My natural belief has always been that most people are intrinsically good and that I have been blessed as a recipient of heart-centered love and kindness from others on a regular basis. As someone who takes pride in seeking the positive aspect in situations and in others, otherwise referred to, as a “Pollyanna”, a new self-awareness I’ve observed within myself, and others, has been quite disturbing. Recently I’ve noticed that my natural faith in humanity and the goodness in people have been waning just a bit at times. The recent occurrences in our country have shaken me, and other positive-minded people, enough to test even those with the most optimistic outlook.
Too Many Tragedies
It can be challenging at times for even those of us who tend to be an eternal optimist to stay positive and open to the belief that people are kind, loving and giving more than they’re not when faced with ceaseless unspeakable tragedies throughout the world. A few recent prominent ones come to mind from my client psychotherapy sessions, which have had even the most hopeful people becoming discouraged. These include:
- The white supremacists rally in Charlottesville, Virginia
- The terrorist attack in Barcelona, Spain
- The explosion at the Arianna Grande concert in Manchester, England
- The shooting at the gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida
Unfortunately, this isn’t an all-inclusive list. The violence and outpouring of hate across the country and the world can often feel never-ending and test our faith in the goodness of humanity.
Casting a Ray of Hope
The recent tragedy in Houston, and surrounding areas in Texas, was devastating. But the response to the disaster came as a wonderful reminder that the world really isn’t all about the awful stuff which is often most prominent. Hurricane Harvey brought out an outpouring of people’s love, heart, money, generosity, energy and time. Despite the horrible tragedy, Hurricane Harvey brought out the best in people to remind us that, Yes, people are loving, caring, selfless and generous.
- Many people on fixed and limited incomes gave whatever they could afford, and then some, and displayed how eager we are to help one another in a time of need.
- The child who emptied his entire bank account to support the Red Cross, and the little girl who set up a lemonade stand and donated her proceeds, reminded us how important it is to teach our children to grow up and be kind people.
- Even the multitudes of corporations, such as Amazon, Walmart, Dell and Disney, who are generally perceived as self-serving, stepped up and donated huge amounts of money.
These gestures helped us realize that no matter how big or small, how rich or poor, we all feel compassion for one another. Striving to have a positive outlook can help us identify this attribute more easily than always feeling overwhelmed by negative occurrences.
The Lens We View the World Through
How we view others and ourselves determines what quality of life we have, or don’t have. If we tend to have a negative view of others and the world, and this is our primary focus, we are likely to be negative and unhappy beings. If, however, we tend to have a more positive and hopeful view of others and the world, we are free to feel happier and more energetic by viewing relationships and life through a positive and light-filled lens.
Our values and how we experience our life and relationships is often reflected in how we view those around the world and ourselves. If we come from a more negative perspective, then we are likely to feel unhappy and stressed. If we come from a more positive perspective, then relationships, both intimate and social, are more likely to work and be fulfilling and thus life will feel more satisfying.
Seeing the good in others is thus a simple but very powerful way to feel happier and more confident, and become more loving and more productive in the world.Rick Hanson, Ph.D., Psychology Today
Adjusting Our Attention to the Positive
Hurricane Harvey and people’s response to it is restoring faith in many men and women. We may want to ask ourselves, “Do I want to view people from a cynical, negative perspective, ignoring the fact that many are good and truly kind?” Or “Do I want to put my attention on the kindness and goodness in people?”
Where we put our attention, be it on the positive or the negative, is a choice. Whether you believe in the Laws of Attraction, a self-fulfilling prophecy, or simply adhere to the old expression of what comes around, goes around, many believe that what we focus on in our lives is what we bring into them. That what we put out into the universe, we receive back.
If we believe people are good and kind, we are more likely to have good and kind people in our lives because we are able to see that positive aspect in others. Perhaps if we slow down and look a little closer we could separate the diamonds of hopefulness and virtuousness from the harsh, unrelenting rocks of hatred and seek to fill our lives with that positive richness.
Encouraging a Core of Optimism
What do you want to choose for yourself? I am not suggesting that this is a simple choice between positive and negative. For some there may need to be a working through of obstacles and a process that needs to take place in order to make the choice you really want for yourself. For those of us who were raised in dysfunctional, negative oriented families, this may require more work, self-exploration and/or the help of a therapist to begin to change that negative mindset.
But what do we have to lose to begin looking at people in a more positive light? Yes, we might get disappointed, or hurt—yet, maybe not. We might be delighted and become more hopeful and optimistic by doing so.
Let Us Light the Way
If you struggle with finding positivity in your life, and the world, speaking with a trusted psychotherapist at Nassau Guidance and Counseling located on Long Island can help you lift the heavy weight of negativity from your heart. Our licensed therapists have helped many people find methods to cope with the stressors of everyday and nurture joy and hopefulness in their life.