Be Positive—-NOT

This is a piece written by Doe, a long-time reader and friend. She posted it on facebook and I asked if I could snag it for the blog. So here we have a guest blogger post today.

Consider for a moment that your aggressive “Be Positive” stance is not as loving and wholesome as you may imagine. And in fact, it’s steeped in denial and not wanting to be bothered by anyone’s suffering. You don’t want to look at it, and you don’t want to hear it, so instead you chirp in some suffering person’s face “Stay Positive”. It’s basically another way of saying “I don’t want to hear about it”.

Has anyone ever done this to you and your gut reaction is a nice healthy “fuck you”?

We try and act like “staying positive” is the good thing, and being in pain is the bad thing. I don’t buy it. And it’s one of my biggest pet peeves.

If you can’t bother to feel compassion for yourself when you’re suffering, how in the world can you ever feel compassion for someone else who is?

We pay a lot of lip service to caring about people in this culture. Yet, we’ve trained ourselves to walk past homeless people and not look them in the eye, not ask what we can do to help. We think of health insurance as a “privilege” and not a right, and let people go into debt and on the street because they committed the crime of getting sick and not having money. We pack away our old and dying in old age homes to die alone, along with the mentally ill…we don’t want to think about those people, and we certainly don’t want to see them. Lest they remind us that we too are mortal and fragile. We too are going to die, or lose our minds, or the people who love us. We too may have a change in luck someday and be on the street ourselves.

And also, don’t forget–don’t commit the crime of actually being _angry_ about this stuff…that would be wrong too. Angry people are bad people, right? Angry people don’t deserve love, along with the sad, depressed and disturbed. We are supposed to be bright and shiny and happy and beautiful and white-teethed like those robots we see on the tv.

Yes, life is good. Yes, life is bad. Why can’t it be both? What’s so wrong with a little saddness and anger? Isn’t there room for all the emotions?

Full Disclosure: I am as bad about this as anyone, which is perhaps why I feel so strongly about it. I shame myself all the time. And when I’m feeling good, I sometimes don’t want to hear from the people who are feeling bad. I just wish they would shut up. I’m as guilty as the next person.

But I do feel that this is one of the most important things to work on. Kindness, to ourselves, and to others. Kindness, to me, doesn’t mean blathering useless platitudes about “staying positive” to someone else, or to yourself, when you’re suffering. Kindness, to me, is being willing to really _be_ with someone in pain, to listen, to ask questions, to accept them just as they are in that moment and not act like they have to be any different than they are. To me, that’s real caring. And it’s one of the hardest things in the world to do sometimes.

About Monica Cassani

Author/Editor Beyond Meds: Everything Matters

28 Responses

  1. I used to know a lot of people who were very very into “positive attitudes”–even one or two who wore buttons that said things like “keep your bullshit negative attitudes away from me,” and, certainly, if I was unhappy it was none of their concern, since I had merely been “putting out negative energy.” For that reason, I’ve been known to talk about how much I hate positive attitudes.

    The truth, though, is that a truly positive attitude is one of acceptance, and of kindness and empathy toward other people’s suffering. If you can offer consolation by crying along with someone in pain, that’s truly positive, while it would be hard to think of anything more negative to tell that person to leave you along or suggesting that she’s to blame for her suffering….

    Like

  2. Marlisa

    There’s positive and there’s positive. There is a lot of bullshit that should be kept out of the energy fields, but that’s a whole diffrent story than playing Pollyanna. There is also anger vs. indignation and righteous anger.

    There are people whose entire life is a negative exclamation point and I’ll put my KEEP YOUR NEGAIVE CRAP OUT OF MY ENERGY FIELD button on around them – and feel positive doing it!

    Like

  3. Arianna

    My entire family, out in California, I will no longer communicate with them, because of this “think positive” and “snap out of it” kind of attitude.

    If you want to use positive thinking, in some kind of context, it certainly doesn’t do any harm. I find that for me, and only me, that thinking more positively works for my mental health.

