You don’t have to look far to find the definition of Positive People as those who are happy, always looking for the best in things, well-adjusted and uplifting. It takes little to realize that to not wear an appearance of these things often results in the label of “Negative” which usually comes with the verdict of distancing.
Just take note of the apologies heard and read for “bad” days, expressions of sadness or exposure of other negatively labelled emotions as well as steps taken to pull away from those who cry and step nearer those who celebrate. These go far to tell us how we are expected to package our lives in order to be acceptable. In our individualistically oriented society, the things better done in private include anything that doesn’t fit the solar positivity and bright popularly accepted designs these advertisement have told us makes relationship with us worth buying.
Thinking of relationships as something that nourishes our lives brings into mind the packaging on products we buy in stores or markets. What criteria do we use to purchase the food we consume? Does the brightest label mean the product is the best quality or do we need to look deeper?
There are people who do find it easy to see the most positive scenario in situations. If they also have the privilege of having lives with only minor conflicts they will appear bright and happy all the time, A big sunny label doesn’t mean the product inside isn’t up to all the hype. The caution though is that we recognize the packaging is not why we are buying the product. What we are looking for is what’s inside.
I know where my eyes often scan in trying to discover this. When looking for a good product, I tend to read the ingredient section. What goes into the product I am buying? If all I am looking for is flavor then the high content of products used to boost flavor regardless of their health benefits won’t phase me and into my cart it goes.
It is the same with people. If we are only looking for a quick high in our senses then it won’t matter how the person got there. That they are able to wear the kind of face and attitude that creates an easy comfort for us is the main criteria for their acceptance. If, like too much of some flavor enhancing ingredients, the solarity required for these positive relationships comes with negative after affects to your wellbeing it becomes one more uncomfortable reality to hide in the privacy of your life.
In the book Broken, by Anne Peterson, the therapist talks to her about those who create a negative imbalance in her life, people who withdraw from her energy without adding anything back in. In her case, it was the needs of others that kept her from working through needs of her own. For others who are dealing with issues in their life that need honest emotions and the ability to work through to true healing, those who advocate the solar smile model of positivity may be those who make the largest withdrawals.
Positive and negative has to do with whether a person’s affect on someone draws from the person’s wellbeing reserves or gives something into those reserves.
The majority of responses risked openly when people were asked what the terms positive and negative people meant to them supports this definition. What makes a person positive or negative in our world has much to do with our attitudes, our needs and our wants.
There may be those whose withdrawal in our lives is great enough that we have to back away.
It also may be a factor of the events in our own lives and the energy we are expending to hold our own masks in place. The question to ask at that point is who will be there if you or someone you care about faces a crisis situation that causes the masks to slip.
It also has to do with whether we define relationships as short term consumable products or long term commitments that come with give and take. Relationships that last bear ingredients lists full of a mixture of things we tend to sort into positive and negative traits and experiences. The dark is a part of what author Barbara Brown Taylor refers to as a lunar cycle that is more consistent with real life.
We are people who are conditioned to live in a world of day-light and night-keep-the-dark-away. Fearing the dark we fill our lives with technological and relational luminance. What if we stepped outside of our closets far enough away from all our artificial light and stood in that darkness that is a natural part of life?
We would see a sky full of stars.
“Even when light fades and darkness falls – as it does every single day in every single life
God does not turn the world over to some other diety.”
Barbara Brown Taylor
Here are summaries of some of the comments I received:
“We are all positive and negative, …. rather fluid. … Then of course, there is the spectrum that connects these two poles.” (C. and K M).
“There are people that are so negative about everything, I must admit I shun them, not out of meanness, but because I am sponge who soaks up my surroundings. Then again, over the top positive can be a bit of a challenge as well.” (E.S).
One poster (C.M.) told the story of a day she mentioned it looked like rain and the person she was talking to literally sprayed her with an “anti-negativity spray.” Another poster worded the kind of image this brings to mind, “who is to say that when you said it looked like rain that you were being negative!!!!! Anti-negative spray! I have this image of loads of unhinged people dancing away probably wearing Positive shades of colour spraying each other with positive spray!!! “(L.L.)
“This is a way of labelling people that I really dislike. I wouldn’t label anyone as positive or negative but there have been people in my life who I have found difficult to the point of needing to distance myself from them. Does that make them negative, or is my response to them negative?” (K.P.)
“I suppose that for me a positive person is someone who when they are having a bad day or are unhappy don’t try and drag others down with them, and a negative person does….. the fact of labelling people as good or bad, better or worse etc in this way, whatever the distinctions, can be so damaging on many levels – to people on both sides of the divide.” (K.P.)
“Positive people lift you up (even at the expense of their own suffering). Negative people fight to be on top, and push to bring you down.” (M.C.R.)
Another poster commented about those who are down at times but “for the most part they are encouragers, uplifting, enjoyable to be around. They do your heart and your spirit good. They can find good in any one and a silver lining in every cloud.” He contrasts those who “find it far too easy to complain…about people, their job, their health, life in general. They can find a cloud in every silver lining.” (R.H.)
“Positive people see the problems in life but are looking past them to solutions, resolutions, or growth. Negative people see the same problems and despair, worry, hide, etc.” (G.H.)
“The term “negative person” is relative to the person who is offering it! “Negative” and “Positive” are terms that are used more as slang than descriptive adjectives. Someone who observes the current “state” of another must also reflect upon their own current state when they make their observation. What is our litmus? What is the barometer that defines the balance between negative and positive behaviour? What scale? Of course, Positive and Negative have definition, but when used in the context of human interaction or emotion, that definition needs to be expanded because we’re dynamic and unequal in our emotional and psychological being.” (T. B.)
– My thanks to the Facebook friends and acquaintances who took the time to share their views on what is meant by positive and negative people.
– Peterson, Anne; Broken. Soon to be available through Amazon Kindle books.
– Taylor, Barbara Brown; Learning to Walk in the Dark, Harper Collins, Publisher
Thanks also to Tim Bourdois (T.B.) for his help in discussing and prereading this article. http://camerahiker.wordpress.com/about/