Bad Things Happen

An unusual title from me really isn’t it? I don’t normally call things out like this. You know, I’m meant to be one of those fluffy types. A weakness is meant to be about development opportunities. Problems are meant to be about challenges to overcome. Personality clashes are meant to be about a good chance to give feedback and have a chat. But you know, sometimes life is just a bit shit.

Woah! Hold on there, Sukh! Where am I going with this? Well, let’s back track to Positive Psychology. When Martin Seligman talks about this, he tells us the same. He talks about his own life diffciulties in having depression and suffering a bi-polar condition because of it. He talks about how in his life, as much as he wants everyday to be a good day, sometimes they’re just not.

This is worth understanding better. How can the man who started this field of psychology ask us to accept this? Well, because it’s a fact of life. Life doesn’t always play nice. We can be doing all the right things, and yet things happen to just throw us off track. Sometimes you get beaten down. Your energy, it gets sapped. Your motivation, it goes. Your ambition, it wanes. Le Sigh, right?

So what’s the solution? Well, you just accept it’s a shit occurrence. Oddly massively sense-making isn’t it? I can’t change the fact that right now I feel shit. I can’t change the fact that right now I don’t want to be around others. I can’t change the fact that I feel really bad. I can’t change the fact that right now I wish I was living a different life. I can’t change the fact that right now I just want to cry. Don’t change what’s happening right now. Accept it’s shit. Accept it’s not what you want. And just let it be.

Tomorrow, or at the next best opportunity, something will come along and help you be better. See, life has a funny habit if doing that too. It may pass things your way which make it bad, but at the same time, it will pass things your way which are bloody awesome and good. Often, we need others to help us see that these exist. I’ve talked before about the importance of support networks when you’re feeling down, it’s when you’re ready to come out of it that this network is all important.

That’s one of the other things I’ll be writing about in another post is the importance of a support network in Positive Psychology and how it plays a vital role in building resilience and helping others to live a vibrant life. For today, though, let’s take some heart knowing that every day doesn’t have to be great. Today can be shit. Tomorrow presents a different set of thinking and opportunities.


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Sukh Pabial

I'm an occupational psychologist by profession and am passionate about all things learning and development, creating holistic learning solutions and using positive psychology in the workforce.

6 thoughts on “Bad Things Happen”

  1. Wise words, Sukh. Thank you.

    Evidence suggests that we are born almost totally positive and we learn negativity very quickly via our experiences, our parents and our families, then our friends and our teachers, our society.

    Some negativity keeps us alive and protects from harm, Let’s not be totally negative about negativity. An interesting question is how much helps and how much more harms us?

    It interests me that different researchers have found that there is a heathy proportion that leads to satisfying and fulfilling lives and relationships. John Gottman found marital relations thrive when the partners make about five positive comments to each negative comment about each other. Such relationships survive intense bickering and arguing, so long as within them people maintain around this ratio over time .

    Marcial Losada found that teams flourish best when between them members make about six times as many positive as negative comments. He found the qualitative tipping point from ‘getting by” to flourishing happens at 3:1 and sustains up to 11:1 positivity to negativity, suggesting that it is quite a resilient phenomenon and finding the upper limit. Very few people I know go anywhere near that upper limit, I know many who feel hey are being very positive when they are operating around 2:1 positivity to negativity, but Losada found 2:1 is good, but does not shift things. That happens at 3:1. (Google “Losada LIne”)

    Incidentally, Barbara Fredrickson (“Positivity” Crown 2009) has produced an online survey to help people measure their own ratio. Like all measurements, it is contextual and raises more questions than it answers

    Positivity as a general default does ‘work’. The evidence is overwhelming, but it is also so, in a world of complexity and chance, that bad, sad things will happen. The good news is how bad and how sad they are and stay depends to a large extent on how you meet them. Perhaps, the words happy and happen are not similar by chance.

    Thanks again for your blog, Sukh.

    1. Jonathan, thanks very much for visiting and taking the time to comment.

      I love the various ratio pieces you’ve shared here. I know of them, and use them to help me describe the benefits of Positive Psychology in the workplace.

      An interesting piece which I think is raised here, is whether or not the intent someone has is enough to drive their thinking. If my intent is to help you develop, will the language I use be positive in delivery or negative? If my intent is to be critical of your actions, can I frame this positively or will it be negative?

  2. This is an important aspect of Positive Psychology to acknowledge! I have always tried to stay positive and spin everything ‘negative’ into at least a ‘learning experience’ but sometimes it is probably healthier to acknowledge I feel bad when bad things happen …

    This is part of emotional intelligence – go to the emotion, get some insight (why might I feel like this?) then move to action – that action may be to feel OK about feeling bad, or sad, or even angry. It’s the next step that is important – if we ruminate too long those feelings might overwhelm us or affect our confidence or be hard to move on from. So the skill is to find that balance between not suppressing the emotion and not ruminating in it either. My EI training described this as finding the balance between sitting ON the emotion vs sitting IN the emotion.

    Thought-provoking as always Sukh – thanks!

    1. I do what you’ve described. I turn everything negative into a learning experience. Although a useful act in mindfulness, sometimes it is better to just accept the bad feeling and let it settle. We can’t fight what our bodies and minds are telling us, so there’s a lesson in that.

      You know I’m a fan of EQ 🙂 I like the last sentence of the difference between sitting on the emotion vs sitting in the emotion.

  3. There are several organizations that work with positive psychology, promote the science and the applications. I sit on the Board of the Canadian Positive Psychology Association and we have our conference coming up in Toronto, Canada, July 20-21. You and your readers might be interested. Our hashtag is #CPPA2012 and if you can’t attend, you can still follow! or on Twitter and Facebook

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