Gratitude schmatitude. Bah humbug. And many other similar sentiments would express how I feel about the recent election shenanigans that were so filled with negativity. I had on my negative lens. But instead of dwelling with that experience, I chose to immerse myself in Cucalorus. Cuca-what you say?
Cucalorus is an annual film festival with a very creative vibe that started 22 years ago in Wilmington, North Carolina. It features over 250 new films by artists and cinematographers all over the world.
My own self-interest is 1) I love movies and 2) I wanted to immerse myself in anything but the kind of destructive politics heard throughout the past election. My soul is so weary of political negativity. So I chose something else instead.
Do You Have on Your Negative Lens?
Negativity is one area I frequently see in my practice, especially with couples. When they come into counseling, often both partners have developed the habit of looking at each other through a negative lens. By this I mean that even though your partner has many positive qualities, it is only the negative that is both seen and amplified by you when serious conflict is present.
For a mild example, take getting up grumpy. Your mate appears at the breakfast table in not-so-fine-form, and you are immediately annoyed, and likely say something along the lines of “Who peed in your cornflakes?” There is an assumption that the sour mood is your partner’s norm, or part of their character, or perhaps you harbor some feelings that they are totally responsible for whatever has landed them in their present emotional state.
You might consider other options for the mood vs automatically assigning negative attributes to your partner. The previous track is basically a character attack, when perhaps they had a tough day at work, or an office staffer is giving them a hard time, or sales are off, or frequently required travel is getting them down. The point is to look for other potential reasons for the mood instead of immediately embracing your negative outlook. Vocalizing your observations in a less confrontational manner might invite your partner to open up a bit, and provide the feeling for them that you have their back. What would you want in the same situation?
When you were first getting to know your partner, you had on your positive lens. Everything you saw looked glorious. But once your relationship makes the natural shift from passionate love to companionate love, those lens of yours may get a little foggy. Sustaining your relationship takes a bit of work. It means looking for nice things to do for your partner without keeping score every time you do them. This has the lovely result of spurring on your partner to do the same for you. It means having your partner’s back. It means being grateful that you can hang out in your sweat pants and favorite baggy T-shirt without fear of criticism. It means when the inevitable bad things do happen, the sting is not so severe because you have your person to help you absorb some of the pain.
So maybe this gratitude thing isn’t such a bad thing to cultivate. You have a choice about where to place your attention. It beats wallowing in your negativity. Hee’s a great book to check out on the subject: The Myths of Happiness by Sonja Lyubomirsky.