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Why thinking positive is not always the solution to bad times

Why thinking positive is not always the solution to bad times

July 13, 2024

There is a belief that we have so internalized that it is often difficult to realize how irrational it is. That belief consists in the idea that in any event or experience of our lives there is always something positive and something negative. We have a conception of reality in which anything can be both a blessing and a curse, if we learn to focus our attention on all its facets and nuances.

This belief is very persistent, and although we do not realize it is expressed through many different ways. However, sometimes this hardly causes any problems, while other times it can compromise our mental health. For example, when we face a serious crisis in our life and we consider the idea of ​​"thinking positive", focus our attention on the beneficial component who is supposed to have the situation.


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Coping with sadness is necessary

Can you imagine how absurd it would be to tell a person that he should get well? This is more or less what we do to ourselves if we insist on thinking positively at all costs when we have important reasons to be very sad or angry .

There are experiences in which, whether we like it or not, we must position ourselves against sadness and anger. We can accept that it is there and strive to get out of that emotional crisis , we can make it part of our conception of life and assume that everything that does not consist in feeling bad is not authentic, or we can try to ignore it. In theory, most people are able to see that the first option is appropriate and beneficial while the second is not; however, the third generates more division of opinions.


After all, is not ignoring pain the underlying motto of the philosophy of life based on "live the moment, do not complicate your life"?

If it only matters what we feel in the here and now, suffering seems an absolute waste of time, so the best thing seems to be, simply, not doing it: think positive even in the saddest or most disappointing moments . Of course, it is a very coherent idea with the idea of ​​always choosing an optimistic interpretation of things. The only problem is that it often does not work or, in fact, can make the situation worse.

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Why thinking positively can constantly hurt us

The problem with this approach to sadness based on the philosophy of the here and now is that our decisions do not have absolute power over our emotions. When we realize that there is something that generates a great sadness is impossible to distance yourself from this and decide what to do with it as a scientist could do with a petri dish that looks through the microscope. We must decide what to do from that emotion , not with her, and therefore ignoring her is not an option.


What if we prefer to show that we do have that power to manipulate our emotional state at will? Let's take an example: a middle-aged man sees how the dog that has accompanied him for twelve years dies trampled. Faced with a situation like this, he decides to focus on the positive, which in this case is to have happy memories with the animal and to reflect on what that experience has taught him.

The first problem with this is that the first step to thinking positive is to look like you think positive, that is, not cry. The fact of having to control the crying it turns the experience into something even more painful, since, among other things, it forces man not to think about certain things that he knows in advance that would make him cry. That means that, in practice, it is impossible for you to perform those actions that are supposed to be the positive side of having had a dog that has died.

But there is still another element that makes thinking positive at all costs is harmful: it prevents us from normalizing the experience. If we try to ignore the sadness that something produces us, we never get to accept it, which means that we are stuck in the process of mourning; We simply do not know how to move forward. It is necessary to assume that it is not possible to show that the emotional impact of a bad experience does not exist so, in that way, we can manage the relationship we are going to have with that feeling.

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Suppress sadness or anger does not work

Many times we fall into the trap of thinking about emotions, feelings and sensations too essentialistically. We label sadness, anger and other mental states as "negative emotions" and we try to make them not part of our day to day, without more.In some contexts it is effective to de-dramatize certain situations, but when the discomfort is very intense, resilience can not be based on the suppression of emotions.

When managing emotions that make us feel bad, we must always take into account the most important factor in these cases: time. Since from our decisions and our rationality we can not control that emotional side that characterizes us as animals that we are, we must let the passage of time help us .

If we accept sadness, little by little time will cause the opportunities to distract our mind to accumulate with other things than thoughts about what makes us sad. In this way, there will come a point where we will be able to think about everything, even what made us feel bad, without experiencing the same pain that we lived a few days ago , when we did the same.

The mental well-being, in short, is to be able to look back and remember experiences without feeling limited by our emotions. To think positively at all costs, which in practice is to force ourselves to ignore certain memories and ideas, is only a way of putting a name to that limitation and ignoring the fact that it will not go away by itself if our struggle against Discomfort consists in strengthening your power over us.


Tony Robbins on How to Break Your Negative Thinking (July 2024).


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