I love the new terms this generation uses for certain things especially things like, “You’re such a Debbie Downer” or “Negative Nancy.” I just laugh every time I hear one of those comments.
What’s not funny is having to live with someone who is just that!
Whether it is a spouse, friend, family member or coworkers, it is always a challenge to remain positive in a negative society. Maybe it’s an elderly parent or loved one who may never have been negative their whole life and now that they are getting older or may even be experiencing some stage of dementia that may be altering their perception of things, it’s still so difficult being on the other side of these folks who continually drain you of your own hope and outlook in life.
Negative people tend to leave others around them drained, tired and lethargic. No matter what you say, they always seem to find a way to counter with a negative opinion. When they face a problem, they soak themselves in the issue rather than deal with it constructively. They adopt a self-victimizing mindset, complaining about whatever happens.
Even when you try to change the topic to something positive, they have a way to turn it into something negative. They are constantly fixated with the doom and gloom of (their) life. The old “somebody’s done me wrong” song. Everything is black; there is no white. In the event there is some element of positivity that enters their spectrum, they are quick to excuse that as a one-off encounter or see the dark side behind that.
To negative people, life just sucks. They remain in a “victim” mentality.
HOW DO WE RESPOND?
Here are a few things you can do when dealing with a negative, aging parent or loved one:
Allow them to express their negativity. The elderly often feel like their opinions and thoughts don’t matter. If you allow them to have their say without any retort, that will likely be the key that allows them to soften a bit. You may not agree with what they have to say, but realizing that it isn’t a personal attack against you can alleviate a load of stress.
Here are a few more:
- Practice being patient. Because they can’t do things on their own, they feel inclined to tell you exactly how to do it. Your position is that it will get done, regardless. Their position is that it won’t be done right unless you do it they way–the way they would’ve done it. Sometimes letting it go in one ear and out the other works here, and sometimes it doesn’t. In those instances where you feel ready to explode, it’s best to take a break, step outside for a few minutes and take deep, calming breaths. When you’ve cleared your mind, you can go back in with renewed energy and complete the task.
- Smile often. It’s hard to smile during a time when you feel your efforts are in vain. Tuning out the negativity and thinking about a funny joke or something humorous your children have done can produce a genuine smile. This often works to stop the criticism and alleviate tension. When your parent sees you smiling, tell them the joke or story you were thinking about and have a good laugh together.
- Go in with gusto! When you have mentally prepared yourself not to be stressed, you will be able to have more patience to deal with your parent. Go in talking about anything or everything. Talking about other things with you takes their mind off the bitterness and helplessness they feel. Ask what their opinions on different topics are. Ask them questions. Ask them to tell you stories about their life. This makes them feel useful, and gives them a feeling that they have something important to contribute.
- Sometimes it is necessary to get away for a few days. Ask a close family member or a friend to take over for you for a few days. Take this time to spend with others or by yourself doing what you want to do. Take in a couple of movies and escape into fantasy for a while. Getting away every so often will give you a renewed sense of hope and allow you more patience to deal with your parents for another week or two.
I understand it can really be a drag and drain the life out of you if you allow their negativity to bring you down (believe me, I understand). But we must not allow their responses, words or actions to pull us in to their negative world.
The question is – “How do we continue to maintain our hope and sanity in the midst of negativity?”
Now mostly, I just laugh it off because it has become a habit or learned behavior on their part. I will not give in to that negative pattern and allow it to divert my course, even for a moment! I challenge you to do the same.