(Don’t) Stay Positive

I wasn’t sure if I would write this week as I have a talk to prepare for and didn’t have a topic burning until I glanced a magazine cover with the quote “When times are tough, stay positive” and it REALLY annoyed me!

This message was EVERYWHERE when I was growing up.

“Think Positive”

“The Power of Positive Thinking”

“How to be happy”

“The Art of Happiness”

There was a constant barrage of resources and messages telling me that I need to be happy and how to be happy.

Do you know how I finally became happier than I had ever been?

I stopped pursuing this elusive concept and I realised that “happy” is one of my many acceptable and valid emotions. I realised that being madly in love with a husband and two beautiful children whilst indulging my passions with a roof over my head was about as blessed as a person can be but that doesn’t mean I have to live and breathe that contentment every second.

Some minutes, hours, days I can still feel overwhelmed, grumpy, exhausted, restless, frustrated. I’m allowed to feel like my life is hard at times, like my worries are genuine because they are to me at that time.

I don’t need “perspective” I just need to listen to my thoughts and feelings and remind myself of my resources if I need some help or just sit with that feeling and know that doing so will allow it to dissipate when we are ready. Even if it’s really little things in my otherwise privileged life bothering me, I don’t have to “stay positive” because trying to tell myself how to feel won’t actually get rid of that feeling. It will force the feeling down somewhere in my body to later emerge in the same way or in a worse one, particularly if I add a layer of shame and guilt onto it as we often do when we are told to or feel the need to “have perspective”.

Just like our children, we are born with a huge repertoire of emotions which all serve their individual purposes. They don’t need to be a burden. The only time that it might be important to re-frame them is if you are responding to another human (particularly a child) in which case you may need to deeply breathe and apply a mantra in that moment to ensure that your pain doesn’t impact someone else. After that make sure you go back and explore those feelings when you are able to.

So if it’s perfectly fine to feel our feelings and ride the wave of emotion even when they are related to little things then “When times are tough” I DON’T think anyone should be forced to “Stay positive”. When times are tough, accept that you are entitled to feel angry, sad, frustrated, humiliated, a sense of injustice, jealous, fearful, anxious, whatever else. Sit with those feelings as they arrive. Breathe through them and see if there’s anything that can be immediately done to help. Pray or meditate or connect with your source. Reach out… ALWAYS reach out. It doesn’t matter where but it helps to remember that friends and family are often longing to be able to help you and I am always here for Listening Time or whatever else. Just ASK.