By Dr. William K. Larkin on May 13, 2013
Our top strengths are really the “way” we are. When we step out of them, we experience that sense of being “out of our skin,” “disjointed,” not “on top it.”
Many people don’t even know their strengths. Many have vague ideas, and some are just very intuitive and have learned them by experience.
But there’s really no substitute for scientifically testing and identifying your strengths.
Once you know what they are and how to use them, you’re empowered, more aligned with your “real self.”
We have often learned more of the habits of how to “get by” or compensate for being out of our strengths than we have learned about how to use them. Many have learned to live a “what if” kind of life.
Looking out for “what if” this or that might happen can take a lot of the psychic energy we are given in a day. It’s the exact opposite of living from our strengths.
Your brain is not designed for “what if.” Sure, it has its warning systems and we have honed them very well. Your brain is designed to see the best, believe the best, search for the best, and know the best. It is designed for optimism. It’s built that way so the evolution and the world unfolds and evolves.
So what to do? Learn to recognize when you are doing the negative “what if” and use it as a cue to engage one or more of your strengths.
So very often, our strengths just seem to be so much “the way we are” that we take them for granted and can often think that they are shortcomings. Sometimes these strengths become exaggerations of what they really are and we rely on behavior that is just over the top of being really effective and which creates greater stress than we are meant to tolerate or even need to.
Often, though, our strengths are expressed in their opposites; ways of behaving that are learned, that are weaknesses or seem to be character flaws that are actually grounded in what is best about us turned backwards.
These are learned responses that just don’t work and get worse over time. Believe it or not, we are often so good at our weaknesses because they are essentially rooted in what is good in us.
This is, I think, the case with many addictions and many of the health problems we face.
Consider that our major health costs come from obesity, heart disease, stroke, and cancer. So many of our health issues are related to the food choices we make and the unnecessary stress in our lives.
What would be the impact, for example, of knowing our strengths and making them the lens through which we make our food choices?
What can be comforting is this. EVERY person has at least 10 strengths than can grow and flourish if they are known, fed, and nurtured.
This would be the greatest education: to know our strengths and grow them.
By Dr. William K. Larkin on May 6, 2013
I have a friend who is absorbed by tornadoes and extreme weather. The power and the sheer force of nature fascinate him.
He has learned to substitute that focus on nature’s power for his preoccupation with chronic neck and back pain. His pain is always present on some level.
I don’t know how he endures it.
But one day I realized that when he focused on tornadoes and violent acts of nature and their power, that he was diverting his attention away from his pain by being absorped in something that more powerfully captured his attention.
He has also given up narcotic and opiate pain medication as a solution. His mind is clear and he can think. This has been an enormous journey of learning a variety of ways to deal with pain that do not rob him of his mind in order to relieve the pain. He is blessed that, in his case, this is possible.
Tornadoes, powerful acts of nature, and storms are a way of diverting his attention from the power of his pain. First they create a more powerful object of attraction and attachment. And then they help him detach from his pain.
Detachment is seldom, if ever, where to begin-- especially in major things in life. We are made for attachment, and detaching is much easier after the pattern for healthy attachment is set.
My first tendency was to think that there was something wrong with this “obsession” over tornadoes and tsunamis and powerful weather systems. Then I realized that they were a form of meditation that took him away from the pain.
He is also learning to focus on his strengths and to practice the Emotional Gym of feeling the feelings of gratitude, peace, joy, hope, and love whenever he chooses to do so. He is learning that he can go to these feeling centers of his brain with immediacy, that he can make them last (which is duration) and that he can intensify, at will, any of these feelings to the same degree as his pain levels.
That is powerful focus.
What we attend to, where we focus, and the object of our attention are what we become. My friend is becoming a tsunami of power in building a positive reservoir that eventually addresses every truly significant memory, event, and person that appears, but he is doing so by focusing his attention on what he loves, what absorbs his interest, and in growing the positive emotional muscle that allows him to lift weights of negativity with far greater ease.
He is doing this by attaching to his passion rather than detaching from his pain. And he is doing this by knowing what his strengths are and using the pain as cue to go to his strengths.
His movement away from narcotic and opiate solutions entirely, something he would have previously thought impossible, has given him a new and more powerful “tornado” of focus.
