Archive for the 'positive thinking' Category

Not requiring things to be better than they are

November 26, 2011

I enjoyed Joe Nocera’s column today, I thought the story it told was attractive and provided a nice view of other people’s lives.  My reaction to it was perhaps cranky and uncharitable, but I think my frustration with the genre of uplift goes beyond my own perhaps petty issues: there are ways of living many kinds of difficult lives without needing to conform to commonly accepted standards of happiness and success.  While I’m not addressing here the issue of lives wracked by experiences like war and rape, and I do want to acknowledge that some people are living such lives, I am addressing at least some of the lives that are not going to have fairy tale endings or even enough of what most people consider positive things to be comfortable.

Life can be full of external events that have negative impacts on us, and that isn’t going to stop, the way I see it.  In my own, I’ve heard that things are going to get better for so many years, and it hasn’t helped.  What has helped is that I have learned that things don’t have to get better externally for me to feel better internally (maybe other people know that before their lives become difficult, but I didn’t).  And it’s not that I make a break with reality and live my life in a fantasy world, either.  A lot of it has to do with shifting my perspective, with not taking adversity too personally (either by blaming myself or by blaming somebody else), with being clearer about what’s my responsibility and what isn’t, with finding emotional support through the less tangible forces of the universe when my fellow human beings can’t meet my needs (this is one reason I prickle when I read that the key to something or other I should have is human relationships — it’s a piece, to my way of thinking, but only a piece, and it’s a piece that seems to work differently in different lives), with framing things as challenges and trying to learn a different way of doing things from them instead of regarding them as intrusions that shouldn’t occur and trying to “fix” them in a manner analogous to breaking a piece to one of those complicated 3-D wooden puzzles in order to try to make it fit so the object can be put back together.

There are other tools or techniques, but these are the ones that come to mind right now, and my point was just to indicate what an alternative to a relentless insistence on uplift and happy endings might entail.

I also think this point is important, at least to me, to make, because other systems for dealing with adversity and looking at life seem to by definition leave some people in the dust, to reward some subset of people, however large, at the expense of the rest, due to their norms for what a life should look like, and while perhaps helping some people, make others feel worse.



The Rope Trick

August 4, 2011

For me, the idea of the rope trick (of throwing a rope up into the air and then climbing it) is usually the idea that if I can imagine something, if I can conjure up an awareness of the thing, maybe I can actually bring it to fruition.  (I was thinking about it in connection with a Paul Krugman blog post that reminded me of another incarnation of the Confidence Fairy, the thence got me thinking about what I understand as “the rope trick.”)  I suspect this scenario can be confused with situations in which faith that a behavior will have (its usual, unmagical) efficacy motivates me to engage in it, and then the behavior has its usual effect.  I have no idea under what circumstances the thinking about something actually results in some physical event.

I sometimes wonder whether some of our economic crises are the result of confusing rope tricks with realizing untapped potential.

The rope trick also reminds me of the concept of the word becoming incarnate, of creation, even of synchronicity where one event is mental and the other physical (for example, thinking about how I collected seashells on a long-ago vacation and then finding some in the local woods the next day).  In these cases, I sometimes wonder whether some sort of precognition is sometimes what’s going on — the thought just gets to us before the physical event is experienced (kind of like seeing lightning before hearing thunder), but in other cases it feels to me much more like being in the midst of something that is manifesting in different ways.

I suppose the rope trick might also be thought of as akin to “the power of positive thinking,” but I’ve never quite understood what that meant, especially after reading Gilda Radner’s It’s Always Something.

What I’m thinking, though, is maybe I should consider the rope trick as being more apt as a concept to understand what happens when I feel unconditional love towards another person — I throw up that line and climb it, regardless of outcome and feedback, and that love by itself creates its own reality.