Keep it positive! A phrase I hate

All my career I heard that phrase. In advertising, they practically force fed it.

When did we become so fake that anything other than bliss was off limits? There are times when a warped or dark point of view is funny.

One time, we did an ad for Ethyl (now under another name.) It was for a fireproof suit. We featured a photo of a guy walking through fire with the suit on and the headline was something like, “Our guys walk through hell to test our suits.” The client loved it. Except for one thing. Could we make it more “positive?” Remove that client trigger word “hell” and the headline was perfect to them. “Our guys walk to test our suits?” That sucked all the life out of the headline.

After Charles suicide, it wasn’t said literally but implied. Why can’t I look at the bright side? People wanted to move me from sad like it was their duty to make me happy again when all I really needed was someone to listen and let me talk about Charles for a few minutes. I managed to find joy again but not before being very sad for a long time. That’s grief. It doesn’t mean something is wrong with me or that I needed a cure. Sadness is natural after a soul-crushing loss.

I can look on the bright side. But it doesn’t mean I can live there nonstop. Feelings are temporary and I often slap myself in the face with positive when I start to get negative. Usually, giving myself grief.

“Oh so you think you’ve not heard back because it’s some personal vendetta? They don’t even know you so you have not even surfaced on their radar. People are just busy! Keep trying.” So I do use positive self talk when I get ridiculous.

Then I occasionally get someone who asks me if I can keep the story of my son’s suicide positive. Like a tear shed by someone in the audience is a trophy that signifying event failure. When I present, people laugh, they cry, they feel! Because what I’m about is keeping it real. None of that fake attitude. It’s never hopeless.

I do believe in positive thinking but not invalidating someone’s feelings of being in a different mood because it’s uncomfortable for me. If being positive means being fake, I’m not doing it.

I regret telling Charles to look for the silver lining all the time. What was I thinking? I could drag him out of the darkness and into the light with my stupid parental advice? Like he’d just lap it up and say, “Oh my gosh, mom, thank you for that wisdom! I’ll tattoo that on my ass so I remember it always.”

I know how much I hated the positive phrase. How was the silver lining one different? Nothing I can do about that now. At least I know it inspired a song he wrote that I really love.

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Anne Moss Rogers

I am the mother of two boys and the owner of emotionally naked, a site that reached a quarter million people in its first 18 months. I am a writer and professional public speaker on the topics of suicide, addiction, mental illness, and grief and my book, Diary of a Broken Mind, will be published in the fall. I lost my youngest son, Charles, 20, to suicide June 5, 2015. As talented and funny as Charles was, letting other people know they matter was his greatest gift. And now the legacy I try and carry forward in my son's memory. Professional Speaker Website

7 thoughts on “Keep it positive! A phrase I hate”

  1. Yes those ol’ platitudes. Recently while listening to the Dan Patrick radio show he “came out” on his depression and suicidal thoughts while suffering for years with rare polymyalgia rheumatica causing extreme pain requiring opiods, Prednisone and self-medication. He said people called him “courageous” for coming out. He said he’s not the courageous one. The courageous ones are the ones that suffer real mental illness and don’t wait to “come out”. I emailed him (surprise no response) to let him know I realize he was well meaning but he was playing into to the stigma where those statements can make people think if someone is mentally ill and doesn’t speak up they are weak. I also said someone with mental illness hearing this might tumble further into feelings of low self-worth and despair. I ended by saying you can’t cure cancer with platitudes. You can’t cure mental illness with platitudes.

      1. Yeah. Anyway, long time no post from me. And as you know we are basically on the same timeline. After three and a half years I’ve gotten to the point where I’m feeling uncomfortably OK. That’s major. I’m retired now and able to do passionate hobbies that put me in the moment not thinking of Daniel’s suicide. In between those in-the-moments my mind control has greatly improved. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to start the video to the place before without it fast forwarding to the end. But my ability not to stay there has greatly improved. How bout you?

        1. It has improved a lot. Writing the book was cathartic and helped me work through a lot. I was thinking the other day that I had not heard from you in a while and I was about to reach out to you. Every time that has happened you have commented the very next day. It’s like you receive some secret signal from me. Thank you for the update, too, because that is exactly what I wanted to know. I wanted to know how you are doing.

  2. Our culture is averse to feeling emotions other than happiness and anger. All the others are stuffed down. But real life is so much more complex, isn’t it? Thank you, as always, for sharing your journey with us. ❤️

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