Its force and its power sucks up the pain and carries it elsewhere, outside the obsessive power of his once persistent focus on chronic pain.
By Dr. William K. Larkin on April 29, 2013
What are fake positive emotions?
There are those who are concerned with faking positive emotions. I guess that faking positive emotion means that when you are not feeling positive and you act like you are “just fine,” then you are faking. I do that all the time because most of the time when people ask me, “how are you?” they don’t really care and are just being polite. So I say, “just fine.” So do you.
There are, for sure, times when faking positive emotion is not good for you. You have to decide when that is. The most significant time that you don’t want to fake positive emotions is with yourself. You don’t want to fool yourself into believing that you feel something that you don’t, so knowing your own emotions and then deciding what you want to do with them is very important.
There are studies that show that one’s own non-verbal behavior not only communicates to others, but it communicates most to ourselves. How we are behaving can directly affect how we are feeling about ourselves.
There are a lot of times when I behave on the outside differently than how I feel on the inside. If I didn’t I couldn’t ever get through boring meetings and superficial cocktail parties. I pretend and fake a lot of times because the people around me don’t need to be subject to my negative feelings. I am polite when I would like to tell people to “take a hike.” I am courteous to those who don’t deserve it. I smile and try to be nice to people who aren’t so nice, even when I don’t feel it. So do you if you learn and practice a degree of civility in your life.
I do these things because I have decided that my negative feelings aren’t going to rule my world. I also know that there is great power in “fake it till you make it.”
I have learned that “being real” isn’t letting every negative feeling I have hang out in everybody’s presence. Moods do not rule me and I have learned that I have the power to change them, even the power to keep from getting into them in the first place.
We have a tendency to think that if we have negative feelings, that these are the REAL feelings. That is not true. Negative feelings can come from many things including genetics, a limbic system designed millions and millions of years ago to get us out of danger, and from the ways we grew up experiencing how those around us handled difficult situations.
Positive emotions aren’t fake just because we have decided to use them instead of giving into and acting out every negative emotion.
Like everything else, positive emotions have to be learned. We have learned with every minor and major trauma in our lives to feel positive emotion less and less. It takes an active practice to learn to use positive emotion whether we have a reason to or not.
It is not necessary to deny a negative feeling in order to use a positive emotion. In fact, a negative feeling can be a cue to practice feeling a positive emotion. A lot of time, when I feel negative emotion, I use it as a cue to go to gratitude. Many people have learned to go to a negative emotion as their default setting. Don’t let that happen to you. You have a choice.
Each morning I spend time feeling five emotions: gratitude, peace, hope, joy and love. I don’t only “think” them, but I “feel” them each for 2 minutes. In doing so, I tell my brain to go there during the day. More and more these emotions become a default setting. On a scale of 1-10, if 10 is big, these emotions aren’t always big, but they are always present on some level as a kind of default setting. Because I have called these emotions into being doesn’t make them “fake.” Rather, it makes them a predominant choice in my life.
We can lose the capacity to feel positive emotion because we leave it to the events of life to tell us when we can or should feel them. You can feel positive emotion anytime you wish, on command and immediately, if you have practiced yourself there, and it’s not fake.
We have a gym of hundreds of exercises for shaping, toning, and growing positive emotional muscle. It’s called the Emotional Gym and it builds strong positive emotional muscle with immediacy. You do not need a reason to feel joy, and you are not being fake when you decide to feel joy rather than to wallow in your own negative emotion and make others miserable as well.
Positive emotion is learned –not just when you were a kid, but it is continuously learned as an adult-- a young adult, a mid-life adult, a senior adult. It is never too late to learn to use positive emotion “at will.”
There is nothing fake about it, and “fake it till you make it” is a wise discipline of civility and personal growth.
By Dr. William K. Larkin on April 22, 2013
How many problems do you really solve?
As you think over the problems or issues in your life, how many of them are resolved by thinking about them? In how many of the really significant ones can you even take an action? Sometimes we can take action; sometimes they are things that we can or must do.
But if we reflect on the deepest issues on our lives, particularly those in which others are involved, there doesn’t seem to be a ready solution. And then there are those problems that we carry in our thoughts, rambling around in our heads that really aren’t worth a hill of beans.
