Finding the Positives for Reprieve
Inside and outside of the therapy office, I see many people struggle to find the positives. We’re a little hardwired to tap into the negatives around us. Our systems are built to protect us. This can mean staying out of situations that can lead to physical pain. It can also come from situations that lead to emotional pain as well.
When we’re struggling, this hardwiring can make it difficult to notice positive things and positive feelings. This can be difficult to find when you’re dealing with difficult situations. However, doing so can offer an important reprieve from a negative emotions compounding the situation. This challenge means that this is also something that is very important to practice.
Practice is the key.
I ask many people to identify neutrality in their lives. I’m often given a look that says, “what difference does that make?” Despite the upfront frustration, people grow to appreciate understanding the importance of neutrality when they head into more difficult work. This allows them to tap into their environment in a way that allows them to appreciate their place within it. They can appreciate joy, reminiscence, etc.
Doing this takes some practice. If you read books like The Four Agreements, you’ll likely identify with how difficult it can be to take time to appreciate these things. At the same time, it’s critical to do so. The need for improvement of well-being is what has led to the advancement of fields of psychology like Positive Psychology. This can help people to focus on more positive aspects of their lives.
In mindfulness work, it can also be important to deepen this experience through understanding within your body. You can ask yourself how it feels when you notice pleasure. You can see how this plays out in your body, and how that can become more expansive when you pay attention to this.
Everyone can benefit from focusing on the positives.
I see this focus help people in a variety of settings. Whether I’m working with someone who is dealing with an addiction, helping people in sex therapy, or doing couples work, this focus can help people. People with addictions can struggle with emotional regulation, and focusing on positive aspects can help them counter that. Sex therapy can often include intense feelings of anxiety, and noticing increased neutrality can help with that as well. Couples who have communication problems can remind themselves of hope that they have.
Negative emotions are still relevant.
Anyone who has worked with me knows that I believe that negative emotions are important. Sadness, anxiety, fear, and shame can all communicate important things to us. These emotions and feelings are important to feel and experience. Doing so can help us to understand more about ourselves. It can also help us identify meaning in our own lives.
Rather than rid ourselves of negative emotions, noticing positive emotions can offer us a counter space. This means that this can add balance to our lives. Especially in a world that can feel balanced towards noticing negatives. So whether you’re in therapy or not, take time to experience positive and pleasurable things around you. The rewards can be life changing.