Is it possible to turn the phrase “have a positive attitude” into a negative?
A positive attitude is better for you than a negative attitude. You would be hard pressed to find someone who disagrees with that statement. It’s just common sense. But it is possible to twist that concept into something harmful.
There is someone in my life who is newly diagnosed with a condition that will require follow-up care for the rest of her life, and may or may not lead to some disability. She is a person who generally has a positive outlook on life, strong of will and of character, but she already feels the pressure to maintain a positive attitude for those around her.
“I don’t want to be a hero,” she told me. “I don’t want to have to put on a happy face all the time to please everyone else.”
My own positive attitude comes naturally. Not that I don’t have my moments, like when my mutinous body will not cooperate and my patience wears thin, but I usually manage to keep those moments private and short-lived.
Thinking back to my own example, I wonder if, by keeping my bad moments private, I have contributed to the pressure to keep up appearances and if by putting my best face forward, I’ve given the impression that I’m always full of sunshine and roses.
Sometimes the positive attitude patrol functions as a guilt trip in disguise. Are they really promoting a positive attitude in the best interest of someone else… or is it a lopsided attempt to protect themselves from having to deal with someone else’s disease or disability? Keep up the positive attitude because I can’t deal with your problems. Do people with health concerns have a responsibility to people around them… to protect them from dealing with the uncomfortable?
I told my friend that it’s perfectly acceptable to feel bad sometimes and there will be days when a good cry is good therapy. It is not her burden to comfort those who would witness her pain. One can have an overall positive attitude and still occasionally experience feelings of anger and sadness. Such moments are natural human responses to the stresses in our lives. When diagnosed with illness, we are not magically immune to other problems. Life does go on and we still have to deal with all the usual trials and tribulations. Sometimes it’s overwhelming. We should not have to mask those legitimate emotions behind a false positive persona.
When is the concept of positive attitude a negative thing? When it is used as a form of denial, implies blame, or imparts guilt.
As for me, let it be known now… I have moments when no matter how hard I try, I cannot fight the frustration. So I acknowledge it, deal with it, and purge it. It’s not particularly pleasant, so I generally get myself back on track rather quickly. It is what it is. Now it’s time to get on with it. Upbeat is far more productive.
The trick is to not to wallow and let the negatives gain the upper hand, but to deal with them honestly in order to progress in a positive manner. A positive attitude is a good thing, a healthy thing — if it is genuine.
If someone in your life has a medical problem, giving that positive attitude advice can put up road blocks to honesty on their part. It gives the impression that expression of true feelings is neither encouraged nor welcome.
If you really want to be a friend, don’t expect a hero. Allow them to speak freely about their fears, anger, and insecurities. Acknowledge their reality. Be the friend who truly lends a shoulder to lean on in times of crisis. Your comfort and support will help them work through the negative feelings and draw them toward the truly positive.
The day after our initial conversation, my friend called to ask how I’m doing. She thought perhaps I was feeling down about her condition. Like I said, she’s strong of will and strong of character. She’s going to be just fine.