Have you ever had that occasion where you are at work and your own personal Aunty Acid is roaring and your own internal critic is a little bit overwhelming. And as if this is not bad enough, some bright spark walks up to you and with a Cheshire Cat smile and suggests that “thinking positively” will cure all ills. Don’t you just want to slap them over the back of the head.
This line….. “think positively” sometimes just gives me the impression that if you cover the problem in pink cotton candy and exude butterflies and uniforms that everything will automatically be ok. I will be honest speaking as a Psychologist that I think finding someone in a negative frame of mind and suggesting they “think positively” is not the way to help them “snap out of it”.
We are currently living in a world that values this concept of “relentless positivity” and this brings with it the perception that this power of positivity can cure any ill we experience.
However, we need to recognise that our emotions contain data, and that data is information. It is actually not a bad thing to sit with the data that the emotion contains and ponder on what that data means to you and subsequently work through the problem using the data as the basis for problem solving. Always “thinking positively” can actually remove the opportunity of working through this data…. understanding it and then subsequently resolving it.
We must recognise that given our negativity bias, experiencing negative emotions is actually normal. Just think of the 6 primary emotions: fear, anger, disgust, happiness, surprise and sadness. How many of these primary emotions are positive? Yep that’s right – only one (surprise is considered neutral as it can be either positive or negative). So we have a natural bias when experiencing emotions to experience more “bad” emotions than “good” emotions. So, negativity can in fact be considered normal.
I think we need to recognise that it is ok to show up and actually experience our grief, pain, anger sometimes and just sit with it. Then move through it, process it and come out the other side.
This means that we need to develop the opportunity to enhance our emotional agility and manage through our thoughts and emotions. We can identify and accept our emotions- both good and bad- and move through them.
In the book Emotional Agility by Susan David, she outlines 4 key steps
1)Show up and recognise your emotions and confront them with curiosity and personal kindness.
2) Step out – a process of detachment and observation
3) Walking “your why”- involves identifying your core values
4) Moving on with the implementation of changes that are in line with your values.
When we are emotionally rigid, we don’t have the ability to adapt in our fast paced world, but when we have emotional agility and sit with our emotions and work them through we can often deal with complexity, can tolerate stress and overcome setbacks. We have this idea that in workplaces we need to sideline “messy emotions”. However when we allow people to work these through and sit with them and problem solve (sometimes with some help) this could be a better option than pretending they don’t exist or brushing them off.
So all yee unicorn followers out there – here this. Let us have our occasional dark clouds. We won’t sit in there long – but we are processing our emotional data and problem solving. When we come out the other side, we will be very happy to marvel at all things pink with you.
PS – for all you unicorns out there – yes, we want to enhance our opportunity to embrace more positivity in our lives. But we need to recognise sitting with negative emotions and processing them is not a bad thing.
Want to gain more emotional agility and work through your emotional data? Contact Michelle on 0412047590 or via michelle@bakjacconsulting, or click here to review Bakjac Consulting’s website for more information.
Michelle Bakjac is an experienced Psychologist, Organisational Consultant, Coach, Speaker and Facilitator. As Director of Bakjac Consulting, she is a credentialed Coach with the International Coach Federation (ICF) and a member of Mental Toughness Partners and an MTQ48 accredited Mental Toughness practitioner. Michelle assists individuals and organisations to develop their Wellbeing and Mental Toughness to improve performance, leadership, behaviour and wellbeing.