by Richard Boyd, Body Mind Psychotherapist, Energetics Institute, Perth, West Australia
There is a general understanding that the stresses of our modern way of life can be the basis to generate a generalised form of negativity in each one of us. There are a number of common ways how this negativity can arise and then become ingrained in the personality of a person.
For some of us we may have grown up in a negative family system. By this what I mean is that some of us were born into a family where our parents and maybe grandparents were pessimistic, critical or negative about life.
Their attitudes, beliefs, conclusions about life, and negative emotional tone then soaked into us through a natural subconscious process we call mirroring and modelling. We as children are sponges who soak up the ways of being of our caregivers as well as those beliefs and attitudes.
We may think consciously that we act from our own adult free will when we grow into adults but in fact we notice over time that we become more and more like our parents as we get older. Where our caregivers were negative we run a major risk of becoming negative or critical ourselves as a consequence.
You can notice this effect in families as often you will notice how the same limiting negative belief systems are held across each generation from grandparents to parents to children. It is a negative emotional plague that travels down family systems and becomes a characteristic trait of those family members.
What is curious is that one or two members will not succumb and end up negative despite living in the same environment and circumstances as those who do succumb to this negative outcome. However they may find themselves unconsciously attracted to major life and business partners who are this negative or critical archetype and so recreate an unconsciously familiar living environment that resembles what they grew up in themselves.
This outcome is from what we call systemic origins with the family being seen as a system hence the term systemic. Some negative or critical persons did not become negative due to systemic dynamics but perhaps more personal dynamics with parents, siblings or authority figures such as teachers when growing up.
In this personal setting the child was picked on, singled out for negative or critical attention, bullied, or felt the need to perform and be perfect but either got feedback that they failed, or they themselves internalised a conclusion that they failed, were unlovable, wrong, bad, flawed or somehow deficient.
It is true that in many families that "all pigs are equal but some are more equal", if we steal a quote from George Orwell's Animal Farm. If you were overlooked, minimised, ignored, singled out or teased and tormented, then a negative mindset outcome is quite possible later in life as a consequence.
Just having a "golden child" or favourite as a sibling means that your own personal experience may be felt by you to believe that somehow you are less than them and so you will tend to become negative about yourself and your life prospects as a result. Another common driver to become negative or pessimistic are the life choices we make and the consequences that those choices visit on us as a result.
The type of life choices we make can be in any dimension of our life but where as a result our expectations are not met, or we perceive we failed, or there are actual negative outcomes, all this can knock us off our feet and into a negative state of being. Most of us will make mistakes in life that we come to later regret and this is all part of learning and growing throughout our life.
For many either a single event or a pattern of negative events may overwhelm us, break our trust, or leave us feeling vulnerable or as victims to life. From this place we may degrade over time into a state of bitterness, regret, remorse, anger, rage, or an inability to let go and get on with life.
In this sort of situation we are no longer living totally in the present moment as our minds keep looping around the unresolved hurts, the insatiable regrets, the anger at ourself or at others for what happened, and whatever negative or critical judgements and mindsets arise as a consequence.
Another common negative driver is being a real victim to abuse or trauma in its many guises. Mind violence, physical, sexual, mental, emotional or spiritual abuse all tend to leave negative imprints Whatever happened to a person may leave them stuck in a negative, critical, pessimistic or victim state that they struggle with each day of their adult life.
If you find you have ended up in such a state it is important to deal with the outcome(negative mindset) as well as the causes or origins of how one came to be this way in the first place. Part of the recovery process is training your own mind to be positive and happy.
There are some key steps to creating a positive mind that with practice can remain present and abiding is a fairly stable way. If practiced continually as you find yourself mindfully present to your own train of thoughts and feelings you will start to become more peaceful, happy and positive which is a blessing for anyone who has lived with the curse of a negative mind.
Attitude is a part of the mind that decides whether to view whatever situation or object in front of it as a positive or a negative or a neutral experience. It might be hard to think this next statement is true but we get free will choice of which attitude we adopt situation to situation, moment to moment, person to person.
Once we understand that key truth we can start to break up the black and white or habitual rigid thinking that dogs so many people's minds. A rigid mind is a suffering mind for it will tend to associate itself with rules, "should", "should nots" that start to become an inner critic or voice in our mind that seems to be lecturing us all the time in ways that are essentially negative.
Many people who are negative and critical are being run by their own inner critic minds, and those rules. These people have given up free will of thought and choice and do not see how by conscious practice they can oppose the old habitual rules that run them in this way and cultivate a neutral or a positive mind towards whatever situation once was a negative one.
We must think in any such situation that "if this moment of negativity is truly real then every person must also be having that experience as well.". What we notice is that normally this is not the case but instead it is us alone in our private negative universe that is having this isolated and singular reality.
It is true we may often find another with which to collude in a negative way and so find negative reinforcement about our negative situation in life. I write many of my articles in cafes and as I sit and write I find that the conversations around me are often negative idle gossip that provides much negative pleasure to the men and women who gather and spend their time and energy indulging in this pastime. This destructive pastime creates and deepens negative mindsets and attitudes.
One of the biggest influences on the minds of the populace has been the advent of the 24 hour news channel and the spread of the number of mind numbing free to air TV channels. If you notice the news is primarily negative and does little to promote "feel good" or positive stories.
In many cases the odd good news story ends up wedged near the weather at the end of the news bulletin and is often a short segment that is not presented seriously. The 24 hour nature of negative news feeds takes its toll on the average person who tunes into such stimulus.
