Friday, October 31, 2014

Loving & Accepting Negative People

Why is it that some days we are so patient, and able to weather anything that comes our way, and then other days it just seems like every thing people say is like nails on a chalkboard... we're just irritable for no understandable reason?

The short answer is self-awareness: when you are less aware of who you are, how you're behaving, and what you're about in the moment, it's easy to slip into a narrow scope of mind, and become fixated on feeling crappy.

The old cliché tells us not only to not sweat the small stuff, but also reminds that in the end it's all small stuff. And this is honestly true of life friends; there is really nothing so huge or horrible that requires our anger, snarkiness, or panties to get all bunched up. But we forget this from time to time, and our skin seems so thin we can barely tolerate our loved ones.

We all have bad days, we're human and it's natural to experience moments of utter agitation. But it's so important to realize and know that when you're in that frame of mind you are only hurting yourself. You're wasting your precious time dwelling on bad feelings, negative mindsets, and pointless judgment.

What About Chronic Pessimists?

We all know people who seem to be addicted to negativity, confrontation, argument, judgment, and know how exhausting it can be to try to meet these people with any amount of positive thought or happiness. Yet we all owe it to ourselves and our fellow humans to try to be part of the solution, as opposed to the problem. If you have a chronic negative thinker in your life and find it drags you down, or stresses you out, then it's time to do some deep soul searching. Some new age rhetoric schools of thought would have you think that these people need to be left behind, ignored, phased out of your life, because they will only bring you down. This is new age escapism at best, judgmental on a spiritual level, and accomplishes nothing. If you remove negative people from your life, you'll end up alone, because again, it is human to feel crappy at times!

I think instead of putting negative people out of your life, it's more productive to try to meet them in a middle ground, where you can be empathetic, supportive, and try to set a positive example for them. You then challenge yourself to remain upbeat and optimistic despite their griping, and perhaps can even come to value the importance of remaining detached and emotionally balanced. We aren't meant to alienate others because they think or behave differently than us; I believe we can build bridges, and perhaps help the chronic pessimist find some new ways to think, perceive, and approach life.

This isn't to say we bash our negative friends' and their habits, because that would be putting conditions upon your friendship or relationship, which is also pointless. Rather, try to accept them as they are, while remaining true to your own desire to be a positive force in your own life.

Some ways to remain friends with negative people, while honoring your own spiritual imperatives are:

  • Knowing when to respond, and when to just smile and nod

  • Interject reasonable amounts of positivity into the relationship without trying to modify their behavior

  • Being honest with them about how tiring their defensiveness or anger can be

  • Setting up boundaries, limiting contact to casual light hearted meetings ie: meeting for coffee

  • Realizing they are perceiving the world in a different way than you, and being that negative is also exhausting for them. Be empathetic, realize how hard it must be to be negative, angry, suspicious, defensive etc

  • Know when you've had enough, and honor your own needs.

Too much exposure to negative people can be contagious, so it's important that you recognize your own limitations, and learn when to walk away for a breather. I find you can over time bring your loved one to a sense of understanding without really addressing the issue directly; when they broach subjects that get them into that negative mind set - change the subject. If they incessantly want to complain, bash people, or whine about their life simply redirect their thinking by changing the subject. And if that doesn't work, just be honest and say "you know what, I really am not comfortable talking about this."

There is no need to avoid or separate yourself from negative people, or drama queens, or angry folks. You can love them, appreciate them, learn about yourself through them, and define your own ideals about happiness and positive thinking through looking at how they behave as opposed to how you would behave in their situation.

At the end of the day, you'll have a relationship that while maybe not entirely emotionally nourishing, will still be a two way motion; you accepting them as they are, and them knowing on some internal level that you care enough about them to not engage their anger or negativity.

And you never know, perhaps you'll rub off on them and end up helping them attain a more level headed, middle of the road state of mind along the way. This shouldn't be your directive, because again that would be you wanting to change the person; but if it happens organically then you've contributed to the well being of someone you care for.

We know as spiritualists and self-aware seekers of truth that a negative attitude is like a snowball rolling down a hill; it gathers momentum on it's own and gets bigger and heavier as it goes. So be a ramp to those people, so their snowball of pessimistic thinking takes flight while you're with them, and perhaps lightens their load.

Above all else, if you are determined to remain in relationships with negative people, remind yourself as often as you need to not to sweat the small stuff --  there is nothing so all encompassing in life that needs you to feel badly, suspicious, negative, or judgmental about. The world has enough heavy feelings in it already, we can shine a light in the dark by being a voice of upliftment, positivity, joy, and laughter.

Keep it light - life isn't that serious, unless you make it so.

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