Opinion: The negativity of positivity

by Hemeneseter Butu

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I’m afraid I don’t have an audience as big as others have, and the message of positivity might have been misconstrued beyond repair. But I hope we do not breed a society filled with delusional folks. You can’t help but imagine what will happen if a good number of us are in denial.

“Two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity…………..and I’m not sure about the universe
-Albert Einstein

The very essence of positive speech is being misconstrued and people are being misguided. The new school teaching particularly by pastors and other public speakers has gone too far or members of congregations and the public are misinterpreting and taking it too far, I was speaking to my friend, when my network prompt warned me “one minute remaining” so I told her I didn’t have call units I’d call later” she barked back at me, “that’s poor talk, you will never have call units if you keep up talking like that” she’d rather prefer I say “I had units”…………..yes I don’t understand it either.

Sadly, she is not alone, numerous times I’ve been cautioned by followers of positive speech as taught nowadays (home and abroad) not to say “I’m sick, my feet hurts, I don’t have money” etc.

My aunt recently came back from a church service in tears. A sick member of the congregation had refused to eat for days saying she was strong and didn’t need to eat as the prayers will suffice till she slumped, dehydrated, malnutritioned and almost dying.
A few years ago my lecturer in University of Jos refused to seek treatment in the hospital for months, despite knowing he had a slipped disc. It took intervention from family members as the situation only got worse. One thing is similar in these stories, they did not achieve positive results in their bid to be “positive” (what I now term pseudo-positivity).

Risking being misunderstood I’d say this regardless. No one in any nation, in any continent, in any planet has ever been recorded as being successful by imbibing this psuedo-positivity as it is being misconstrued. Saying “I’m a billionaire” a billion times over hasn’t yielded billions for anyone, well not that I know of anyway. Neither has saying “I am fine” in the face of an illness cured anyone. It will always come back, until substantive treatment is sought.

Luckily for me, my mom is a clinical psychologist and she describes the above as the same old term we all know, DENIAL. So what about those who aren’t lucky enough to have an in-house psychologist? How on earth is anyone expected to get help without accepting there is a problem? How do you help someone who refuses to be helped?

We have simply taken the “use positivity to drive out negativity” system too far. The intention of that was to prevent depression, drive out fear and encourage hope even in dire circumstances. Hence genuine positivity says “I’m sick but I’ll still travel by road to attend that job interview in Lagos and nothing will happen to me” not that “I am not sick”. In stronger terms it says “I refuse to be sick” it says “I can’t afford to be ill this very moment” or “I don’t have any cash on me but check back in the evening and I’d find you a way out” positive thinking means being able to combine strategy and pure faith. Refusing to accept limitations and refusing to acknowledge them are not the same thing. The latter is dangerous and must be discouraged at once.

I’m afraid I don’t have an audience as big as others have, and the message of positivity might have been misconstrued beyond repair. But I hope we do not breed a society filled with delusional folks. You can’t help but imagine what will happen if a good number of us are in denial.

For the record I must state categorically that I am all for positive thought, speaking and living. I have always supported anything that stands against pessimism. I’ve always been that guy that sees the underdog and says “You know what? You can do this”. However I cannot understand this recent wave of “pseudo-positivity”.

Real positive teaching encourages action, it fills itself with what is real, and by that I don’t necessarily mean tangible. Positive teaching ought to yield positive results. It is what supported Alexander the great when he was just 33 years old and on a crusade to conquer the known world. It is probably what kept President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua alive despite being terminally ill for years. It is true positivity that guided Steve Jobs and many others to beat cancer for a while. Nonetheless it is evident that even beating limitations has limitations. Alexander the great died, Yar’Adua and Steve Jobs also followed suit, but not before fighting off their limitations, (not denying them) and living positive, successful lives.

Humans have the ability to take ideas and run with them, that’s the beauty of our imaginations, it is what puts innovation in us, it’s what activates geniuses and allows us push our limits. Sadly it’s that same imaginative ability that propels even a terrible idea. This one has gone too far; confusing reality and fantasy and I think it is time we kill it.

Hemenseter Butu tweets from @HemButs

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Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

 

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