Sunday, September 24, 2006

Got to Have a Good Vibe

My masters program is one of only two in the country that incorporate the word "Positive" in the title. The program name created a psychic tension that both intrigued and repelled me.

Fully believing myself to be a realistic pessimist, but wanting something more, I signed up with some trepidation that attending anything that included the word "positive" in it would make me a laughingstock with my intellectual and professional peers. (Or at least reinforce my standing as a fluffy nonconformist.)

While the 18 months I spent in the program weren't relentlessly positive, they did help me switch figure and ground mentally. (You know - looking at the same glass and seeing it as half full instead of half empty. That kind of thing.) My cohort was committed to seeing the world in new ways, and I think we created a supportive community for the changes we were trying to make in our personal outlook and our impact on the world.

This week I attended a workshop in improv, and it hit me full force that since graduation in May I've been imperceptibly regressing into my old ways.

According to the workshop instructor, the key to improv is the "Yes, and..." principle. You always accept what the other person gives you and build on that. Talk about positive! We did exercises where we cheered each other on no matter what was done or said. We told each other how wonderful we were. We said "Yes!" to any idea or suggestion. It was miraculous! All of a sudden I felt creative and competent, and I'm sure others did as well.

Over and over again I am amazed at how our social environment shapes our attitude and our abilities. I knew when I left that cozy "positive" community at Case that things would change, but I didn't think that within four months I would be completely out of practice. I need to find or create a small community here that will help keep me focused on the positive. This is essential to my ongoing well-being.

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