Positive Contributions Equal a Brighter Day
Have you ever met that person who enters a room and is instantly likable? Someone who has a positive comment to make about everything she sees? Think of the type of person who will brighten up a room just by being in it. That person brings a smile to other people's faces, often a reflection of her own. It does not take much of an intellectual leap to understand why we want a person like that around. But how do we become that person for others, or even for ourselves?
Fighting back the negative emotions
As a lung cancer patient, I have had plenty of people ask me how I keep a positive attitude. My answer is that I don't, certainly not always. I am human, after all, and that means I suffer from a range of moods influenced both internally and externally. My medication has messed with my hormones, deprived me of sleep, created dozens of new types of pain that I never imagined for myself, and has left me feeling sick and gloomy on otherwise beautiful days. Sometimes, I am simply grumpy and tired or even angry. For a while, I was in danger of alienating my own daughter because of my quick, steroid-induced temper that made my eyes look crazy and my neck throb with rage.
Reading emotional energy
But it was not just cutting back on the steroids that helped reverse that ship before it collided with the impending iceberg. I knew I didn't want to sink my relationships, and I knew that the forces affecting me were not representative of who I was or wanted to be. So I focused on being mindful as much as possible, of being in the moment enough to appreciate what was going on there.
When I walk into a room, I don't want to see the energy level drop. It is never easy to enter a social space and watch expressions change from casual joy to pity or sorrow. But I have seen that, too often. Even when greeted with hopeful smiles, there has been something else behind the eyes that says, "poor you." And that sentiment transfers, as readily as anger or love.
There is nothing mystical about this "emotional energy" between people. We are programmed to pick up on cues, evolutionally imprinted from primal fight or flight instincts. Our brains developed with an ingrained need for narratives to drive our understanding of the world. As such, we have the power to create our own stories and affect others by how we express them.
If we think of our own emotional states as one side of an infinity mirror, but project the image of whomever we interact with into the glass instead of our own recurring face, it may be possible to visualize how a mood can be reflected and transferred. Or think of it this way: be the light you wish to shine, and it will illuminate those around you.
A presence for good
Of course, sometimes another person's emotions will be bigger than yours, and in those cases, it simply takes resolve to maintain your commitment. As a cancer patient, I long ago came to the conclusion that my quality of life is tied to the positive contributions that I am able to make in the world. If my presence can brighten a room, even that small change to other people's lives makes a difference to my own. And when I am feeling down or defeated and another person brightens the room I am in, it reminds me of why I love being a part of this life.
Editor’s Note: We are extremely saddened to say that on October 21, 2018, Jeffrey Poehlmann passed away. Jeffrey’s advocacy efforts and writing continue to reach many. He will be deeply missed.
Where have you found the most support during your lung cancer journey?