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One of my major pet peeves is the concept of Thinking Positive. Within this line of thinking is counting your blessings and be grateful. All of which are wonderful concepts to help us gain perspective on our lives. For some people thinking positive becomes a way to bury their heads in the sand about the issues and problems in their lives. Rather than face what is going wrong in their lives or what they want to change, they merely think positive.
Being grateful can be used as you are going through a challenging time. You are getting a divorce, your job is draining, or you are caretaking for a loved one. Being grateful give you a new perspective on your life. As you are moving through change or transition or even trying to get ‘unstuck’ being grateful is an awesome way of gaining a new perspective and feeling some positive energy in your life.
The danger comes when we chose to think positive to avoid dealing with the truly negative areas of our lives. You hate getting up every morning, you struggle to go to work, and you are a walking zombie throughout your day. Thinking positive and being grateful, might put a nice spin on your day, might give you some peace for a temporary time, but it won’t make things better in the long term. It is a band-aid for an open wound. Thinking positive keeps us from asking the hard questions:
- What do I want my life to look like?
- What changes do I need to make in my life? Both big and little?
- What is holding me back?
Sometimes we just need a band-aid. I have a bad day, an interaction doesn’t go the way I like, and I am not as productive as I want to be. So rather than coming home and vomiting my bad day all over my nearest and dearest I choose to think positive about the things that went well. I choose to think positive about my day—because, over all, my life is pretty good. Thinking positive allows me to change my mood in the moment and feel better for the time being. I also choose to analyze my day and look at what things I can make different tomorrow. What about the interaction didn’t go well? Why wasn’t I as productive?
Sometimes life is out of our control, people get sick, we have to stay in a job to make money we need to survive, or the transition out of a relationship takes longer then we thought it would. Thinking positive helps us move gracefully through these times. But we need both, we need awareness of the muck and grief, AND we need to be grateful for the other areas of our lives that are full of joy and promise.
Thinking positive is a way to help us gain a new perspective and be happy about the things in our lives we love. However, we still need to take stock of our lives, be intentional about our choices and make the necessary changes to live happier. When thinking positive works to keep us in denial or stuck, it isn’t serving us—it is trapping us in a cycle of pain, shame and hiding from the world.
Are there places in your life where you are using positive thinking as a coping mechanism? Is positive thinking keeping you from fully engaging in your life.?