Monday, 3 May 2010

Are You Happy Yet?



“Declare War on Negative Thoughts!”, is a quote I see proudly displayed on a poster in my office pantry everyday... Probably the souvenir from a very vivaciously delivered motivational speech on positive thinking. Sure it sounds logical at first glance, but really, is that the best way to treat negative thoughts - by denying any dignity to the moment?

I’ve always felt that society rewards us a bit too much, not for positive thinking, but for simply and successfully denying communication of negative thoughts. Yes, yes, I've heard that positive thought is the highway to happiness. Or is it?


I've always felt that society rewards
us a bit too much, not for
positive thinking,
but for simply and successfully
denying communication of negative thoughts.

Perhaps a case in point would be how when I once lost my enviable placement in a singing competition due to some underhandedness of the orgnisers’, I was overcome with rage to the point that I could not pinpoint what it was that drove me up the wall – Was it my hatred for these unscrupulous organizers? Was it the feeling of helplessness from a lack of control over the situation? Was it the sheer nonchalance of the others in the competition with the same fate, who seemed to take the incident with such a lack of remorse?




Allowed a little more exploration of my negative thoughts, I may have come to the root of my erupting emotions. I recall keeping my calm at the competition, waiting to enter the safe arms of family and friends to vent. However, upon sharing my experience, my friends’ and family’s immediate response was to dismiss the “negative thoughts” and instead, to “think positive”! But how? Why was the crowd around me quick to suggest, “Don’t cry!”, instead of saying, “Go on - Cry and let it all out”? In a turbulent sea of rage and hatred, is it that simple to skip one’s probable response to impropriety and directly ascend to peace and equilibrium? I think not!
It may feel all to obvious that if a negative thought ceases to exist in our minds, that the obvious replacement for it is a positive one. How reductionist and simplistic. Not logical to me, simply because the positive negative relationship of thought is far from balck-and white. Sorry, my dear compulsive optimists, but I think people are afraid of negative thought more than they are sold on the benefits of positive ones! So we always try to appear happy just to avoid the "think positive" admonishment - even when doing so isn't the best thing. Think of all the mondays you have come into the workplace feeling like you've been hit by a bus, but chirped, "Oh...great!", to a workmate enquiring about your weekend. Isn't that just to avoid being seen as negative by another person?


Think of all the mondays you have come into

the workplace feeling like you've been hit

by a bus, but chirped, "Oh... great!", to a

workmate enquiring about your weekend.



We’d much rather get really quickly from the point of negative thought to a place of resolve at the fastest possible speed. Perhaps there is a misconception that one cannot cope with another iota of misery that comes from acknowledging negativity. Little do we realize the recovery we so desire is sometimes cloaked in the delicacy and graduality with which we explore those negative thoughts. So, let those thoughts linger a while!

Perhaps the most ironic behaviour in the pursuit of (urgent!) happiness is how we consider negative thought to have a space and time within which they are considered valid. Apparently, within these parameters, negative thoughts are not only accepted, but also expected! A 4 year old child laughing innocently during his grand-uncle’s funeral is quickly shushed. But one year later at the deceased's death anniversary gatehring, his grieving spouse of 50 years was coaxed and cajoled by relatives, quite insistently, out of her misery! All this in the pursuit of getting from that negative thought, oh so quickly to acceptance because apparently, someone had decided that her time to grieve was over!


I say let her cry. Let her have her fears magnified, purpose questioned, reality checked and her emotions inundated. She’s earned the right to treat this event as she wants to, for it defines her life. Remember that each person is different and each situation is unique for every individual. Be there for her, but for God’s sake, even if she takes more time than you can accept, don’t tell the woman to “Declare War on Negative Thoughts”! Her negative thoughts are hers to work out or wallow in. The question is whether you acknowledge yours enough to give them the dignity she has given hers!

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