When you tell me to stay positive, it doesn’t have the effect that you think it does. In fact, sometimes it doesn’t work at all.
I’ve had a colorful life, filled with various opinions on subjects ranging from health to happiness.
But what it all boils down to are two distinct viewpoints: negativity and positivity. While there were uncles who always saw the glass as half empty, there were plenty of cousins who observed the glass as, yep, you guessed it…full, running over and spilling onto the table of life.
No, it really was that dramatic.
I’ve seen the world through opposing viewpoints, and I think, for the most part, it has nourished my realist approach. The negativity did, at times, aggravate me to no end, but it was the demands to stay positive that really got under my skin. At times, I cringed at those words and wished others could just let me feel what I needed to feel. Although I hated being unhappy, what I hated the most was pretending.
Telling me to stay positive is organized.
Christianity has told me to “fake it till you make it”. It’s a cheerful little idea but it does so much damage. An important principle of faith is built upon the “stay positive” standpoint. Elders of the church, upon hearing the first negative words coming from your mouth, will stop you in your tracks and give reprimands for having these emotions.
Many of these same individuals tend to put time limits on grieving as well as if there should be a standard of feeling loss and devastation. Although grieving is allowed, it is frowned upon whenever it goes on for too long. I make no exaggerations here. To organized religion, it’s just inappropriate to feel pain for too long.
Telling me to stay positive is unfair.
“You know, there are other people in this world that suffer worse than you, and did you know that you actually have it good, so why are you so sad?”
How fair are these statements? Just because other people suffer in the world, does not decrease your feelings of sadness, anger or grief. How dare anyone tell you that your negative feelings aren’t important. When people say “stay positive”, it’s almost as if they are scolding you for feeling other things. They rob you of the ability to feel freely.
Telling me to stay positive is ignoring my condition.
I wasn’t going to make this post about mental illness, but I will say that mental illness plays a noticeable role in negative thinking. If you suffer from mental illness, it’s difficult to stay positive, sometimes impossible. Since our brains are the battlefield of this illness, it makes sense that it would be hard to think in a positive manner.
Religion tells us to think positive in order to heal illnesses, but even that is not viable when the brain is unhealthy on its own. Basically telling me to stay positive when I have a mental illness is denying the existence of said disorder and insulting me at the same time.
Telling me to stay positive is making things worse.
Many family members think that bombarding their loved ones with positive thoughts and images is the way to ward off all negative emotions. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. It actually works much better if you allow people to feel what they are feeling at the present time. It’s healthy to cry, scream and take out frustrations, allowing emotions to “leak.”
The first step to healing, by the way, is admitting that you are sad, that something bad happened and also by talking about the deceased. On the other hand, refusal to talk about negative things can lead to pent up emotions, which can ultimately do more damage than good.
Think twice before killing them with kindness.
Giving the advice to stay positive has good intentions. Unfortunately, this self-righteous act of godly service can prove to be right the opposite. I have seen situations escalate because of the refusal to let negative feelings surface. I’m not saying turn into a naysayer, just let yourself feel whatever you need to feel for the time.
If you feel like you are drowning in your sorrows, don’t force happiness. Instead, do something kind for someone else, read a book or listen to music. Each and every one of us has the ability to feel what we need to feel and eventually move on.
It can’t always rain forever, you know.
By Sherrie H.
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