in our lives. If we focus too much on one or the other, we suffer from the imbalance.
Instead of trying to eliminate all negative thoughts, behaviors and influences from my life, I really want to focus on being aware of my responses. I can short-circuit those automatic negative reactions. If I need a minute (or longer ) to process new information or an unexpected piece of news, I can ask for time.
So far, in the last week or so of October, I have been aware of my mind’s initial reaction to things. I pause and have started to laugh at myself, because I really do need to force myself to take a breath and really process the moment. I will let you know how I get on as I get into my formal focus for November.