I’m a generally positive person. I really believe that everything happens for a reason. Most of the time, when negative or disappointing things happen I’m the first to try to put a positive spin on those events. I do the same for my friends too, encouraging them to turn their “lemons into lemonade” and to “find the silver lining.” But I also hold the space for them to feel bad, too.
Not every bad emotion needs to be squashed down or bottled up. People need the space to express a full range of feelings–including joy, excitement, rage, disappointment, irritation, sadness and hopelessness. I find that many people can’t sit with another person’s feelings, positive or negative. They need to “fix it” right away. But when you rush to fix people’s feelings, you don’t communicate care and understanding (which is what you’re trying to get across, I know). What ends up getting communicated is “You shouldn’t feel this way. I’m not comfortable with you like this. Please get it together. This is not a real problem.”
So my well-meaning friends often come to me when I state something I’m concerned about (say, “I’m afraid that I won’t have the money to do x”) and they pepper me with some New Age positive thinking nonsense. “Stop that. Don’t affirm that. You’re speaking it into existence.” No, I’m not. I’m stating a concern. You cannot address that which is not out in the open. As Jim Rohn, the business and wealth philosopher said, your brain can spot a lie. If you’re broke, affirm you’re broke! Better that than to spend what you don’t have trying to find evidence for a reality that doesn’t exist.
Now, you can stop me when I say “I’m worthless and I’ll never do anything with my life.” That is a negative affirmation and with time, will damage the self and your circumstances. It’s also untrue. That’s where the difference lies. Affirming something that is negative and untrue can make it so. But affirming something positive and untrue will not bring it to fruition. It may actually just stop you from doing the work to achieve what you want. The trick is to take ownership of your present circumstances and empower yourself to change them. Don’t blow smoke up your own ass.
By pushing people to invent stories about their current circumstance, we affirm that the circumstances themselves are undesirable. The truth is that we don’t know that. If you believe that everything happens for a reason, then you must accept that each circumstance is leading you to something greater, whether it’s seemingly good or seemingly bad.
Take the story of the farmer. One day, his son found a beautiful wild horse and brought it home. Everyone praised the horse and the son and said, “What good fortune you have!” The farmer said, “Eh, could be good, could be bad. We’ll see.” The next day, while trying to ride the wild horse the son fell and broke his leg. Everyone lamented this turn of luck, but again the farmer said, “Eh, could be good, could be bad. We’ll see.” The following week, the king’s army came to recruit all able-bodied young men for the war. Because the son had a broken leg, he was not sent into battle.
We aren’t wise enough to see all the potential outcomes of a given circumstance, but if something in your life is making you unhappy you can choose how you see it. I find peace in knowing that I have the responsibility and the right to change my circumstances, and if it doesn’t go my way that I may have been protected by not always getting what I want. Living in a state of perpetual positivity isn’t desirable. Being empowered is.
So the next time your friend, or me, or yourself is upset about something, allow yourself to be upset. It’s okay and it’s a right way to feel. And use that upset to lead you forward. It’ll turn out. You’ll see.