It’s a scientific fact that taking a positive attitude to a shitty situation makes it less shitty.
I know that’s easy to say, effortless in fact, and when people doubt it I think they’re tapping into a fear that if one has to try to be happy then the happiness isn’t real. The explanation for a culture that uses the trope money can’t buy happiness and then is the wealthiest and most detrimentally wealth-driven society in history is that we don’t think money buys happiness, it just removes every obstacle between you and happiness so happiness just happens.
Which every recorded philosopher and the emergent scientific study of happiness will tell you isn’t true or helpful. The fact is either life happens to you or you happen to life.
If you have the mindset that happiness is on the other side of something (a purchase, a promotion, a move) and that the realities of your situation are withholding that happiness one becomes bitter, resentful. That drags dangerously close to entitlement.
And as a side note; resenting the absolutely indifferent conditions of life is a waste of energy you could be putting elsewhere. As is the unconscious idea that life is supposed to be one way over another.
As this veers toward a wholly impractical philosophical point I rein in it. Whether you believe in free will or believe that we live under conditions which perfectly replicate the illusion of free our moment to moment emotional responsibilities are the same.
Back to the attempt at practicality and away from the fact that I listening to a lot of Sam Harris podcasts…
To quote Rush: If you choose not to decide you still have made a choice. Choosing to not try, choosing not to be insightful, choosing not to search, can only have negative consequence. If you are happy and you examine your life and your self then you will simply confirm that happiness and congratulations to you. If your happiness is precarious though and you’re the sort of person who thinks that simply not thinking is the secret then periodically the effort to maintain that ignorance will falter and you will be unprepared to deal with it. And they’ll be crying and tequila involved.
So yes I, Alastair Robertson, firmly endorse the power of positive thinking. Since I’m probably the most cynical and hateful person you know (and if not then take a break from reading this to change all your contacts) this requires explanation.
What I think no one tells us is that being positive doesn’t mean being fake happy. That shit’s annoying for everybody. Suffering as I do from frequent severe depression for me being positive includes things like wearing clean clothes. Still doing the self care stuff that, while it can’t push me over the baseline to being happy, slows the spiral like putting your hands against the side of a slide. When I feel negative and I feel like it doesn’t matter if I eat I tell myself that it does indeed matter and I can go back to thinking negatively after I’ve eaten and taken my vitamins. Thinking positively is as simple as choosing to do something rather than nothing.
Being positive for me also means not moving backwards. Furthermore, not ever wishing to go back. When the lens of history gets blurry and I miss something or someone I tell myself that if it had really been that good I wouldn’t have left.
It’s also true in the very short term as well. I wanted to get my cardiovascular system in shape so I took up jogging. Which demolished my knees and I wasn’t able to walk without a painful limp for about 9 days.
I kept trying for a while, I kept stretching, doing half hours on the step machine, I got braces for both knees, I added even more to my vitamin ritual, and I stayed positive by pretending I was fine.
Until I couldn’t. I started to despair that I’d never get better, I’m so old and out of shape it doesn’t matter anyway. I wasn’t able to focus on other things because of the pain and I wasn’t able to fix that so my mind went stagnant, my motivation and creativity was gone, I couldn’t socialize. And I still stayed positive, I knew there was no way to go back to before so I had to keep looking for solutions no matter how I felt inside, I had to do something rather than nothing. Which in this case was doing nothing because that’s how one recovers from an injury but my point is I was consciously doing nothing, doing less than before, as an active way to recover so that I could get back out there rather than thinking I can’t exercise and that’s how life will always be so fuck it, on to the crying and tequila.
It’s okay in any life trial to stop so you can start over. But if you’re stopping because you made an attempt at the way it’s supposed to be and it didn’t work out then you’re just letting life happen to you and the consolation prizes in life are incredibly disappointing, trust me.
One thing the popular impression gets right is that people involved in self-improvement become condescending and smug. It’s just because all advice is autobiographical though and we’re resenting our unreachable past selves for the wasted time.
‘Acceptance’ isn’t my bag yet so I’ll have to work that out in another post a year from now probably. Then it’s all laughing and tequila.