The Uphill Slide

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What To Do With Negativity. Heck If I Know!

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What’s it like to live with negativity in yourself or a partner? Negative. Soul-crushing. Depressing. Defeating. Unbearable. Impossible to be around for extended periods. I’m not Pollyanna. If you know the story of Pollyanna, a book written by Eleanor Porter and made into the movie Pollyanna starring Hayley Mills and an ex-president’s ex-wife, Jane Wyman. Maybe you never knew how Pollyanna became an icon of positive attitude. I read the book one boring Sunday at my great-aunts’ house in Vandergrift. They had no television and did not believe in games and other activities on a Sunday. I was left to browse their collection of literature. What would Eleanor Porter feel to know her character has reached immortality?

Even Pollyanna’s positive attitude was tested, and she failed. But she had spread enough of her sunshine and positive attitude around town that others brought some back to her. An uplifting story of positive attitude, but just a book. We can’t will a happy ending with a positive attitude. Positive attitude just helps us deal with unhappy endings. I don’t know any real Pollyannas. Well, maybe I knew one person close to that. Can positive attitude really be lent to others? Sometimes we just enjoy our funk. So bad it feels good. Waiting for the other shoe to drop. And it will, sooner or later. No one escapes.

My son insists on positivity. He says, “No negativity today, mom.” Then I get myself out of it for him.

I’m in synchronicity with others thinking of negativity on beautiful spring days. The New York Times published an article in print and online this week titled “Turning Negative Thinkers into Positive Ones“. One bit of advice was to get caught up in the same happy emotion, a shared event between a negative and positive. I remembered an episode of Top Gear last summer. The hosts were racing each other in caravans (travel trailers) to a campsite while dropping parts along the way until nothing was left but the frame. I was laughing hysterically in our living room. Just a moment in time. Not inducing any enduring positive emotion. It must be a series of moments shared with each other and not someone else.

More interesting and informative than the article are the readers’ comments with their pragmatic advice and personal experiences.

MB from San Francisco wrote this,

You have to make a choice to change, however, and be ready to put the effort in. And I doubt it would work for someone who is suffering from serious depression or anxiety as the energy required to change is considerable.

MEM from Los Angeles offered this,

It is simplistic and erroneous to equate overall amygdala function with overall mental positivity or health. It is simplistic to tell people who may naturally be more pessimistic than average that they are wrong to be that way or that they should engage in various feel good activities in order to be better.

Believe it or not, some of us are irritated by the Pollyannas running around telling us how wonderful everything is and how we would be “happier” if we less “negative.” Maybe we like feeling that way and what would make us feel even better would be if other people stopped telling us there was something wrong that we need to fix. Maybe more acceptance of being how we are would help as much as learning a new language.

Harley Leiber from Portland, Oregon posted,

I avoid negative people. That’s my device for coping with them…There is also the variant of of negative people who are masters at projecting their negativity onto others. There is a trick to it. And iut takes years to master and is usually related to some form of abuse experienced in childhood. But try and talk to a negative projecting person about it and you’ll be met with a brick wall….as if to say, ” me…never”.

And from Jean Marie of Seattle Washington responding to Harley Leiber

Optimism is a nice trait to cultivate, but it is by no means the only valuable or essential characteristic for a fulfilling life.

No panacea to negativity. If it’s you, it’s all up to you whether you like it, endure it or try to escape it. And if it’s not you, deal with it by accepting, ignoring, or escaping.

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