Friday, September 4, 2015

Way out of negativity

While it sounds somewhat negative, I am writing about it because I feel rather positive right now. I can’t think objectively about negativity when I am in negative state of mind. For me to think objectively about negativity, I have to be in a somewhat positive state of mind. That said, it is one of the things I wonder about quite often. Why do we feel negative? About things, circumstances, people, anything. It is a slightly tricky one for me because I get easily influenced by what is around me. We feel negative toward circumstances when they are not favorable toward us, or when they don't go as we planned, or when we feel like we are not in control. We feel negative toward people or things when we feel let down by them, or we get a sense of judgement or pessimism from them, or we feel anger toward them. I honestly don't know how to not feel negative in such situations. But I also know that the only entity that suffers through our negativity is us. It is not the circumstances, or the things, or the people who caused you to get in that negative zone to begin with. And there lies the catch. Albeit, easier said than done. It just means that even more important than feeling positive is the act of trying to stop feeling negative. While feeling positive may sound like the ultimate goal (it does to me anyway) it is not the step in life that helps us get stronger. It helps us stay happy for sure. But it is our drive and the will to stop being in a negative place and get to a positive place that determines how we fare. It also depends on our point of view. I have very often seen people draw positive and negative conclusions from the exact same situation and people. It depends on how you look at things. Some people have an always-wrong whereas some people have an always-not-wrong outlook when viewing situations. I have realized what a world of difference it makes in whether or not a situation or a person will make you negative or positive, or at least not-so-negative.

For all this abstract mumbo jumbo I have typed, here are some instances and people that make me realize the crux of point of view, frame of mind, what makes us negative, how to be positive and not-so-negative.

The other day I was at a clinic where I spent 30 minutes waiting in the reception area just to be called in by a nurse. I waited another 20 minutes to see the doctor once I was finally let in by the nurse. I was so incredibly mad that I wanted to yell at someone, or hit someone, or worst yet, cry. How on earth could something get so inefficient. There are two possible outcomes when I am feeling so negative - I could let it all out and spit out some very negative words and emotions, or, don't say anything at that point to avoid all the negative stuff from coming out. At that point I avoided saying anything. But on my way out I called Siddharth and told him what happened. I was so angry that I was literally shouting at him while narrating the experience. He responded “Sorry babe, you had to go through all that. It sucks. I hope the patient before you is ok though because if the doctor took this long to see you then he must be spending more time with the previous patient, which probably doesn't bode well for them.”  Seeing the enormous outpour of empathy for a patient we didn't know and doctor Siddharth didn't see that day hit me like a massive snowball filled with ice. I obviously wasn't thinking of anyone else but me. Most people would probably do that, because why not. But Siddharth’s first thought was the other patient who needed so much extra time from the doctor. My extreme negativity was quite a contrast to Siddharth’s extreme empathy and not-so-negative outlook. And there lies the difference. He always functions in the mode of giving people the benefit of doubt. I always function in the mode of ‘they are not right’ and ‘they need to prove otherwise’. Except nobody is really bothered about it so I am left feeling all the more negative. This difference in our outlook makes such a big difference in whether we feel negative or not so negative and how we cope with it. 

Another story I remember is that of my paternal grandfather (papa ji). He passed away when I was less than three. Weird enough, I have a distinct and real memory of talking to my papa ji in our old family home and I remember him handing me a pen or something like that. That is obviously besides the point. Anyway, the point is, all of what I know about him is through the pictures and stories my parents tell about him. He was a freedom fighter, he worked in theater, he wrote poems, he wrote songs in movies and private albums back in the day. He did a lot of stuff. But most importantly he was a free spirited person. They lived in a very humble home. Nothing extravagant. Simple. Basic. This one time there was a theft in their home. I am not sure what time of the day it was. I think it happened overnight when everyone was asleep. They discovered in the morning that somebody broke in and their house was in complete shambles. While everyone was in a major panic mode, papa ji was relieved that all the family members were safe and that no one was hurt. He was calm and asked everyone to calm down, drink a cup of tea, and then start looking at what we had lost. What!? How is that reaction humanly possible?! Obviously path breaking. But it reflects on his tendency and inclination to think of the positives before thinking of the negatives in life. I wish I could have known him. 

Every time I see my brother and his much better half, A, I am reminded of how the spirit of life trumps the circumstances in life. We all go through ups and downs in life. But every time I look at A, I am reminded that her enthusiasm toward life is like that of a five year old child. And I love that about her. No matter what is going on in life, her spirit and positivity toward life are unparalleled. It makes me jealous and make me want to have the same streak. But a part of me believes it really comes from within. We all are pre-disposed to thinking one way or the other. Not that you can’t train your mind and body to drift away from your natural tendencies. But it takes a lot of work. 

It is kind of similar to how Siddharth reacts so differently when he finds out that he is let down by someone. My knee jerk reaction “WTH !? It is unacceptable.” His reaction on the other hand is “It is not their fault. Maybe there are circumstances that caused them to say these negative things. Maybe they don't mean it. We don’t know what they were going through when they said something.” I try to think like him and give people the benefit of doubt, but that is so not my natural tendency. It takes so much of me to be the bigger person, and yet I fail more than 50% of the times. So the same person, the same conversation and the same circumstances ignite a very different reaction and feeling in the two of us.

I feel like I am all over the place on this topic. But I constantly feel the need to re-evaluate my reactions and my tendency to feel a certain way in certain circumstances or with certain someone. The easiest way for me to not feel negative is to avoid circumstances and people who bring out the negativity in me. And while avoiding is not a great strategy, it definitely helps to surround ourselves with people and things that make us happy. They do, to some extent, lend to happier circumstances. And they are the ones who help us out of our negativity. That is my easy and quick fix remedy.   

Strangely enough, there are two paradoxical things that happen simultaneously. I do strongly believe that positivity is infectious. If you surround yourself with the people who lift you up, are supportive of you in front of you and behind your back, ground you, keep it real and keep it jolly - you will surely feel more positive than not. That said, I also think that negativity is a state of mind that you have to fix from within and no outside factor can change it for you. You can have all the luxuries of the world, or be in an unprecedented crunch - you could still end up feeling quite negative. And the only person who can take you out of that rut is you, and your point of view. Sometimes I am feeling negative enough that I seek help from my dear ones, but I realize that no matter what they say or do, it is me who has the power to shift the balance from negative to positive. Same way, sometimes I see my dear ones feel negative and be in a non-ideal place in life and I want to move mountains and bring the moon to the earth just so they can feel better. But beyond a point I can’t make the shift for them. They have to do it on their own. So while there is power in surrounding yourself with positive people, there are limitations to the same. There is only one way out of a negative spot - and that is you. 

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