A Little Rant about “Positive Thinking”

Image

A song that loosely relates to this- feeling strong without feeling positive. – http://soundcloud.com/starshipjenerprise/before-the-flower

 

There have recently been a whole slew of “positive thinking” things in my Facebook feed. I’ll admit it. They irritate me. Here’s why.

Controlling Thoughts

Anyone who’s spent more than five minutes in meditation practice knows that thoughts arise whether or not we really have a conscious say in them. They come up. When we watch them, we realize that they sometimes have patterns and some level of predictability, but other times they don’t.

Some of us have really powerful imaginations. My own imagination seems to have moods of its own.

One day I’m imagining great things for songs, stories, posts and pictures. Another day, I’m imagining terrible things about my own demise or other disasters. Is that my fault? Am I not “positive” enough?

Value of Intention

I think that there’s a great value of intentionally thinking about some things. Like how it would feel to have a successful book, or how it would feel to not be afraid of singing in front of someone. Sometimes intentionally having these thoughts can make it easier to take steps of action towards those goals, or to loosen the grip of habitual self-depreciating thoughts.

But there are limitations, and also, I believe, dangers to clinging to this too strongly.

Limits of Intention & Effort

To keep propagating the idea that we can control our thinking to any large extent is just a little obscene to me. There is so much more to our experience than just thinking, and the thinking itself is one of the hardest things to control. Plus, if you try to force your brain into a certain pattern that is just not taking, maybe it’s the relationship to the thoughts that can be worked with.

I know for me, when I try to run away from my anxiety or negative thoughts, they sometimes get much worse and more powerful. When I see them and breathe into them, letting them be, they tend to have more of a chance to dissipate, or at least to not ruin my day with anxiety. But if I try to change them into “positive” thoughts, it feels rather like trying to wear jeans that are a size too small just because I want them to fit.

Find me one person who has successfully jumped on the “positive thinking” train and never looked back. But if you do find them, please just take a picture for proof but don’t bring them anywhere near me, because they would probably be rather irritating.

The Dangers of This Expectation

To me, the danger of this movement is similar to the danger that the media creates when it portrays people looking happy, healthy, young, and flawless all over the television. People start to assume that they are damaged for not being like that. They start counting calories and judging themselves harshly for not having the illusive “just got out of bed” look when they really just got out of bed.

The idea that “thoughts create reality” makes some sense, but on the other hand, what I tend to see is a lot of rather privileged people saying this as if their own blessed lives were of their own making. Sometimes, they were. But sometimes tragedy happens, regardless of how positive the person was during their lives. Other times, life turns out perfectly for those with lots of “negative” thoughts.

The Temptation to Think Thoughts Control Things

It’s fun to think that thinking controls our reality, but it also feels that such a belief is giving the holder an illusion of control over their fate that they really don’t have, while also creating an onslaught of shallow positivity that clings to itself for fear of waking up to the messy reality that sometimes shit happens no matter how much we didn’t think about it.

I think my point is this. If you are similarly bombarded with these “positive thinking” pictures with curvy handwriting and bright colors, and you find yourself feeling bad for your continued indulgence in the occasional negative thought, please don’t beat yourself up anymore than you would for not having Pantene-commercial hair even after using the same shampoo.

Controlling thoughts and feelings is very hard, if not impossible. Cultivating acceptance and actions that bring us where we want to go is a little more doable, at least for me. I just don’t want people to move from feeling bad that they aren’t perfect like people on TV to feeling like they are being too negative and inviting disaster into their lives because of it when really, disaster comes sometimes. Relating to the moment in a friendly way cuts to the chase and helps those negative thoughts have less power over our experience, without trying to fight them off for the sake of being positive.

There’s my rant. Thanks for reading.

I’d love to hear your experience. Maybe I’m seeing the whole “positive thinking” thing in a skewed way, and projecting my own negativity onto it. Maybe you can share how it’s worked for you, or how you think I’m wrong about what I think of it.

Feel free to rant below! 🙂

 

 

 

Productivity: An Escape from Death?

Productivity is very interesting.

 

Some of us are of the belief, intentional or otherwise, that unless someone is being productive then they don’t deserve happiness. Mostly those of us in that category aim this belief at ourselves more than others.

Others couldn’t care less about productivity, and some even think it’s bad.

My own relationship to productivity is rather interesting. Sometimes, I’m addicted to it. Other times, I’m thinking I need to take a break from it but even that break becomes focused on being productively unproductive. When I think of spending an hour without it, my stomach turns into a cat and tries to escape through my mouth.

Why is that? Is it the culture, my parents, my schooling? Is it my inherent uncomfortableness with my own vulnerability,  my impermanence in this world? Do I secretly think that as long as I’m doing something productive, the Death cloak guy won’t notice me on his rounds?

I really don’t know.

The nonsense of the situation hit me yesterday when I was talking to a dear friend. He said that when he gets up late, he pretty much hates everything. It’s a feeling I can relate to. If I wake up late, my boyfriend and dog stay well out of the way because I am going to be grouchy. And why? Well, because I didn’t get anything done.

But while talking to my friend, I realized that even if I do get up earlier rather than later, all I really get done is more coffee drinking and dog belly rubs and maybe some more sleepy Facebook time. Nothing really productive there, and yet, I’m mad when I don’t get the chance.

Productivity is like many emotions and substances. It can be useful and it can also be a weapon we use against ourselves to play the shame game or otherwise divorce ourselves from the tenderness of the present moment.

For me, productivity hardly has any meaning. I feel “productive” when I make songs, when I write, when I make jewelry, walk, do Yoga, meditate, practice guitar, read an informational book or a fiction book with the intention of learning from it, and when I cook. But to cultivate inspiration for some of these activities, I need time to just dilly dally and do whatever feels natural. And when I feel like I “should be” working on music, then taking a walk won’t feel productive. But when I feel like I “should be” getting “more exercise,” a walk feels more productive than making music. There’s just no way to win unless I label the feeling and let it exist without taking over my entire moment of experience.

So here is my intention to be more aware of when I use my productivity or lack thereof as an excuse to make myself feel “less than” in the present moment.

Do you have an interesting relationship to productivity?

What does the word mean to you?

and, more importantly, have you missed me? 🙂 I apologize for lack of posts lately.

Jumping Through Hoops

You guys know how I love metaphors.

I jokingly posted one of these dog hoop pictures on Enjoy Life’s Facebook Page a few minutes ago, and realized that there is really a deeper thing to look at here.

A lot of people I’ve talked to recently are hung up on the hoops they have to jump through to accomplish their goals. Maybe it’s a business license they have to apply for, a massage test they have to take, a form they have to fill out or a phone call they have to make. We don’t like the hoops.

The work I’ve been doing lately has to do with relating to those feelings differently. Even if I feel like I don’t want to do something, when I am connected with the value of that action and leaving room for the thoughts, feelings and urges that may arise that make me want to not do it, it helps me to get it done and to feel accomplished and fulfilled.

Looking at the hoops differently can maybe help to get through them if we choose, and we might just enjoy the brief moment of flight we experience as we do so. Plus the sun might be shining and maybe there is grass under our bare feet.

Sometimes a mental picture helps to remember stuff. Which is why there is this:

Image

A new acoustic song about how sometimes it’s good to have some hardship to create magical things, or something like that 🙂 http://soundcloud.com/starshipjenerprise/my-boat-by-jennifer-stuart

Do you have any fun hoops you jumped through recently? 🙂

Hope you are well!