Glass “Half-Empty” Blues

“I am just sick of negative people!”

I overheard a person the other day that was complaining along those lines. And the more she complained the more the other person looked ready to run away. And many times we do this: we are not aware that we are sending into the world the exact thing we profess to dislike ourselves.

Negativity is not inspiring and rarely brings with it anything constructive.

Here is a well-known story from the oral tradition of the Cherokee Nation:

A Grandfather from the Cherokee Nation was talking with his grandson.

“A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.

“It is a terrible fight between two wolves.”

The young grandson listened intently.

“One wolf is anger, envy, war, greed, selfishness, sorrow, regret, guilt, resentment, inferiority/superiority, false pride, coarseness, and arrogance. He spreads lies, deceit, fear, hatred, blame, scarcity, poverty, and divisiveness.”

The other wolf is friendly, joyful, loving, worthy, serene, humble, kind, benevolent, just, fair, empathetic, generous, honest, compassionate, grateful, brave, and inspiring resting wholeheartedly in deep vision beyond ordinary wisdom.”

Grandfather continued; “This same fight is going on inside you and inside all human beings as well.”

The grandson paused in deep reflection and recognition of what his grandfather had just said. Then he finally asked;

“Grandfather, which wolf will win this horrific war?”

The elder Cherokee replied, “The wolf that you feed!”

Many of us intend to feed the joyful and loving sides of ourselves. Yet we still “fall into” being negative. Our family, partners, friends and business associates are on the receiving end. And if our intentions and actions don’t line up – it doesn’t matter how well we mean it – it is our actions they respond to.

So how do we change this habit of inadvertently and unconsciously getting side-tracked into fearful and divisive actions, no matter how well-intended we might be?

A new practice takes time to become a new habit. And “feeding our inner wolves” is all about practice.

In coaching we look at what habits we can change. By doing this, we also modify how we perceive the world. We have a choice if we want to see ourselves living out a self-fulfilling travesty or experience forward-moving momentum.

According to the law of attraction, like attracts like! And so feeding our own inner sense of love and worthiness attracts it into our lives. Feeding our own sense of fear and dread likewise attracts that which we do not want.

It can start simply. By starting to listen to the statements we make almost without even noticing:

“I will never figure this out.”

“Why even bother!”

“It is a scary world we live in”

It is not about whether these statements are true or false. It is a matter of sending out statements that affects the way we think, the way we feel and ultimately the way we act. And our world responds accordingly. It mirrors back to us, what we put out.

An example of another way to express the feelings at the root of the above statements could be:

“I love learning new things”

“If I don’t try I will never know.”

“I am thankful for ……. in my world”

Some of my clients install an internal “Eeyore alarm”. And when they feel tempted to make a negative statement, they remind themselves that here is an opportunity for reframing in a new way to get a result they really want. As they start aligning their intentions with their actions, their world starts responding accordingly.

Over time and with practice, it becomes as natural as riding a bike – and as perceptions change, so do lives.

 

 

 

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10 thoughts on “Glass “Half-Empty” Blues

  1. I read (about two weeks ago or so) about a study that actually offered physiological proof that the words and the language we use affects the neural pathways that form in our brain which dictate the amount and locations of synapses firing which leads to the emotional environment we experience – be it ‘happy’ or ‘sad’ or ‘anxious’ or ‘scared,’ etc. I googled but couldn’t locate it again. But the point is, we are creating our reality, even to the point that our science is now making objective those experiences that feel subjective. Never doubt that attitude makes all the difference!

    • Yes, you might be talking about Richard Davidson, a neuroscientist and researcher, has made it his life’s work to study how a mindful approach can change the way we perceive the world around us. This is proof that we are not victims to our emotional style – it is just our default. We can change it. I was mentioning him in the comment below. The book, The Emotional Life of Your Brain, is a great read. Thanks for checking in here 🙂

  2. I’ve recently begun repeating this phrase mentally, with conviction, while standing in line, or whenever I have a spare moment: “I am happy.” I’m also repeating these words mentally, “Peace, joy, happiness, contentment” when I have the chance. I also practice meditation for one hour daily. They say what you focus on expands in your life. Well, I hope this works.

