Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Positive Thinking

We have a lot of control over whether to take a positive or a negative approach to events. We can't control how we feel about things that happen to us - but we can control what we do about those feelings, and how we approach those situations.

Let's take an example we all know well: someone rejects a piece of our writing. In terms of how this feels: it's horrible, it hurts, it's like a kick in the guts, it's infuriating, depressing, frustrating, and generally leaves us feeling thoroughly miserable. Then we can choose how to approach this. We can sit and cry; ring friends and family/write blog posts to enlist support and consolation; disappear under the duvet and refuse to talk to anyone; binge on chocolate or wine; listen to the inner voices pointing out smugly how crap we are; and so on. Or we can see it as an opportunity to improve the piece of writing and resubmit it elsewhere; console ourselves with recollections of the number of rejections experienced by hugely successful writers like Jasper Fforde and JK Rowling; share the news with a friend who's feeling low, to give him/her scope for some cheering schadenfreude; do some vigorous exercise to bring on the endorphins; listen to the inner voices assuring us that each rejection is a step nearer acceptance; etcetera.

In my case it's usually a bit of both, but I do try to choose a positive approach as much as I can. This doesn't mean I try to be happy when I'm not, although I do find that being positive sometimes helps me feel a little happier - or slightly less miserable. I've been interested in the positives people have found in the recession, which range from 'no junk mail from credit card companies' (have you noticed?) through 'greater creativity' to 'more sex' (!). Recession positives also demonstrate that the positive approach you take depends on your attitudes in general. For example, some people find a positive aspect to the recession in 'reduced materialism', while for others it's 'more great bargains in the shops'. Another example is that the recession leads to fewer cars on the road, which for some people is 'beneficial to the environment' while for others it's 'a chance to drive around more without so many traffic jams'.

Some experiences make it more difficult to take a positive approach because of their massive negative emotional impact. Examples include chronic physical or mental illness, redundancy, relationship breakdown, or bereavement. But it can still be done. One of the most inspiring examples for me came from my dear friend Polly, whose husband killed himself some years ago. She rang to tell me the news, distraught, all over the place, as you would expect, yet during our conversation, she said to me 'Queenie, you know what, I'm learning so much from this.'


HelenMHunt said...

Your friend sounds like a real star. I think you're right that it's important to look at the positives and I know it's corny, but I always try to put my disappointments in perspective by being aware that there are an awful lot of people out there coping with bigger problems than I can even contemplate.

SpiralSkies said...

It's terribly hard (and probably a bit nauseating!) to be permanently positive.

I think the trick is to be able to see things without crumbling and, like your friend, to learn something.

More sex? Hmmmm. I might settle for 'some sex'. Or maybe a brisk walk :0)

Queenie said...

Helen, it may be corny, but it sounds like a good idea to me (probably because I do that, sometimes, too!!).
Spiral, yes, permanent positiveness would be a bit sick-making - ever heard of Fotherington-Thomas? He is uterly wet and a weed - for me, it's more about finding something positive in everything, even if it's a very minor something, rather than making everything 100% positive. And go have a cold shower, right now!

PI said...

You gotta accentuate the positive,
Eliminate the negative,
Latch on to the affirmative.
Don't mess with Mr in between.
To illustrate my last remark,
Jonah and the whale,
Noah and the ark,
What did they do,
Just when everything looked so dark?
Man they said you gotta...

Sounds so much better when you sing it. Which we did constantly when I was a girl and bad things were happening.
I seem to have adopted an Assembly line mode with regard to rejections - one comes in - another goes out . Just keep 'em movin'

Clare Sudders said...

I've been struggling a bit with this lately. I do try and think positive, but it's not always easy. It is of course a common trick used in CBT, when helping people with depression or anxiety - try to replace negative or catastrophic thoughts with positive ones. It's horribly easy to get stuck in a woe-is-me spiral though.

Zoltan - the positive thinker said...

Positive thinking can help you to overcome the obstacles in your life, but action creates solution. You have to act, you have to do something to get closer to your chosen goals.
You can turn your dreams into reality with constant, focused effort.
As the NIKE says:" Just do it!"

KAREN said...

I think a lot of it depends how you're wired. Some people are just naturally more positive than others, I think.

I tend to get down about things initially, but then bounce back quite quickly. Resilient is m'middle name!

Queenie said...

PI, I love that song (although I'm not sure it would sound better if it was me doing the singing!).
Clare, you're right, it can be difficult. The key, I think, is to separate the thoughts from the feelings. The woe-is-me spiral is about feeling bad, but you can still think positively. Not that it will necessarily help, or make you feel better. But it may lead to positive action which in turn may yield positive results.
Zoltan, I couldn't agree more!
Karen, I think you're right too (what clever, perspicacious people I have in my comments box) although I think we can all nudge our wiring a little in one direction or another if we so choose.

Anonymous said...

Very Good post on Positive thinking.

karim - Positive thinking