What do Pollyanna, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Bing Crosby Have in Common?

Houston Tribune
January 2005

by Bridgette Mongeon © 2005

I have recently seen the movie Pollyanna, a PBS special. Growing up I had heard of the girl Pollyanna, or the term Pollyanna, but never read the 1913 book by Elanor H. Porter.

I was intrigued by the little girl and her “glad game” that she taught to just about everyone that she came in contact with. In Pollyanna’s words: “Oh, yes; the game was to just find something about everything to be glad about-no matter what ’twas.”

Sometimes the game was not easy, like the first time she played it. She had asked for a doll from the missionary aid and instead received crutches. She decided she could be glad she didn’t need the crutches, and the game began.

More people should play this glad game. In fact, many are professionally trained in the glad game. It might be said of Pollyanna that she was practicing a form of cognitive therapy. Cognitive therapy is basically the idea that feeling follows thought. If we can change our mode of thinking about a life event or about ourselves then we can change the way we feel about it. To help patients with such things as depression, anxiety problems, self-esteem, and anger management, psychologists sometimes use cognitive therapy; many books have been written on the subject, such as Feeling Good by David D. Burns M.D.

Sometimes, in our thoughts about our life or thoughts about ourselves, our thinking becomes distorted. We can ultimately change the way these things affect us by changing our thinking, which will in turn change how we feel.

A psychological concept often used with cognitive therapy is “self talk.” Self-talk is what we say to ourselves as we confront obstacles, make decisions or resolve life problems. This is a normal thinking process for individuals. When our self-talk is negative it can immobilize us and keep us from moving forward. Learning to change negative self-talk into positive self-talk can take some work, but when it is done it can make a world of difference in your personal growth.

The concept of cognitive therapy is not new to me. In fact, intuitively I have been doing it for most of my life. If a friend begins to tell me that they can’t do something I am known to break into that old song: “Just what makes that little old ant, think he can move the rubber tree plant, anyone knows an ant can’t move a rubber tree plant, but he has high hopes …”

Friends often change their own thinking about the situation just to keep from listening to my song.

My cognitive training did not come from a book on psychology or a counselor it came from Sunday school. When I felt I could not do something my Sunday school training said, ” I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” When someone comes to Sunday school and feels unloved or unlovable the Bible tells him he is loved and lovable. People who learn these principles change their thinking, and strive to better themselves. Whether it is through cognitive therapy or spiritual living.

I have often said that one of my favorite songs is from the movie White Christmas. Bing Crosby sings: “ When I get worried and I can’t sleep, I count my blessings instead of sheep, and I fall asleep counting my blessings. When my bank roll is getting small, I think of when I had none at all, and I fall asleep counting my blessings.”

And my favorite saying is by Ralph Waldo Emerson. “A man is what he thinks about all day long.”
Mr. Emerson was on the right track. If you think depressed sad and lonely thoughts, or your self-talk is negative, that is exactly what you will be.

Maybe we should take our cues from Pollyanna, Bing Crosby and Ralph Waldo Emerson. There is something to be said about it being “all in your mind.”

For those of you who are still not convinced here are a few more thoughts to ponder.

“No matter where you go or what you do, you live your entire life within the confines of your head.”
Terry Josephson

“A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the
effort.” Herm Albright

“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”
Winston Churchill

Bridgette Mongeon is a writer and artist living in the Heights, www.creativesculpture.com

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without the written consent of the author.

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