Neuroscience informs us that the mind will process such news feed and take on its bias or mood without us having any conscious awareness of that occurring. We are literally what we expose ourself to and the nature of audio visual media is now decidedly negative, alarmist, sexist and sexualised, all of which is subconsciously influencing our attitudes and beliefs in a negative or distorted direction.
It is no wonder that many people feel more stressed, more negative, more pessimistic in our society now than in the past as we are setup to become brain washed and mind shifted into such a negative state. We all should watch less TV and instead cultivate positive stimulus and input into our minds so that we develop in a positive direction.
Gratitude is a form of positive attitude and is a particular type of mind we can all cultivate over time. Gratitude is that reality or mind that can accept what is right now with a positive appreciation or orientation or attitude. It often comes in a form of "this is enough".
If we have gratitude then we naturally feel abundant, full, without anxiety or cravings for more. In this position we are also able to see the bigger picture that goes beyond "me" and includes the wider reality of "we".
Negative, anxious, depressed or stressed people are always "me" oriented as the brain is focussed on a form of "fight or flight" self-survival so higher states of consciousness cannot exist while we remain trapped in this narrow negative minded state. When we can say we have enough then our mind feels relaxed and then we can appreciate what we have in our life.
One does not need to have a millionaire's lifestyle to have gratitude. It is a mindset borne from a positive perception and a recognition of what really matters in life. What really matters is intrinsic (internal) attainments, feelings and values rather than extrinsic(external) rewards, objects or environments or experiences.
Just take the example of Victor Frankl and Anne Franke who both in WW2 suffered Nazi persecution and then were interned in death camps where they were surrounded by daily death, hangings, torture, filth, degradation and the threat to their own existence.
Anne Franke wrote a diary of her experiences and thoughts in hiding in a hidden compartment by a Dutch family for 3 years Victor Frankl was able to rise above his external circumstances and write of the nature of the human psyche in a positive way that still moves anyone today who would read his work and reflections.
What we learn from both these writers as well as the positive gratitude that many people who are faced with death or extreme suffering is that gratitude is an essence within us all if only we would call it forth as a choice. We have gratitude because in every moment there is actually a lot to be grateful for.
When we strip away the glitter of our materialism and the demands of our narcissistic selves we find that we can practice gratitude for the simple things in life like being alive right now, being sound enough to appreciate this moment, enjoy the nice day or environment where we are, and notice how many other people are there for us in many little ways that we often overlook.
We are offered so much in every moment but often we take these things for granted and just demand more of what we perceive is beyond us or the next thing we should crave after. We instead choose a negative mind of anger, envy, jealousy or covertness instead of a positive attitude or mind of appreciation and gratitude for all that we have right now.
If we look we often find that we have advanced beyond where we were 5 years ago and by taking a longer term view we can see growth, lessons learned, and new positive qualities that we often cannot immediately feel or acknowledge to ourself and others. We become abundant when we can have mindfulness in each moment of all the positive things we have within ourself and within our life that are basically just obscured from us by our negative or angry mind.
Gratitude is often in people who see the world, themselves and their situation as a "glass half full". This positive mind is also that which fills us full of the water of health in body and mind as the positive state of mindset stimulates our immune system to optimal functioning, and is linked to the release of key feel good hormones such as Serotonin, Dopamine and endorphins we need to maintain a positive bodymind balance.
The positive mind of gratitude also acts as an opponent to the negative inner critic mind that many negative people possess as part of their operative identity. Gratitude and criticism are unable to co-exist because they observe the same object or situation from totally different biases or perspectives.
Gratitude starts to undermine the need to be on the treadmill of constant achievement and striving in life as it sees that this striving is an addictive compulsion that omits to notice what significant things already exist and which we should stop and experience and appreciate. We start to notice how happiness is not achieved by external attainments but suffering is especially when we fail to attain, obtain or meet our own standards or expectations.
This leads to the abandonment over time of false or high expectations for oneself which are unrealistic and which set us up for our constant disappointment and self-hatred and self-loathing when we perceive we "fail". This powerful positive mind of gratitude infuses us with a new and positively grounded set of expectations that destroy the false notion of perfectionism and which restore our right to be perfect in our flawed humanity.
Being grateful is essential to being happy. The wonder behind gratitude is that it reverses the pattern of looking outwardly for satisfaction. Instead, it puts us in touch of the many gifts and blessings we already have. When we practise gratitude, we tend to generate happiness inside as this is the only sustainable place that happiness can exist in.
We start to notice that happiness is a feeling and a choice and we then learn to choose happiness as it is healthy, positive and what we have wanted all along anyway. Our problem all along was to be looking for happiness outside ourself.
Cultivating gratitude then becomes giving to ourselves and others as a primary practice. When we self nurture and look after ourself without selfishness but with being in contact with our genuine needs for such things as rest, sleep and nurturance we start to self love. We start to see how these simple acts of self love make us grateful we chose to act this way toward ourself.
This practice is then able to shift to include in its scope other people and we notice that they may show gratitude towards us as a result or that they may be caught up in their own world and take us for granted. It actually does not matter as we were once like them and we can relate to the negative self absorption and lack of conscious attention to the moment.
We were once like that so we have compassion for them as we understand the suffering of this type of mind. We just generate our own happiness through positive intention to give and when we are given to in return we see it as a gift and we find that we no longer have a significant demand on the world to have someone be there for me all the time. Life just gets easier and easier when we reach this way of relating to others.
The Energetics Institute has designed anxiety and depression resolution programmes in both its personal Psychotherapy as well as its organisational Conscious Business Australia faculties. These have been adapted from the various body-mind traditions of Somatic Therapy, Yoga, Mindfulness, Meditation, CBT, Human Biology, Neuroscience, and the Bioenergetic understanding of the body and mind.