So, it’s great to be positive, but we face the question of what to do about all the pieces and parts of our day that make us cringe? What about the events, interactions, and moments that take us into dark places? Feelings such as frustration, self-doubt, or humiliation can overshadow the positive in our lives. According to Social Psychologist, Barbara Fredrickson, our human brains are actually wired to have a negativity bias. So how can we maintain a positive outlook? How can we live in a world that generates such a mixed bag of feelings, and choose to flood ourselves with those we call good?
In my pursuit of positivity, I spent most of the first 45 years of my life mistakenly thinking I needed to block out anything other than an upbeat approach to life. I had an unconscious fear that if I entertained dark thoughts, they might overwhelm me with no way to escape. I learned growing up to just “be nice” and appear to be “fine.” During a particularly low time in my adult life, a dear friend gently and persistently coached me to face my fears and peel back the mask I called “fine.” She taught me to allow myself to feel the full range of emotions. I learned my attempts to appear socially acceptable on the outside were not going to sustain me.
So how can we bring down-to-earth positivity into the New Year? How do we meaningfully uplift ourselves, children, partners, neighbors and colleagues as well as everyone we meet?
I was dying on the inside… and finally cracked open to good news!
Occasionally my coach shared poems with me, and I especially liked “The Guest House” by Rumi (13th century Sufi mystic) that reminded me to allow every emotion to come as a “visitor.” The poem encourages readers to “welcome and entertain them all.” I slowly began to peer into “the Dark Side” and allowed myself to feel even the emotions that scared me without so much resistance. What a relief!
Emotions don’t get stuck in your psyche and in your body unless you resist them.
It’s not the circumstances, but the resistance that causes suffering!
I am only an occasional fan of Star Wars thanks to the passion of my 23-year-old son and his wife. But I really like the spiritual references to both sides of The Force. Thanks to my transformational coaching, I now know both: the Light Side of compassion, generosity, and positivity as well as the Dark Side of anger, aggressiveness, and meanness. Would you like a new way to relate to the Dark Side – visiting without getting stuck or lost in low moods, a tanked self-image, or bleak outlook? Can you imagine stepping into the shadows without allowing destructive, futile or apathetic thoughts to take over? How can you engage the full range of emotions without losing positivity?
The answer is to make a conscious shift in where you put your attention.
You can choose to feel the emotions you desire.
In my parent coaching training at The Parent Coaching Institute, founder Gloria DeGaetano taught us “living systems” principles including “what you pay attention to, grows.” Another way of saying this is “energy goes where attention flows.” So, in short:
Allow the dark thoughts and feelings to come … and go …
without focusing or attaching to them.
Intentionally choose the thoughts and feelings that serve you well.
Which feelings do you want to feel? Which ones create the light you want to experience? Turn toward what you DO want such as gratitude, optimism, calm, passion, and worthiness – and the negative will fade. It’s up to you to put your attention on the Light Side.
Affirmation: I live in the Light Side, allowing my attention to flow to positivity.