One of my friends enjoys referring to me as the “King of Silver Linings”, and that is something I very much take pride in. I take pride in such a nickname because I truly believe in the power of finding silver linings in EVERYTHING and finding a way, no matter what, to remain ever optimistic about life’s unfortunate events.
Because let’s face it… life is TOUGH. This is a crazy, crazy, mixed up world in which we live today, with peril mounting at every corner. If we do not find a way to strive for positivity in our daily lives, the world can eat us alive in a heart beat.
For those of you unaware, “silver linings” is a therapist term for finding the good in what is happening, even if what is happening is very, very bad. It is most certainly based on the classic phrase “every cloud has its silver lining”, and is easily combined with my theoretical foundations of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and reality therapy (RT).
From a CBT lens, “silver linings” can be connected to the way we speak to ourselves, as often when things are going wrong, we often start berating ourselves with comments such as “I’m stupid” or “I can do nothing right.” In this case, “finding the silver lining” is finding more positive ways to speak to ourselves. By maintaining a focus on being positive, we can help the negative thoughts of worthlessness and hopelessness from taking over.
From a RT lens, “silver linings” are represented by all the different choices we can make as a human being. We can choose what we want to focus our attention on, so we can choose to either make it positive or negative. A person can focus on their doctor being late for their appointment, or being grateful for having extra time to read. Since in reality therapy it all breaks down to our personal choice, it is up to US to find the “silver linings” and maintain that positive outlook.
To help illustrate my point, take an example from my own personal life. Earlier this week, my daughter’s school delayed the start of the year for a week due to mold. I could be upset by such things, OR I could focus on the fact that I had some extra one on one time with my daughter I would not have had. Now we have memories I get to relive for the rest of our lives. That sure sounds better than her going to school to me, honestly.
ALSO, another “silver lining” here is that the school found the mold before school started and any kid was exposed!
To help further illustrate the point, let’s complete a little exercise. First, imagine you just bought a gallon of milk at the store on your way home from work. Fumbling with your keys getting into the car, you drop the gallon of milk, which explodes on contact!
What are the instant thoughts that race into your mind?
Are they negative?
If positive, that means your negative self talk is naturally held in check and you can chock this up to an accident that does not reflect on your character.
If negative, that means you engage in negative self talk, probably more often than you realize, and we have some work cut out for us to ensure that the “power of positivity” is a major player in your life.
As this blog post draws to a close, I want to make sure that there is a basic understanding that seeking out silver linings is NOT about self deception and lying to yourself about the current state of things. Bad things are going to happen, and it is going to feel BAD. No amount of silver linings is going to take away the pain for a ruptured disc suffered in a car crash, or if you are the victim of identify theft.
With silver linings being a part of your coping skills toolbox, you can minimize the pain. You can lessen the suffering and find hopeful aspects of life to lean on when the times get tough. Because the times will get tough and you will make mistakes.
Silver linings just help make sure those mistakes do not run your life, that you find the strength and courage necessary to keep trucking on.
And sometimes that is all we can do!
- Ryan Delaney, MA