The point of positive thinking is to create a sense goodness in your life — from the inside out. I’m not trying to refute the value in this sentiment, but I am willing to challenge what this is teaching us about the definition of “good”. What is positive thinking, why do negative thoughts come to mind, and is deciding to lord over them creating a positive living space within?
What is Positive Thinking? What are the Benefits of Positive Thoughts?
A positive mindset can be a glorious inner world to behold. I want to dial it back to the real action though— the choice to exercise positive thinking — to look at the effect it has on our mentality, so we can accurately measure the benefits, the drawbacks, and whether this induces positive living.
How to Become Positive; How to Be Sad
Let’s consider a situation where you really need some good vibes in your life and a little positive flow. Let’s consider thinking positively while trying to heal a trauma or going through the grieving process: You feel sad. You choose to force-think positivity. If thinking positively, not feeling authentically, is the goal you set your focus on: you may only cover up a serious problem… or worse. You could rob yourself of the necessary stages of loss and grief. Int hese instances, learning how to be sad is more beneficial than trying to stay positive. Psychologists agree that healing trauma (or any mental/emotional wound for that matter) requires acknowledgement and acceptance (Psychology Today).
Forcing a positive mindset can set your perception against what is happening. If your perception is turned to judging the terrible feelings of loss or fear you feel as somehow ‘wrong’, this positive thinking exercise can make matters far worse. If you’re fixating, automatically, on a negative thought, positive thinking exercises can be wonderful and freeing; if you are having an emotional reaction, and you force positive thought, it can be a detriment (Psychology Today).
Feeling is key. Feeling through a scenario — leaning into acceptance of what is — brings a simple sense of warmth, safety, comfort & control. It sends the message that you are OK, that your feelings are valid, and that your mind is on your side. From here, and only from here, can authentic positive living come from. Plus, scientists have figured out a few ways sadness can actually be good for you (Berkeley.edu).
Why Negative Thoughts Come to Mind
A Jewish scholar I knew once told me the Hebrew word translated as “good” in the bible actually means “fully functioning”. That struck me as a potent truth about the world it was describing: all things in creation are operating in “good” form. Your true and authentic self is “good” in the whole sense, your entire being is. Your thoughts, if they are part of a fully engaged and at times challenging life — are good. Negative thoughts arise to direct our attention to something which needs us. Negative thinking has benefits too! Not only can we address present challenges with focussed awareness (brought upon by negative thinking), we can also alleviate our unconscious from stored challenges from the past! Thinking negatively gives us respite from activity, makes us more compassionate and aware, and actually increases perseverance (TheConversation),
Thinking positively is a powerful tool to growth, goals, making your dreams a reality, good relationships etcetera. But, what if it’s more of an effect — of supporting negativity when it arises, knowing how to be sad — than a cause?
Feeling Positive: Authenticity & True Happiness
What is the difference between thinking and feeling positive? If you are honest, judging a thought or feeling as bad is the only part of sorrow that really sucks. Learning how to be sad will free you to feel “good” about challenges. You can explore the beauty of grief and the release of letting past hurts go.
Feeling is also where your creative power as an individual sits, that’s why it acts as your barometer. If something feels bad, it needs attention. If something feels good, it’s an end in and of itself. The real power of positive feeling is in the reflection that feeling it is also your attainment. Everything you want distills down to a feeling. It begins and ends right there. Like a circle. That makes sense, right? Everything in life is a circle.
Whether you’ve been focussing on positive thoughts to manifest your desires or simply because you want personal growth, feeling positive is actually the creative force you are after. The best part of this Truth? If you find a way to feel the way you want, not only will you source the creative power achieve it physically, you will also immediately gain what you desire! Do some of those prophetic claims about the law of attraction, etcetera, make sense now? You can have what you want immediately, with a simple exercise, all you have to do is feel it. How do we get to that feeling? By clearing away things that make us feel bad: past hurts, challenges, etcetera. That means: learning how to embrace being sad.
Positive Living & the Meaning of Life: Goals
We can’t really control feelings per se. What you’re feeling is a tool to recognize what’s real, and guide to healing yourself. It’s natural. Starting a war with yourself by turning your thoughts against this essential part of you is detrimental to your whole health and wellbeing.
Thinking positively while coping with anxiety? This can turn into a source of anxiety (!) and self-blame. This is no kind of relationship to have with the most important person in your life (you). How are you going to harness the power of your mind under those circumstances? The mind is an incredibly powerful tool, as is positive thought. However, considering thought alone in your gameplay to win gold can only result in superficial and temporary progress at best. It works, to the extent that it is able, but it’s not sustainable.
Getting to your ideal life is the most natural path, you’re meant for it, everything in existence is rooting for you—getting there is a sincerely organic course—and your feelings will guide you to it: like water to the ocean.
You are perfect in design. Rumi said “what you seek is also seeking you” like a circle. Indeed, the feeling you seek is the very ticket to being that way. Ask yourself why you want any given thing, I guarantee it distills down to a feeling. (Everything does.) You don’t want to attain goals, in essence, you want to feel a certain way. Because, as I mentioned, if you’re honest with yourself, every wish of yours is in essence a feeling you want to experience. That is what they mean when they say everything you want is already in you & that you already possess it. You do!
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Peace and so much,