    • Wow… it sounds like you have a great practice of gratitude going there. Neuroscience is starting to find evidence that we actually change the wiring of our brains by repeatedly practicing new habits. Rick Hanson (“Buddha’s Brain”) is a good resource. Or Richard Davidson (“The Emotional Life of Your Brain.”) Both books are great – and explains the nitty-gritty of why it works. How did you find the inspiration to embark on this kind of a practice?

      • Thanks for your reply, Marie.

        Most recently, I’ve been reading Ernest Holmes’ Religious Science books. He talks about what we think into the “Universal Mind” becomes our reality. Our destiny is like “play dough.” We can shape it with our thoughts. To make a long story short, I’m using my heart and my mind to shape my future. The meditation I do helps me to feel peace, joy, and contentment. The thought process has to do with replacing negative thoughts and emotions with positive mental prompts, which helps to elevate the mood, but I don’t think you can do it with the mind alone. Love is a feeling. Peace is a feeling. I’m trying to become a vessel, or a channel if you will, for these positive “experiences” using both my heart and my mind. Information about the experientail component of my practice is available at http://www.wopg.org.

      • Hi David, I agree that we are heart and mind, body and soul. Choosing one aspect over other makes little sense – and might lead to repression and denial. In the experiential realm we connect to the pre-verbal as well. And through synthesis we may be able to access our inner wisdom, our highest Self, and ultimately beyond for a place of deep peace.

  3. Hi Bjorn, thank you for your insights. It is clear from your comments that you are a caring dad. So I am wondering how you feel about providing our kids information and knowledge about the world and at the same time giving them the tools to focus their awareness to optimize what they really want. How might both be possible?

    • Finding the middle-gound and cultivating a fair sense of perspective is in my opinion the way to go. The main challenge in bringing up our kids is that first we have to bring up ourselves. Your point about ingrained positivity-negativity is a good case in point.

      Trying to protect our kids’ innocense and trust in the world and other people can leave them fairly unprepared for when life turns vicious without warning. Dwelling only on the risks and dangers can teach them patterns of automatic mistrust and fear/anxiety. We have to teach them both at the same time. We’re neither in La-la-land with Tinkerbell or in Hell surrounded by monsters out to get us – so let’s get real.

      I’ve brought up my two sons (21 & 20) and my daughter (15) telling them the following:

      1) that puppies and trees are nice, but the world primarily consists of other people
      2) that nine times out of ten (or more) they can utterly rely on the kindness of strangers (and are oblige to be that kind of stranger themselves), and
      3) that one time in ten (or less) they will be interacting with someone bearing varying degrees of nasty within them

      I have taught them to expect the best, but always be prepared for the worst so they don’t freeze up when shit happens… and that shit WILL happen through the course of their lives, sometimes like a lightening strike. This story has evolved for each of them as they have grown, and it has been consistent. My kids have turned out both kind, caring & approachable AND strong, self-reliant and aware of the importance of watching their backs.

      I believe that getting real as much as possible also will make make them resilient for when shit one day DOES happen, having established a preparedness enabling them not to be uttterly crushed and traumatised by the shock of the unthinkable happening to them, but instead knowing beforehand that shit happens and then you heal, recover, take back you life and get back to growing.

      this has gotten logn and could easily get longer – but this is where I am coming from.. and how I’ve brought up myself too.

      • Great point that taking responsibility for our own maturity is important when it comes to modeling and teaching it to our children. And how we deal with adversity in life we model to them as well. After our initial period of grief or anger is over, we can choose to view what happens as a teacher that eventually helps our growth. By not harboring resentment and not taking the role of victim, in a perpetual sense, we show that we are willing to take responsibility for our own fulfillment. So in other words, what do we take the s… to mean? Is it a travesty or a teacher?… and here is our choice point.

  4. The walk we walk is always a more truthful communication than the talk we talk… and our surroundings do take noten… even (or even especially) when they (duly pressured) have agreed to the expressed, but unlived good intentions.

    Just one thing, Marie – it CAN BE a scary world out there, and we have to express that… if for nothing else in order to teach our children (and ourselves) to ‘expect the best , but be well prepared to cope with the worst’. That’s not being negative, just being real.

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