We’ve all heard the sayings designed to promote a positive outlook in the face of life’s bumps in the road. “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” “If life hands you lemons, make lemonade.” “You can’t control what happens to you, but you can control your response.” I once believed I should put my negative feelings aside, smiling through any negative situation.
In the 1980’s, while working for a company that espoused a lot of new age thought, I was spoon fed those sayings with the caveat that any negative feelings would not be tolerated. Every single employee was sent to a weekend of training to help rid us of the negatives preventing true success. If we quashed all the negativity in our lives, thinking nothing but positive thoughts, good karma would surely come our way. The company would benefit.
The problem occurred when we ignored negativity including gut feelings about certain projects. Then when the project didn’t turn out as expected, we continued to smile through the ruins, sometimes throwing good money after bad.
Aging and life experience brought on a new perspective — I believe it’s a lot healthier to acknowledge your negative feelings. (I also believe the definition of success is personal and not necessarily tied to money.) While we can gain a lot by being optimistic about life, the truth is bad things happen to every one of us. No one is immune regardless of how positive they may be. Bad karma has a way of showing up.
Negative feelings serve a purpose from warning us that a situation is possibly detrimental for us to grieving over a bad situation in order to move on from it. It is not only o.k. to grieve, to rant, to feel down, it is part of the healing process. It’s also o.k. to question why you feel negative about a situation and listen to your gut instead of just your head.
People often call me positive or optimistic. Believe me I have my share of negative moments. The idea of going around acting like ‘Little Mary Sunshine’ when you are dying inside is putting on an act to the world. It’s like fake news.
What I learned about myself is that pushing the negative feelings down caused them to eventually erupt in a ball of fire. Better to extinguish them when they are just a tiny flicker. Better for me and better for everyone around me. Meditation or the ear of a good friend help me deal with the negatives and dispel them.
The only thing we can count on in life is change. Sometimes it’s good change; sometimes it’s neutral; sometimes it’s negative. Being open to change and acknowledging our negative feelings helps us come to grips with whatever the situation. Listening to our negative voice may also save us from a bad situation altogether.
While I still try to make lemonade when life hands me lemons, I also take a big sour bite of whatever is gnawing at me. Then I add the sugar and move on.