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When Positive Attitude Goes Negative

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When Positive Attitude Goes Negative

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?

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Ann Pietrangelo

Ann Pietrangelo is the author of No More Secs! Living, Laughing & Loving Despite Multiple Sclerosis and Catch That Look: Living, Laughing & Loving Despite Triple-Negative Breast Cancer. She is a freelance writer and member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors. Follow on Twitter @AnnPietrangelo

38 comments

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1:19AM PDT on Aug 30, 2010

thanks

5:41PM PST on Feb 16, 2010

always have a problem in trying to stay positive seems like every time I have a handle of it something comes along and destroys it...

6:40AM PST on Feb 8, 2010

I was very sure before reading the comments that positivity helps you when life comes that side which doesn't please you (which doesn't mean it is bad, but just life, i.e. neuter). But reading the comments, I am not so sure any longer. I don't know how I could explain to some of the readers like Deborah or Nicole to keep positive. Can anyone? This would be a real challenge - not to stay positive when you already are - but to help people like them see the bright side again. I'd like to be able to do that.

3:52PM PST on Dec 9, 2009

lots of unpleasant things can happen in life. not many of us dodge these bullets. death comes to all of us sooner or later. i lost a wife to cancer age 48 and a son died prematurely. but through it all i know God is with me and is a friend who will never leave me or forsake me. He is my strength in whom i trust. so if you are suffering or feel low give your heart to Jesus Christ. He will give you the peace and joy and strength to see it through. i did in my 40th year-best thing i ever did.just be yourself with Jesus as he loves you just as you are.

3:29PM PST on Dec 5, 2009

"When is the concept of positive attitude a negative thing? When it is used as a form of denial, implies blame, or imparts guilt."
very true.

8:08AM PST on Dec 3, 2009

This is a GREAT article and so, so important that it be said!

I have had a hard life and suffer intermittently from both depression AND one of those undiagnosed pain/fatigue things. I got sick a long time ago of the "chin up" comments and have purged a lot of people from my life because of that attitude. I'm grateful for the genuine friends I do have.

It is normal and healthy to experience and express the full range of human emotion. To hold any of it in or bury it causes physical stress, which only makes any illness worse.

Great, great article!

6:50AM PST on Dec 3, 2009

Good comment Naga.

1:07AM PST on Dec 3, 2009

Others forbid the expression of true feeling because it triggers repressed feelings that they are in denial about within them selves...they project those unacknowledged feelings back and that magnifies what they percieve as unreasonable and a bad attitude. We live in a house of mirrors as told by St Paul: "Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known." 1Cor:13
only Love can save us.

6:01AM PST on Dec 2, 2009

I am suffering from PTST from serving 2 tours in Desert Storm and being sexually abused from the time I was 5yrs. old up until I was 11yrs. old. I withnessed my mother shot herself in the head and commit suicide and the CPS take my Father off to Prison and then seperate the 4 of us children from one another. I am also terminally ill at 52yrs.of age and live in an assisted living facility with a bunch of Elderly and dying patients. I am the youngest here. Death is all around me! I do however TRY to get out every now and then as I have to for my sanity's sake.I don't have many friends anymore. It seems that people don't know how to be around others who are terminally ill. I cannot have a bad day around them and they don't allow me to have one. I feel as though if I am going to continue to have any visitors at all..that I have to put on a happy face all of the time or I won't have ANY visitors, and damn - you know, sometimes I just get lonely. I used to have lots of friends - or so I thought, but you find out who you real friends are when you find out that you are sick. I have about 5 that come and visit but even with those, I don't dare talk about being depressed or down or my treatments or anything like that. I have to keep it all bottled up inside. I feel alone in this world. If it wasn't for my Care2 friends and my dog...I'd go crazy! My computer has become my best friend and my dog. At least I can count on it being there when I want it to be and someone will respond.

4:57AM PST on Dec 2, 2009

This is an interesting article and very true! I, too, seem to have a naturally positive attitude, but sometimes I have a bad moment, or a bad day. Sometimes, crying is the best therapy you can do for yourself.

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