Positive negatives

Everything will be fine.

Just keep going and it will all turn out great in the end.

On the bright side, at least I wasn’t mugged at knife point on my way home.

It is hard to stay positive when you’re surrounded by negativity. And as you can see from my three examples above, my attempts at staying positive can tend to become desperate and half-hearted as time goes on.

I can see the benefits of staying positive (no extended fantasies of killing the person causing you stress, less feelings of anxiety, and reclaiming that last slither of hope that you used to have tons of as a child), but there are some costs too, or negatives (I wasn’t going to go there, but then I remembered who I was).

We can probably all agree that negative thinking can be damaging, but I’d like to think that sometimes negative thoughts can be helpful.

Now, I don’t mean going to a job that you hate every day, and reminding yourself over and over again about all the reasons why you hate it, and never doing anything more about it. That kind of thinking is unhelpful because it breeds bitterness and then makes you not a very nice person to be around. Speaking from experience, I know that I’ve taken jobs that I knew I would hate, just because they were a means to an end and helping me get to where I wanted to go in other aspects of my life.

But knowingly going into it did not decrease my negative feelings about it; it just meant that when I had had enough, the negative feelings exploded into a bitterness that turned me into Scrooge before he had any revelations and decided he loved Christmas (I’m not a huge fan of Christmas actually, so on that point we are the same and I am yet to have my ghost revelations about it). I was not fun to be around at all, and all I could do was complain about work, how underappreciated I was and how much my life sucked. Yet, it was seeing people’s reactions to that bitterness and catching myself in a bathroom mirror one day with the permanent frown I hadn’t known I had been sporting since morning, which had spurred me into action.

I needed to go through those negative thoughts and feelings and see the reactions from others, to realise what state I was in and that something needed to change, unless I wanted to become another bitter part of the furniture in a place I had grown to hate. To be honest, the people were fantastic for the most part, but the job was pretty soul destroying for me, despite actively putting myself in that situation. Still, I am underselling how difficult it is to actually get out of that negative spiral of thinking and transform it into getting away from the thing causing the negative thoughts.

It’s hard as hell, and it takes a whole community, as they say. Having people around that support and love you, and encourage you to do better when you’re clearly in something that makes you unhappy, can make all the difference. When you don’t have that, I think negativity can feel like a tiny pixie that’s pinching you every so often in weird places, and is growing in size every time something reinforces those negative feelings.

And do you know what else is hard? Positive thinking. At least it is for me. If, like me, you were not raised by the all singing, all dancing cast of Glee who always find a way to see the positive side of something, even distress, it can be a challenge to learn how to think positively. I think every few weeks I will make a pact with myself to try and stay positive about a negative influence in my life that I haven’t been able to change yet. Without a doubt by the end of that day, I would have been pushed to my limit and clutching at positive straws like; “at least that car didn’t run me over”, or “at least I didn’t fall down the escalator” or “at least I didn’t kill the idiot causing me distress.”

Apparently most of my positivity is pulled from getting through the day and not dying or murdering someone else. My fascination with death might be an issue I need to deal with, but what’s new.

I applaud anyone who can reach deep inside themselves and find that nugget of positivity that always keeps them floating just above sadness and depression, because that shit is hard to do. I like a positive person, and being around them can be contagious, but one of my pet hates is someone spewing positivity that they clearly do not believe in themselves. That feels counterproductive to me because not only are you struggling to feel something that you don’t, but you’re also putting effort into lying about your feelings. Who the heck has time for that? To be honest, this is related to my disdain for self help books. I won’t lie and say I have not read a few myself, but I am not easily persuaded by someone just telling me what to do, and nor am I looking for someone else to tell me how to live my life. Yes, I have issues with authority, let’s move on.

Positivity is great, and negative feelings can be useful, because they tell us what we don’t like. They’re as useful as fear I think, because fear can be a warning about things that can be unsafe and dangerous. But just like fear, if negativity engulfs you completely it can be crippling and contagious, which can be isolating and leave you to swim alone in bitterness and anger. So for me, the only ways I have been pulled out of those negative swimming pools, is by being able to moan about it with someone, and having someone with a positive outlook, reflect back to me how I’m feeling and remind me that I can get out of any situation if I so choose; I just need to make the (difficult but necessary) choice to do it.

I’ll leave the positivity to the experts; game show hosts and motivational speakers (although I bet they’re faking it too. No one is that happy ALL OF THE TIME, are they?!).

Image credit: Battery by Nestor Arellano from the Noun Project

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Maame Blue

Writer| Poet| Blogger| Ghanaian by heart, Londoner by nature

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