“Positive anything is better than negative nothing” Elbert Hubbard.
In order to teach a concept, you first have to understand it. I must confess there are things that happen at the cellular level in our body that I never had to learn in school. The English hospital based nursing program I attended over forty (shhh, don’t say it too loud!) years ago was a lot heavier on practice than theory. Perhaps I had too much fun in school, but I remember more from the lessons learned taking care of real people than many of the concepts taught in the classroom. Apart from that, I try to avoid chemistry whenever possible, as I am convinced that thinking about long chemical formulae will make my head explode!
But there is a particularly tricky concept that relates to the magic of electricity, the transmission of electrical impulses along those excitable neurons and cells that have the power to carry messages to and fro in our bodies. Our muscles don’t move without an electrical command from a nerve. We don’t know anything about the outside (or inside) world unless a nerve is stimulated to transmit that information inward to our central nervous system. And it all happens through the movement of electrically charged chemicals. They call it action potential.
When a cell is sitting there, waiting and ready, it is said to be polarized, resting, in a negative state. When it gets hit by a stimulus (a blow on the thumb, the sound of music, a beautiful scene) gates open and positive chemicals flow inwards, so now the cell is positively charged. This is known as depolarization. I won’t continue with the lesson, in case my head explodes! But I was thinking about the state of our country and our world, so deeply polarized and divided. It is time for a little depolarization!
How can we help to open the gates of our minds and the minds of others to let positive thoughts flow in? In the US at present, there are those who prey on negativity, painting pictures of doom and gloom to scare people. And it often seems as if negative thoughts or ideas are more powerful than positive ones. Yet that cannot be so. But it requires acts of positivity to drown out the negative words. And it takes being bigger than the pettiness to plant the seeds of positivity.
On a personal level we can also allow the negative to drown out the positive. Going back to the classroom, this week I confirmed my hypothesis about mathematics. There are those who shut down whenever they are confronted with arithmetic, no matter how simple. In the recesses of their mind there is a message that they can’t do math, and when they look at the page their brain shuts down. I am convinced that if we had a bad experience with a math teacher as a child (and it could have been a parent, or any authority figure) that scared child comes back to life and paralyzes all rational thought. Before we can even begin to learn to do the math we have to convince that scared child to come out, to embrace numbers, to trust in the process.
How do we replace the negative with the positive? How do we practice positivity? Another friend was doing some math this week, and was learning about the concept of negation. I had to Google it to know what it was about. It is basically the concept of making a (mathematical) statement, and then saying what it is not (the negation). Perhaps we could do that with our negative thoughts! When we think we can’t do something, just say the negation: I can do it! There are thousands of self-help books that are dedicated to the concept of self-affirmations, the repetition of positive thoughts to create possibilities. This is not new, but perhaps we are paying more attention now. As a child in Jamaica we were taught the little poem:
The boy who says I can,
Will climb to the hilltop.
The boy who says I can’t,
Will at the bottom stop.
Whether we are negating negative (double negative makes a positive!) thoughts about ourselves individually, or more broadly as a community, we have the power to change the message. We must not be defined by politicians or hate-mongers. There are plenty of examples of positivity that we can spread and celebrate, so let us focus on those.
There are those who hate Facebook or other social media, having heard so many stories about malicious words and images which can be transmitted around the world in a flash. But there are just as many, if not more, positive images which we can share.
This Fantastic Friday morning I challenge you to catch each negative thought that you have, whether it is about yourself, another, or a situation, and negate it. Reframe it, open the gate and let the positive charges rush in, and see if that can change your mood and your possibilities. Despite all we see in the news, it is still a wonderful world! Have a wonderful weekend!