Thursday, September 13, 2018

Yes, I'm POSITIVE.

It's no secret that I intensely dislike "motivational posters".  For the most part, they engage in some simple-minded feel-good cliches that are totally useless in the face of real trouble.  One of my LEAST favorite sayings is "you are responsible for your own feelings", and it's variation, the misquote "no one can make you feel bad without your consent."

Let's break that down for a minute, once again, because it's been a while since I've posted on this, and it's something I feel especially relevant with what's going on today with the horrendous civil rights violations experienced by Blacks and Hispanics in our country:  When something terrible happens, it's NATURAL to feel bad.

So, if someone shoots your dad because he's Black driving in the wrong neighborhood, or if someone deports mom who's been living here for over a quarter century, you're (a) not giving consent and (b) going to feel awful.  It would be clinically abnormal to feel good as a result of something like that. 

So no, we are NOT 100% responsible for our own feelings, as I imagine a lot of people who have evacuated and are watching their homes be pounded by Hurricane Florence today have probably discovered.

But we ARE responsible, to some degree, with what we do with those feelings.  Yes, feelings can be so overwhelming that we physically shut down.  Sometimes we just need to feel those feelings before we can channel them in some positive way. 

I like this poster because it acknowledges that sometimes things are bad, and, perhaps, because it doesn't nail down what a "good attitude" is.  I don't think it's about being Little Suzy Sunshine" when it comes to tragedy, but a good attitude could be one that simply does not yield to defeatism.  It may be an attitude of righteous anger (like the Parkland students turned activists), it doesn't have to be some zen-like acceptance of whatever evil caused the trauma.

And let's face it, most of these inspirational posters are made for financially secure white people, who's worst day involves not finding parking near the entrance at Whole Foods, or finding out that the Pumpkin Spice Latte hasn't been released at Starbucks yet.  Sure, people, suck it up. It doesn't need a response, it needs you to chill.

Of course, I hear all the time that we don't know how intensely the other person feels about the things we feel are trivial, however, I'd say that as irritating as those things are, standing in a long line at the supermarket shouldn't be as emotionally charged as having a flat tire on the highway shouldn't be as emotionally charged as being attacked in a bus because of your skin color. 

Perhaps, in some ways, these motivational posters can be a test.  If you can feel good about what happened, count yourself privileged in that you have trivial things to get upset about. If you can't, understand that you are not to blame, for your feelings, and, when possible, channel those feelings for change.

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