They really aren’t that significant or important, and there is no action to be taken, except perhaps one.
That one alternative for much of what we try to mentally think through and solve is “divergis mentis.” It for those areas in our lives that we best just leave alone, and there are lots of them.
There aren’t that many problems that we can or do really solve. If you think about it, there are a lot of things that concern us that just seem to work out in one way or another. Many of them we just forget about and wonder, weeks later, why we were so concerned.
I am a doer, I am an action-taker, I deal with problems directly. Or so I have been told myself all of my life. When problems or issues can be dealt with, it is true that I am a problem-solver. But if I am honest with myself, some of things that concern me most are things that I can’t do anything about. Most of them concern other people, some of whom I love, but still I can’t do anything about these issues.
I can’t do anything about most of what I hear in the news, yet you would think the amount of time I spend talking and worrying about world issues was going to resolve something. Nada, nothing, regardless of the strength of my convictions. Worry renders me powerless.
Think about the little things that bother you, the things that you personalize, and how much time you spend carrying them around your head. It adds up to be quite a lot of time, all of these things that we worry about.
So what to do about this business of having nothing to do –and yet it still takes up mental space?
Most things we aren’t going to solve or the solutions are not going to come through our direct action.
The strategy is “divergis mentis.” It means to divert the mind and take it to something else. Take your attention off the issue. Get it out of your mind. Go to a movie. Read a book. Call a friend who needs a boost and encourage them. Write a note to someone who needs cheering up.
Do whatever you have to do to put it out of your mind. Don’t give it attention or feeling. Easier said than done you say.
Only if you don’t practice it.
Go to the garden, exercise, do whatever you do, but the most important thing is to realize that things change most when you don’t worry about them and when you don’t even have them on your mind.
Divergis Mentis is “creative forgetting.” It is putting things out of your mind, releasing them with a prayer and using the energy they take to do something that is positive.
AND THIS IS THE KEY: make a shift to something that is positive in your own life. What you can change is the level of your own positivity. You can do something that adds to the reservoir of your positive storehouse. You can use what you worry about and what concerns you to go the Emotional Gym, to pulse positive emotion and to fill yourself with positive emotion.
These aren’t fake emotions. They are real emotions you can experience if you have a reserve of positivity that lets you get to positive emotions easily. Positive emotions take practice.
Divergis Mentis is the permission you grant yourself to put a thing out of your mind and not to dwell on it. And then do it. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is the inability to do this. We have this ability not to let things occupy our minds if we make the choice to divert our attention to what gives us greater pleasure.
It takes some time and practice. And an excellent tool is The Emotional Gym.
By Dr. William K. Larkin on April 15, 2013
Those who have treated stroke victims have known for a long time now that one of the biggest problems in recovery is “learned non-use.” This means that a person, because of a degree of paralysis, has learned not to use neurons and their associations that are intact and good to go, but aren’t being used and have withered. This is the biggest obstacle to the recovery from paralysis.
We can experience emotional paralysis as well.
Consider this. A stroke can be a metaphor for small and larger trauma in our emotional life. Negative events, small and large, teach us not to feel positive emotion. We can live in a way that teach us to feel positive emotion less and less.
Religions can teach us not to have positive emotion until we are cleansed or healed of our issues. We rely on pills to save us and eat food that destroys our well-being. We watch television and movies that fill us with negative images of human experience. We believe that Congress will save us or destroy us. University life can be far more negative than positive with its constant pressure to perform. Daily reports of the economy become our measures for hopelessness. The power of negativity and negative emotion can teach us “not to use” or “non-use” positive emotions. We forget to go there. We forget about positive emotions.
Extended bad or toxic relationships can make us forget how to feel good. We literally can forget to use positive emotion. I have worked with people who could not feel joy or love. I have worked with people who could, at the start, only feel very low degrees of positive emotions for wonderful events in their lives. Forgetting to use positive emotions, or the learned “non-use of positive emotion,” can be a way into depression.
It happens to all of us. Negative things happen and we forget to feel good. They continue to happen and we forget how to feel good. We tend to wait for things to make us feel joy or love. And if you wait for something to happen on the outside only, you can be waiting for a long time.