    However, it is a different issue as to whether you want to inflict a kind of self-righteousness onto others by telling them to “think positive”.

    My father is the worst of the worst. He writes me about why he has lived so long. His story is healthy habits, and what he called a obsession with positive thinking. In the SAME e-mail, he then nails my deceased mother, with “she was a drug addict, and if she had given up drugs, she’d still be around today”. Not only is this negative, it is *extremely* negative, and it happens to be entirely false.

    And so I have this e-mail with stated extreme devotion to positive thinking, and in the same e-mail I have this exremely negative and false statement about someone else.

    I asked him what was up with a homily about positive thinking, except when it’s spreading vicious lies about others? Oh, that is positive thinking about YOURSELF! Oh, I see. Well, isn’t that narcissism? And isn’t there a personality disorder, by the name Narcissistic Personality Disorder? Hmmmm. Interesting to think about.

    I just wrote a great review about yoga, but unfortunately yoga people have a higher tendency to have this “positive thinking” stuff going on. I call it “New Age Platitude Abuse”. I just try to do my yoga and when those kind of conversations start, I kind of migrate away from the crowd.

    At the root of all this “positive thinking”, I believe is that if you can claim that cancer is due to a person’s bitterness, or a tornado only hits people who think negatively, or maybe the poor are not saying affirmations about wealth -at the root of it, are two factors:

    1. if you can state the cause for someone else’s suffering, you can blame them for whatever has befallen them. No use bothering yourself with the suffering of others.
    2. if you can state the cause for someone else’s suffering, death or predicament, then you get a false sense of security about the world. So, as long as you “think right, eat right, do right, blah, blah, and everything right, then you will never suffer, and never die”.

    Before the tornado, I realized I had struck a bargain with God, or the Universe. I figured if I was a good person, and did good things, that certainly nothing as God awful as a tornado would happen to me. And even if some New Age yogiini finds some fault of mine, then what fault was the young boy who died, how was this young boy thinking negatively and why did he deserve to die in a tornado?

    The tornado, awakened me and reminded me, that in Life there are no rules, except that, perhaps, if we are born, then we die.

    The Buddha taught about compassion, the first Noble Truth is about suffering and it’s not all about positive thinking. It’s more about brutal honesty.

    I’m not sure where this New Agified stuff even comes from but I’ve had enough to last several lifetimes, myself.

    Best,
    Ari

    Like

  4. Doe

    Thanks, everyone, for your thoughts…it was very interesting to read them all. I feel very honored that you took the time to read and respond.

    Like

  5. I love this post!

    After the very tragic death of an immediate family member we would often hear such ridiculous platitudes. My least favorite has to be, “God doesn’t give us anything we can’t handle!” I wanted to scream, “Not everything in this world comes from God and this horrible situation certainly didn’t.” Or, “There’s always a silver lining….” You know what, no there isn’t!!!

    It’s true tho, people can’t really handle suffering. Sure, if you lose a loved one or a job but if you have multiple tragedies befall you in succession I think people do unconsicously think you have bad vibes and stay away. Or they just don’t really know what to say.

    Like

  6. Arianna

    This message is for Yoga For Cynics, but I can’t figure out how to answer, to the specific mail. I hope he will read down this far! Yoga has been the most amazing thing I’ve tried. I started it for back pain, and it worked great. Then I continued to have an interest, and it helped with emotions and mood.

    To this day, Kundalini, is the main way that I am able to stabilize my moods.

    Being a scientist, I used to be on this “healthfraud” list, where they claimed that my back pain just went away on its own, and had nothing to do with yoga. When I asked them, what if I can feel the stretching/working muscle, and then, that next day my back feels better. Not valid!

    On the other hand, I don’t think there are some yoga places that make some outrageous claims, and then there’s this whole “think positive” crowd, and I just try to avoid them.

    I love your blog and now am addicted to a second blog!

    Best,
    Ari

    Like

  7. Ariana

    everyone has experienced the death of a loved one, and during such a time one needs inner strength the most.

    There’s actually a Buddha story regarding this case.

