Doesn’t this title sound fairy tale or fable kind? – The rotten apple and the killing! Actually, I don’t intend to share a fairy tale here but I found these words as great metaphors to describe negativity and suicides. Yes, the rotten apple here is negativity which highlights the fact that the more we fall prey to negative thoughts or negative people , the more we are destroyed like the wildfire that spreads and the killing , mainly focused on suicides – negativity can push one to take extreme steps like giving up your life. We all remember the famous proverb – ‘One rotten egg/apple can spoil the whole basket’ and yes, this can happen with our mindsets too.
The current COVID-19 situation has distanced all of us in many ways and the isolation that follows has let our minds wander with highs and lows and I have experienced this myself too. Lockdowns, disruptions to normal life, lack of social mingling or meet ups etc have made us think of extremes and more so on the negative side with regards to what the future will hold for us and our future generations.
Negativity, as we all know is the thief that steals happiness. It distracts us from our goals. It is like the termite that eats up your happiness and peace in every way that leaves you disturbed, depressed and weak like the rotten apple that loses it’s sheen. Overthinking leads to negative thoughts. Negativity is also a wastage of time. I am sure at some or the other point of life we are aware of all these side effects of negativity it has on us like feeling down resulting in anger, frustration, irritability, to even anxiety and depression – all unpleasant feelings. We see the effects of negativity on our body too – the body lowers its defenses as all our energy gets subtracted by negativity. Negativity begins to create obstacles in our thinking so much that we fail to see the possibilities and begin to attract circumstances that support our negative thinking.
The other day I came across a Ted talk on Youtube regarding negative thinking and how we tend to stick to the negative for long and how it takes great deal of efforts to switch back to the positive. This video made me realize the truth of negative thinking and how it sticks to our minds. The speaker Alison Ledgerwood, a socio psychologist in Department of Psychology at UC Davis shares her thoughts of how people think and how they can think better. Her Ted talk started with her own example of how her usual work required her to research and publish papers and when her paper got accepted, she was happy but when another paper got rejected, she was low and sad. In the course of days, as and when her papers got accepted, she felt that her mind and thoughts were still stuck with the paper that got rejected.
Alison described the glass of water example as well where we see it either half full or half empty. She spoke of the fact, that the way we describe it, is the way we begin to feel or think in those terms. A half glass of water is called the ‘gain frame’ because you are focusing on what is gained and people like it. The other half empty glass of water is the ‘loss frame’ which people do not like.
She spoke about her researches around this thought process to understand if failure actually sticks to our mind more than success. The research survey was set up to speak of a surgical procedure that was detailed out to two different groups with it’s success or failure rate – to Group A and Group B. To Group A , the surgical procedure was explained to have 70% success rate and to Group B it was defined as a procedure with a 30% failure rate. Group A liked the procedure owing to it’s success rate and Group B disliked the procedure owing to it’s failure rate. Alison and her team wanted to add a twist to this research so they added the loss/gain frame to each of the groups. Group A was then informed, that the procedure would have a 30% failure rate – they immediately disliked it (after the loss frame was added).
And to Group B – they were informed of the 70% success rate , the group still disliked it inspite of the gain frame added to it. They seem to be stuck in the initial loss frame.
This research clearly indicated on how once the loss frame gets in there, it sticks. It gets harder to shift to the good frame. There was another quick test that Alison’s team conducted with a group of people with a simple math problem. The math problem was – if there was an outbreak of a disease in a city and 600 lives were at stake ,
Group 1 – With 100 lives saved, calculate how many lives were lost?
Group 2 – with 100 lives lost, calculate how many lives were saved?
The answer was just to calculate 500 in both cases, but the focus was more on the time taken for conversion and shift in the frames. Group 1 had to shift from gain frame to the loss frame and Group 2 had to shift from the loss frame to the gain frame. The test was on how quickly the groups converted from one frame to another. The test results revealed that Group 1 was able to quickly convert from gain to loss frame in in 7 seconds average and Group 2 took an approximate of 11 seconds on an average to convert from loss to gain frame. This clearly showed that it takes the quickest time for anybody to shift from gains to losses and longest to shift from loss to gain frames.
Alison was of the opinion that our view of the world has fundamental tendency to tilt towards the negative. Pretty easy to go from gain to loss but difficult to do the other way round. We literally have to work harder to see upside of things. The same holds for economy. The economic well being tanked between 2007 and 2010 due to the 2007-2009 recession and economy gained during the year 2010. The same case was for the consumer confidence, it tanked along with the economy and then it got stuck. Instead of bouncing back with economy, psychologically the consumers were stuck back there in the recession. It clearly showed that it takes more the efforts to change our minds regarding the economy change than the economy itself.
