Monday, July 30, 2012

The Big Girl's Guide to Managing Negativity

The Big Girl Chronicles:  The Big Girl’s Guide to Managing Negativity

I’m going to go out on a limb here and make myself painfully transparent.  There are some things that I simply hate.  And there’s no other word for it.  Any other word I could use would be synonymous with hate.  As a child, I was taught to never say that I hate something.  It was considered among the most morally reprehensible of sins.  And I spent a lot of time suppressing and denying my true emotions because I wanted to stay on the list of lambs and not get bumped to the list of goats.  But as I matured and grew, I began to realize that my emotions were actually normal.  That I wasn’t betraying my faith because I share a common characteristic of the almighty.  It finally dawned on me one day that the cancer of hatred, if not acknowledged and aggressively managed, grows into something that will poison not only my emotional health and well-being, but also impede my ability to make decisions.  Let me share with you a few things I’ve learned that have helped me manage negativity.
·         Call it what it is!
The first step I had to take to overcome negativity was to be candid.  I had to rightfully identify that emotion.    Otherwise, how could I ever have learned to move past what I was feeling?  And surprisingly, once I pin-pointed that emotion I wasn’t suddenly stricken down by a bolt of lightning.  What I did feel was relief.  I sighed.  Yes, I hate.  Now go away.
·         Try to understand why.
The next thing I had to do was examine why I had such a strong reaction to whatever or whomever held me captive.  I’m not a person who likes to lose control of my emotions.  So to be so bothered by whatever of whomever that I was moved to feel such abhorrence gave that person or thing power over me.  But the key here was to examine myself, and not focus entirely on that person or thing.  I cannot cure hatred with hatred.  I can’t change another person.  And if there is a thing or idea or system that I detest the same holds true.  I had to dissect the situation to understand why I’m reacting the way that I am.  After I complete my “self assessment,” I usually find that if there is some situation or thing that I have responded to with hatred, it’s usually because I’m reminded of an unpleasant past experience.   If there was a person whose personality was of utter disdain, I reacted to that personality because there were certain characteristics that I struggle with within myself.  Or because there was some conflict with a personally held ideal or belief.  Once I’ve made myself aware of this, I’m on the road to moving past the negativity. 
·         Now, what can I do about it?
Then I have to ask myself, “Is it the system that needs to change, or my thoughts about the system?”  “Is it only me who feels this way?  Or is this system a hindrance to others?”  If there is something that needs to change for the betterment of others as well as myself, then I can begin to call attention to what I perceive the problem to be through the appropriate channels, whether that be having an informed discussion, engaging in community action and awareness or what have you.  If there was something about another person that caused me to react with negativity, once I have identified what it is about that person I can begin to learn to interact with that person by asking myself “If I were that person, what would make a difference?”  “What can I do to turn such negativity into a positive experience?”  That’s where the magic happens!  Instead of reacting with hatred and recreating another bad memory or experience that will be transferred to someone else, I’m actually replacing that negative ripple in time with positive responses! 
Making steps toward change are usually therapeutic and can channel negative energy into something productive, whether that be creating a blog to share what you’ve learned about yourself with others or taking action to mend a broken system.  I had to first learn to confront what I was feeling head on instead of denying or suppressing my emotions.  And although the process is ongoing and becomes more and more challenging, each step I make prepares me for the next as I continue to learn and grow with the hopes of moving from the big girl that I am to the woman I hope to become.

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