Stay positive, when offered as advice to a friend in need, is generally a well-intended statement offered as encouragement to someone who may otherwise feel:
- Negative about some life event or situation.
If only it were that simple.
In order to “stay positive”, one must first become positive. The path to positive-ness is different for each of us. And, as is the case with our emotions, we may define the merit, and ability to be and express positive-ness, differently.
In other words, we come at someone else and their issues with our background and how we define things. This may or may not be compatible with how the person we are trying to help, sees, views, or copes with the same thoughts and feelings.
If staying positive is offered as an adjunct, after a person has been heard, and a plan of action is in place, than I can enthusiastically support it. However, prematurely jumping ahead to the “fix” of staying positive, while ignoring or giving inadequate attention to the issues, can have the unintended effect of making a person feel misunderstood, not listened too, and more depressed than when the conversation started. Regardless of the polite agreement he may offer.
Further, the impulse of a friend to fix and get right to the stay positive message, may have more to do with the friend’s own inability to deal with negative emotions. Their intentions and heart may be in the right place, but their own issues may unconsciously be guiding their advice. Especially, if they attempt to shut you off, and have virtually no tolerance to let you express your potentially dark innermost feelings.
Among the many human desires, is the desire to be understood. Jumping right to, “stay positive”, when trying to comfort a friend who is down is the emotional equivalent of sex without foreplay or emotional connection. It might work for some in the moment, but it will also leave many unfulfilled. And still feeling like they are not understood.
Depending on the issue, it may be more appropriate to talk to a different friend or mental health professional if negative thoughts and feelings persist without a path to resolution.
As suggested, oftentimes the recipient of the stay positive advice will knowingly nod to either placate his friend, or in an honest attempt to convince himself that the advice is correct and he must follow it.
If only it were that simple.
Staying positive is not as easy as opening or closing a door. Our emotional state isn’t arrived at by chance. The simple words, stay positive, generally can’t undo previous cycles of events that lead a person to a particular moment in time that has them feeling less than positive.
For some to get to an authentic place of positive thinking the following may need to be considered:
- Before healing can be complete, there might need to be acknowledgment.
- Before there can be a total release, there might need to be an embrace.
- Before there can be a moving on, there must be a reconciliation. (Mental and or physical)
- Before there can be “fixing”, there may need to be understanding.
A cousin of “stay positive” is, “focus on the positive”. I like this variation a little better as it provides slightly more semblance of direction.
However, I am neither a glass is half full, or half empty, kind of guy. I view that as a false choice, because there is truth in both. Accepting one and denying the other involves repression. If repression came without consequence I’d be all for it. But there are psychological ramifications to it; so conscious awareness is the basket I place my bread in.
Staying positive and focusing on the positive does have its merits. But, a potential danger is repression without resolution of what put a person in a negative space in the first place. And by resolution I mean emotional and psychological. We do not always get the physical or real world results we want in life. But we do get to consciously deal with and come to peace with them.
Staying positive on its own is a panacea that may be appropriate and work for a little while, especially in the immediate aftermath of a traumatic event that is simply too difficult to deal with in the moment. But I do not see it as a long-term solution.
If staying positive is the advice while in pursuit of inner peace, mental and emotional reconciliation and understanding, than it becomes a mantra supported by action and a plan. This is something I can stay positive about!
Peace And Adventure On The Journey.
*AN IMPORTANT DISCLOSURE. THE ABOVE REPRESENTS MY PERSONAL OPINION. I AM NOT A LICENSED THERAPIST. ANY WORDS IN THIS BLOG ARE NOT MEANT TO, NOR SHOULD THEY REPLACE THAT OF A DOCTOR OR LICENSED MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONAL.