I have a clear memory of my father working in his office. There was a sign over his desk that said: “Positive thinking is the road to all the things we want in life.”
He would always tell us that we have to keep being positive, even though I felt nothing but a well of sadness from his own heart.
I learned that positivity comes with heaviness—with a mask and a smile. That it meant not telling the whole truth (or only half of the story).
In the face of COVID-19, I have had countless conversations where someone confesses to having a hard time staying positive and keeping the vibes high. So, I find myself wondering if the best way to be positive is to finally let our emotions be authentic.
Maybe being positive doesn’t have to do with being happy all the time. Maybe forced cheer isn’t the most loving or sane thing we can offer ourselves right now.
Positive thinking is an American thought process that was introduced into the culture in the 1950s—fresh out of WW2, the Korean War, economic depression, inflation, and more depression. It came linked to the economy.
This is when the American dream was born. It told us that if we work hard enough, we can get whatever we want—as long as we maintain a positive attitude about it.
This way of living serves a purpose in its own way. It asks us to get in touch with our dreams and desires. What do we want? What kind of life do we want to live?
But, the American obsession with positivity also has a price: our mental health and self-esteem.
Positivity can be a form of denial.
If we are only allowed to be positive and negate everything else, we create circumstances in our psyche for repression and suppression. Unfortunately, our reality does not change just because we are ignoring it. It is like that pile of homework, or emails, or messages—they don’t go away when we ignore them.
I understand that we want to feel like there is some kind of purpose to all of this, but that can’t come at the expense of our mental health and truth of our hearts.
Many of us are re-experiencing childhood traumas during the COVID-19 crisis—something we don’t want to admit because it goes against being “positive.” We won’t talk about it because when it comes to our developmental history we’ve built shame into our repertoire. We only want to look at everything through rose-colored glasses.
We have been trained to deny our grief so it escapes as anxiety, depression, self-loathing, self-criticism, rage, rage at things we cannot control, feelings of powerlessness, binge eating, comfort eating, drinking, reaching for old relationships or old memories, and searching for comfort in toxic places.
We do all of this with a smile on our face because we think having a positive attitude separates us from our human suffering. It does not.
If we changed our idea around positivity it would look like love; a compassionate and kind attitude toward ourselves.
Love is the highest vibration. It is the ultimate source of positivity, hope, faith, and optimism.
It is the source of compassion and kindness. Sanity and clarity. Bliss, contentment, and wholeness. Freedom.
We wouldn’t have to defend our pain or our fear—our joy, contentment, struggle, trauma, grief, and gratitude would all co-exist within our attitude of love.
Love doesn’t pick and choose.
Love doesn’t punish us for not being perfect.
Love doesn’t withhold what is meant for us because we have grief, anger, fear, or struggles.
Love gives us support so we can carry ourselves through all that it means to be human.
When this changes we will enter into a new era. One where we are free from a culture that only allows for positive thinking.
Let’s embrace a loving attitude toward our human experience. Toward the earth. Let’s create lives that honor the heartbeat within us all.
Elephant’s Continually-updating Coronavirus Diary. ~ Waylon
How to Enjoy Life Amidst the Coronavirus Fear: Your Go-To Guide from Books to Podcasts & Wellness Practices.
What the Coronavirus is Teaching Me: 5 Lessons from Uncertain Times.
The Artist’s Stay-at-Home & Stay Sane Guide.
10 Simple Ways to Boost your Immunity without Leaving the House.