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Once I got bitten by a dog. I have got some wonderful scars on my back to prove it. It was my own fault though. I know about dogs. I like dogs. And I am a psychologist after all.
What happened was this. I went to see a man, not about a dog, but to get some currency for an obscure country I was visiting. He wasn’t in and his wife, who didn’t know me came to the door. She had a one year old male Rottweiler, who after all was still a puppy. The dog happy to be out the house, bounded down the drive to the gate and barked away merrily. As I left, without the currency, and pondering where to get some, I was walking away from the woman towards the dog.
Mistake: I was between a one year old male dog of an aggressive breed and its female owner AND my mind was elsewhere. Before I knew it, the dog had attacked me from behind. I was used to dogs, so despite the pain, I swung round, got him by the neck and clouted him. A little too ferociously. The dog whined, caught my hand, and bit me gently this time.
The dog was clearly signaling to me
- you are hurting me and I will have to protect myself
- I get the message that I hurt you.
When people whine – grown ups or children – in the first instance, that is what they are saying. Life hurts! Some sympathy and action to relieve the hurt, if possible, is due so they catch their breath, take stock, and get themselves together.
Now I am tough as the next guy. I was walloping the dog after all with blood pouring out my back. I certainly think in life when you fall down, you have to pick yourself up again. There is a time for tears and a time for drying tears.
The same rules apply for celebrations. There is a time to be pleased by success and flattery. There is a time to put the success aside and set new challenges.
So what is the point of this post?
I find a lot of reports in the press that happiness makes you miserable. What a silly argument, by definition! In their determination to prove the point, they don’t stop to understand the view they are trying to dispute.
- Positive psychologists stress there is no point going over negative events over and over again. Apart from the fact you are likely to embroider what happened, all you are doing is rehearsing what went wrong. Your golf swing gets better with mental rehearsal – so does your capacity to be miserable!
- Positive psychologists also stress that there “is a time for everything” – tears have their place. So does sensitivity. Positive psychology should not be equated with ‘therapy culture’ which assumes that there is something wrong with us when we experience shock, disappointment, rejection, bereavement etc. We may need company; we may need consolation; we may benefit from reflection; we may value the wisdom of others – but there is nothing wrong with us – this is a normal process of life.
Vocabulary of positive psychology
But we don’t necessarily use a positive and poetic vocabulary – in fact as psychologists-in-training, we are encouraged to be dry, detached, unemotional and possibly, boring.
I have opened a little positive psychology wiki.
Will you help me to build a dictionary of positive, active, lively vital language that everyone can share?
There is no password. Just follow the link, and add an entry when the mood takes you!
How about another pattern for your Wiki:
I reframe and I stop feeling victimized / powerless.
Thus: Action >> Stop feeling emotion
Just a thought. I was trying out your pattern and this is the one that occurred to me first.
Thanks Kathryn – it is hard isn’t it. We have been soooo trained to used negative words.
Back to David Whyte:
“Start with your own conversation, give up on other people’s questions, don’t let them smother something simple.”
[…] (Hero’s journey, Appreciative Inquiry, David Whyte’s poetry), I’ve started a wiki for positive vocabulary, and I laid out a wiki of positive psychology courses which colleagues on LinkedIn kindly reviewed […]