Friday, October 21, 2011

The Power of Positivity

Indulge me for a moment, and read the next three bullet points individually without looking ahead until you have absorbed what they say. I will meet you below them.

  • Don’t picture a pink elephant! 
  • Don’t think about an orange!
  • Don’t imagine your next vacation!

Were you able to do it? My guess is that most people reading this pictured all three – the pink elephant, the orange, and the vacation (where are you planning to go?). Essentially, the brain thinks about what is before it, and in this case, that is a pink elephant, an orange, and a vacation. It does not necessarily process the “don’t” until after it has thought about the subject.

In some circles, people say the brain cannot process negatives, but that is not exactly what is happening. What is really happening is that the brain is processing everything, and the subject gains a moment of time in the overworked brain before the brain realizes that it is not supposed to be thinking about it. What I am really trying to say is that we give power to any subject just by thinking about it, whether we think about it in “good” or “bad” terms.

So why do I bring this up? I read a lot of blogs. I read a lot of blogs about lawyers and several blogs about ex-lawyers. These are people who have left the profession because of its toxicity and offer their ideas for the rest of us to get out. I have mentioned this before, stating, “But I likemy job!” I think these blogs offer a great service to many people struggling in the day-to-day rat race that is the legal profession, but so often when I read them, I cannot get past the first sentence.

Why? They start with negativity. They start with everything that is wrong about the profession. And yes, I realize I am participating in that negativity by commenting on it in this way. But the point is that their underlying message is awesome – “take care of yourself before the legal profession kills you!” Another common theme is “follow your heart.” But that message is buried under a mountain, sometimes a large mountain, of everything wrong with the legal profession.

Thus, the negativity has power. We imagine the negativity as we read. And imagining it brings it into our being. It permeates us whether we experience it ourselves or read about others. That’s empathy.

I’m bringing this up now because I see the same theme in the Occupy movement here in Dunedin, New Zealand. I really want to support them, even if I may not agree with everything they are saying, I see the global Occupy movement as an awakening, a bringing together of people from all walks of life who are standing up for what they believe. That’s awesome! But the biggest sign here in Dunedin is “Smash Corporate Greed.” Every time I see it, which is at least twice per day, I feel like I’m being punched in the gut, and that is only partly because I see the difference between Starbucks and Wal-Mart – both corporations, but with vastly different influences on the world.

The real punch in the gut comes from the negativity. There is a growing, but still small, movement online called “Occupy Your Heart.” Obviously this has been a theme for me this week. But I originally heard about it from the Dunedin Yoga Studio owner, and then I searched for it online.

The movement is not against anything, it is for opening the heart space, something we desperately need in this world. But it has no focus about what it is against – just about tuning into what really matters and “wrappingyour heart around it.” It gives power to the heart rather than power to negativity and all the things it is against and anti.

People are still going to have awful days at law offices. It is still important to point out the inequalities that exist in the world. But would you rather give power to the negative or power to the positive? I know which one I am going to try to choose, over and over again. If we give power to the positive, that power will spread. Are you in?


© Rebecca Stahl 2011, all rights reserved.


  1. Becca,
    I love this post! Especially as it is applying to my life currently. I'm having some disagreements with my boss over the way some financial stuff is being handled and I think this is a great reminder. Its exactly what I've been trying to do since last night. Focus on all the things I like about my work here currently - and try not to get hung up on the stuff we disagree on but work more on the stuff we can agree on. Its a very good point and well timed for me! Thanks!

  2. Hi Sarah,

    I am so glad this post resonated with you! Good luck with the situation with your boss.