Consider another example
After taking an examination, but before you received your exam scores, did you find yourself worrying about the questions
that you thought you answered incorrectly rather than balancing your thoughts by also considering the questions that you likely
answered correctly? On numerous occasions while attending veterinary school, I expended energy by blowing events out of proportion
in this fashion, only to learn later that although I had incorrectly answered some questions, my test scores ranked with others
at the top of the class. Other than learning one of life's experiences related to needless worrying, of what benefit today
was the choice I made to unproductively worry about an examination more than four decades ago?
One point of this illustration is that if we choose to do so, we can find a negative detail in any situation (e.g. I incorrectly
answered a few exam questions) and dwell on it to the extent that we develop the distorted perception that the entire situation
is negative (e.g. I performed poorly in taking the entire exam). It is not a negative event, but the choice to negatively
respond feeds the energy vampire.
Causes and effects of positive thinking
How can we minimize loss of precious time and energy that invariably occur when we have a negative attitude? Recall that between
a stimulus (or an event) and our response to the stimulus, there is a space. In that space is our opportunity to choose how
we will respond. Because we can often change our circumstances by changing our attitude, it is to our advantage to think before
we react. The principle of cause and effect predicts that if we choose to respond in a positive proactive way, we will limit
the amount of energy and time lost in pursuit of unproductive negative reactions.
In these situations, instead of feeding the energy vampire with negative emotions and actions, we can starve him by making
the choice a positive one. Recall that negative thoughts (e.g. being defensive, resentful, suspicious, blaming, selfish) foster
negative results (e.g. being indifferent, apathetic, withholding, uncooperative, hostile, litigious, etc.). However, positive
thoughts (e.g. being understanding, compassionate, appreciative, trusting, forgiving, etc.) foster positive results (giving,
sharing, caring, communicative, enlightening, happy and productive). When we allow ourselves to be reactive, we let the words
and actions of others control our feelings. Classic examples of this are embodied in the statements, "You make me angry!"
and "Now look what you made me do!" In contrast, when we practice being proactive, we exercise control over our feelings,
and thus focus our thoughts and actions on events that we can influence in a positive fashion. By thinking about problems
as opportunities rather than obstacles, we can put plans into action to explore creative alternatives. Thus, we symbolically
starve problems and feed opportunities.
It's about choices
The key point of this column is that being negative or being positive is the result of our choices. Practical application
of this principle does not relate primarily to whether or not we express our feelings, but the manner in which we express
them. We all have a choice about to how we will react to circumstances. Each of us is responsible for our choice to either
magnify or help resolve the problems we face.
The question is, do we recognize our responsibility to develop our "response ability"? True, this requires practice and patience.
But understanding the principle that we are responsible for our own mental attitude and frame of mind is to our great benefit.
Why? Because, it provides us with the opportunity to exercise self-control and to consciously choose how we feel and act.
On the other hand, if we do not pause and think about how to respond (that is we do not wisely use our response ability),
we will by default feed the energy vampire by choosing to allow other people and circumstances to negatively influence our
reactions and thereby reduce our effectiveness.