Alison brought out the right cords of negative thinking and how it takes efforts and work to look at the bright side of things or jump back to the positive side. We can practice this and train our mind to take more efforts to think better. Alison mentioned that as per research it clearly indicated that just writing for a few minutes, each day about the things you are grateful for ,can automatically boost your mood, your well being and of course, your health. We think that venting or sharing on how terrible our day was with others, will help us feel better or would help us get rid of our negative emotions, so we talk and talk bad and forget about the good stuffs. Alison also mentioned on how we need to work in our communities to be aware that bad tends to stick. One mean comment can stick with someone all day, all week even for months and bad tends to propagate itself. Our minds may be built to look for negative information and to hold on to it but we can also retrain our minds if we put some efforts into it and start to see the glass may be a little more full.
This video opened my eyes about the reality and truth of negative thinking, it had all the truths of how actually it is a struggle to see the good side or bounce back. About the fact of writing the good things on a daily basis, is a great exercise she recommended. Gratitude is the greatest virtue we should be currently practicing in this difficult situation of COVID-19. We have a shelter to stay safe, food to eat every meal time in a day and water to drink, clothes to cover our body but there are millions struggling for the next meal, no shelter to stay and are on the lookout with torn clothes and no proper water to drink or to clean themselves and maintain hygiene or even sanitize to keep the virus at bay. Each little section of our day that goes unnoticed should be thanked for , because had we not had these comforts that we neglect we would not have been saved by this dreaded disease of Corona virus. Think about the people who are struggling to meet ends meet, we are much richer than them in all these ways. It is high time we take life less granted and each day be thankful for the safe shelter, food, family around and clothes to wear.
Gratitude is said to have great power to help attract more good. It helps us feel good about the blessings we have, it also helps attract more of it. Due to Covid-19 situation, we are now in that stage of life where we should be thankful for the little things we took for granted. Our families, our parents/spouse/children – the times we rarely spent with them , the shelter on our heads, the food on our plate, the dishes we are relishing now , the protective gears we are buying and utilizing to keep us safe from the virus, the ‘Me time’ that we always missed having, the hobbies were kept closed in the closet due to the excuse of ‘No time’ and much much more. Being thankful for the blessings we have, while we pray for the bad times to evade away is the need of the hour. You cannot be groaning that you are missing out on your normal life, when these tough situations have actually helped you gain much more. You cannot have everything in the world but you have to adjust with time. We need to stay hopeful and gratitude is the only right attitude that will help us stay hopeful during such times.
I have also come across the formula for stopping negativity – Yes, a quick formula – Every time you have a negative thought entering your head, become aware, mindful and realize that it could grow a tree out of it’s own. Begin to say – No or Stop to that negative thought. Say it out loud or something more forceful like “Get out of my head” etc. Another quick solution is change your posture or begin to do something, that way your mind deviates from having that negative thought surge high.
My best read book so far has been ‘Man’s search for meaning by Victor Frankl’. Victor Frankl brings out the best lessons on human survival post his own experience of the Holocaust concentration camp terror during the World War II. Though based and written during those times, this book is a must read in the current situation of COVID-19. Frankl outlines the 3 main sources of life’s meaning – in work (doing something significant) ; in love (caring for another person) and in courage in difficult times. This book has brought out deep facets of the concentration camp life , the mindset of people suffering in those times and how eventually some of them managed to survive through and bounce back victoriously. I really suggest the readers to read this book and another one – ‘Say yes to life in spite of everything’ – also written by Victor Frankl , where he highlights the different types of suicides, the troubled mindsets of people and how we should look for a better living in the one and only life given to us.
Suicides, the killing – The current COVID-19 situation has brought a lot of fear in the minds of humans, resulting in most of them giving up on their lives. The recent suicide of Sushant Singh Rajput, a remarkable actor and human being had taken the world by shock. His last movie ironically spoke of how we cannot decide our birth or death but we can decide how we can live. He was a gem of a person. His death and many such suicides have taught us one big lesson – Life can be lived, if not for our own selves at least for our loved ones. Financial troubles, relationships, loss of job, failures etc are all temporary – everything has a way or an opportunity or a learning attached to it. We should not be giving up on this one life we have been gifted with.