Watch enough reality TV, news programs, the continual CNN loop, or most of television in general, and you can forget to feel joy or love or peace.
We have this idea that positive feelings must be earned. We must earn joy, we must earn love, we must earn peace, and many believe that they must sacrifice to have the privilege of feeling these emotions. Nothing could be further from the truth. But it is true if you have reversed the cause and effect of positive emotion. If you are waiting for something on the outside to make you feel good, you could be waiting for a long, long time.
Learned non-use of positive emotion is relearned by practicing positive emotion. We have created The Emotional Gym for people whose capacity to feel positive emotion has been paralyzed by the world around them –and that is most of us to one degree or another.
The way out starts with a decision to feel positive emotion. It’s sort of like the decision to go to the gym and get into shape. Very hard at first.
We have developed a 12 Step Program called the UpSpiraLife Group (Up Spiral Life). It is designed to restore positive emotion and to increase happiness, well-being, and thriving. It is a positive 12 step group where we create a Sanctuary of Positivity for one hour in the lives of the people who participate.
You can learn more about these groups and the book that is the guide to this program on our website. Click here.
12 New Steps to a New Millennium: The UpSpiraLife Group is available on Amazon. Click here.
By Dr. William K. Larkin on April 8, 2013
Meet Polly the Parrot, who needs a friend and some approval.
Have you every had someone like a therapist, coach, or friend that parrots back to you what you say to make you think they are understanding you-- but it falls flat because they really don’t get it?
Because they are eager for approval they may next rapid fire a dozen questions at you. It is not that the questions are not good. It is rather the manner of rapid fire that is, next to nosey, just without feeling…except for you it feels invasive.
I have been writing and teaching about “connecting” for a long time here and in my books, but there is one concept that needs to be addressed and that is that you can’t “fake” connecting.
If you are not in touch with your own feelings and you are not adept and agile at dealing with your feelings, you are especially sensitive to approval issues. The person seeking or needing approval has learned a strategy, over a long period of time, of seeming interested in others and seeking to win their attention and approval by pretending to be interested in everything others say.
This is compensation for feeling unattractive or not-accepted by others. So this person learns to pay and give a special kind of attention to others, learning to play like they are paying attention. And one of the things they learn to do is “parrot”.
A lot of therapists and even coaches can get into this “parroting” mode. They repeat what you have said but the feedback is empty, void of real connection. It’s like the person hears you but they don’t “feel” you, they don’t really understand where you’re coming from.
Therapists and coaches can learn techniques that seem like being understood, but it’s learned and fake. To connect with another person, you have to be there on an open, feeling level. You have to connect from your own feelings and experiences from what the person is sharing, and you have to communicate that you do. It really is a skill.
In our 12 Step groups, leaders are taught, and consequently teach their group, to identify and connect. But you can’t do this as a leader or in life and be Polly the Parrot, running after a cracker of approval. It can’t be fake; it has to be real “brain to brain coupling” which happens when real experiences and feelings are shared.
What we are communicating is an extraordinary ability to “experience” another person’s experience and give another person the experience that is like “he gets me”, “she gets me”. This is what creates real friends, real and lasting relationships, and it can even be the beginning of romance. Oftentimes these moments of connection are very brief.
I challenge myself with connecting with the clerks at the check-out stand. Checking out a long line of people can be very dehumanizing when many people in the line treat you as “less than.” So I try to connect in a real way. I ask, “so how are they treating you today?” I usually always get a “real” feeling, reacting response and then I try to identify with that. I DON’T SAY, “Oh, I know just how you feel.”
Instead I respond from feelings and not from my head, and I make eye contact and I say something that let’s them know I’m connecting. It can be as short as, “well I appreciate your good service” or “may the time go quickly today” or “do something good for yourself.” But the important thing is that I am coming from a feeling that relates to the feeling the clerk is expressing. These small moments of connecting in life add up to a day and a life of happiness.
One last tip here. Learn to smile a real smile that says I care about you as a person. There are 40,000 muscles in your face and a real smile is a real smile. You can’t fake it because the brain of another person is so attuned to your face, that fake smiles just don’t make it.
