Have you ever felt guilty for being negative and perhaps feared you caused something to happen? Our thoughts and feelings influence how we think and feel about life, but they do not determine the outcome. It’s particularly important to keep this in mind when we are facing something that causes us deep fear, such as facing an illness that could cause us to die. It is particularly important in this day and age to remember this, as so often we hear the advice to “stay positive”.
Naturally, keeping a positive outlook can assist us in feeling stronger and more resilient, but denying that we have negative thoughts and feelings, such as fear, eliminates a good percentage of our experience and lends itself to harmful fragmentation. It can impact our ability to connect genuinely with others. Rather, when we allow ourselves to experience the spectrum of our thoughts and feelings, we create an internal environment of acceptance. In doing so, we can allow the thoughts and feelings to come and go, just as waves come and go on the beach. In the wise words of Jon Kabat-Zinn, “You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf”.
So hear is some practical advice on how to begin to become more accepting of the range of your thoughts and feelings. It’s a simple three letter word- “and”. So often when we are trying to “stay positive” we might start off by saying the negative, like “I’m feeling really frazzled today”… followed by the word “But… I can see the light at the end of the tunnel”. Try saying that now inside your head, and see if you can observe the impact inside. Now, say it again and switch out the “but” with an “and”… do you notice any differences?
– Stephanie McLeod-Estevez, LCPC, is an art therapist and breast cancer survivor. She began Creative Transformations to help others who are healing from a life threatening illness or injury. Creative Transformations offers individual sessions in person or via Skype, as well as workshops and this weekly blog. Please visit our website to learn more: www.creative-transformations.com.