I recently have been aware that I say and think many “Debbie Downer” lines. Debbie Downer was a character on Saturday Night Live that always brought up a bad or negative point in a conversation among a group of people. As I had been noticing my behavior in doing this, I began to look at it in depth. The first thing I told myself was what I was saying were facts. These negative points are true. For example, I told someone I had a craving for frozen yogurt. He said go get some at lunch. My reply was that it’s too far away. And that was a fact! It was too far for the time I had available.
Yes, it is true that Debbie Downer lines are facts. But they are looking at the negative. My ego had me so tricked by this – had me believing that just because it was a fact, that being negative was inevitable and, sort of, necessary and that being positive was implausible.
It’s true – there are plenty of negative facts. But there are plenty of positive things to focus on, as well. It really is a matter of what our point of focus is on.
Debbie Downer lines can be about simple and insignificant subjects or meaningful topics. They come in response to a comment from somebody or even in response to your own self. Here’s some examples of what I’m talking about: My husband suggests to send flowers to a family member. I immediately shoot it down saying that is a dumb idea because flowers just die! Definitely a fact that flowers die. Another example is wanting to go to Europe for a vacation. It’s expensive. Another fact, indeed. A third example is that I want to write and publish a book. Debbie says to that, there are already so many self-help books available. True, thousands already exist.
The upside is that now that I clearly see this behavior in myself, I can change it. When I catch myself saying or thinking a Debbie Downer line, I tell myself (my ego), yes that is a fact. But, what is the positive statement about the topic? In the fro-yo example, it would be that I can go after work or tomorrow. So you sort of pivot from the negative fact to put a positive spin on the subject at hand. This, of course, leaves us feeling good rather than down, which is the ultimate goal. In the sending flowers example, we could say flowers are so beautiful while they are alive; even though it is a short time, it is well worth it. The Europe downer could be if it is something we highly desire we can save up money for it; the experience will merit the money spent. And about the book publishing, there can never be too many self-help books, all add value, people always want a new book to read. And so on. We can always find the positive side to a negative fact.
We first want to go from saying the Downer lines aloud to just having them in our thoughts. Of course we don’t want them there either. This is a process. First we catch ourselves before we say them aloud. We pivot in our minds and say only the positive. We want to get to where we no longer put the negative facts out there for others to receive. Eventually with some practice (and it will be quicker than you think!), we get to where we no longer even think the negative fact. (But we don’t criticize ourselves when we do have them. We are always kind to ourselves.) Simply pivoting with the positive spin will become a habit.
Another way to pivot would be to affirm the topic and then remind ourselves that anything is possible. For instance, let’s use the Debbie Downer line of going to Europe is too expensive. Then we would pivot and say, But it certainly is possible that I could find a cheap airfare, or I could receive unexpected additional income, etc. Then really feel the feeling of that being plausible. Ending with the line, Anything is possible with God/Divine/Source (don’t get caught up on the label!), will certainly put Debbie in her place.
This is simply another way to deliberately be joyful. As the Dalai Lama says in The Art of Happiness, “Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions”. In other words, we aren’t just automatically happy. Our happiness is in our own hands. Therefore, we must intentionally focus our minds and behaviors on joy.
Let’s be open to seeing where or when we might be a Debbie Downer. Then turn Debbie upside down and put a positive spin on the negative fact. We realize Debbie is just our ego, not our true selves. And remember to laugh at the ridiculousness of Debbie!