By Mallika Bhatia
Think positive and all will be positive. Focus on the positive. Replace negative thoughts with positive ones and the results will be positive. Positive this and positive that: it is everywhere. It almost seems like a fad or an epidemic to talk about positive thinking. Sadly, positive thinking is being used as a blanket and is being used far too often. It has impacted our lives in the opposite way that it was intended to. It has changed us and made us more critical.
In a world where we are trying to create sensitivity and acceptance of mental health issues, we have become much more judgmental towards people going through a tough time. When we hear people say positive thinking, we almost judge ourselves and others for feeling low. It is the equivalent of saying that one should avoid feeling sad, ever, that feeling lonely is bad, that experiencing grief means you aren’t focusing on the right thing, and that anger is a demon. Anxiety is only for the weak-minded; guilt is exclusively for culprits; and frustration makes you unreliable. We have started questioning the existence and experience of the very feelings that truly make us completely human. Feelings aren’t just feelings any more: they are categorized as good or bad, lower or higher, positive or negative.
Imagine a world where we aren’t ashamed to tell someone that we feel lonely. Think of how liberating it would be to tell another person about our disappointments and failures without a background fear of being judged or considered less. I truly fail to understand; when did our pure expression of emotion become an inconvenience that we need to apologize for? What if you don’t feel the need to say sorry for crying during a conversation? What if expressing yourself isn’t considered drama?
There are so many what ifs, but the answer to me is really simple: if we make these what ifs realities, we will feel lighter, more heard and more accepted. It will help us overcome some of the biggest emotional struggles: of feeling unheard, of feeling rejected and of carrying the burden of our emotions everywhere we go.
How do we do this?
We simply drop the judgement. We stop judging ourselves for feeling sad or angry. We let ourselves express our feelings truly, believing that the listener is empathetic, and we do the same for the other person when we listen to them. We just listen and accept, especially with our children. We let our loved ones convey their feelings and do not jump in to offer solutions. We give time and space to all relationships. We become more accommodating. We don’t push aside the unpleasant feelings, rather we embrace them and live with them as a part of who we are. As humans, we are bound to be disappointed. We are bound to worry and be stressed sometimes. We just accept that. We consider occasional doubts normal and we allow ourselves and others to be.
Would we be able to enjoy a sense of security if we had never been insecure? Would we cherish calmness if we had never lived through a storm? Can we ever be elated without working really hard towards something? The struggle, the sorrow, the pain and anguish are all important parts of who we are. Stop rejecting these and we will stop rejecting parts of ourselves.
Is it practically possible?
Yes, it is. I can tell you through practice and experience. In our household, our four-year-old is encouraged to share her feelings. She can express her anger as easily as she is capable of sharing her joy. We don’t yell at our child for throwing a so-called tantrum. We hug and make-up and talk about the things that made us angry, once the anger has passed. We apologize to each other and value what our child is saying as much as something that an adult would say. We NEVER call her a drama-queen for expressing herself (in whichever way she likes). Crying is considered normal, even for adults. When she saw me crying last week, she wasn’t overwhelmed by it at all. Instead, she walked up to me, gave me a big hug and then went into her room to get me a musical toy. She handed it to me and said, “Amma, this could make you feel better and I can hug you some more if you want.”
Mallika Bhatia is Life Coach with a Master’s in Clinical Psychology and a Diploma in Hypnotherapy, with more than 13 years of experience in this field. She is a writer, a blogger, and a published author with regular dedicated columns in two National Dailies in India. She also manages The Hope Tribe, a platform to share true stories of people who overcame obstacles and became real heroes. She practices in Munich at her office in NeuHarlaching or over Skype/FaceTime. Her website has more details about her work & for regular doses of wisdom, like & follow her on Facebook.