Pollyanna = a blindly optimistic person.
Perhaps you’ve heard of a “positivity bias” or the “Pollyanna Principles.” Pollyanna always looked on the bright side.
Friend: “I lost $100.” Pollyanna: “Well, at least you didn’t lose $1,000.”
Friend: “I broke my leg.” Pollyanna: “Good thing you didn’t break both of them.”
In every situation, no matter how sad or upsetting, Pollyanna-type people try to find at least one good outcome—a “silver lining.”
Did you know that humans innately look at things with positivity? This bias, which encourages us to pay attention to the positive in life, is generally stronger in older adults than in children and young people. As we age, we tend to remember more positive than negative information. I agree with this observation; do you?
Bring. It. On.
If being called a Pollyanna means I’m that person who can better cope with all the horrible things in the world by being blindly optimistic, I’m all for it. I’m going to let Pollyanna move right into my house and stay for a long visit. If she can fill my head with over-the-top visions for a better world and prevent me from succumbing to the weight of all things negative, I’ll try to extend her time with me for as long as possible.
I need a strong dose of optimism, even at the risk of being branded as naive. I relish the idea of that which keeps out the bad thoughts. I’m happy to be pumped up over and over without the sneaking knowledge that there’s a leak (slow or fast) that needs patching. Even when I meditate and spend time in nature and pet my beloved kitty, I want to feel nothing more than a sense of calmness about our future.
Sure, I worry. Of course, I get discouraged. And often I feel helpless to make it all better. You’ve witnessed that side of my feelings in many of these weekly posts. But I do know there are things I can do to affect change, and they include voting and not being complicit.
When I see the three major powers of the world (the US., China, and Russia) and how we have each other in a scope that points to destruction of us and them, I worry that we’re headed into the long dark night of the soul. Coupled with a pandemic that looks like it’ll never end, and compounded by racial and political and civil atrocities … well, you get my drift.
When will it get better?
This is where my inner Pollyanna reminds me that it’s always the darkest before the dawn.
What happens when a addict quits drugs? They get violently ill before they feel better. I recall when I quit smoking, I felt crappy for several weeks as my body purged the nicotine and other harsh chemicals.
The two times in my life when I’ve been in therapy, I lived in confusion and angst and anger for months … right before the picture improved and a constructive path forward was revealed.
Perhaps that’s what’s going on in our world right now. Maybe we’re stuck in that unbelievable place of anger, lack of compassion, and general intolerance for everyone and everything so that this hot, messy lava flow of upset can allow new “land” to form. I have to believe the lava will cool and expand our surface area.
Regardless, the case can be made for elders staying engaged, even when it feels too scary to get scorched by the evil of it all. Our futures are at stake … our very lives will be impacted by decisions made by those in our world. These are difficult and hugely transitional days.
Let’s hang out with Pollyanna
When you find your silver lining is tarnished, make space for Pollyanna. She’s more than willing and able to provide support when all else fails. Cultivate her.
I’ve found that writing down all the doom and gloom and then recording correspondingly positive views helps in nourishing a more positive outlook.
All events go on, whether we white knuckle through them or embrace a rosier perspective.
I say, take heart and invite Pollyanna into your world. You’ll be happier and so will those around you.