As syndromes go, most of them have a negative connotation. Diseases and abnormalities are the first to spring to mind when someone mentions a syndrome. Then there is Pollyanna syndrome. I think it’s a good syndrome to have. For those who have never heard of it, it’s where you look for the positive instead of the negative in a situation. This happy syndrome is particularly difficult to find in our adult species as we find laughter in sarcasm and belittling of others. Our daily news stories focus on the ill luck and devastation in our world. When talking to co-workers, conversations usually begin with the overwhelming work and stress in our jobs. When talking to family it usually starts off with a complaint about chores or errands or misbehaving children. Today I hit up your fragile exhausted mind with “Pollyannaism”.
I grew up in the age of black and white television. There was one television set for the whole family to share and watch. I don’t recall watching many shows. I do remember anxiously awaiting Sunday because that was when “The Wonderful World of Disney” would be on. I hoped for cartoons, but sometimes there would be a movie that we would watch. One day we watched a movie called “Pollyanna”. It had an incredible effect on my life. For those who did not grow up sitting cross-legged watching Walt Disney, get comfortable as I tell you the tale of Pollyanna. (Ok, this is the quickie version because you don’t have all day and attention spans nowadays are like the flight of the flitting hummingbird.)
Pollyanna was an orphan. She went to live with her cranky aunt. Auntie was a miserable bitty. Pollyanna drove Auntie nuts because she was always happy and finding the silver lining in everything around her. Her father had taught her the “Glad Game”. No matter how crappy something was, find the positive in it. This started when, at Christmas, the church sent a “toy-box-for-poor-kids” to her and she discovered crutches. She had wanted a doll. Pops said “Be glad you don’t need them.” Get it? Be “glad”…hence began the “Glad Game”. (I’m sure most of you got it). Anyhoo…ol’ bitty kept playing mean tricks on goody-two shoes Polly like locking her in the crappy attic. Happy Polly LOVED the view from the window (silver lining right?). Grrr. Ok, WHAM! No soup for you! (Seinfeld reference haha). Polly had to sit in the kitchen with the servant and eat bread and milk. No problem! Wee P loved milk and bread AND she enjoyed the servant’s company. Fast forward to big summation. (If you want the details watch the movie or read the book.) Chatty Pollyanna wanders around the town using her rose-coloured view of the world to change everyone’s perspective of their lives. The grouches become grinners. The misers become wealth sharers. Foes become friends. You get the idea. There’s a part where Pollyanna gets hurt. She gets sad and feels crummy and then all the old grumpalumps who are now new grinners come and “Pollyanna-ise” her. HA! A taste of her own medicine and she’s good as new. The end. (There! Not too painful right?)
It seems to me that complaining and criticizing has become a fashionable way to analyze and speak about events and people around us. When we first learn sarcasm we feel like adults because we have watched and learned from our elders how to gossip, criticize and ridicule. It’s funny making fun of others right? Teasing is done just to get a laugh even if that person’s feelings get hurt. When you share distressful news, most people would rather jump on that Bandwagon of Misery and help bring you down further. Why would someone try to help you find the bright side and a positive resolution? True friends actually will, but true, honest friends are very difficult to find. Why? Well, with all the gossiping and stories being told you’re not sure if they do the same behind your back so who can you really trust?
Today I challenge (or dare) you to work at changing your perspective. I can honestly tell you it’s not as easy as it sounds. It’s easier to fall back on complaining about things than to stop, think and find the silver lining. Let’s work through some examples:
- Situation: You’re late for a meeting and you’re stuck in traffic because of a car accident somewhere further up the road.
- Usual reaction: FML! Why does this always happen to me?
- New reaction: choose any of the following:
- I hope that person is ok.
- At least I get to listen to my audio storybook CD for a bit longer.
- Wow, look at that beautiful sky!
True, it won’t get you to work faster, but can you change the traffic situation? No. So instead of feeling angry or miserable about it, find the positive.
- Situation: You come home late from work (thanks to said car accident). Dinner is going to be late. The kids are cranky, the dog needs walking, you’re exhausted.
- Usual reaction: FML! I’m too tired to deal with this!
- New reaction: choose any of the following
- I am grateful to have made it home safely.
- My kids are cranky, but they are safe and I’m grateful that they are in my life.
- My dog is always happy to see me.
Crazy? Maybe. Easy? Heck no! Start by catching yourself and trying to alter that maniacal evil thought into something that will make you grin and laugh. I promise, your days will be happier and brighter. You will find more joy in your surroundings and you will also find, that you will stop hanging out with Negative Nellie’s because you will start attracting the Positive Polly(anna)’s into your life.
Anyone up for a round of “Glad Game”? I’ll start…I’m so glad I have finished writing this and sharing it with you.