Have you noticed how quickly negative feelings and bad experiences darken your world and seem to limit your choices? You’re having a quiet cup of coffee (it is the holidays!) when your kids start World War 3, and by the time it’s sorted your relaxed mood’s gone. Or you’re basking in the afterglow of Christmas goodwill when the credit card bill arrives and you’re swamped by panic.
What about this? Whilst celebrating your latest shopping finds, some idiot blocks you in, abuses you with words, horn and hand gestures – and gridlocks an entire car park just cos he wants your spot? So by the time you finally exit five minutes later all you feel is stressed? (Yes, it happened to me recently. By the time I was out I had to do breathing exercises to calm myself down…)
It gets worse when the situations are more important to us. If those examples are bad, what happens when someone we love gets badly sick? Or we lose our job? Our feelings are even more intense and our options seem even more limited then.
The problem of negativity
Negativity tends to breed more negativity. I’m disappointed cos my boss gave me short shift. So I’m grumpy to my coworker and my client on the phone. In return they’re cool to me and one of them won’t do what I want. So now I add miffed to my mood, as well as grumpy. See how the thing snowballs?
Another unfortunate side effect of bad things happening is it can make us feel powerless. When I feel bad, I see less choices available for getting out of the situation. I tend to assume the ideas I have won’t work anyway. And with each negative thought I shrink my world a little more. Finally there’s nothing I can do and I become a passive victim.
Contrast this with the little boy I overheard in the freezer aisle recently. (Yes, I still go to a supermarket…it’s a control thing.) At all of about three, I thought he’d learned well. In a bright, clear voice he leaned out of the trolley and said
Mummy, will we have the chocolate or the white ice cream today?”
That child knows the power of choice. And that we always have it. When life is pushing in and trying to make you feel small, you always have choices. Will you accept what you’ve just heard? Will you say something? Behave differently? Whenever you’re feeling pushed down or small, look hard for what you can control. It will help to turn your thoughts round to positive again.
Three choices you have in any situation
If you’re feeling the temptation to give up, self-sabotage, hide in the corner or burst into tears, here’s three choices you always have control over. For all that life might appear impossible right now, ask yourself what you’re going to choose about:
- Your attitude towards your problem
- Whether to do anything about it
- Where to seek new resources to help solve the issue (ask someone else, read up, try a different behaviour)
How will you approach a difficult problem this week?