You must not allow yourself to dwell for a single moment on any kind of negative thought.
Call me crazy, but I think the above quote from an early leader in the positive thinking movement is horrible advice – for two reasons:
Sometimes I think the greatest contribution to negative thinking is made by positive thought culture (and I thank Oliver Burkeman, author of The Antidote, for helping me get clear about this subject in general). The following three positive thinking myths help explain why this may be the case.
Positive Thinking Myth #1: There is something wrong with negativity.
Nope. Nothing wrong with negativity. It’s the most natural thing in the world. Pessimism, criticism, probing the dark side…this is all very useful stuff. Assuming negativity is ‘bad’ only charges it with more energy. Why would we do that? Don’t be negative about negativity – it could just make matters worse. Rather, be accepting of your negativity and it may begin to loosen.
If there’s anything harmful about negativity, it’s our attachment to it. Some of us obsess negatively. We self-criticize or are otherwise fixated on the negative side of ourselves or life. This does not mean negativity itself is bad. It means we are overindulging in it. Some us of are drowning in negativity.
The solution is not to attempt to abolish negative thoughts. Why tempt the impossible? Instead, get real about your attachment to negativity and how you came to be so invested in it. This may be very worthwhile. In fact, it could change your life.
Positive Thinking Myth #2: You can be 100% positive.
Wrong again. There’s no such thing as a positive without a negative, is there? In a healthy person, the positive and the negative are balanced to a reasonable degree. When negative thoughts come, you let them come….and go. When positive thoughts come, you enjoy them – and don’t expect that they will stay forever.
Expecting yourself to become ‘100% positive’ is a recipe for disappointment. In my experience, some of us get so hung up on being positive that we end up feeling worse about ourselves, from the impossible expectation. Don’t fall for it. It’s normal to be both positive, and negative, and a million shades of grey in between.
The question is, what are you going to do with the state of mind that you are in?
Positive Thinking Myth #3: Positive affirmations chase negativity away.
Not according to research. In fact, some research suggests that overly positive statements can backfire in people who have low self-esteem. They end up reinforcing negative beliefs. Ray Williams details the research he wrote about at Psychology Today.
The researchers suggest that, like overly positive praise, unreasonably positive self-statements, such as “I accept myself completely” can provoke contradictory thoughts in individuals in individuals with low self-esteem. When positive self-statements strongly conflict with self-perception, the researchers argue, there is not mere resistance but a reinforcing of self-perception. People who view themselves as unlovable, for example, find that saying that are so unbelievable that it strengthens their own negative view rather than reversing it.
Be careful with affirmations. Don’t try to cram positivity down your own throat. Positive affirmations don’t necessarily chase negativity away. They may rather tempt negativity to rise up in protest.
If you’re on overly negative person….
Ok. That’s fine. Accept where you are. If you feel the need to pull out a few weeds of negativity, then don’t try to plant a flower on top of the weeds. Dig around them and they will loosen during the process.
The best way to dig around the weeds of negativity is to learn about how psychological attachments create self-sabotage, and discover how to reverse the process. This free and enlightening video shows you how.
Mike Bundrant is author of the book Your Achilles Eel: Discover and Overcome the Hidden Cause of Negative Emotions, Bad Decisions and Self-Sabotage.
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