The other person will be “nice” in return, and it’s better than nothing, but it’s not the real thing that we can learn to do in very short exchanges of real connections with other people.
I have learned my real smile comes from the compassion of liking me and I smile from the smile of “liking me” to the other person.
What is your “real” smile? What is your fake, nice one? You know the difference, don’t you?
This connection doesn’t have to be long, but it has to be real, not fake.
Polly the Parrot isn’t going to get a cracker from the clerk, nor are the people in our lives who matter if we haven’t learned to be real with ourselves and the “other.”
By Dr. William K. Larkin on April 1, 2013
Doesn’t positivity blind us and make us reticent to recognize and deal with big problems that are evident or even smaller ones that are persistent and nagging?
To the contrary, that isn’t that case. It is our lean to the positive that actually makes us more aware and more consistent in dealing with things that don’t align with our intention to live in a higher UpSpiral in our lives.
The truth is that we give so much unnecessary negative energy to things that don’t matter, that the manner in which we deal with what is negative or problematic teaches us to avoid dealing with what IS negative.
It is the way we deal with negativity, not positivity, that keeps us from noticing and speaking up about the elephant in the room because to do so will be more unpleasant than just ignoring it, denying the elephant, or repressing it. If we were not already so steeped in negativity, and so depleted by our unhealthy responses to it, we would be more willing “to see” and deal in a positive way with the elephant in the room of our lives.
If we dealt sooner and better with what is negative and “just not right,” and we dealt with those things from a positive way, problems become what they really are-- challenges to grow and respond creatively and resiliently to life. These are the “problems” that enliven and strengthen the brain so there is no need for “practiced” cognitive brain exercises.
You don’t need cognitive brain exercises if you are already living your life, alive to life from your strengths, and not withdrawing from life because it seems like too much of a threat to live “full out” and alive. People steeped in negativity and seething with the silent stress of over-reacting are most likely to withdraw from life, much less the elephant in the middle of the room.
The elephant in the room remains because we are already so full of and so surrounded by “over the top” negativity and too much unnecessary attention to negative things that we fear what is not right and we learn to keep quiet so we don’t rock the boat even more. We already respond way too much, too often, and too long to things that don’t matter so much, so that when we really encounter the elephant in the room, we just want to pretend it doesn’t exist.
If we know what our strengths are (and that means having them tested scientifically so we know, in fact, what they are) and if we grow those strengths, we for certain have the resources we need to confront any elephant in the rooms of our lives or our minds. Our avoidance, repression, and unhealthy denial comes from the manner in which we have learned to over-respond to issues and bemoan them and make ourselves victims of things we don’t have the courage or the will to face.
“NeuroPositive” means that we look the negative right in the eye. And in doing so, it means that we have developed the resources not to respond so that we create enough stress hormones to send our health into orbit for five days. We over-respond to issues, we get too far hooked on personalizing things that matter very little. We waste our psychic energy building too many bridges in our mind over rivers we will never have to cross.
IF WE WERE AS GOOD AT HANDLING POSITIVE EMOTIONS AS WE ARE PRACTICED AT NEGATIVE EMOTIONS over things that don’t matter a damn, we wouldn’t be afraid of the elephant in the room.
We would have the courage and the emotional reserves to confront it.
Growing a NeuroPositive mind doesn’t mean that you avoid what is negative. It means that you discover your positive resources, your resilient mind, and your evolved nature to grow toward the light and find creative, interesting, and exciting, life-giving solutions to life.
By Dr. William K. Larkin on March 25, 2013
Feelings are not just an internal thermometer giving you a read on the state of your mood, no more than thoughts are an indicator of your state of mind. They can be an indicator (even a bad indicator), but they are also much, much more.
If you are not directing your thinking, your brain can take you to any of hundreds of places you’d rather not go, and to places you don’t belong.
The same is true of your feeling state. Your brain will take you in a thousand feeling and mood directions if you let it go there. Just because you feel a thing doesn’t make it true or right or morally good.
Emotional reasoning is a negative way of seeing the world based on feelings that are inaccurate readings of what is true.
Internal feelings can be highly erratic. They may be indicative of inner states if we learn to listen to some of them (without discernment and consideration, feelings can be deceptive measures), and they can be as directed as the state and strength of your physical muscles.
