The Negative Side of Positive Thinking

by | Jul 30, 2015 | Success | 0 comments

If you’ve been reading my blogs and listening to my podcasts, you’ve probably realized that I’m a big fan of thinking positively. So this topic might come as a surprise to you, but there comes a time when positive thinking goes too far. Yes, it is possible, and I’m going to tell you why.  Now, I might get some heat for this, and some people may disagree but I’m okay with that.

So here’s the thing, positive thinking is wonderful thing, and it changes lives; I’ve changed my life when I began to change my thinking. However, if you take it to the extreme where you begin to use positive thinking as a way to ignore areas of your life or as a way to suppress your true feelings, that’s when it begins to get into the negative side. This is the negative side of positive thinking.

I see this often in other people in my profession who are such strong advocates of positive thinking that they forget that sometimes we don’t FEEL positive. So if you’re thinking positive things but you’re feeling something totally different, you can’t use that mindset to suppress your feelings. You have to allow those feelings to express themselves and come up. Does that make sense?

I’ll give you an example from my own recent experience. If you’ve been following my podcast, you’ll know that I recently lost my father, and quite a few emotions came with that loss and I imagine they’re going to be coming up for some time. While I can appreciate the gifts I have found in his passing (and there have been gifts) such as; reconnecting with distant relatives, getting to know my Dad’s friends, new stories I’m hearing about my Dad, new things I’m learning about myself and my family. While I can appreciate these gifts, it would be very naive of me to think that positive thinking would override all of the ugly, awful, deep emotions that I’ve been feeling.

I’m telling you this because I see this as a bit of a trap that people sometimes fall in to. We start to think that if we practice positive thinking, we can’t have a negative emotion. We start to feel that it’s not okay to feel sad, angry or upset. Here’s the thing though, none of our emotions are really negative at all.

I recently read “Dying to Be Me”  by Anita Moorjani. It’s a wonderful book for anyone experiencing loss, going through cancer, or with a loved one going through it. It is a wonderful read and has helped me to get through the past few weeks since my Father’s passing. Anita gives great insight into what happens when we die and the afterlife. One of the things she wrote  that really resonated with me is that all of our emotions come from love. If you imagine that pure, unconditional love is a white light, and it shines through a prism that represents our humanness, our 5 senses, how we view and interact in our physical world. When that white, beautiful light comes through the prism, it is fragmented into all of the colours of the rainbow, a full spectrum of colour. These colours represent our emotions, and each one is associated with a different emotion. Now how can any of them be “bad” when they originate as pure love? These emotions are so can experience a full spectrum of human experiences which allows us to learn and grow.

None of our emotions are really “bad”. They are  all valid.

We often talk about depression, anger, sadness as being negative feelings and we talk about happiness, joy, love as being positive. In reality, they are all from the same source. When we focus too much on positive thinking and what we perceive as positive emotions, we are cutting out half of our colour spectrum, ignoring half of the rainbow. When you ignore half of the rainbow, you miss out on a whole world of learning with opportunities to grow. Trust me, it would be very tempting for me to ignore how I’m feeling about losing my Dad. At times it would be easier to stuff it all down and just put on a happy, bright face and paint my world with only joy and happiness. When we do that though, we create a lot of tension and stress in the body. We can create disease in the body by holding down our “negative” emotions and never fully expressing them. We can create a whole myriad of problems for our physical body by doing that. Emotions, ALL emotions, have to be allowed to come up and through to go out of the body.

In fact, I am quite certain the reason I struggled with ulcerative colitis for most of my life is because I was holding on to fear in my body. When I started to release that fear, my body healed itself.

It is incredibly important that we don’t use positive thinking to ignore our emotions under the surface. Recently, I was discussing this with a friend of mine. For years she had practiced positive thinking and gratitude but ignored how she was feeling inside. She was convinced that if she said her affirmations, practiced gratitude daily, that eventually her life would start to change. Nothing did change until she finally started to deal with what she was feeling internally. That’s when her life started to change.

Now don’t misunderstand me here, it is important to think positively and practice gratitude. I work on these things every day. But you have to do them while allowing yourself to feel whatever you need to feel and to do the work to allow those emotions to move through you in a healthy, constructive way without becoming attached to them.

It’s okay to have a bad day and acknowledge that you’re having it. What’s not okay is to attach yourself to the feelings, hold onto them and store them away where they can fester like a bad untreated wound. Emotions need to be in-motion. They need to be allowed to flow through and move on. Let them flow.

I think it’s a little bit naive when people say “if you’re feeling sad, practice gratitude”. Yes, practicing gratitude will help to shift your perspective, but you can’t ignore why you’re feeling sad in the first place. All of our feelings are here to have us take a look at something that needs our attention. Don’t be afraid to take a look and explore what needs to change in your life to let that feeling move on in a healthy way. Make them move on! For some, this requires movement- go for a run, workout, do yoga, go hiking. Find whatever works for you. For me, it’s lifting heavy weights. Some people need to scream into a pillow or cry it out to a sad movie. Do whatever you need to do to let it out as long as you’re not hurting yourself or others.

How do you release your emotions? Please share below in the comments.

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