“Are you a naturally positive person?” I was asked.
No, I am naturally negative and pessimistic. I am Eeyore. I can see the gloomy clouds that are hanging over every situation, ready to burst. You wouldn’t want to read my earlier writings describing my life with Asperger’s syndrome. It would just leave you feeling depressed.
That said, I’ve always gravitated toward those things that were wholesome, idealistic, uplifting, and caring. It is interesting to note that this life view is actually a special interest of mine and has been since I’ve been a young child. I tend to be very rigid in this way of thinking and have all kinds of rules that govern it. I have trouble accepting art work, stories, movies, and even the appearance of cities if those images lie outside my narrow boundaries.
What my rigidity meant for me was that I was in constant distress because, as I’m sure you know, the world doesn’t operate this way most of the time. But just the fact that I had these natural inclinations meant that there was a lot of potential for turning my negative mindset around. It would eventually be of great help to me once I learned how to relax my rules and find fulfillment in the wholesome images I was so attracted to.
So, how did I develop my positive nature? It came about by accident, I assure you. Being so negative as I was, I never would have pursued a positive outlook on purpose. I wouldn’t have believed it could do me any good, so why put forth the effort? Besides, I figured it would leave me feeling worse for putting on a fake attitude if I didn’t actually feel that way. I needed to feel I was being authentic in every situation. If I was seeing things negatively, I needed to be true to myself and continue to see things negatively. It wouldn’t do to try and act contrary to my feelings.
Unfortunately, I was growing more depressed by the day. Because I had no social life to speak of, I decided to become involved in an online support group that promised to help me out of my depression. At first the moderator of the group was welcoming of my depressing writings. She offered me understanding for the terrible things I was going through. But over time, her attitude toward me started to change and she became increasingly critical of my pessimistic thoughts. “Come on now,” she would write. “Don’t you think you’re being overly sensitive? You don’t have to be so negative about everything that happens to you.” Her constant rebukes were upsetting me.
I began to feel as if my every word was under scrutiny. I couldn’t write anything that she didn’t disapprove of.
You may wonder why I didn’t just drop the group. It was too late for that. I’d already gotten addicted to it. I found myself running to my computer throughout the day to see who had responded to my latest post. It was heart wrenching to find another criticism waiting for me, but I didn’t know how to get out of it.
In order to survive the negative impact this was having on me, I started to fake it. I found that if I expressed my sad situation in a more positive way, it kept her from attacking me. So, that’s what I began to do. I wrote about my life as if I could see the silver lining in every negative occurrence. Of course, then I felt guilty for lying. I wasn’t actually lying. It wasn’t like I was making up my situations, but I was giving a false perspective of them, one I didn’t actually have.
Because I have a talent for persuasive writing, I became quite skilled at conveying this fraudulent positive attitude. It bothered me terribly for doing it, but it kept them happy with me and that was the point of taking this approach with them.
One day I was strolling through the aisles of the grocery store with my husband when I said, “What is this feeling? I feel so happy. I don’t know why I would feel happy. It seems like there is something special happening to me just by being in the grocery store. Don’t you think the produce looks especially bright today? It’s so wonderful that farms grow produce so that the stores can sell it? I can’t believe how happy it is making me feel.”
My husband gave me a strange look and said, “Who are you and what have you done with Katie?”
That stopped me in my tracks. What was I saying? Suddenly, my eyes grew wide with understanding and I said, “Oh my gosh! I’ve been affected by my own writings!”
This sort of thing began to happen more and more often. I would post a positive comment and later in the day, I would experience a rush of good feelings. The things I was writing about would get into me and make me feel differently about my situation. After a long time of this, I realized that I had grown more positive than everyone in my support group. Eventually I had to quit the group because they were too negative for me.
At first, my switch from negative to positive had come about unintentionally. I hadn’t meant to create this effect in myself. I didn’t even know it would happen like that. But once I discovered what it could do for me, I began to develop my natural sense of wonder, so that it could carry me even further. I had turned into Christopher Robin, always ready with a cheerful word for everyone. My words had become a soothing balm for those who were stuck in depression. This goes to show that a positive outlook can help anyone even if they haven’t yet developed this in themselves.
This change in my life allowed me to utilize my idealistic bent in order to create uplifting moments for my fiction writings. This was especially helpful when I was writing Warriors of the Edge. While most of my readers comment on the high amount of adventure I bring to my stories, they are touched by the sweet elements I put in too. The sweet element gives them an emotional connection to the story, while the adventure keeps them turning the page. Switching from negative to positive can produce a better product no matter what you aim to create.
The moral of the story is, it’s okay to trick yourself into a positive mindset by faking it. If you’re feeling like Eeyore, you could try writing up some things that Christopher Robin would say to get Eeyore out of his grumpy ways. In the process, you just might end up removing yourself from beneath that stormy rain cloud.
Katie Bridges is an American author of science fiction and has a diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome. Her first novel, Warriors From The Edge, about Tarek, a twelve year old boy who escapes his life into a 3D video game, was a Barnes & Noble rising star selection of 2011.