By UB staff therapist Kiya Immergluck, Ph.D., LCPC

“Today I choose to live with Gratitude

for the love that fills my heart,

The Peace that rests within my spirit

And the voice of Hope that says

All things are possible.” — Unknown

The quotation above is inspiring, but not that easy to follow. Often, we seem hard-wired for negativity. If I turned the statement upside-down, many of us would easily identify:

“Today I choose to live with Resentment

for the hatred that fills my head,

The War and Unrest that agitates my Spirit,

And the voice of Despair that says that

Everything is Hopeless.”

Of course, we strive for some measure of middle-ground in life. We certainly prefer not to start each day with Doom and Gloom, but “Gratitude, Love, Peace and Hope?” We might look at a person espousing that philosophy and assume that they are “pollyannas,” or “crazy,” or at the very least, totally “unrealistic.”

Whenever I try to encourage a person to move away from constant negativity, I often offer them an opposite perspective. If Mary says: “I’m so afraid I’m going to end up a bag lady on the street,” I might say: “I imagine winning the lottery and living in a mansion.”

Mary might say: “But that’s ridiculous, unrealistic, and ‘pie-in-the-sky.’” I then point out to Mary that both statements are equally ridiculous and unrealistic, but we are much more willing to contemplate a negative outcome than a positive one.

My favorite example of the difference between the eternal optimist and the eternal pessimist is the fable about the experiment with young twin boys. They were identical in every way except in their attitudes. One little boy, Tommy, was always positive while his brother Timmy was always negative. As the story goes, an experiment was done to switch the thinking of the twins.

Timmy, the pessimist, was put in a room filled with little Shetland ponies that pranced in a little circle around the boy. The scientists said: “Every little boy loves ponies. Soon Timmy will be smiling and laughing.” Then they put Tommy, the optimist, in a room filled with smelly horse manure. The experimenters were sure that Tommy couldn’t maintain his good attitude in such an awful atmosphere.

Just ten minutes later, they were surprised to hear perpetually negative Timmy crying in the pony room, while Tommy was laughing and giggling in the room filled with poop. They opened the door to Timmy’s room and found him sobbing with no interest in the lovely horses. “With all these ponies, I’m sure to step in some poop!”

Then they opened Tommy’s door. He was sitting on top of a pile of manure gleefully throwing pieces in the air. He shouted: “With all this poop, there must be a pony here somewhere!”

The moral of that story is obvious. Any situation can be perceived as negative, but with some extra imagination and creativity, the same situation can be perceived quite differently. It truly is a matter of choice.

Leo Buscaglia, who spoke and wrote extensively about love in all its forms once asked a scowling man on the street: “What kind of day are you going to have today?” The man looked at him as if he were crazy and said: “I don’t know. I haven’t lived through it yet.” Leo said that we often choose to allow the circumstances of life to determine how we feel. Leo suggested that instead we wake up in the morning and declare: “Today is going to be a great day!”

Then, if someone cuts you off in traffic, you can say: “ Now I have an extra few moments to listen to my favorite song.” Or, if your boss yells at you, you can think: “He must be having a hard day. I’ll try to cheer him up, or I’ll just stay out of his way.”

The sandwich I picked up for lunch might taste pretty lousy and I have to throw it away. “Oh well, maybe I’ll lose an extra pound today and maybe tomorrow I’ll bring something healthy from home to eat!”These are examples of how we might try to live by the principles of the opening statement: “Today I choose to live with gratitude for the love that fills my heart…” The operative word is “choice”.

If I decide in the morning to have a positive outlook about everything the whole day, two things may happen: anything negative can easily be turned around, and we may be more likely to notice positive things. “I misplaced my keys, but in searching for them, I found a twenty dollar bill in a pocket.”

As for “peace within my spirit”, the same energy applies. On Facebook, I find a full range of commentary. I erase or block anything mean or inflammatory and I experience peace when I choose to focus on the photos and videos about love and kindness and the best of human behavior: a very young boy singing a love song to his newborn baby sister; a daddy lovingly accompanying his daughter’s performance on his ukulele and a room full of children shaving their heads to support their classmate going through cancer treatments.

And when we choose to be grateful, to emphasize examples of peace and loving kindness, then the last part of the message is more easily attained: “I can choose to hear the voice of hope that says that all things are possible.”

Urban Balance prioritizes the safety of our clients and staff and will provide teletherapy counseling services. Please click here for our updates regarding COVID-19.
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