Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Trouble with Positive Thinking...

Everyone knows that having a positive outlook yields better life results than being a "Negative Nelly." Surely, glass-half-empty folks are more likely to be lonely, depressed, and generally unhappy, than their cheerful counterparts. In fact, Law of Attraction enthusiasts (of the extreme variety) often refuse to allow themselves the luxury of a sad or angry thought.

You might have heard someone murmur the phrase: "cancel, clear, delete!" following a momentary lapse into humanness. In fact, I once attended a week-long conference where the facilitator (who taught us this phrase) banned participants from stating anything that smacked of doubt, limitation, or negativity of any kind. (Ironically, those who slipped up were harshly brow-beaten!)

While the ability to perceive a silver lining is a beautiful thing, it's not everything. And there comes a point where the need to stay positive actually represents a desperate fear of not being able to cope with the real ups and downs of life. It can represent a deep-seated fear that one's thoughts and feelings, if left unchecked, would wreak total and absolute havoc.

Facing Reality

Not long ago, I heard some tragic news about a family I know. It was so shocking that it stayed with me for several days. One morning at 4:00 am, I woke up thinking about what had happened. In the darkness, the images in my mind threatened to overcome me like a great wave. I tried a few evasion tactics: changing the mental channel, reframing the situation in a spiritual light, surrendering it all to God, etc., but nothing worked, so I decided to face the images head-on. I looked at the tragedy and the suffering and the loss, and just felt it. There was nothing else to do.

Amazingly, within five seconds the emotional ordeal was over for me, and my mind was peaceful and still. The wave had washed over me and was gone. The fifteen excruciating minutes I had previously spent trying to dodge the human thoughts and feelings had caused me immense suffering, while the five seconds I spent facing the real thoughts and feelings set me free. After that, I was able to let it go.

Dawson Church, the Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) author, writes: "The cognitive frame of accepting what is opens the path to change in a profound way. It's quite difficult to do this in our culture, which bombards us with positive thinking. Positive thinking actually gets in the way of healing in many cases, while acceptance provides us with a reality-based starting point congruent with our experience."

And so it seems that being in touch with our worldly realities, and being willing to accept our human thoughts and feelings, is actually a great first step to manifesting a healthy, happy, and sane life. Conversely, stuffing feelings and pasting on a happy face can lead to disease, addiction, emotional instability, and the threat of being extremely annoying to those around us :)