This morning, like every weekday morning, I got an email from a guy named Tom.
I don’t know Tom. I don’t know how long I’ve been on his list. But he sends his subscribers an inspirational quote every day — a little insight designed to draw out the optimist in each of us, a message he hopes prepares us to see the day from a positive perspective.
Some days, I get something good out of what he sends.
Other days, there are three words I wish I could share with all Tom’s other subscribers, re: the quote of the day:
Ignore this advice.
Today was one of those days. And this is today’s quote:
“See things as you would have them be instead of as they are.” -Robert Collier
Oh, Robert. According to the Internet (I know — thorough.), Robert wrote a book (which he allegedly later admitted he only wrote in order to make a buck) chock full of advice like the above. Prior to critical thought about it, what Robert suggests sounds like a fun and fluffy effort to propel a person into positive thinking, or to protect him or her from turning negative thoughts into self-fulfilling prophecies.
But if you think harder…
“See things as you would have them be instead of as they are” sounds a lot like “Deny and distort reality because it’s easier than doing hard things.”
Denial and distortion are defense mechanisms. Denial is a person’s refusal to accept reality (because accepting a particular reality would make him or her feel uncomfortable). Distortion, according to this guy, is “a gross reshaping of external reality to meet internal needs” — an out from negative feelings when what’s really going on around us isn’t good.
Both denial and distortion are, essentially, seeing things as you’d have them be instead of as they actually are. Doing so has more to do with avoidance than optimism. If we avoid a difficult situation, we don’t have to do a hard thing about it. If we don’t have to do hard things, we don’t have to feel bad things. But avoidance stunts growth. Give yourself permission to feel.