Kvetching

Barbara Held, USA

Psychologist. www.kvetching.com

(Submitted by the author)

Many Americans insist that everyone have a positive attitude, even when the going gets rough. From the self-help bookshelves to the Complaint-Free World movement, the power of positive thinking is touted now more than ever as the way to be happy, healthy, wealthy, and wise.

The problem is this demand for good cheer brings with it a one-two punch for those of us who cannot cope in that way: first you feel bad about whatever’s getting you down, then you feel guilty or defective if you can’t smile and look on the bright side. And I’m not even sure there always is a bright side to look on.

I believe that there is no one right way to cope with all the pain of living. As an academic psychologist, I know that people have different temperaments, and if we are prevented from coping in our own way, be it “positive” or “negative”, we function less well. As a psychotherapist, I know that sometimes a lot of what people need when faced with adversity is permission to feel crummy for a while, to realize that feeling bad is not automatically the same as being mentally ill. Some of my one-session “cures” have come from reminding people that life can be difficult, and it’s okay if we’re not happy all the time.

It’s okay for you to cope in your own way, to recover at your own pace, to be your own mess of a self. That is when you begin to realize that you have been tyrannized by the idea that everyone must always have a positive attitude.

Having flourished in my own authentically kvetchy way, I believe that we would be better off if we let everyone be themselves – positive, negative, or somewhere in between.

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