So far, for most of the people I know, 2020 has been a pretty shitty year.
Let’s see…COVID-19 continues to tear us apart on multiple levels. The government is not doing enough because the Executive branch is criminally incompetent to lead — and half the Legislative branch only follows their lead and is not being a check for balance. (Seventh Grade social studies, anyone?)
The ongoing exposure of systemic racism, protests, militarized police forces, and the issues that stem from them can’t continue to not be addressed. Black Lives Matter. Change is happening, but it is slow — and often infuriatingly so. Too many people have too much privilege to understand the depth of the problem — and why it’s an issue in the first place.
I’m not even going to touch on the shitshow that is the upcoming election.
All of this is causing mass amounts of anxiety, uncertainty, anger, frustration, depression, fear, loathing, and almost any other negative emotion I could describe. This is totally understandable — because if you are at all a logical and reasonable person many of the ongoing issues make ZERO sense.
While I advocate for mindfulness, seeking/finding/creating positivity, and doing what you can to get out of the downward spiral — it’s important to recognize and acknowledge your feelings.
You don’t need anyone’s permission to feel what and how you are feeling.
Toxic positivity and toxic self-help
One of the biggest issues people have with the world of self-help and its ilk is the popularity of specific variants that share this message or one like it:
Feel the good. Ignore the bad. Keep the bad away. Focus on ONLY the good.
That’s not realistic in any way, shape, or form. Shit happens, and you are going to feel negative feelings. That’s a completely human reaction.
What’s more — you can’t simply neglect and ignore the negative things of the world. Why? Because if you ignore them, they won’t just go away. You need to be aware of them so that you can be equally aware of their opposites.
What a lot of these ideas tend to ignore is that you NEED the negative to find the positive. Hell, it can even motivate you to seek its opposite and do good when you encounter bad.
Nobody lives in a bubble, nor should they.
Toxic positivity doesn’t recognize, acknowledge, or in any way deal with the negativity you will encounter. Because no matter who you are or what you do negatives will come into your life.
Thus far, 2020 has taken way too many people. I have lost three people from my life to COVID-19, and two more to other issues. I feel sad, angry, and distraught about their passing. But grief is a perfectly natural emotion — and felt differently by everyone.
You don’t need anyone’s permission to grieve, or to experience any other natural emotional state because of life.
The important message in self-help and positivity overall is general mindset/headspace and what control you take — or not — over your life.
You choose how long to stay in any state
This statement is both literal and figurative. Sure, you can choose where you are physically in many different ways. But likewise, you can choose where you are spiritually, mentally, and emotionally.
Again, you don’t need anyone’s permission to think about what is in your head, nor to feel what and how you feel.
While I don’t entirely agree with the overall sentiment, there is value in this statement from Westley in The Princess Bride (written by William Goldman):
“Life is pain, highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.”
I don’t agree that life is pain — BUT — pain IS part of life. And anyone telling you otherwise is, in fact, selling you something.
How long you remain in pain — physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual — is up to you. Getting out of that state will take work — action — effort. But you can choose to do so.
Again, this is not to say that you shouldn’t experience/recognize/acknowledge the negative. You can and should. But neither should you live there.
I know several people who ALWAYS live in negativity. They are constantly hurting, feeling bad, and finding new people and things to blame for their situation or experience. They cannot or will not see that they can make choices to work their way out of that state of being. So they remain a victim.
Again, I am not denying that shit happens to people. But much of it is outside of your control. How long you allow negativity to dominate your life is your call.
You don’t need anyone’s permission to stay in or leave any particular state of being. But you do have choices.
Using change to your advantage
The one and only constant in the Universe is change. No matter how much people want to deny, ignore, and avoid this — it is true.
Some change happens way outside of your control. Nature does what she does, and you can’t do jack shit about storms, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions.
Along this line, you can vote for a politician — but unless you are lining their pockets you have no control over anything they do.
When it comes to you, and your life, you have control. One way to assert it is to use change to your advantage.
How? By practicing mindfulness.
Mindfulness makes you aware in the here-and-now of your thoughts, feelings, and actions. Being conscious of this gives you control to alter and change what you are thinking, what and how you are feeling, and the intentions of your actions.
That control will let you change your state. So if you are feeling negative you can choose to change it.
Why bother? Because that can spur you to find its opposite and make your life better.
You, and only you, can live your life. While you don’t need anyone’s permission for any state of being you experience, neither can you pass the blame.
Blame deflects. It does you no good and frankly doesn’t do anything for where blame is deflected to. It just leaves you in an unnecessary state of powerlessness.
So instead of looking for and placing blame, be mindful of whatever has come your way and use your power to change it.
What power do you have?
When it comes to your life you hold ALL the power.
You might be feeling sad, broken, hopeless, depressed, frustrated, angry — maybe some combination of all of these emotions, and more, all at once. You need nobody’s permission to feel how you feel or think about how you are thinking. Neither should you avoid and deny your feelings.
BUT — you can choose for how long. Negative emotions can become toxic and turn your life in a direction you probably don’t desire for it to go. So when you are mindful you can better see these things for where they come from — and release them.
Releasing negativity doesn’t make it go away. It simply shits your mindset to seek something else and roll with change in a better, more productive way.
That power is, frankly, everything. Why? Because the only thing you can control is you. Most of all, the most powerful thing you can control is your mindset/headspace/psyche.
Practicing mindfulness opens you to taking control. When you see that you need not be a victim of whatever you are going through you empower yourself.
Take the time you need to feel how and what you feel. But be mindful when it is not serving you or otherwise interfering with your life. You don’t need anyone’s permission to experience what you do — good or bad. But you, and only you, can live your life.
Don’t neglect to choose and decide what that looks like and how best it serves you.
Know that you are worthy and deserving of using mindfulness to find and/or create the reality in which you desire to live. When all is said and done our thoughts, feelings, and actions matter, as does any bad or good feelings and experiences we are going through.