Tuesday, March 20, 2012


I realized something about Positivity recently and wanted to record the thought.

I have seen myself as a realist in the recent years. To me, “mindless” positive thinking is also one way of seeping into denial and living in a fantasy world of idealism. I used to be a naive idealist who considered everything about life to be positive and “good”. I believed everybody’s life was a fairy-tale waiting to happen.  And that attitude bit me. So, I took the stance that “negativity” was just our psyche’s way of cushioning us from fear, rejection, failure, heartbreak, and betrayal. In decent measures, thoughts on how things might go wrong bring us to an equilibrium of realism and pragmatism, and equip us to be better prepared - in tune with reality. So, really, negativity is actually of some “use”.

Those who harp on endlessly about the power of positive thinking have irked me a bit. I often find their statements shallow, their words substance-less and unnecessarily bombastic, and their thoughts to be comforting in a way that panders to our helplessness. I never understood the “rationality” of being positive when one knows the inevitability of things. Isn’t it a disillusionment to escape into such a space of fantasy?

Last week, I met someone who had a positive outlook towards life despite the unchanging nature of her life. She seemed to make me understand something vital. Her husband battles cancer, son is stricken by a debilitating disease that slowly regresses his body. Nothing can be changed. There are no magic drugs. Contrary to my assumption that positive outlook meant holding onto the positive faith that things will change, and that faith will eventually restore everything one has lost and will lose, she had no such illusions. Her positive outlook was in the way she dealt with everything as they were. She dealt with reality as if everything was fate’s funny game and she was asked to laugh at it all. And she does. She laughs a lot, has much love to share among people, friends, cats, dogs, squirrels, birds, and plants. To be able to thrive with so much love, to be able to get past the terrible hurt that love brings with it, and to be able to summon more and more love, kindness and happiness despite the bitterness of reality - that is Positivity.

Positive that life is hard; Positive that life is unfair; Positive that life brings sorrow; But, positive that life is meant to be still lived with laughter and love.

There is acceptance, there is realism. But there is not a trace of fear that beckons negativity. Nor is there desperate faith or disillusionment that things will change.

This was new to me. Something clicked inside that empty head of mine, and now I see what Positivity is. It is courage, acceptance, and the ability to love and live life fully with the limited and random cards we are dealt with.

This attitude spills into everything we do, every thought that passes, every behavior and mannerism we acquire, and makes us a better person - a person who can handle life with grace and peace.


Karthik said...

I agree nearly 100% with what you've said here :-) I too think positivity has much more to do with handling the current situation more positively than deluding oneself into thinking that things will improve dramatically in the future.

But I also think there is a place for optimism ; but not in the sense that 'things will change', but in the sense that we can overcome our self-limiting beliefs. I think optimism is a tool to help us reach our potential, and break bariers of 'it's not possible' that we can construct in our minds. Some claim that such a mindset will alter the way 'reality' appears, but of course this is within limits ! If one has a close one battling a fatal disease, optimism isn't going to change that ..I think 'useful' optimism has character behind it. And living with good cheer in the face of adversity is just that.

SUMI said...

I loved this post. I have wondered about Positivity many times and struggled to define what it is. You hit the nail on the head.

Neeraja said...

Thanks Karthik :). Your last few sentences are beautiful. They convey the meaning of this post much better. Optimism to boost one's confidence and courage is absolutely helpful. Any resource that we can summon within ourselves to extend/improve our inner potential is definitely worthy...there is no real end to how much it can be improved.

Sumi, thank you! I remember your post from Cyber Diaries :)

Rafiki said...

I think acceptance of failure is positive. I think moving on, smiling in the face of hardship is positive. However, like you mention positivity becomes impractical and denial when it is wishful thinking. I do believe positivity is overrated in some cases. Negativity sometimes gives us a channel to let go pent up emotions and frustrations. Negativity sometimes makes us take positive steps forward instead of sitting in one place positively hoping for a miracle.

Neeraja said...

Well put, Rafiki.