The Negativity Habit

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It’s no secret that life is complicated. You certainly don’t have to convince me of that. I see complications each and every day and watch how things can hit the fan, in a hurry.

When our circumstances are anything but ideal, we tend to think and say things over and over again, in our head, and these thoughts, words and phrases become our habit. Since it apparently takes an average of twenty-one days to form a habit, it is no wonder so many people are living in misery. Can you imagine years or even decades of self-destructive habits?
Do you tend to be negative? Can you think of anyone in your family, your life circle or your past who is predominantly negative? Now think about if that person may have been exposed to some trauma, may have been raised by or influenced by someone who was a negative force in their lives.

If you look even further back, you will likely find that generation after generation, parents and or siblings have learned the habit of negativity, without even realizing it. This is certainly not a path that people choose consciously; however, it is often a path that is blindly followed, automatically. This can then lead to ostracizing everyone in your wake.
I once knew a man who, in his elderly years, was a soft, kind and gentle soul and was so adoring to his grandchildren. I couldn’t believe my ears, after he died, when I heard that he used to be an ogre of a character, in his younger days.

People feared this man, he would constantly get into fist fights, he was physically abusive when punishing his children and he even did a period of time in jail for breaking a baseball bat over a man’s back.

It turns out that the man’s father had been a soldier in the war and had witnessed unimaginable carnage. His father had become a severe alcoholic and was unable to hold down a job. The family always struggled to make ends meet, the atmosphere was emotionally abusive, no one dared to speak out about their issues and the family walked on eggshells, in their own home.

Emotional toxins festered in their genes, as a result, and this man ending up living on the street. He then reconnected with his spirituality and went on to slowly rebuild his life and relationships.

There is a cycle that can continue for generations of families because it has not been acceptable, in their environment, to express their emotions in a healthy way. In past generations, it was not considered manly or macho for men to cry or discuss their feelings, because it was apparently deemed to be a weakness and children were often taught to ‘be seen and not heard’.

Women were seen as the softer gender and it was normal and even expected that females would display their emotions more readily. On the other hand, I know of many women who also learned that expressing their emotions was a sign a weakness. As a result, they push people away, avoid discussing difficult topics and tend to sweep things under the rug, until the problem has become impossible to ignore.

It is no wonder that men and women have been dysfunctional in their relationships, over the years and how it is continuing to play out today.

For the sake of our future generations, I am hopeful that men and women, who haven’t learned to, or haven’t been encouraged to communicate, will start to do so. Either that or the dance of anger, aggression, sarcasm, silence or resentment will prevail. Effective and healthy communication can be learned, just as destructive communication has been learned.
When we are feeling like we are ready to blow, for whatever reason, we need to remove ourselves, from the situation, as soon as possible, cool down, get some air, breathe and take some time to think. Under most anger is pain; it is the pain we need to address.

When the peak of the turmoil has passed, we can come back and start with the words, ‘I am feeling…’ That phrase can be followed by the words such as: frustrated, upset, angry, sad, worried, hurt, overwhelmed, stressed, etc. This can start a healthy dialogue with the people we are attempting to have an adult relationship with.

This technique has done wonders for me. When my face turns bright red and I feel like my blood pressure meter is at catastrophic levels, when my heart is racing or when I feel like my stomach is turning into a boiling pot of soup, I know that I am about to go there.

Whatever I am telling myself, in my head, as a result of the situation, is clearly getting me riled up and since the blood rushes away from our brain and into our arms and legs, it is not a great time to have a heated conversation. It is in these moments, that I tend to leave the room and temporarily go silent.

After the dust settles, then we can begin to solve the issue. We need to ensure that we convey our feelings calmly, that the other person is given an opportunity to be heard and that we are being respectful, when we are talking.

In our home, I use the catch all phrase: ‘I am feeling grumpy’ which means that I need to be held and I want to talk. I also believe that real men cry and there is nothing sexier to me than a man who knows how to articulate his feelings, even if they are directed at me.

If you truly care about your spouse, partner, son, daughter, parent, sibling, co-worker, staff or friend, it might be worth the effort to check in with your own emotions, figure out what you need and let the other person know, in a caring and productive way, so that the relationship can mend or move forward.

Either that, or we will go on the defensive and will have to continue to deal with endless drama and damage control.

Isn’t it time that we all decide to break the cycle of negativity, anger and pain in our families and in our immediate circle? Remembering that we can’t change anyone else, what might we choose to do differently? What is the underlying pain that is the catalyst? When life hits the fan, it can make quite a mess!

‘Speak when you are angry – and you’ll make the best speech you’ll ever regret.’ ~ Dr. Laurence J. Peter