Lately, I’ve been struggling with negativity in perimenopause. In thinking about how to deal with it, I thought of a leadership class I took at work a few years ago. In the class, I took the Myers Briggs personality test (I’m an ISFJ in case you’re wondering) and emotional intelligence tests, as well as learned about approaching conflict and managing others.
What Is Positive Intent?
One element of the course that really stuck with me was assuming positive intent. Putting blatantly harmful words and acts aside, the theory behind this concept is to look at the behavior and words of others and assume their intention is positive and they meant well versus they had negative intentions and meant harm. This doesn’t mean you ignore your feelings. But it does mean you try to interpret and react to someone else in a positive vs. negative framework. This can be challenging at both work and in personal relationships when perimenopause affects our emotions.
Negativity Takes Over
I recently didn’t have a period for more than 80 days. Part of me was hoping I’d had my last one, but no such luck! The anxiety leading up to its unknown start date was unbearable with an intense “something is wrong” pit in my stomach, negativity, irritability, insecurity and frustration. The heart palpitations my body decided to throw into the mix only compounded the problem, creating an overall feeling of being unsettled, constantly hyped up and lacking sleep.
I struggled to calm both my mind and my body. Negativity took over. Assuming positive intent was incredibly difficult. For example, I was at my boyfriend’s house. It was trash day and we had some old meat to throw away out of the freezer. Since the trash was already out at the curb, I went out and put the meat in it. When I came back in without the meat, he asked if the trash had been picked up yet.
I immediately got defensive and retorted, “Yes, it came and I just left the meat out in the trash can in the hot garage anyway!” Then, “Of course it didn’t come. Why would I just leave the meat out there if it had already been picked up?”
He understandably looked bewildered. He had asked a simple question – more of a conversational statement, really. It had nothing to do with my intelligence or judgment around what to do with the meat at all. But my mind told me otherwise. It layered on an overarching sense of feeling unintelligent which was being compounded by my emotionally charged response. I could feel my heart pounding in my chest – and my remorse and embarrassment building.
The Devil vs. the Angel
In hindsight, I can see how silly my mind’s reaction was. But when in the middle of the mental chaos hormonal changes can create, I couldn’t see the positive intent. Or at the very least, I couldn’t prevent myself from assuming negative intent in a simple statement…and it wasn’t for not trying. I struggled with the real me sitting in the back of my mind, looking at what the hormonal me was doing…and trying to get her to stop. Kind of like in the old Donald Duck cartoons where the devil and the angel versions of Donald duke it out to control his actions. Unfortunately, on many days, the hormonal devil of myself wins out. I then lose my self-esteem, have unfounded doubts, and become someone I don’t want to be.
As additional hormonal days approach, I am going to give assuming positive intent another try. I am hopeful having it more top of mind and practicing it consistently between hormonal flare ups will make it a strong habit that will be easier to adhere to when the devil in me tries to take over.
As I researched the topic of positive intent, I found nothing tying it to hormones or perimenopause. Most articles had to do with applying it in the worklplace in order to improve productivity. While that is likely true, I believe it can be equally impactful in our personal lives to strengthen and not harm our relationships. Although framed within a business context, this article includes information on the results of assuming negative intentions vs. positive intentions and also dispels some myths associated with assuming positive intent.
Do you have an example of a time you were successful at assuming positive intent? Or a time you weren’t? Please share your experience below.
About Cherie and Perimenopause Pages
It wasn’t until I was almost 46 that I started to realize many of the physical, psychological and mental changes I had been experiencing for a couple years were due to perimenopause. The more I read, the more I wanted to know and hear from other women. But information was limited or outdated…and no one was talking about their experiences. I changed that by starting Perimenopause Pages. From preparing myself mentally for the changes of perimenopause to my increased odor, I’m putting my experiences out there to benefit other women - and work through them myself. I’m also researching as I go, curating what I find on a topic for all of us to learn more. There’s no need to cover up what’s happening with our minds and bodies, to minimize it or to be ashamed of it. Perimenopause is a fact of life. See what I’m up to and subscribe to Perimenopause Pages at http://perimenopausepages.com.