Peace, for example, is a feeling you can feel not because it indicates an inner state that you have come to possess, but because you have learned to be agile and because you have developed some skill and practice in having this feeling.
Think about it. We like to believe that we can feel “love” when we choose to. Actually love is the hardest of feelings to feel. It takes a lot to pull a little bit of love out of people who don’t want to feel it.
Ultimately, love is connected to all of the feeling states like peace, joy, hope and gratitude. They are all of one nature and they each pull on the other. Love can be more stubborn and resistant to our command of it because we can be afraid or because we just don’t want to make connections.
If you can train your thoughts, you can train your feelings.
We just never think about training our feelings.
Your feelings are “you.” You live where your feelings are. We describe our lives to ourselves and to others in terms of what we are feeling. How many times do you ask someone how they are feeling and how many times are you asked, “How do you feel?”
Oftentimes we are asked, “How are you today?” and the intent behind the question is asking how we are feeling.
Try finding three cues to use to feel peace several dozen times a day. For example, right now, three of my cues are:
1. Turning off a light.
2. A red traffic light where I have to stop and wait.
3. Every time I see a picture of food.
I have reasons for each of these cues. I want to condition in a response of peace to save energy. I want to turn a period of unrest, like a red light, and the agitated waiting for it to turn, into a positive, and I want to feel peace and not anxiety or desire every time I see food. I want more emotional control over what I feel when I see food.
But even more basic than these reasons is that I want “peace” to be at my disposal and for my use when I want to feel it. I want to be able to get to peace immediately. I want that kind of emotional muscle. Zap! Feel it. I want to be there.
On a scale of 1-10, I am not always able nor do I desire to be at 10 (the max on my scale). Sometimes I want just enough peace to calm down and not respond erratically to a situation. Sometimes I have had an uncomfortable thought and I just want to calm down. Sometimes peace at a “3” will do.
But I can have much more command over this feeling state than I used to think was possible. I don’t have to meditate myself there from a lotus position. I can though, on command, and so can you with some practice.
It is part of our Emotional Gym.
Our next NeuroPositive Life Course begins in April
Join us in a new world of emotional and mood management.
By Dr. William K. Larkin on March 18, 2013
Knowing what you want can be a difficult proposition. It can get more difficult the more money you have. People who have enough money to get most of whatever they want have a more difficult time of naming what they want. It is also true that our desire and wanting trick us, except in one important circumstance. That circumstance is a high level of psychological capital.
If you are accustomed to a state of flow in your life, pay great attention to the research of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.
Life is about as interesting as the amount of chaos and differentiation we allow into our world. It is probably obvious that the use of the word “chaos” is not intended within its usual context. Chaos here doesn’t necessarily mean chaotic in the sense of everything out of order and gone awry.
Here it means the ability to allow and tolerate in our lives wider and wider, larger and larger spaces of things and ideas that are different, and which on the surface don’t seem to make sense, but actually do.
Chaos “theory” refers to how random a system can be and how full it can be of different ideas, notions, facets, and particularly of novelty. Chaos here is the potential to allow novelty, newness ordifferentness. It is the capacity to tolerate and allow “otherness” and diversity in our lives.
Too little chaos or differentiation in a system means that things get boring because the same old, same old keeps showing up. Here’s the main theme: the higher your VibeCore, the greater the “flow” in life, and the greater the “flow,” the greater the novelty and differentiation.
The experience of the brain on flow is an increase in "psychological capital.” What that means is that you are reducing the amount of psychic energy used to do a task and adding to the scope of the connectedness of your neurons. Things are knitting together in new ways in your brain. When they continue to knit together in new ways (interneuronal association), intelligence increases. You are increasing the positive reserves of the brain on every level when you experience flow.
Put differently, when you know what you want, believe you’re going to get it, and are open to all the ways it can happen, or at least on the way to this, you’re beginning to experience “flow” in life. This is what we call your "VibeCore." You begin to be cool or easy with a way of life that is one with the music –things seem to be more of a whole. When that happens over time you are going to find that there is more chaos, in terms of novelty and diversity in your life.
You will also experience or try to experience greater differentiation. However, allowing chaos (novelty) and differentiation in your life is not always an easy thing.
