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  • Andrew Scott

A bit of a Pollyanna?

It has been an eventful summer. After years of trouble-free driving, Mike, our son had two accidents in two days. In the first, he simply scraped the car of someone staying at the holiday cottage next door. In the second, he wrote our car off (but nobody was hurt).

Not very long after that, I took a fairly nasty fall when rock climbing, and sprained and bruised my ankle quite badly, which put paid to a number of walks on the high fells over the summer.

I was conscious of managing my stories about both of these incidents, to ensure that I maintained a positive mood through our summer holidays. With regard to Mike's accident, it was clearly a blessing that nobody had been hurt; and we were thinking of replacing the car anyway, so it gave us the impetus we needed. And the timing could scarcely have been better: we had the summer to get on with buying the replacement car. Likewise, my ankle could have been a lot worse: a break would have been much more debilitating; and being unable to drive when I was busy with work would have been a major nuisance. So it was not hard to focus on the positives and enjoy the holidays.

The other day our friend Cathy was visiting and asked Jane, my wife, 'How does it feel to live with such a Pollyanna?' It was a joke, of course (at least, I hope it was), but it did make me reflect. There is a real risk of becoming (or being seen as) an insufferable prig if one flaunts how one always looks on the bright side.

But if the price of not being seen as a Pollyanna is to be miserable and to make others miserable, then I think it too high a price to pay. There's quite enough misery and emotional distress in the world, without my adding to it; and it is not productive for myself or those with whom I live or work if I allow myself to be overcome by gloom.

That is not to de-legitimise the genuine expression of grief or upset; both of these are very important, and failure to express them appropriately also causes problems. When someone I love dies, crying and feeling sad are absolutely the right responses. But for the lesser trials, and particularly when (as in the cases above) there is a genuine bright side to look on, then indulging in, and perpetuating gloom and despond seems self-indulgent.

So how to avoid doing that, whilst also avoiding being an insufferable Pollyanna? I think one strategy is simply not to make a big deal of such things; indeed to talk about them little if at all, and likewise not to parade how well (or deliberately) one is dealing with them. Unless one is writing a blog post about the value of managing one's own stories, of course...

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