Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Be more positive! Ugh!! (Part 1)

Gosh, I have such difficulty with the expressions “positive thinking” and “Be more positive!” When I share this with people, they are often surprised: “What!? Dr. Miwa, you are a psychologist. How come you say such a thing!? It’s so important to have positive thinking, isn’t it?” …Well, sorry, but I don’t like this positive thinking thingy at all. I will discuss why today.

We often hear something like, “It’s not good to feel that way, be more positive!” “Have more positive thinking!” “Feel more positive!” …Yuck! If I am sad and/or depressed for whatever reasons (which may be considered “negative” in this context) and if someone tells me to be more positive, I would not appreciate that at all. I may even curse the person in my mind: “If it were that easy, I wouldn’t be suffering!! Shut the xxxx up!”

As I wrote in the past about emotions, we can’t deny our emotions. If they’re there, they’re there. But if we are pressured by others or force ourselves to feel in a particular way, in this case, “more positive,” it requires us to make unnecessary or extra efforts to do so. You are already feeling bad, right? Why would you want to exhaust yourself even more or end up feeling worse because you fail in your efforts to be more positive?

Often, the encouragement to feel positive is not even for the benefit of the individual who is suffering, but rather for those who are encouraging them to be positive. Because it is not pleasant to be with or witness someone who is not feeling “positive,” they want you to get over it. Ironically, the individual who is told to be positive may end up feeling worse, because his or her feelings are not validated or accepted. What we usually appreciate most is that your loved-ones allow you to be you, meaning if you are feeling sad, upset, and/or angry, then they just let you feel so. Once you fully feel “negative,” while at the same time are accepted by your friends and loved-ones in that state, then you can eventually feel better. In this case, because there is no forced effort to feel something that you really can’t feel at the time it’s a much better outcome.

Don’t get me wrong; I have no doubt that feeling positive is much better than feeling negative. We all wish to feel positive. However, if we are forced to feel that way by others or ourselves, additional judgment and forced energy come into the picture and it doesn’t help.

When we stop trying to force ourselves to feel “positive” we can actually end up feeling more “positive” naturally. I like that way better.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

The power of forgiveness

Today I want to talk to you in a unique way about the power of forgiveness and teach you a trick that I hope you will find interesting and useful and which you will try.

Forgiveness is powerful behavior. Not because it’s a good thing to do out of any moral or religious belief, but because it is just so beneficial for your own psychological well-being. When we have anger, hatred, bear a grudge, or carry bitterness, etc., we cannot just ignore such feelings or get rid of them simply by just willing them away. They eat us up gradually, as if it is a toxin in our bodies and minds. These feelings are harmful to us. I’m sure all of us have had this kind of experience in the past.

I am a strong believer in the acceptance of emotions and I would never encourage you to forcefully ignore, change, or modify your emotions. Our emotions are a part of us and they’re precious. But at the same time, harboring these negative feelings is really damaging. So here is one strategy for you to playfully exercise the power of forgiveness when you have a relatively small grudge, such as against some driver who was rude to you or a coworker who snapped at you. So I’m not talking about some really big issue but still something that results in toxic feelings.

When you have such feelings, you can say out loud, “I forgive you because I’m cute.” Believe me, this odd strategy really works. The point is to say “because I’m…” and then add something positive about yourself but not something that is directly related to forgiveness or virtue. This means that you cannot say “because I am a forgiving person, nice, kind, religious, sweet,” and so on. These qualities are too directly related to forgiveness and virtue, therefore, if you use these virtuous qualities, it’s as if you are obligated to forgive. Using some virtue as the reason would be forced and it would harm your spirit.

The trick here is to tell yourself you are forgiving them because of some arbitrary physical characteristic or something unrelated to virtue. It’s not that we need to be a good boy or girl to forgive; instead, we are forgiving that fuxxer because we are cute, beautiful, sexy, macho, great in bed, a good baseball player, or some “stupid” reason like that. These qualities have nothing to do with a forgiving attitude or virtue, and somehow this playful and fun approach just works. It’s as if you are playing the king or queen in a play who dispenses justice to their subjects depending on their vanity and mood of the day.

I personally usually choose “cute” because I am from Japan which is all about “kawaii (cute)” and it works for me. If you find cute difficult to use for some reason, just try one of the other examples I listed above. It may become a magical experience for you. Believe me, I’m sure you will experience the toxic feelings leaving your system.

Sometime in the future, I will talk about a different strategy for situations that are a little harder and not suited to this strategy. For now, just try this and enjoy the power of forgiveness!