Yesterday I read this blog post by Dr. Judith Orloff, psychiatrist and empath, and then reposted it on the Facebooks. It’s all about increasing the good stuff in one’s life. She begins by asking the reader to examine where they are in terms of embodying positivity, and provides working definitions of what positivity is and what it isn’t, and ends with a 4-point list of strategies to attract more positive people and situations in your life.
I used to recoil whenever someone would remonstrate with themselves “I just need to be more positive” or “I need to think positive”. UGH. NO. My contention is that we need to be realists, generally. When I worked in a detention facility for ICE detainees facing almost certain deportation or further imprisonment, and I’d ask them what their plan was, many many times the answer was “I know God won’t let me get deported” or “God will watch out for me, so I’m just going to stay positive” or some iterations thereof.
I often wanted to blurt “Well, I don’t think you know this, but God has pretty much been acting like a giant prick lately, sending many thousands of detainees back to their country of origin, many unfairly. I suggest you either get an attorney or start calling in favors back home. God doesn’t have a very good track record around here, and his word ain’t shit.” My actual response was usually something along the lines of stressing how important it is to hope for the best while planning for the worst. “God will provide” is a comforting mantra, but in terms of developing real-world plan to address the complete upheaval of one’s life…not so much. It does less than nothing to prepare you, in practical, here-and-now terms, to survive the process.
So that’s my bias against “positivity”. /end rant
All that said, having courageous, authentic, compassionate and honest people in one’s life is infinitely more pleasant and constructive than having whiny, assholic meanies, isn’t it? Decreasing the fuckery sometimes needs to happen first. Yup. So, I’m swallowing my hoity-toity aversion to the use of the word “positive” in a psychospiritual context, and presenting you Dr. Ding’s version of How to Attract More Positive Peeps, accompanie by the relatively more erudite phrasing of Dr. Orloff.
Recognize Your Strengths, FFS aka Identify Your Best Parts and Speak From Them
It’s really hard to be a beacon of awesome when beacon is such a distracting word that sounds sooo much like bacon. Bacon, beacon, omg. Just serve as a bacon of positivity, and you’re good. I checked.
Just playin. What I’m saying here is that if you’re running around feeling all shitty about yourself, it’s hard to know your own best traits and skills, and vice-versa. So sit the fuck down and replay all the awesome things people have said to you, about you. About the things you know in your bones that are supercool about you. And remember them.
I once tried to downplay my naturally irreverent, somewhat flamboyant speaking style when I first worked in corrections. EPIC FAIL. Giant classroom full of correctional professionals in refresher training , snoring through their open eyeballs. It was deeply unsettling. After the first break, I had the high-minded thought of “fuck this” and decided to bust out the Full Ding on them. Mission accomplished, everyone woke up and participated, with no more creepy eyelid snoring.
I of course went on several more times and tested this whole compare/contrast situation of being true to myself vs not being true to myself really really thoroughly just so I could feel good about suggesting it to others. And that was the only reason I did that.
If You Can’t Be a Lover, Don’t Be a Hater aka Extend Love Outward
This is probably the hardest one for me: in traffic, at the DMV, in line at the post office, when I’m super-tired or super-hungry, or around assholes or even those afflicted with assholic tendencies.
I try super-hard to be a loving, compassionate person and I fail every.fucking.day. Every day, y’all. So I think it’s acceptable, especially when struggling, to simply strive to not extend your personal bullshit outward. It’s YOUR bullshit. Own it, and don’t splash it all over people just because you’re In A Mood. Keep your bullshit in check. The extending love outwards can wait until when you’re less hangry.
Sometimes we just have to bear down, grit our teeth and suck it the fuck up.
Alternatively, you could just start a blog.
Slow the Fuck Down aka Regularly Meditate
I am all for meditation, meditating, being meditatey, meditation-style kung-fu, whatever. It’s great stuff, improves bodily health and mental well-being and general spiritual condition. However, I have a lot of trouble remembering to do it, even when I put it in my calendar. But I’ve found something just as good. Ok that’s a lie. But it is an alternative.
I’m here to offer you the suggestion of just slowing your roll, taking a few timeouts during the day to just breathe in, breathe out. Pause. Maybe even sit down and finish your sandwich. I’ve started this practice and have been doing it over the last 3-4 months and it’s definitely helped me, even though it’s not very sexy.
I wear many hats professionally, so most weekdays find me seeing clients, teaching, grading papers, driving from place to place, trying to stay hydrated, nibbling on my lunch at stoplights, and that is no way to treat yourself. I tend to not to take breaks, also not an effective method of self-care. I had been trying hard this past Fall to carve out time to meditate, but had very erratic results. So I decided that maybe not driving myself mercilessly was possibly something to look into.
Bottom line: it takes a surprisingly little amount of effort to be more mindful, more deliberate, and less hurried. I use my rearview mirror to help me with this; I make eye contact with my fine ass self and remind myself that the radiant glory of my soul, housed within, is located pretty close to the nice roasted chicken sandwich, sliced apple and bottle of seltzer I brought for my lunch. And that I should immediately shove them into my piehole unless I want to be in a DEFCON-6 crabbypants-headache situation for the next two sessions.
Don’t Be a Dick aka Commit to Emotional Housecleaning
If we want to attract less icky people and situations into our lives, we need to actively address our own ickiness and strive to release it, making room for the good stuff.
And what kind of ick? Those maladaptive behavior patterns and old beliefs, self-limiting ideas, defense mechanisms, presuppositions. You get the idea – another way of saying it is the ick is the stuff that keeps us from being most fully ourselves, from getting what we want, from connecting with others in meaningful ways.
The ick keeps us from love, writ large. From loving. From experiencing love.
My belief is that it’s helpful to hit “refresh” in your psyche every so often so you can install upgrades. If the psyche is a place, be mindful of where you hang out in it; like my grandpa used to say, if you hang out in bars, you’re gonna meet drunks.
To sum up for the TL;DR crowd:
- recognize your strengths, for fuck’s sake
- if you can’t be a lover, don’t be a hater
- slow the fuck down
- don’t be a dick
I’d like to get more of a dialogue going here on AskDrDing, so what are your tried-and-true methods for attracting overall positivity in your life? Please reply in the comments.