    “Think positive–NOT!!”

    Interesting title. But I am lead to wonder, are you upset with positive thinking, or people who fail to use it properly?

    If this is the case, progress would come more swiftly if we understood this. This is no different than a woman accusing all men of being the same just because she had a few bad experiences with a couple of characters.

    I’m a positive thinker. But in this world, I’d feel as if I would be dishonoring the human race if I neglected “tragedy” “sadness” “lament”.. Etc.

    So yes, I do cry. Lament. Regret. Suffer. And share these emotions with those who need a kindred spirit.

    But behind of all these things, like the sun after the night or “a silver lining” after a good storm.. Your inner strength simply MUST eventually come out. Why add to the misery by living in a miserable past?

    My sister is like this.

    Want to meet a very negative person? My sister will definitely meet that need. Supposedly, she’s suffered unmentionable tragedies, that when confessed to me (and many others I found out) I cried while she “toughed it out” and claimed ” eh, that’s my life..”

    When her friend Andy told me what she confided to him, the story was entirely different except for some basics. So I’m assuming the basics must have been the same, but her negative thinking just added it to be much more worse than what it was.

    So what’s by point?

    I was reading the extraordinary life of “sybil Dorsette” and it wasn’t until I reached the conclusion of the book that I couldn’t help myself from crying my heart out into that book!!

    Strangely enough, the book’s basics on how Sybil was abused as a child sounded similar to that of my sisters.. Only much much worse. It made me appreciate how lucky my sister and I are. However, if my sister was more into books and less into tv, I’m sure shed feel more understood and less bitter towards life/people/etc (and due to tv influences, less of a dramaqueen, I add with all due respect.)

    So my point is, sometimes the people around you who claim to represent something like a religion, God or “positive thinking” might simply not know what they are doing. But please, never blame God, the universe, or “positive thinking” no matter how tempting that may be. Instead, if you’re around someone who refuses to open their minds to you ( which is very cold and negative I must add ) read a good book with someone whom you empathize with. You won’t regret the knowledge, wisdom, self growth and empowering feeling of doing so. You won’t feel alone. This is a positive road compared to just throwing back the hate towards those who fail at getting their lives in the right path.

    I’m writing from my phone so this is just a small portion of what I’d love to express. Unfortunately, I must cut it short for now. But please, feel free to express your thoughts on this matter..

    I’m willing to learn something new from all of this.

    How can we broaden our horizons unless we challenge our brlefs every now and then. 😉

    Take Care,
    – Ariana

    (p.s. Yes, Ariana happens to be my real name. Lol.)

    Like

  8. Ariana

    “keep your bullshit negative attitudes away from me,”

    Wow! How pretensiously positive. Doesn’t that make you just want to hug that person. I’m sure she’s very delightful to be around. In fact, this is the kind of person you want to be around when she breaks down and you just simply flash to her her own button!

    But lets be more realistic here. This is not a very positive person. Just someone trying to use “positive thinking” as an excuse to avoid other people’s problems whilst dwelling on her own. (this is apparent because without the compassion for other people, there is no way you have compassion for yourself; so hence, “negative thinker.”)

    Like

  9. Ariana

    (part 2)
    Now, I can personally vouch for the power of positive thinking. I have seriously-without-exaggeration experienced miracles through this mindset, even the bible promises it.

    but this is less about me, and more about those who experienced horrible individuals who have made their life bitter–even to a small extent.

    Now, regarding death. The Buddha shares a story about a devastated woman who mourns for her dead baby. She turns to the Buddha in hopes to resurrect the child, and the buddha says, “I can do so.. if you bring to me a fruit seed from a man/woman.. who has never experienced the death of a loved one in their entire life.”

    Like

  10. Ariana

    (part 3)
    The mother ran out on her mission.. with renewed hope and desperation. Knocking on every strangers’ door here and there..seeking The One who might posses the seed that can save her baby.

    After many discouraging failures, she returns to the Buddha empty-handed. “It can’t be done! No one in this town has never been free from the feeling of losing a loved-one t death! .. What do I do?”