The better you are at your VibeCore, the easier it will be. The more accustomed to a high VibeCore you become, the more you will be capable of increasing novelty and differentiation. The more difficult this is for you, the “tighter” and narrower you are.
Flow is the opposite of wet-blanket thinking. In fact, it lifts the blanket and new possibilities begin to more freely emerge. How do you get someone in touch with what they want? Get them to experience and build flow into their lives.
Flow is expansive and, by its nature, broadens the brain and life. Flow creates higher and higher levels of intelligence. It gets the neurons in the brain talking to each other. It creates inter-connectivity of neuropathways and affects the very structures of reasoning in the brain that are the neural templates for what is possible.
By Dr. William K. Larkin on March 11, 2013
Just how much is necessary?
As the research on positivity continues to unfold enormously empowering results and indications for breaking new territory in health and education, so too has a kind of backlash wanting to protect this sanctity of negativity.
Many would say that negativity is necessary. It sustains billion dollar industries of “fixing,” punishing, and correcting many.
Some even fear getting “too happy or too positive” or think that you are too much on the road to resolution or something you have missed might come back to bite you.
We have heard so much about karma. One would think that we are tired enough of the notion that karma is always following us around, ready to get us back when we least expect it.
Ying and yang is far over-rated. Opposites may attract but they don’t last. 82% of the longest relationships, highest in life satisfaction and well-being, are “strengths similar.” How much suffering do you need to REALLY feel joy? How much misery do you need to write a sexy, loving, and romantic novel of real and simple love?
Love is love and we don’t have to be miserable to know the real thing when it comes. Joy is joy and it is an intrinsic part of the nature of how we are created; it is a state of mind that exists within us, not dependent upon how much suffering we have experienced.
We are a co-dependent, “fixing” society because we have grown up and evolved from cultures of “fixing” problems and “watching out for the tiger or the devil.” We have evolved from the limbic brain of “fight-flight.”
But what we have not taken nearly as much into account, in all our fixing and healing, is that the brain has evolved for millions of years in a structure the also has a “calm and connect” response that works altogether differently. It feeds on positivity, it enlarges and expands and passes over and through all kinds of negativity by taking a higher road of behaving differently in the brain.
But really, a more basic question has to be asked. How much negativity do you want? If it is necessary, and it is appropriate to some situations, how much do you want? How much negativity do you believe is necessary in your life to “think critically” as opposed to finding out what you’re real strengths are and using them positively? How much suffering do you want? How much do you believe you should suffer when someone dies? How much do you want to suffer if you lose your house? How much negativity do you think serves the situation when life deals you a blow that is unexpected?
I am sure that you are thinking about all of those negative situations in your life that you had to go through in order to learn. I had to go through several of them, not because negativity was such a good thing but because I was “thick”.
How much daily negativity and aggravation is necessary with a difficult situation? What serves you? How much do you need, do you think? How much serves you well?
Instead of treating emotions simply as though they are “given,” consider this. You have much more control of your emotions, their occurrence, their amount, and their duration than you are probably willing to admit. Your emotions don’t simply trigger themselves to a certain point absent of your cooperation with them. What is much more true about feelings is that we aren’t nearly so good about feeling them. We talk about feelings and we throw around ideas and thoughts about feelings, but we don’t really feel them.
Feeling negative feelings gives us a better indication of how we wanted them to hang around. Instead we talk about “why” we feel what we think we feel. We talk about who or what is to blame.
Feel your negative feelings and decide how long you want to stay in them especially when more positive feelings, over which you have great control, offer the creative ways to the solutions that open new doors and move your life along.
Any time you say, I feel “that” I am sad, know that anything that follows the word “that” after the word “feel” is not a feeling, it’s a judgment and you are in your intellectualizing thoughts, not your feelings. Feelings are simple, when they are genuinely felt. Feelings are a single word, or a simile, or a metaphor; they are not long discourses and stories about what is upsetting you. When you start feeling your negative feelings, decide how much of them you want and how long you want to have them. Do they serve you? How? How much and for how long?
One more question. When resolution of an issue comes, when there is a solution and path to take, a next right step, does that come from the negative emotion or does it come when you get the negatives out of the way?