Cupcakes and Cockroaches
Our culture often pushes us to only think about the positive, and to deny or overlook any negative feelings we have. In my book, Redefining Positive, I encourage everyone to fully acknowledge all of your feelings, and to know that anything you are going through - positive or negative, is legitimate.
Sometimes, we're told that we should focus solely on the positive, either by not acknowledging our negative experiences at all, or by netting all of our experiences together in a way that makes it seem as if only the positives matter.
Imagine that your friend came over and brought you a batch of 12 cupcakes, and also let 2 cockroaches loose in your house. Now, technically, your friend brought more positive than negative things into your home. In fact, we could net everything they brought by saying that 12 good things (cupcakes) - 2 bad things (cockroaches) = 10 good things. But is that an accurate description of what happened? Is 12 cupcakes and 2 cockroaches really the same as 10 cupcakes?
If anyone let cockroaches loose in my house, I would have a serious talk with them about not doing that again, regardless of what nice other things they brought. I assume most people would feel the same way. But when we push everyone to only think about positive things, we not only lose the opportunity to correct problems, but we make people feel guilty about saying when something is not okay with them.
A huge part of my personal trauma involved being pressured to only think about positive things instead of talking about what was wrong. As a result of that, I often feel scared to let myself fully enjoy things, because I worry that I won't be taken seriously when I talk about problems. I'm afraid that if I say how much I love the cupcakes, it will mean that I'm no longer allowed to speak up about the cockroaches. If you push someone to focus on the positive, they could end up denying their true feelings, and could end up struggling to fully enjoy things later on, for fear of not being taken seriously about things that are wrong.
It's been a long journey to recognize that I can validate both negative and positive feelings at the same time. But every day I'm learning that after setting firm boundaries about no cockroaches allowed in the house, we can still sit down and enjoy the cupcakes.