    And the Buddha smiled sadly in response, as it slowly dawned on her expression. The mother understood.

    Everyone has experienced life and all that it has to offer. No one is alone in *any* feeling that they have. This explains why those who are strong, compassionate and “pull-through” are the ones who are admired.

    “Think positive–NOT!!”

    Interesting title. But I am lead to wonder if you are upset with positive thinking, or the people who fail to establish it properly?

    Understanding this would most likely bring swifter progress than otherwise fusing them together as one.

    Because you see, this no different than a man/woman accusing the opposite gender of being “all the same” just because they had a few bad experiences with a couple of “bad characters”

    Like

  11. Ariana

    (part 4)
    I, myself, am a positive thinker. But in this world, I’d feel as if I would be dishonouring the human race if I completely neglected “tragedy” “sadness” “lament” .. Etc.

    So yes, even as a positive thinker I still cry, lament, regret, suffer, etc. and share these emotions with those who need a kindred spirit.

    However, behind of all of this, like the sun after the night or a “silver lining” after a good storm .. your inner strength simply MUST eventually come out. It’s the balance of harmony in life. Why continue to add to the misery by living in a miserable past?

    My sister is like this.

    Want to meet a very negative person? My sister would fit the desire.

    Supposedly, she’s suffered unmentionable tragedies that when confessed to me (and many others, I later discovered)
    I cried while she “toughed it out” and claimed “eh, that’s my life”

    When her friend Andy told me what she confided to him, the story was entirely different except for some basics. So, I’m assuming the basics must have been the same but her negative thinking just added it to be much worse than what it originally was.

    So what’s my point?

    Well, when reading the life of “Sybil Dorsette” in the book “Sybil” it wasn’t until I reached the conclusion of the book that I couldn’t help myself from crying my heart out into that book!!

    Like

  12. Ariana

    (part 5)
    Strangely enough, the books’ basics on how Sybil was abused as a child sounded similar to that of my sisters’ .. only much much worse. It made me appreciate how lucky my sister and I are. However, if my sister was more into books and less into tv, I’m sure she’d feel more understood and less bitter towards life/people/etc.. (and due to tv influences, less of a dramaqueen, I add with all due respect.)

    So my point is, sometimes the people around you (who seem like the only one’s you can turn to) who claim to represent a religion, God or “positive thinking” might simply not know what they are doing.

    We must never blame “positive thinking” “religion” or “God” no matter how tempting that mindset may be.

    Instead, if you’re around someone who refuses to open their minds to you (which is very cold and negative, I must add) then read a good book with a character you can empathize with. You wont regret the knowledge, wisdom, self-growth and empowering feeling of doing so. Most importantly, you wont feel alone.

    This is a positive road compared to just “throwing the hate back” at those who have failed you.

    There’s more that can be explained but for now this should suffice.

    I am open to any discussion or anyone adding their “two cents”

    After all, how can we broaden our horizons unless we challenge our habitual beliefs every now and then. 😉

    Take Care,
    – Ariana

    (P.s. Yes, my name happens to be Ariana. lol)

    Like

    1. Ariana

      “I’m a positive thinker…ridiculously so considering what I’m up against…the title was purely constructed to catch the attention of people…

      don’t believe everything you read!”

      Oh, was my first post accepted? I apologize, I had to repost since I didn’t trust my phone and thought I’d lose all that I had typed. 😉

      As for not believing everything I read, that should go without saying. It just seems as though your posters were taking it directly as it was being expressed.

      I was mainly just flowing with the mood of the post. Plus, there’s a lot of people who actually believe in being negative to those who try to be positive.. so it’s easy to get confused.

      Either way, I wish you the best in positive thinking and hope you manifest your desires.

      If you need any inspiration (with message boards, videos, etc) you should join http://www.cocreatingourreality.com
      It’s fun to keep track of everyone and be shocked at the things they attract out of Intention.

