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  • Andrew Lewis

A Healthy Dose of Negativity?

All this stuff about happiness can really get you down! People will tell you there's something wrong with you if you're not happy. EAT HEALTHY, they say, GO TO THE GYM, LIVE THE DREAM, THINK POSITIVE AND YOU WILL SUCCEED, ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE IF YOU PUT YOUR MIND TO IT!

This can become counterproductive and itself a cause of anxiety and depression. Life is not candy floss, blue skies, and happy ever after. It is part of the human condition that we will experience times of unhappiness. Sorrow, loss, suffering, failure, fear and regret will visit every life.

Let's not call it negative thinking. It's reality thinking.

The danger with too much 'happy talk' is that we are left emotionally unprepared to deal with things when they don't go as planned or desired. Too much focus and too much effort on 'things going right' can increase our anxiety and stress, especially as the whole idea of a 'perfect world' is unrealistic. This unceasing craving to feel happy and achieve our goals may be a big part of what can make us miserable! Perhaps we need to take a more calm, controlled and measured look at those things we spend most of our lives trying to avoid. Perhaps we need to be willing to experience negative emotions without fear, high drama, or self pity.

What happens when we examine the negative without fear? It is often the case that when things DO go wrong, they go LESS wrong than we feared. This is what lies behind the common saying 'Thinking about things is usually worse than doing them.' The psychologist Albert Ellis once noted that 'the worst thing about any future event is usually our exaggerated belief in its horror.'

To train our minds to stay calm, not to strive ceaselessly for the positives and not to run fearfully away from the negatives, but to be aware of and prepared for both and to accept them with an inner peace and constancy is the way to stay in control of what can be controlled and lead a contented life.

At first it may seem a strange idea to respond to victory and defeat, success and failure in the same way, to greet them both with the same calm acceptance, but perhaps it is an indication of a nourished inner strength, a sign that we are 'ready' in our lives and have the capacity and resources to live not as helpless, frightened victims of events that are beyond our control.

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