You’ve seen the memes and posts: Positive vibes only. Think positive. And maybe you’ve seen me rolling my eyes and waving my arms and saying “Feel it to heal it! Don’t be afraid to face your feelings!”
I’m not against positive thinking. I’m against pretending everything in your life and in your head is perfect all the time. I’m against inauthenticity. I’m against making people feel guilty and less than because they feel anxiety or sadness or anger.
But the thing is… it really is better to think positive. You’ll be happier. You’ll get more accomplished. People will like you more. I agree - positive is generally better. I get that. I just think it’s weird and counterproductive to pressure everyone into judging every thought and feeling. And that’s what people are doing if you mention an issue or emotion and they tell you to stay positive.
SO WHAT DO YOU DO??
INSTEAD OF DECIDING WHETHER TO ALWAYS BE POSITIVE OR ALWAY BE IN YOUR FEELINGS, REMEMBER IT'S NOT AN EITHER/OR. IT'S A YES and...
“Yes and” - is the first rule of improv. If you’re an actor in an improv show, and another actor says something completely opposite of what you were going for, you don’t deny what they said, or try to ignore it and bend things back your way. You say “Yes, and….” You stay present. You accept. You go with the flow. And that’s what life – authentic, beautiful, full, rich, crazy life – demands of us too.
Life wants you to be present. Not to live in the past or the future or in some dream state where everything is perfect and positive all the time. Just present. Like how you feel when you ski down a mountain or ride on a roller coaster: you’re in the present moment because that’s all your brain has time to compute.
Life wants you to accept yourself and others. Not argue about how you and your family and friends and the whole world should be some other way. But not sitting there and letting everything suck either.
Acceptance is actually the starting point of true change. How would you change something if you didn’t see it for what it is first? Ah... This person or situation or feeling is that way. It just is. I get it. Now, we can begin to change it. How would you change something by denying it? Ignoring something has never made it go away. Ignoring something actually gives it space and permission and power to grow.
Life wants you to go with the flow. Life wants you to metabolize your feelings, process them, let them run through you and out of you.
And then, my friend, it will come out. It may take ten days or ten years, but it WILL come out, and the longer it's stored away, the harder it will lash out. It may be physical, like a headache or a tumor, or it may be emotional, like depression or uncontrollable anger. But it doesn’t disappear. It just waits. It waits to be seen. It waits to be accepted. It waits to finally get flowed out.
So that’s my answer to the people who say to stay positive.
Stay present. Stay accepting. Stay in the flow.
Then you will earn positive.
Your little heart so longs to be seen and accepted by you. Listen to your heart. See and accept your own self. Start there. You’ll end up at positive. It’s a longer hike, but it’s a better view once you finally get there.
If you want to be present, and accept, and flow, but you don’t quite know how, let’s connect. Because I’ve been there, and now I’m here. I’m ready to show you.
I recently gave a talk about this very thing. Take a look: