She cornered me in the pharmacy and unleashed a long tale of woe. She had legitimate problems, big problems, overwhelming problems! When she finally came up for air, I posed the deadly question:
“So what solutions have you tried?”
She blinked twice, mouth agape.
Women don’t share to solve problems, we do it to bond. We use negativity as an emotional bond. We feel each others pain and commiserate. This is an ugly side to negativity. It disguises itself as friendship.
I had two friends that I met for coffee once a week. Both of them had intense suffering in their lives, past and present. Whenever I would try to steer the topic to even how beautiful the day is, I could not deflect the conversation for long. I had to terminate those two friendships because I was gasping for air.
Some people label themselves with a negative. They are their illness, past, addiction, habit, toxin. They dismiss the good in themselves and their lives because a negative story is much more intense and interesting. But after awhile, no one wants to hear it any more.
Negative can look positive. You get a warm and fuzzy with your buddies after sharing your difficulties. However, this escalates and becomes the focus of your friendships and will soon wear you out. The more times you share a problem, the more negativity you will experience.
Negativity has to be fed, and boy, does it grow!
Toxic environments abound in offices, homes, relationships, businesses because negativity comes in so many disguises. It looks legitimate. It evokes a strong emotional reaction. When emotions are high, people band together and feed the monster. A strong emotion makes you think it is a correct way to feel and you are justified to act on it.
The other sneaky thing about negativity, it goes hand in hand with procrastination. It evokes anger and fear, which either causes you to take action (YAY!) or more often, despair. In the face of overwhelming problems it can cause hopelessness and helplessness. Not only does this feel legitimate, because, after all, how can one person solve all this, you are stopped dead.
I think Albert Einstein said a negative person finds a problem for every solution. Killer of hopes, dreams and aspirations it paralyzes you from taking any kind of step forward, because, hey, what’s the use?
Negativity also disguises itself as power. A person spewing toxins can have a false sense of being in control and powerful. A negative person is a fearful person hiding it. They conceal the fact they do nothing. Perhaps they either are unwilling or unable to, but being very knowledgeable and talking about problems makes them look good, like they are doing something. A constant diet of books, documentaries and conversations about bad stuff weakens you, and everyone will suffer. Dwelling constantly on bad things demoralizes and poisons everyone you meet. You may be an authority on your problem or the worlds problems, but you take no action other than to deflate everyone else.
Negative is not any more real than positive. Pessimism is not more realistic than optimism. Our lives and world consist of both tears and joy. You get to choose which to focus on.
Joy however, is strength. It has many faces; beauty, creativity, inspiration, miracles, kindness, gratitude, and any other good thing you can think of. It is found in nature. It is found in the wondrous things man has created. When you focus on joy, you will be strong. In the face of a crisis you will look for the good, the flower in the prison yard. More good will come to you, because you are open to it. You will take action. You will have courage. You will do.
So next time you are tempted down the path of negativity, stop and look at the beauty of the world. The good in the world, in your own life.
God said “. . . I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live . . .” Deuteronomy 30:19