I have always been a bit of a Pollyanna. I say this affectionately about myself. Because, in my line of work, I happen to know that Pollyanna Syndrome is protective against all kinds of physical and emotional maladies. If you believe that the world is essentially good, and that the people in it are also pretty alright, (if sometimes kinda broken) than you’re not looking for the boogie man around the corner. And you also have the great luxury of thinking that when people screw your over, they didn’t do it because of any inherent evil. That means, in a nutshell, that you believe deep into your bones that no matter what, people can change. This is a helpful logic to have when one is a therapist–I would quickly feel defeated by my job if I didn’t have faith in our ability to transform terrible things into better ones. I have managed to maintain this worldview despite working with sex offenders, clients adjudicated for domestic violence and with folks in prisons. I think my Pollyanna gene is a gift from God and I try to nurture it and take good care of it.
But, this has been a hard week. I have been sorely tested. I got a call from the nice people at Dell Computers to tell me that they needed a few more details to process the order for my brand-spanking new $950 laptop. Say what? My what? After making sure that Dan hadn’t ordered us any fancy new electronics, I, the aforementioned Dell gurus and Chase sorted out that someone had stolen my credit card info. This person also clearly has my address and some other information about me. Dell won’t give me the physical address that the computer was to be delivered to because they are afraid I’ll exercise my other dominant gene–my hillbilly behind whoopin’ gene–and go over there and raise cane. But, what they did give me is the person’s email address. Now, isn’t that interesting?
So, what does one do now? I have been thinking of all the ways I could respond to this new bit of information. Should I send her (apparently her name is Melissa) a vitriolic missive dripping with the full content of my displeasure? Should I tell her that I am going to say a prayer to the universe for her that she heals her life and chooses a different direction? Should I respond at all?
That’s a question I will probably wrestle with for a while as Raleigh PD continues to try to track down the culprit. But, it has gotten me thinking about the emotional choices we make in life. Are we are better off when we choose to frame something in a positive manner? With the notable exception of circumstances in which you are being assertive (not aggressive) to maintain healthy boundaries, I believe the answer to that question is yes.
I have realized over the years that when I distill it down, the majority of my job as a clinician is to teach and model kindness. Clients come because their lives and their relationships have become devoid of compassion towards themselves and others. This happens when they blame themselves for things like depression, anxiety or PTSD. It happens when partners can no longer hear one another without lashing out in frustration and rage. Worst of all, it happens when you no longer believe that there is enough room in the world you currently inhabit to nurture your dreams and hopes for yourself.
So, how can you nurture your inner Pollyanna? I have a few ideas about that:
1) Do unto others: Yeah, I know. It’s hokey. But science agrees with me that acts of altruism boost wellness. If you can’t do anything nice for yourself, choose a day every now and again to do something for someone else. You can volunteer tons of places. www.volunteermatch.org is a great place to start.
2) Stop gossiping: Yeah, I know it’s fun. It seems like the original good, clean time. But, recreationally badmouthing other people is bad for your emotional and spiritual health. It’s a double-edged sword, you see. Sure, you may have the best zinger in the neighborhood about Sandra down the street. But giving voice to those kinds of things also lets you know something unpleasant about yourself that will come back to bite you in your self-esteem–you participate in meanness. If you spend your time practicing division rather than compassion you won’t reap the benefits of experiencing yourself as kind, tolerant and the sort of person with whom you would want to be friends.
3) Practice the fine art of liking yourself: It really does seem to be a lost art these days. We live in morally ambiguous times. The things we are able to do and experience through technologies like social networking (and blogging too) take us out of the real-life intimate audiences of the people who know us well, and thrust us onto an ever-widening stage of acquaintances. In part, that’s pretty darn cool. Otherwise, how would you be reading all these pearls of wisdom I’m dropping on you right now? But, it also opens the door for near-constant comparisons of our lives to others’ lives. I mean, before Facebook and Twitter, would I have really seen photos of a chick I knew only passably well in high school on her fantastic Italian cruise? Would I have known what gourmet meals everyone was preparing for dinner? Nope, we have unprecedented data on one another. Work just as hard to know and respect yourself. I firmly believe that the many ways we have of expressing ourselves publicly these days have in many ways stripped us of personal creativity and invited a kind of one-upping one another via the mirror of Facebook.
What are your ideas about cultivating kindness in your life? I’d sure love to hear them. Why don’t you come on in today so that we can talk about it?
Your Partner in Healing,
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