The Backlash of the Positive Thinking Movement
The whole concept of thinking positively has unwittingly created a backlash of sorts in that it sometimes has become a reason to judge others. Many of us have heard someone say “I can’t do it” (whatever the “it” is for that person) and then sometimes don’t we jump in and say, “Don’t be negative. Don’t program your failure before you start” (or something along those lines). Often this comes from real caring as we don’t want that person to give up on him or herself or to be discouraged. However, let’s think about those words.
First, “don’t be negative” immediately finds fault with that person, implying that he or she is doing something wrong. Second, the statement also discounts and dismisses how the person really feels. Instead, it passes over the feelings and their causes to right away offering a solution to the problem for them. And three, the advice offered is not something that could actually resolve the problem because it is not a viable solution. If consciously deciding to do or not do something worked then we would never need to Neutralize anything. To me, therefore, this kind of statement feels as unhelpful and hurtful as the statement (we have all heard from time to time and most people do not like) of “just get over it.”
More extreme examples would be when we say things like, “She’s just so toxic I can’t be around her.” Or often there is a decision made along the lines of, “I just can’t deal with any more negative people in my life and from now on I’m just going to surround myself with positive people.”
The goal generally is then to get away from a person/s because he or she is bad for you in some way. Yet what I’m hearing is again a judgment that the negative behavior or viewpoint or words of someone means that he or she is a bad person. This reminds me of something I learned when my first-born arrived. I was a single parent and as such read everything I could get my hands on as to how to parent. There was much to learn but one thing even now sticks out in my mind. It was the advice that when our child is misbehaving - whether having a temper tantrum, hitting the child next door or purposely wrecking havoc in some way - that when we talk with the child to be very clear that the behavior is what you do not like and disapprove of and not the child him or herself. It is important for the child to know that we love him or her no matter what. Of course, all children will misbehave in some way. However, the problematic behavior does not define the child as a bad person. It only defines the action.
This is in essence what I’m trying to explain with the derogatory term “negative people”. As adults, the misbehavior so to speak can become more extreme and more potentially hurtful including emotionally, physically and psychologically. So it is easy to lose sight of the fact that it is their behavior we do not like and that the behavior does not define the humanity or totality of this person. So when we call people “negative” please understand that this is in essence dismissing the whole person in one blow.
I'm not saying that anyone should stay around people who hurt or abuse you. But even though it's important to take yourself out of the line of fire of some behavior that is painful, it doesn’t mean that we need turn around and be hurtful and judgmental back. In fact, there is nothing positive about doing that because what we are doing here is finding fault and are thus being negative ourselves.
Also, we don’t like being judged by others either. It hurts and the judgments lack understanding, empathy, and respect. The underlying foundation as to why someone behaves the way they do is so complex that we have no way of knowing (because we can't look into another person's soul and mind) what that person is actually going through nor could they know the same about us. And in time, if we thought about it, wouldn’t we most likely not feel good ourselves for having placed those toxic and negative labels on someone else? In reality, these people are as wounded as we are though they find their own way to cope with the pain or hurt or confusion or self-loathing. Thus, they lash out for their own reasons, much as we ourselves have lashed out many times in our own lives or have handled the pain, etc., in some other ways.
My point is that it would be a shame to abuse the highly important concept that ‘thought is powerful energy’ by turning the idea around to be used as a weapon. In a very real way, judging others as negative becomes a justification to cast ourselves in the role of the good person and the negative one in the role of the bad person. It's divisive in nature. And in a very real twist of irony, the whole trend to think positively ends up justifying our negative judgment of others!
Lastly, the pervasive attitude that negative thoughts/actions/behaviors are proof of a negative person even have us judging ourselves: "If I were just more positive maybe some good would come into my life." And we pour on more self-criticism and self-attack. The effect of finding fault and blame is the same except that we are now using it against ourselves. Bottom line: let’s become more conscious and aware. Let’s use some understanding in the same way we have become understanding of alcoholics, people with OCD or people who are depressed. Becoming more conscious and aware is not the same as excusing the behavior and making it right. But it brings the whole person (including ourselves) into the Light of acceptance and understanding.