I must share this one conversation on radio that I heard the other day, where the Radio jockey was talking to his friend, a lady who had posted about her suicidal tendencies on Instagram , reason being her troubled marriage. He started off by telling her that he is feeling some pain in his finger, may be cutting his hand would be an option to get rid of this pain. Obviously, his friend was petrified, she began telling him if he had lost his senses that he came up with this decision , instead of going to the doctor to get a check up done to know the real reason of the pain. By then, he turned the table to her and asked her – “Isn’t that the same solution for you?”. He reminded her of the Instagram post she had put up where she spoke of planning to give up on her life, and then raised his voice and spoke of the many truths that actually sounded harsh, yet emotional. He spoke of how she should first think of her mother, who after taking so much pain and trouble, brought her into this world. He underlined the fact that the troubles she faced are nothing in front of the troubles her parents have faced just to bring her up. Her parents, who gave her their time, their money, their sacrifices in every form to make her a wonderful girl she was today only to realize that she didn’t find her life worthwhile now and she wanted to give up on it, all because a man had ruined her life. He asked her if she would consider her life worthless after being with her husband for just two years or the 26 years that she had been living on her own with her loving parents and supporting friends. She broke into tears and apologized for the thinking she came up on giving her life and promised she would now face life strongly and with the support of her parents. The RJ asked her to first meet her parents and give them a hug and feel how it is to leave them just by this one quick decision of giving up on life.
This conversation moved me. It is true that our decision of ending our life can be detrimental to our parents, our loving friends, our families, our teachers who have given their immense love, support, trust, care, time selflessly to us in every way. It is definitely a betrayal to their unconditional love if we ever decided to give up on our lives just because we cannot face one difficult situation of life. Think of such situations like a dark cloud or a pain that will not stay for long and will also pass. When you face such situations with a strong mind and courage, this too shall pass. So is the current situation, COVID-19 is not here to stay. The situation is grim, tough but with a lot of learning and strength we will overcome this bad rainy day.
When you ever think of giving up on your life, talk to that one person in your life who you truly trust to help you come out of this situation or more so, use the deathbed method. Imagine you are lying on your death bed already and people have surrounded you. You see your parents, friends, colleagues, school teachers, children, relatives mourning and try to think of their conversations – of course, during death people say all good things but also hear the guilt or the ‘If’s’ or ‘Wish’ in the conversations. People really say , “Wish he/she hadn’t done this”, “He/she had this dream to fulfil, he/she was the only source of support to someone and much more”. Think how your loss can matter to your loved ones. May be people don’t express now but everyone has their way of showing their love to you. It could be through getting all the things you require, enquiring about your meal, or medicines if you have taken on time or if you had a good sleep, how work/studies is going etc. This shows their love and care and concern for you and we must live up to it. Try engaging yourself helping a less fortunate , feed the poor, share your clothes with them, offer small help once a while – it will help you realize how you can be a light in someone’s life. It can give you meaning and a purpose to live.
Never be afraid of seeking psychological help. It is never wrong to go to a counselling center or seek psychiatric help. For a pain in your tooth, you should be going to a dentist and not a neurologist or general physician. Similarly, only a psychiatrist or a counselor will be able to hear you out, understand your problems and also suggest ways to overcome your issues. May be you wouldn’t want to let anybody know , it is completely fine and psychiatrists/counselors are trained to remain confidential in providing assistance to their patients. It is okay not to share with everybody for the fear of judging, but ensure you confide in someone, will listen to you, who will not judge you, who will stand by you or guide you. Counselors/Psychiatrists are well trained. Frankly, I have also had my lows 6-7 years back, I have gone to a counseling center as well after a close friend suggested me. When I look back at the troubles I faced those times and now, I am really thankful for having come a long way with better and great times now touchwood. If I think of the problems then and now, I really feel that bad times are just storms in your life – they are not here to stay but will surely pass for more good times and will create rainbows in your lives.
I am not afraid to accept the fact that I have sought help mentally. Sometimes your mind can overthink, push you to your extreme levels and can be detrimental for you. Like the pain in your back or head can get worse, so does your mindset get heavy with unwanted thinking and decisions during such times can be taken in haste and can be bad for you as well as your closed ones. There is just no harm in seeking help to share your thoughts and overcome them. If you have friends feeling low, or have been overthinking or you get a slightest hint of negativity from them, hear them out, talk to them and don’t judge them. Negativity increases sensitivity in people’s minds. What you say to them can make them overthink and feel bad or good. Choose your words when you help them.
Came across Pinterest also sharing the above image, when I was trying to find quotes on suicide. Do think of such people who have given up on their lives. Had they had a second chance, things would have been better. Their decisions on giving up on life and the loss of their lives teach us a big lesson – they remind us that we have love around, people do care for us and will always do. Remember, once you give up on life there is no coming back, there is no return.. only regrets that all your loved ones will live with.
I always feel we are all warriors, we can all fight our struggles and come out. Life is all about winning, losing, joys and sorrows. Always remember, “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” Read this quote in the preface of the book – Man’s search for meaning where Victor Frankl has quoted this one, by the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. Always remember, your life is precious 😊