      Have a good day.
      – Ariana

      Like

  13. Ariana

    hmm.. Again, it appears I am misunderstood. (and for the note, my name is Ariana – normally I don’t care – but there happens to be another girl whose name is Arianna – and — congratulations! She’s on your side!

    But that doesn’t mean it proves the point.

    You see Giannakali, an emotional response was not “fucking” required. As explained above, I mentioned it would be a dishonor to not embrace human lament, suffering etc.

    It appears people have become so callous to anyone trying to be “positive” or respectful that we’re clumped up with others/misunderstood and — my personal favorite — snapped at without reason?

    No one said life was perfect. I know I didn’t.

    I just noticed that when people cheered on how “positive people need a big ‘fuck you’ nobody stepped in to ‘technically’ explain that it’s not directed at positive thinkers, just that life can be bad. When I agree to this, but clarify some points, I’m snapped at for my comment not “joining in and bashing on ‘idiots’ who think positive”

    Lol. But either way, I’m semi expecting someone to ‘technically’ explain that I “misread” something or have an irrelevant point because [fill in blank here] .. When clearly it is vice versa.

    But I suppose it’s just the law of attraction in action. People who complain only wish to seek those who desire to complain?
    In that case, i’ll just tale my leave.

    – Ariana

    Like

  14. Doe

    Wow…I just read all this….don’t know quite what to say…

    If Ariana is still around, the main thing I wanted to answer was your question:

    “Interesting title. But I am lead to wonder if you are upset with positive thinking, or the people who fail to establish it properly?”

    I am not upset with positive thinking. It only upsets me when those who are into positive thinking shame those who are having negative feelings. I think there is room for both.

    I think you may have got the idea that I was “against” positive thinking b/c of the title. But that wasn’t my title, and I think Gianna explained that she just entitled that to catch the eye.

    Personally, I”m not really into concepts of right/wrong, good/bad, black/white…I’m more interested in what’s real, authentic, sincere…as another poster named it “brutal honesty”. Most of us live in the murky, confusing grey areas, and that’s what’s interesting to me.

    Feelings are like the weather…sometimes joyful, sometimes sad, sometimes anger, like a hurricane. I don’t think we need to make all that much out of them…we’re not “good” if we feel good, and we’re not “bad” if we feel bad…it all changes and becomes a passing memory so quickly anyway.

    What’s most interesting to me is that this triggered such an interesting disussion. It clearly pushed some buttons and made people think and feel things.

    I like to try to be open about most things: If someone is positive and I find it irritating, I need to ask myself why that is…If someone is suffering and it’s really getting on my nerves, why is that?

    Anyway, enough for now. I don’t claim to have any answers. I’m just making my own path like everybody else, doing the best I can.

    Like

  15. Doe, I really like your piece. – And, Gianna, I think its title is totally ok. – I don’t know, if I got you right, but it reminds me of a couple that used to live next door to me. Very “enlightened”. Always smiling. Always pointing out the beauty of the world. The thing is, whenever someone around here really was feeling lousy, angry, sad, or whatever, they could just not relate to it. Actually, they couldn’t even relate to real joy. It felt like they’d built a wall between themselves and the real, not always so beautiful and well-balanced world. And in fact, their attitude put people off. Because it was a devaluation of people’s reality.

    I guess, they were afraid. Of the real world, and real emotions.

    Like

  16. Ariana

    Oh my!

    Well, I have to express I feel a lot better knowing that this was simply a misunderstanding fused by two people with entirely different mindsets, but most definitely I have to say that I’m impressed by how you’ve managed to balance your rational thinking by understanding how I might’ve easily confused you from my past experiences, as well .. 😉

    It’s quite hard to “read” someone when you’re only reading what they type. (hence our misundertanding) but it’s more than obvious when you meet someone who expresses how open minded they really are– and for that I thank you. It’s quite refreshing.

    Interesting mix-up as well, mind you .. 😛

    Things happen. I just hope after this crazy havoc, this minor crazy phase flourishes into something of more that you desire. 😉

    Best wishes,
    – Ariana

    Like

Comments are closed.