School Should Be Out On These Thoughts.
Something happened in the 80's.
I won’t profess to know the exact machinations, but several segments of society changed dramatically. It seemed that everything became commercialized, as if business owners, leaders and movers-and-shakers figured out how to make big bucks from Joe Citizen’s desperation, by creating enterprises and deals out of anything. It was almost as if the unpolished, wholesome and average was suddenly subject to “spit and polish” - if it was not professional and glitzy, shiny, new, glamorous, bigger and better, it was then effectively nothing and could no longer compete for consumer attention.
Television had a lot to do with this. If it could be televised, advertised, glamorized and polarized, then expect that it happened. Football became more than just a bloke’s Saturday outlet; it became a highly sanitized, heavily scrutinized and professionalized sport of expensive-salaried athletes. Money played a huge part - sponsorship helped fund the game and soon it was being plastered on television, and games were not just Saturday pursuits. There were less days of the week where football wasn’t televised.
What does this have to do with school-of-thought on pop-psychology?
Well, football wasn’t the only expression of humanity that changed. The era was also heavily populated by psychologists, psychiatrists, sociologists and all manner of thought-ologists who were beginning to dominate society. For a while there, it seemed every man (and woman) and the dog had weekly sessions with a psychologist, in almost Freudian style couch-talk. News and current affair reports were littered with “quotes” from these alleged experts who were considered the modern day thought leaders of the time.
The talk-circuit ballooned out with dozens of “thought-leaders” taking the stage and speaking publicly about, of all things, thoughts. We were suddenly being barraged with believers who were deeply attached to the pop-psychology upsurge in thought control. Many told us that we were too negative and that all we had to do was think positively and our entire world would change accordingly.
One of the most prolific in his time was Anthony Robbins.
He once told a woman in the audience that her encounter with being raped was one she could move on from “in this very second” (to paraphrase him). He alleged that she was holding on to the thought of the rape, and didn’t need to, and could simply change her thought instantly and she would immediately feel better and could move on from the trauma.
Having walked the hot coals in an induced trance conditioned by Anthony Robbins himself, I know how a thought can be changed in an instant, and also how I was able to relinquish all fear of exposing my little pinkies to searing hot embers and instead stride across them with not a drop of fear in my body. Yes, it can happen. To this day, I am certain I could put myself into that trance and walk over hot coals -- all without taking six hours to talk myself into it as happened back at the seminar all those years ago.
What's the purpose of my blog today?
It is not to depose the view that changing what we think leads to instant success. I have been part of the pop-psychology believers myself in the years past and yes, being more positive generally is healthy, both mentally and physically. However, what I want to point out is that seeing the world this way is not without its negative repercussions. For some reason, the essential good that was intended from seeing the silver lining in events and situations gave some people a false sense of righteousness and there seemed to be an Us Vs Them mentality that germinated.
There are those people who hold so adhesively to this positive-thought mode as to fear anyone who might be having a bad day and cussing out of frustration. So many of these believers have, effectively, poisoned the view about our reactions to the outside world. How?
Some of the kind of comments that litter social media include “Distance yourself from the negative things so you can see the beautiful things” or similar. The implication here is that if we look for good, we can only see good, and if there is bad, or negative, then it is our fault for looking for it and it is up to us to change our perspective.
The most current 'meme' is "Stay away from negative people..." with various iterations. According to them, anyone who so much as complains about anything must be criticized for being negative and suffer the wrath of being shunned and isolated from their peers. They have created the perception that any expression of negativity is toxic and the only way to deal with it is to not deal with it.
I absolutely believe there is merit to be awarded for helping us “turn lemons into lemonade”. What I am aiming to bust is the perception that those who are eternally optimistic, who see silver linings in every situation, and who distance themselves from all the adulterations in life are in fact the "better people".
It is my contention that in among those ever-positive people are the righteous breed who irresponsibly and offensively point and wag the finger at those who are well-rounded, realistic individuals who see the unpleasantness in the world and are affected by it; who are still on the journey of self-discovery and are likely to have a bad day or two; who may have some dark experiences from the past that cannot be snapped away in an instant because while a thought can be changed in a split second, it takes much work and very much effort to release the physical bodily sensations of a memory forged at a time when words were just too inadequate to process the events.
As 2020 unfolds in ways no-one could have predicted, I would like to ask that we all, collectively, aim to let go of this passé-psychology. Begin to help others embrace a deeper sense of self-awareness so that we all can choose to be less quick to judge, less inclined to criticize and more open to accepting idiosyncrasies, oddities and quirks that make up each individual.
So the song goes, “I’m not a perfect person…” a line from “The Reason” by Hooberstank.
We could all do well to realize we are not perfect. We may aspire to be, but we must be mindful to understand by whose standards we judge ourselves, and others.
Choose not to judge instead.