Web Camel Transport 19

A+ Attitude= Higher Happiness Altitude

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Our attitudes live through both our minds and bodies. We take positions, orient ourselves a certain way, buy into certain perspectives, occupy stances with regard to various people, situations, events, relationships, jobs, etc. Our attitudes typically precede our involvement in something on a particular day. Often we bring forward a calcified set of attitudes from prior experiences that, like a pair of sunglasses, color the present situation. That means we cannot see the present situation with fresh eyes, but only through the lenses of our internalized attitudes.

In any case, we can generally categorize attitudes as positive or negative with regard to our experiences and our forthcoming experiences.

Attitudes are often intimately connected to our living narratives—the scripts we have and live out, about ourselves and others. For example, if the narrative, “I always lose,” possesses me, then I will likely have a poor attitude about trying hard, whether it involves taking a math test, running a road race, or aiming for a promotion. Why try hard if I always lose. If I think, “Nothing ever can cheer me up,” then my attitude will not aim toward lightheartedness in my forthcoming experiences.

A negative attitude can event distort our perception of physical reality. A client of mine who is by all accounts a handsome adult, said that he had been teased when he was a child about his tall gawky presence and prominent features. Even though he had since grown into his features, he still, when having a bad day, looked in the mirror and saw the “ugly” kid who had been teased. And upon that vision, decided that no attractive woman would go out with him.

With a negative attitude you work at cross purposes with yourself. Your sub-parts don’t harmonize. If you have to do something, then thinking that it serves no purpose, or thinking that you are not up to it or don’t want to do it, takes energy away from the project and is draining to you. One part of you agrees you must accomplish the thing, and other parts argue in dispute. How exhausting! It fogs your cognitive faculties and dulls your emotional vitality.

I remember, as a child, having to take piano lessons and practice for half an hour every day while many of my friends played in the neighborhood. I would fiddle around on the keyboard half-heartedly. One day my mother said, “You are going to sit on that bench for half an hour, whether you fiddle faddle or practice sincerely. How do you want to spend your time on the piano bench?” Although I still had my days of half-hearted practicing and was distracted by my impatience to run outside, the message was not lost on me and it changed and refined my attitude about dealing with commitments and responsibilities. My mandatory half hour at the piano, and all mandatory periods of time, could bracket a sincere and energized effort on my part, an all-in attitude, or constitute a draining purgatory of waiting for it to be over, or what some people call, “killing time.” Our precious time on this planet is killed soon enough.

When we take a relatively positive attitude toward others, toward upcoming situations, and present circumstances it buoys our moods, like floating over choppy waters rather than thrashing around getting worn out and sinking. Imagine even this: You fall overboard from a large boat. Someone throws you a flotation device attached to a string. Would you rather hear encouragement, like, “Just grab this and we will be sure to pull you to safety?” or, “Don’t bother to grab on, you’ll probably drown anyway I just threw you a line to say I did?” It seems clear we do not feel good when others present us with a negative attitude, so it moves us toward our own happier place when we present a positive attitude toward others, toward our responsibilities, as well as our possibilities. While no single attitude may apply equally well to every situation, most of the time an attitude of openness to many possibilities serves us well.

Guest Saddle:  In what situations do you find yourself entering with a negative attitude?  Do you have typical narratives that are negative?  (No one will like me; I’m not smart enough to be here;  they all came from money and me from poverty, etc.)

What is one positive narrative you wish to practice?


Author: lisafriedlanderlicsw

Lisa Friedlander is a psychotherapist in private practice. She writes essays and loves to quilt together events, situations, memories, ideas, and stories that connect in interesting ways--dovetail, cause friction, make waves, and interweave.

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