When Positivity Feels Negative

ball of lightLook on the bright side.

It’s right there, one of the Essential Elements of Positive Navigation that I wrote about last time.

If you’re thinking sequentially, it’s first.

I was scribbling about positivity last night when I paused, just for a minute, to peek at Facebook.

As one does while “writing.”

First post, the local weather dude. Not talking about the humidity.

Instead, breaking news that a train had derailed in the city. Six known dead. Dozens injured. Many severely.

I did the math and realized that train had passed within earshot of my desk not thirty minutes earlier.

The same day as another earthquake in Nepal, the sudden death of a colleague and a family friend on life support after a severe heart attack.

Positivity alone wasn’t going to cut it.

Whistle a happy tune. Put on a happy face. Look for the silver lining.

So simple, right?

Glib, even.

And it works.

But it’s not always easy.

Nor is positivity always the only helpful response.

Study after study supports that positive emotion is correlated with physical, mental and emotional health. Positivity can help us lower stress hormones and cholesterol, be more creative and efficient – that’s a new one to me, that I think is pretty cool – and approach conflict with greater cooperation.

The old song gets it right:  accen-tu-ate the positive.

The next line – elim-inate the negative? Not so much.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I’m reading Todd Kashdan and Robert Biwas-Diener’s book The Upside of Your Dark Side.

The more I study and apply concepts of positive psychology, the more I agree that positivity is one component of our full range of psychological states.

One way to respond effectively to what life offers.

One strategy in creating a life of wholeness.

Not the only way.

Not always the best way.

Finding Wholeness

I’ve spent more time in Philadelphia, outdoors, with a perfect vantage point from which to watch the trains in and out of 30th Street Station in the past six weeks than in my entire life.

I had a conversation about their majesty – and vulnerability – with a colleague, the wife of a Philly police officer, just yesterday afternoon.

Coincidences? Uh, I think not.

I love this region. I’m rather an empath. And I also strive for the kind of wholeness Kashdan and Biwas-Diener describe.

So today my sadness for the dead, the injured and those who love them shares space in my heart with my admiration for the helpers and healers, the first responders, medical personnel and investigators.

My anger that this happened, whether through sudden human error or long-term neglect of infrastructure – to be clear, there is no official word on either yet – is mixed with wonder that someone had the ingenuity to create a means of traveling 100 miles an hour in a steel tube in the first place.

And my disdain for the crass reporting of some members of the media is balanced by gratitude for the local reporter who shared the story of a father’s phone call from his daughter, whom he didn’t know was on that particular train, that began with “I love you, I love you, I love you.”

Look on the Bright Side

Positivity isn’t everything.

But it’s essential to help you navigate the dark.

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