We have been bombarded with a social climate of ‘positive thinking’ to reach ‘happiness’ and ‘success’. There are a variety of self-help books that are aimed at teaching you how to think positively, find happiness and achieve success. While many of these books are tremendously helpful and certainly do have their merits, one has to wonder whether the incessant quest for happiness and positive thinking isn’t masking the underlying issues.
Does positive thinking become a powerful way to avoid real problems?
While thinking positively can certainly be useful in many circumstances, especially when faced with challenges that can at times seem overwhelming, it can also become an obsession that masks real problems. Looking on the bright side of life and making lemonade out of lemons almost becomes a habit that stops us from moving toward problem solving. We can become so focused on thinking positively and finding happiness that we refuse, or struggle to, see the underlying issues that stop us from achieving true happiness and contentment. Finding a statement and simply turning it into a positive one, does little in the way of changing the problem. Becoming a true “positive thinker” and going on a “quest for happiness” can become excellent ways of distracting you from some very real issues that need facing.
Here are some tell-tale signs that you are hiding behind the mask of positive thinking;
- You use positive mantras such as “it’s a beautiful day, everything is going my way” yet find that you don’t really believe what you are saying.
- People refer to you as being so happy and positive, but deep down inside you feel lonely and empty.
- You spend enormous amounts of energy chasing your career and success yet don’t get much fulfilment out of them.
Focusing on the positive and using positive self-talk are excellent coping mechanisms and useful in lifting spirits and moving away from negativity, but one must be careful not to slip into a somewhat delusional habit of completely ignoring the reality. Positive messages and focus need to remain balanced and realistic.
There is no use in swinging from one extreme to another. In other words moving from being completely negative to completely positive still means you are not balanced or being rational. Positive re-framing is about taking thoughts and turning them into believable, rational alternatives. Simply stating that the day is great and everything is going your way is an excellent way to start the day, but be a little more realistic in knowing that some things may not go according to plan, and this is o.k. too.
Positive re-framing is about looking at real problems and finding healthy and positive ways of coping with them, not ignoring them, or distracting yourself from them. It is easy to get confused and find yourself in the trap of using positive thinking, happiness and success to avoid looking at some real problems in your life. If you notice some of the above points happening in your life, perhaps it is time to talk to a professional and look at healthier, more balanced ways of facing and solving your problems.
Sam is a Clinical Psychologist with a down-to-earth nature who has a very open and warm approach. Sam works collaboratively with his clients to raise awareness of patterns within themselves and patterns of relating with others.