Reflecting on the past year a few days ago, I said to my family that 2019 had been a horrible year and I’d be glad to see the back of it. We have, as a family, had a couple of truly horrific – and I mean really shocking – things happen this year. But we coped and got through it. We are strong, and we have each other.
But then I reflected some more. On balance, those couple of really nasty things have been outweighed by countless highlights and delights. So, looking at the big picture, 2019 was actually a pretty good year. It’s all a matter of perspective.
I went on some training a couple of years ago – I can’t remember what the actual training was – but one exercise has stuck in my mind. We had to list words used to describe emotions. Then we had to sort the words into those that we considered positive, and those that we felt were negative.
We ended up with a handful of ‘nice’ emotions – such as happy, delighted, contented, pleased. The list of other emotions – anger, despair, irritation, sadness, anxiety, rage, grief, sorrow, shame, guilt – you get the idea – went on and on and on. This made me think, and has kept me thinking, that we seem almost hard-wired to focus on the negative rather than the positive. We have more words for the less pleasant feelings. The range of these words conveys a rich and subtle variety of ways to feel bad. Does language shape thought, or does thought shape language? (Psychologists please enlighten me – I honestly have forgotten how this works). Either way, the connection is there.
Of course, we need to acknowledge the full range of emotions, whether we consider them to be positive or negative. They are what they are, and they are a part of our life experience. But I certainly recognise that I also need, at times, to maintain some perspective.
The sorrow of losing a loved one, for instance, is a part of our love for that person. And love is a source of great joy in our lives.
Too easily, the bad times will stand out, while the good times can retreat to the back of the mind, almost forgotten.
I don’t yet know what 2020 will bring. I know I have some exciting goals ahead. Things are looking good.
I don’t believe in resolutions, but as we head into this new decade I hope to be able to retain a sense of balance and perspective.
Have a happy and healthy 2020.