Have you ever had a time when you’ve been feeling blah, really down, and a friend said, “You should…just be positive.”

Did you try it? How long did it last?

A week?  (Wow, you did a really great job with that!)
A day?  (That is pretty darn good.)
Thirty minutes? (This is more likely.)

Of course there are many who’ve made a practice of “thinking positive” and absolutely DO live a happier, less stressful life.  I believe the ability to do this for the long-term arrives after much introspection, negative thought dissolving and practice.

But why isn’t it enough to simply be positive?
think positive

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grace and I were in the car earlier this week and she was checking Instagram.

“Ugh,”  Grace sighs.
“What is it?”
“It’s another meme about being positive.  It says DON’T BE NEGATIVE, JUST BE POSITIVE!
It’s so naive.”
“What do you mean naive?”
“You can’t just tell people to be positive.  If you don’t let yourself feel what happened, you can never build a bridge strong enough to get over it.  They’re just foreboding sadness.  Some people think they can do that by putting on a happy face, but the sadness will come back if you keep ignoring it.  You have to feel the emotions first because that’s probably what’s ruling your life at the moment.”

Grace went on to explain that this is her twist on Aunty Brené’s foreboding joy.  She is referencing Brené Brown’s research on vulnerability. Dr. Brown says, “If you cannot tolerate joy, what you do is you start dress rehearsing tragedy.” Grace’s theory is that if you cannot tolerate unpleasant feelings and allow yourself to feel those emotions, if you try to force yourself into being positive…

“…the feelings will find a way to come back until they are felt.” – Grace Delgado

And I would add, understood.

Wait, what?  You want me to feel the sadness?  Sit with my lonely, fearful, confused, hurt, discouraged, disappointed emotions and just feel them? Why would I do that?

Because chances are, “be positive” isn’t working.

I’m not suggesting that just feeling your emotions is going to make everything better.  I wouldn’t leave you there. But it’s a good place to start.

Ready? Let’s get in some practice so you can have a little more peace in your life.

As you sit with your __________, __________, __________, (fill in the blanks) emotions, take a step back in time and recall what you were thinking just before you started to feel this way?

“I can’t believe they didn’t invite me to celebrate with them. What did I do wrong?”
“Why does my mom always have to guilt me into Sunday dinner?”
“I didn’t remember that payment was coming out today, I’m such an idiot.”
“There is no way I can get all this done before tax day, it’s impossible.”
“Why does he always blame me for his career not going anywhere?”
“They promised they would help clean up after the party, I should have known better than to count on them.”
“He doesn’t even understand how much I contributed to that project. He undervalues me.”

What were you thinking? And now, what situation led to this thought?

Did you see something on Social Media?
“I can’t believe they didn’t invite me to celebrate with them. What did I do wrong?”

Did you receive a text message or email?
“Why does my mom always have to guilt me into Sunday dinner?”

Did you get an alert from your bank?
“I didn’t remember that payment was coming out today, I’m such an idiot.”

Did you take a look at your long to-do list?
“There is no way I can get all this done before tax day, it’s impossible.”

Did you have an argument with your partner?
“Why does he always blame me for his career not going anywhere?”

Did you walk into a mess in your kitchen?
“They promised to help clean up after the party, I should have known better than to count on them.”

Did you have a talk with your boss?
“He doesn’t even understand how much I contributed to that project. He undervalues me.”

What was the situation ______________________________________________,
that led to your thought _____________________________________________,
that led to your feelings __________, __________, __________?

Now that you’ve identified the situation, that led to the thought, that led to the emotions…

You’ve completed step one of your detective work that leads to a happier, less stressful life.

Yes, that was just step one. But now you have an awareness of how unpleasant feelings come about and why “being positive” doesn’t necessarily build the bridge you need to reach a more peaceful life.  Become the detective the next time you’re feeling __________, __________, __________ or __________.

What’s step two?

Step two is digging deeper into the thoughts and stories that lead to the unpleasant feelings. Because what usually follows unpleasant feelings is a behavior that isn’t helping you reach your goals, and certainly doesn’t lead to your best life. This is where the real work begins.  But I’ll tell you from personal experience, it’s also where real freedom and peace are found.

And according to Grace, this is how you get over the bridge.

If you’re ready for a little more peace in your life, let’s talk.
Love, light and peace to you.

To see how people can create a positive outlook after developing awareness and doing some work, click here.