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The Choice is Yours
Adapted from the works of Susan Jeffers, Ph.D.

In Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway, Susan describes a demonstration she used in her classes - a volunteer would hold out their arm and try to resist Susan's efforts to push their arm down, which they could easily do. Then she had them repeat to themselves ten times the phrase 'I am a weak and unworthy person' and would try the experiment again. After that, Susan had no problem pushing down the volunteer's arm. Their ability to resist had changed.

That demonstration tells us a lot about the power of negativity, not just the negativity in our own minds, but the negativity that bombards us every day through the media and on the internet.

As we discussed last month, so much of the media focuses on the negative. While it's easy to point our finger at the media, we also need to point the finger back at ourselves. After all, we could turn off the TV or not read every news story, but we don't. The reason we don't is that people tend to focus on bad things that happen because we feel that they are somehow more important than happy things. In psychology, this is referred to as a Negativity Bias. As Susan wrote in Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway, ''I know that some fear is instinctual and healthy, and keeps us alert to trouble. The rest - the part that holds us back from personal growth - is inappropriate and destructive, and perhaps can be blamed on our conditioning.''

Negative events are not more important than positive ones. Bad events are not what most people experience on a day-to-day basis. Sure, some of our days might be filled with set-backs and minor frustrations, but most of us don't have to worry about being bombed, gunned down, starved to death, or denied access to basic services. Yet how many of us focus on what's awful instead of what is wonderful and praiseworthy? When we focus on what's wrong, when we let our fear of it take away our power, we lose any chance of making a change for the better.

Susan tells us:
''On a global level, if you believe that it is hopeless to halt nuclear annihilation, you won't get involved in standing up for peaceful solutions to the world's problems. If you know this situation is not hopeless, you say yes to the opportunity to get involved in the process of making ours a peaceful planet, as so many people are doing throughout the world. These people are not paralyzed by fear, because they are saying yes to the opportunities inherent in the situation.''

We can't change the world immediately by changing our way of thinking, but we can begin to pull ourselves out of the quagmire of fear when we work to change the way we approach the world. If we step outside the door every morning convinced that the world is an awful place, then it will be. To make ourselves more powerful in the face of that negativity, we need to reject it.

Susan's message is clear: We need to look between the cracks to see all the good that humans do for each other and all the beauty and wonder that's in the world. Then by disallowing the negative events in life and refusing to accept them as a condition of our lives, we can begin to enhance the positive, and create and effectuate the great changes that we are capable of.

The choice is yours. It always is.

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