Last week we were on vacation. One day of which we spent a day at Grandfather Mountain. This day was picturesque. We spent time seeing the animals, walking and going across the mile high bridge, and ended the day visiting the gift shop where we treated the kids to something special to remember the day. We then headed across the parkway to enjoy the views and ended the day at a playground. We spent the better part of two hours letting the kids play and it was when we issued the 20 minute warning that it was time to leave that one of our children had a complete meltdown. One of the kids became instantly jealous of the other two siblings swinging together, and this particular swingset did not have more swings of this kind, so she would have to wait her turn.
Jealousy, feeling rushed and impatience led to a complete meltdown…I’m talking uncontrollable crying, screaming, and despite trying to be consoled, timeout, or threats of consequences (which I know…I’m a counselor, don’t make threats if you don’t follow through.) nothing calmed her down.
Finally, I had her come back and sit on my lap and I began talking to her. “Are you willing to let this ruin your whole day?” “After everything good that has happened today, is this the one thing that you’re going to focus on?” I then asked her to begin telling me the good things that had happened that day. Initially, she was unable to think of anything. “I don’t know” was her answer. She was so flooded with the emotions and negativity she was experiencing that she was unable to do so. But, after allowing her breathing to relax for a minute I started encouraging her to think harder about the good. Giving examples of seeing the beautiful mountains, seeing the animals, and walking across the bridge. “What were your favorite animals?”, “what is your favorite thing we did today?” She was able to answer, and even went on to name a few more things she enjoyed throughout the day. Eventually, we were able to calm her down, she was able to take her last turn on the swing, and we headed out. It wasn’t perfect, there were still some tears when we left but it was much better than it had been.
It left me wondering how often we as adults do this. How does God feel when he sees his children focusing so much on the negative despite all the blessings he has given us? If you haven’t read the posts regarding negativity bias from 10/15 and 10/22 then go back and take just a moment to read. So often we allow the negative events that happen (no matter how insignificant) to overrun all the good. When we allow this to occur it is known as negativity bias and it can taint our entire perspective. Forcing ourselves to find the good, and finding things to be grateful for even when it seems difficult can change our whole emotional and behavioral response as well as perspective. With practice and resilience this can lead to lesser periods of despair and create faster recoveries.
As we approach the holidays and the season of Thanksgiving I urge all of us to put this into greater practice on a regular basis. When we find ourselves disappointed, bogged down in negativity, forcing ourselves to find blessings can add so much thankfulness and joy to our lives. This is a struggle for everyone. But, if you find this to be a constant struggle in your life and would like to pursue counseling please reach out.