What is author, Carol L. Paur, up to this month? Overcoming negativity.
If you break your leg, are you going to try to mend it yourself? If you have a heart attack, are you going to perform CPR on yourself when you’re unconscious? Sometimes we need outside help to heal our minds.
Last month I talked about optimism. This month, I’m pondering negativity. Why do we let negative situations, comments or people bother us? What is the psychology behind it?
When I worked in retail, I could have had a hundred nice or neutral customers. All it took was one cranky person to complain and my day was ruined.
This is common for many people. We are going about our days feeling peaceful, maybe even happy, when someone or something interrupts that flow. I am not talking about a major incident, such as sexual or physical assault. This is the boss taking you to her office and giving you a warning or a co-worker suddenly complaining about something you’ve done. It could be a teacher, a classmate or worse, a family member criticizing your outfit. In retail, it could be a customer. As an author, it could be someone complaining about your book.
One reason I think negativity sticks is there’s a physiological component involved. Experts call it the fight or flight response.
“The perception of threat activates the sympathetic nervous system and triggers an acute stress response that prepares the body to fight or flee." (Psychology Tools)
When someone criticizes us, it feels like a threat. Our self-esteem is called into question. We feel vulnerable. Sometimes we’re in shock because it feels as if we’ve been blindsided if it comes from someone we love. There’s some emotional trauma that happens.
I imagine negativity to be sort of a branding iron – very hot metal pressed against the skin and leaving a permanent mark.
How do we remove that yucky feeling, that ugly branded mark left from negativity? Are we to become robots, indifferent to the stabs and jabs? Are we to avoid all negativity?
If so, we’d have to avoid all people.
I believe that emotions have their place in our lives and negativity is one of those. However, we need to keep it in check and not let it take over our thoughts and actions. Here are a few ideas I have about using negativity while not letting it destroy us, our days, or our lives.
The Always Negative
Remember, some people will always be negative and try to control or intimidate. It won’t matter what you say or do. If you’re not able to leave the situation, then you will need to engage in proper self-care (not drink yourself silly). Exercise. Eat a decent diet. Watch a movie or read a good book.
Another way to engage in self-care is to pray for the person. A priest gave me this advice when I was struggling with a boss threatening to fire me. Pray? I wanted to push him over a cliff. I prayed and prayed and prayed. What I started noticing was I felt less angst and panic about going into work. A few months later, this boss quit. I eventually quit, too, but at a time that was convenient for me.
I understand this from a spiritual perspective but you might wonder why praying for the person has a positive emotional effect. I think when you're praying for someone you're removing the power they have over you and you're giving it to a great power.
Recycle the Negativity
You can turn negativity into something positive (I'm big on recycling). I received a terrible book review on my first novel. The critic came off as arrogant and it was painful. Despite this, there were helpful suggestions that I still use today.
Another way to cope with negativity is to ask the perpetrator questions. "Why are you saying these things?" or "Why are you targeting me?" Unfortunately the situation or comments leave us so flummoxed that we often say nothing. Take a deep breath and ask. I can’t guarantee the person is going to respond in a way you want, but you do have the right to find the reasons for their negativity.
I also think it’s appropriate to let the person know that what they’re saying is hurtful. Obviously, this can’t be done in every situation. There will be resistance or denial by some. There might even be a fight. Then you need to step away. Please don’t punch the person.
Get Outside Help
Finally, many of us have had more than our share of emotional trauma. Seeking therapy is a positive step toward healing. These professionals can provide coaching to help you find ways to manage negative situations. It doesn’t mean you have to see a therapist the rest of your life. It also doesn’t mean you’re weak. If you break your leg, are you going to try to mend it yourself? If you have a heart attack, are you going to perform CPR on yourself when you’re unconscious? Sometimes we need outside help to heal our minds.
There's a lot of negativity out there. Remember, we can be negative to others, too. Work at being kind. Stop before you point out someone's flaws or try to offer "constructive" criticism. When you want to complain, take a deep breath and think of something you are thankful for. Will you swill in negativity or will you find ways to clean up the toxicity?
Though July tends to slow down for me, I’ve been busy doing writing things, such as participating in the Freeport, Illinois’s library’s Pretzel Festival. On that Saturday, sun streamed through fluffy clouds, and a wind cooled me while occasionally knocking my books off the displays. People were friendly and listened to my book spiel. A book spiel is a short synopsis of a book. I also met three people who wanted to be authors. Better than selling books was having people sign up for my emails. Thank you to those who signed up. And, thank you, Freeport Library.
When I'm not on the road, my life is consumed with writing, rewriting, pitching and doing things with family, friends, church, and gardening. We were heading home from a party when an idea for a horror book popped into my mind ("What kind of party was this?" you ask. Read the book when it comes out). It's not a genre I love, especially since I'm big on middle-grade, YA, and picture books. The message I'm trying to share, however, would be best told through a horror story. Don't worry, I'm taking the advice of Wendelin Van Draamen and Michele Regenold, writing coach, to finish my other projects.
If you're an author, you're always learning. Research on a particular topic is crucial to bring your story alive. There are many classes to take to improve your craft. And, there are always new ways to do things. If any of you listen to my podcast, Talking to Myself, you'll know that I've been struggling with the editing software. Each time I work on a new podcast, I tell myself I'm going to use a different software. Then it's crunch time. I'm rushed to get the podcast out so use the same software.
This month, my special guest, Lori Helke, a travel blogger, was able to be interviewed quickly. I was ready to edit at the beginning of the week so had time to learn how to use Podcastle for podcasters.
You'll find the link here:
I solved one problem while creating a new one. The podcast doesn't work on YouTube. There's a way to convert the MP3 file to a video but I haven't figured it out. I have 24 YouTube subscribers who will be (hopefully) waiting for the podcast. If any of you know how to convert these files for free or inexpensively, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
One week in July I'll be a camp counselor. It is one of my most favorite things to do. Wish me luck since I'm much older than the campers - aged 13 to 17. If you're a praying sort of person, say a few prayers for the kids and all involved so it's fun and we return home feeling refreshed.
Thank you so much for reading. Please share.
Carol L. Paur
Podcast link: https://podcastle.ai/show/talking-to-myself-writing-8F42