I know a woman, a full-time resident of the negative zone, who saved for years to go on her dream vacation. Once she finally got there, it rained constantly—and her vacation was ruined.
Now, it’s important to understand that residing in the negative zone means that no matter what good may come your way, you will find something wrong with it. This is what I call the Eeyore Syndrome.
You remember A.A. Milne’s classic character Eeyore. This friend of Winnie the Pooh was a threadbare, gray donkey that was always moping around, talking to himself and awaiting his inevitable misfortune.
Well, that’s this woman. I swear she could win $500 million in the lottery and her attitude would be, “Oh boy. I just knew this would happen. Now the government is going to take half and I’ll wind up with only $250 million. Why does everything have to happen to me?” She’s the kind of person you want to smack right in the back of the head and shout, “SNAP OUT OF IT!”
When this woman came back from her vacation, she couldn’t wait to tell me everything that went wrong. I got comfortable and let her vent her woes.
“Oh my God, Steven,” she said despairingly. “Do you know how long we saved for this vacation? And you’ve known me long enough to know that if something bad is going to happen to anyone, chances are it will happen to me! It’s been that way ever since I was a child. Can you believe it rained every day while we were on our vacation? I should have realized something like this would happen! Why would I expect anything else? My brother went on vacation last year and he and his girlfriend had a wonderful time! My sisters just came back two weeks ago from their vacations with their families and everyone was so nice and tan. But, no, not us! The weather was horrible from the day we arrived to the day we left.” Shaking her head in sorrow, looking at me for sympathy, she said, “The rain ruined our vacation!”
Let’s get this straight. The rain didn’t ruin this woman’s vacation. What really ruined her vacation was the constant bombardment of negative thinking that caused her to feel victimized. It was her thoughts about the bad weather that supported an overwhelmingly negative belief system and a pre-existing bad attitude that ruined her vacation.
Yes, of course, it would have been nice if she had some sunshine on the trip. But she didn’t. And in concentrating so much of her energy on what wasn’t working, she never gave herself a chance to have a good time. It’s impossible to have a good time or a successful outcome if your thoughts are causing you to be miserable.
When you allow outside circumstances to determine your happiness, your natural state of peace deteriorates. When this happens, inner peace is replaced with a feeling that you are being cheated. That’s how you get caught up in the Eeyore Syndrome.
Why can’t I get a break? My life really sucks. I should have stayed in bed. This will never work. Who am I kidding anyway?
This type of thinking reflects a lack of confidence in yourself and a failure to trust in the process of life. As a result, your enjoyment and appreciation of all the good stuff that life has to offer gets distorted, leaving you in a victimized state and an ultimately unhappy existence.
Remember, thoughts don’t just happen. They are something we create and therefore we are able to direct them. When something upsetting happens, it’s your thoughts about the situation that will either minimize or magnify the effect it will have on you.
My friend allowed herself to create a thought pattern that was causing a negative emotional response and that was setting off an unhealthy physical response. You don’t need to be a doctor to know that her heart was racing, her stomach was tight and she simply wasn’t feeling right.
Those physiological side effects were causing her to think even more negatively, which, in turn, agitated her condition, and so on and so forth. It was a vicious cycle that she was creating. In fact, the real absurdity in all this is that this woman will relive the entire ordeal of her rainy vacation every time she tells this story, multiplying her negativity far more than the actual experience ever could—a classic example of the snowball effect. And I’m willing to bet that she has an arsenal of similar “woe-is-me” stories to prove to the world and to herself that she was, and always will be, a victim.
So instead of whining and making statements about how bad things are and how bad things have been, make every attempt to make statements that cause you to see the situation from a more positive angle. The choice is yours. You can choose to become the victim or the victor. That’s why the habit of methodically shifting your thoughts is paramount. Remember, the goal to bouncing back from any negative experience is to gradually shift your way of thinking to things that make yourself feel better.