I think that there is a big problem with positive thinking just as you point out in your article. Many times, it's not the good times in which we grow but the difficult and trying ones. I recognize that there are benefits to keeping an optimistic view, but for a person like me who has struggled with depression for a good part of their life, I've found focusing on trying to be positive sometimes has the exact opposite outcome. I feel worse by trying to force my thoughts into a positive light. Accepting that there is good bad and indifferent is more important for sure.
When I went through my darkest hour -- which lasted for years -- it felt just horrible when people tried to steer me to the light. It's like they completely missed the point. I needed to be heard, understood, accepted. After recognition, we can speak about the light. I appreciate your response, Samson.
Thanks for the insightful article, Andrea.
I've found that trying to use optimism and positive thinking (to override pessimism and negative thinking) during dreadful situations has a similar effect to someone telling us "Cheer up: there are others much worse off than you!"
Self-help books that harp on about the power of positive thinking really should be placed in the fiction section of libraries and book shops.
Being a persistent optimist is not good for survival. E.g. our ancient ancestors would not have looked at a tiger and discussed "What a magnificent creature. How many stripes does this one have? Let's see if it would like a cuddle."
Indeed, there is a very good reason why we have a deeply ingrained fight, flight, or freeze response and there is a very good reason for it operating at the subconscious level. In my opinion, attempting to reprogram this innate response system, using positive thinking, is a recipe for disaster; working with it is a much better option.
Positive action is usually an effective technique when used regularly enough for it to become habit forming. It enables us to feel more in control of our situations, which reduces stress.
Kindest regards, Pete
Thank you for your insight too. It's good to have many tools in your box....one is forming new thoughts, another is forming new action, another is forming nothing at all but observe. Flexibility is key, in my opinion.
I totally agree. Accumulating a set of superbly crafted tools enables us to tackle new problems (and to deal with our past). Flexibility is one key; adaptability coupled with a strong desire to learn is another key.
Best wishes, Pete
i think its all about balance, partical and rational not going into happiness but moving forward not dwelling in the past
It is all about balance, dear Anonymous. But that is happinss to me. Not dwelling in the past means we have space. Warmly, Andrea
At one point early on, in the second paragraph, you seem to confuse positive psychology (as a subfield of psychology) with positive thinking. Then, later on, I get the sense that you do understand the differences between the two. That was a little confusing.
I do agree that it is important to not deny what we think or feel, as doing so is a denial of one's self.
All in all, I think you wrote a very insightful article. I'm glad I read it.
I am glad you liked the article, Adam. Sorry I caused this confusion. It is difficult to be precise in 800 plus words. But this is good criticism. Thank you. Warmly, Andrea
Andrea F. Polard, Psy.D., is the author of A Unified Theory of Happiness.