Sweepin’ the clouds away
On my way to where the air is sweet
Can you tell me how to get?
How to get to Sesame Street
But Elmo, what do I do when it stays cloudy for days on end?
Positive affirmations have their place, but I believe, similar to a high school pep rally, that they should be used sparingly and in the right context. But both always require cheerleaders. Always.
Let me explain.
When your intuition leads you to believe that the situation you’re in isn’t okay and yet you are still trying to cover that up by “looking on the bright side”, there is an internal tug-of-war that happens. We can trick our minds into believing that everything will be okay, but some situations that just isn’t true. Sometimes recognizing that a situation is unfavorable is looking at the bright side.
I believe that certain levels of positivity can cause harm in the long-term. In my 3 years of meditation, I’ve come to know that it’s not about trying to find the positive in everything and it’s more about accepting that, well, sometimes life just sucks.
As we come to this realization about the reality of life, it doesn’t mean that it has to cause us to go into an all-out panic. What we have to think about is how we’re shaping our own reality and incremental steps we can take to help ourselves face that in a more constructive way. Denying our reality dooms us to repeat the vicious cycle of trying to put a “positivity” icing on top of the cake that life has baked us.
Let’s take a look at some things that have helped me put this into action in my life.
Note your negative experiences. I intentionally refrain from using the word “reflect” here because that can easily slide into rumination and cause you to put too much stock in your past. Just noting your negative experiences and therefore allowing them to happen can be beneficial and therapeutic. I will even go as far as saying that I think sometimes you should use NEGATIVE affirmations in your life. Saying out loud (or to yourself), “This sucks!” or “Man, I’m in a shitty mood!” or “I hate this.” allows you to truly feel your emotions instead of blocking them and carrying them around as extra baggage for longer than you should.
Lean into your negative experiences. Hug it out. Cry it out. Let it out. To emote isn’t the problem, it’s when we have an emotional response to our emotional response that we experience a slippery slope. Don’t get angry about being angry. Emotions have their place and they have their function within our lives, expressing and feeling them fully allows us to embrace them instead of denying them. Don’t mistake a negative experience for a negative reaction.
Life is like a bag of Sour Patch Kids, you always know what you’re gonna get. Thinking that we will go through our lives with all rainbows and butterflies is beneficial if you were born in Candyland, but our world is much different. What would our lives look like if we accepted that bad things will happen to us? Would we act differently? Would we take more risks? Are the bad things truly that bad?
Breathe. Too often, we’re misunderstanding a situation whether externally or internally. We think we know ourselves so well, yet we have a ton of automatic processes going on inside of our body and mind that has been built up over time from our experiences. Bringing our attention to our breath gives us an anchor by which to experience our lives in a clearer way. This clarity can allow us to shed some light on the truth behind what we see as negative experiences. Clarity of experience can give us the space to respond in an intentional way.
As always, contact me at [email protected], I’d love to hear about your own experiences with this topic.
—Nick Zolfo, Wellness Consultant