The Art of Change Skills for Life

Ideas. Insight. Inspiration.

When the World Seems Like It’s Going to Hell in a Handbasket, an Antidote for Negativity

May 3, 2010 Life Skills 1

Garbage In Garbage OutIt’s spring time.  Flowers are blooming, the sky is blue, it’s beautiful and so are you.  I don’t want to bring you down, add weight to your load or harsh your buzz.  But according to all reports, things are bad, and they’re getting worse.  I heard the news today.  Oh boy.

Every day, actually.  You too. Every moment of every day, you are bombarded with evidence of global stupidity through the multiple communication channels of our modern world.  It’s on the air.  It’s in the movies and books, and the comedy shows too.  Whether you watch it, listen to it or read it, or some combination of the three, it’s bad news and the human enterprise is going down.

It’s a kind of psychic garbage for mass consumption, mixed with minute by minute reports and hourly repeat broadcasts of murder and mayhem. Have you gotten the message they’re sending?  It’s a stupid, stupid world. Wherever you look, whenever you listen, whatever you do, the world around cries out its wretchedness, misery and heartache.  But just because the world is going to hell in a handbasket, doesn’t mean you have to follow it.

There’s a computer code principle that really applies here.  Garbage in.  Garbage out.  The negativity you take in shows up in how you think, what you dream, in what you do.  Overwhelmed, it leads to feelings of helplessness and inertia.

Ever worry about things that haven’t happened? You can thank your input for that nasty bit of output. Bad dreams?  Where do you suppose you got that idea?

How do people cope with it?  Bad food, in ridiculous quantities.  Too much of the wrong stuff to drink.  Popping pills to dull the ache and suppress the pain.  Anything to distract you and divert you from what you know your life and this world could and should be.

I’m not negative about negativity.  I think there’s a time and a place for it. Still, I am not a negative person, as I prefer to enjoy my moments and find pleasure where I can.  At the same time,  I’m also not a subscriber to the idea of having a positive mental attitude at all times. Though I’ll admit it, I am a bit of an optimist. That doesn’t mean I’m  right any more often than a pessimist,  it just means I suffer less.  I think that negative thoughts and reactions do serve a purpose in life, if they get us moving, get our attention, get us thinking about doing something to change the conditions for the better.  Ultimately, a negative attitude is self defeating and a positive attitude can be self fulfilling.

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing:  the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances – to choose one’s own way.”

-Victor Frankel, Man’s Search for Meaning’

In my experience with coaching clients and patients, I’ve observed that there are some activities and attitudes that seem to reverse the tide of negativity before it washes everything away.  For example, if you fill yourself up with sources of hopeful thought and uplifting ideas, eventually you’ll start seeing the world in terms of possibility and opportunity.  And if you stick your head in a cold mountain stream, sooner or later, you will wake up!!!!

Get To The Heart Of It
One way to break through negativity is to dive in to the center of it, and question it thoroughly.  Instead of everyone and always, nobody and never, try to find out the who, what, where, when and how of it.  Someone says “It’s bad.”  Say, “What’s bad?”  “Bad in what way?”  “Bad compared to what?”  “Where is it bad like that?  When?”  By breaking down generalizations into specifics, you will almost ALWAYS find things aren’t as hopeless as they seem.

Put it and Keep It In Perspective
All things must pass. For each moment you spend bemoaning the past, that is one more irreplaceable moment in the present that has been squandered. When times are tough, the human mind is uniquely equipped to go another place in space and time to regain perspective.  Like my father taught me (the Alan Kirschner technique I’ve written about in my books) go an entire century into the future to evaluate something happening in the present or that’s happened in the past.  Ask yourself, ” 100 years from now, what difference will it make?”  Or, if you’re good at making comparisons, try this.  Compare something awful to something worse.   Because no matter how annoying another person is, or unfeeling a boss or customer is, or unresponsive a spouse or friend is, compared to going blind or losing mobility, how serious is it really?

Be Grateful For Everything
Ok, this is my preferred method for staying upbeat when everyone else is emphasizing the downbeat.  I appreciate what the moment brings as raw material for my art (the art of change!)   Counting blessings is not just a good idea, it’s a great one.    The Greek word for nourishment also means ‘to cherish.’  That means when I eat, I appreciate how great it is to have the choice.   Rather than taking good for granted, get good with gratitude, because appreciation of the moment’s gifts is essential to happiness.

Well, I hope I’ve cheered you up a bit!  What do you do to life yourself up when the troubles of the world try to drag you down?  Share your ideas here.  You know I’ll appreciate them!  And if you’d like to hear some amazing music, check out the Gypsy Soul You Tube channel.

Until next time, like my friend Roman (of Gypsy Soul) says, “Cheers”

Rick

 

One Response

  1. Addendum:

    I had prepared this before the leaking oil in the Gulf and the terror attempt in NYC (where I’m heading tonight) So the ‘going to hell in a handbasket’ idea seems almost prescient. But it changes nothing about the point of the post. I shared a story with my Philly program chair last night over dinner and I’ll add it here.

    Many years ago, when I was in my early 20’s, I lived overseas for awhile. There was no work to be found, but someone let me live in a cabin behind their house for the winter. With nothing to do, I began exploring my environment and discovered a box of Time Magazines from the 1930’s, leading right up to the 2nd World War. There were environmental disasters, terror attacks, planes and ships gone down or lost at sea, and artists pushing the envelope and challenging the comfort zone of many. There were religious leaders claiming special dispensations on the truth, and politicians caught up in corruption.

    I read every page of every magazine. Now, I think of myself as a student of history, and I know that you can find such stories dating back a very long time. So when I was done reading, an impression formed in my mind that every generation must have witnessed what might look like the end of the world!

    So be of good cheer in spite of it all. Feed yourself with what lifts you up as a counterforce to all the gravity of current news. Keep breathing. Somehow, humanity always muddles through. I don’t know where events are heading, but I do know this. Today is as good a day as any, rich with potential and filled with opportunity. I intend to use my life today (and tomorrow, and the day after that, and every day as long as I’m alive) to do what I can to make a difference. This is me encouraging you to do the same. It all adds up. When good people get involved and do what they can with what is instead of sitting on the sidelines worrying about what is not, well, that may be exactly how humanity has managed to make it this far, and what may carry us forward towards a better future!

    best wishes
    Rick

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