It’s nearly Halloween and the stores are filled with ghoulish décor. On a recent outing my little granddaughter, Rosannah, discovered some holiday decorations packed more trick than treat. Rosannah is nearly two years old and quite fearless. She runs through the house with her hands in the air, scales the couch and her high chair with the speed of a mountain goat, and follows the family’s Rottweilers through the doggy door, with no worry of being trampled.
However, my plucky, little granddaughter’s bravery melted like a candy bar when she encountered a cackling witch at the local hardware store. Rosannah buried her head into her mother’s shoulder and whimpered, “no, no.” When she looked up, she saw another display – a werewolf. She smiled at the item and said, “doggy?” Then the eyes of the beast turned red. This elicited another whimpering “no, no” and she buried her dimpled face into her mother’s shoulder once again. Even something as innocuous as a skull on a glass elicits a quick retreat.
I’m not sure why the symbol of a skull is so frightening to Rosannah. It makes me wonder if there could be universal phobias that are buried deep within our collective consciousness. I read somewhere that snakes are feared in many cultures – including those areas that have never seen one of the slithering reptiles.
Other phobias are not so universal. For instance, my friend, Michele, has a 36-year-daughter who is afraid of dryer lint. I reminded her of this quirky habit. I assumed she had outgrown it. Nope. If her husband wanted a divorce he could chase her around the house with the lint, much like how her brother used to do when they were kids. But, like I said, the man wants to remain happily married so he takes care of the lint disposal. My normally logical sister, Diane, gets squeamish touching balls of cotton. I always felt I had a sense of power over her as I would valiantly pull the wad of the white padding from bottles of aspirin. Recently I reminded her of this childhood fear. Well, guess what? She still won’t touch the cotton balls.
The point is, there are many things that strike fear into the hearts of humankind. However, there is one demon that, unlike dryer lint, has caused tremendous harm, but holds free reign in society – negativity.
These pessimistic messages take various forms – news reports, gossip, complaints, lack of gratitude, judgmental thoughts, as well as stinging criticism of ourselves and others. Unfortunately, negativity has become so pervasive that many of us accept it as a normal part of life. This is especially true because we are bombarded with negative news 24/7. The reality is there are many more happy incidents in a day, but no journalist is going to lead the 5 o’clock news with a story of good cheer. As the old adage goes, “if it bleeds, it leads.”
As dismal as this may seem, the good news is we still have a choice on whether or not we are going to allow negativity to stain our lives. There is no law that says we have to watch depressing news. We should not feel compelled to listen to others say disparaging things about others. And we should never repeat gossip…period.
Living a happy life is not that difficult. Even in the most depressing situations there are things to be grateful for. It’s all a matter of perspective.
Every morning I recite several things that I appreciate in my life before I get out of bed. This only takes a few seconds, but it creates an attitude of gratitude that I try to embrace throughout the day.
For those who have a little more trouble adopting a positive attitude, there are little tricks you can perform to shift into an attitude of gratitude. One is to pretend you are happy until the real feeling washing over you. The “fake it until you make it” strategy is more powerful than you think. And what do you have to lose except maybe a rotten attitude?
In the meantime, you can always adopt an adult version of Rosannah’s technique when confronted with negative messages. It’s the same thing we teach children who are tempted to take drugs. Turn away and just say no.