Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Be more positive! Ugh!! (Part 1)

Gosh, I have such difficulty with the expressions “positive thinking” and “Be more positive!” When I share this with people, they are often surprised: “What!? Dr. Miwa, you are a psychologist. How come you say such a thing!? It’s so important to have positive thinking, isn’t it?” …Well, sorry, but I don’t like this positive thinking thingy at all. I will discuss why today.

We often hear something like, “It’s not good to feel that way, be more positive!” “Have more positive thinking!” “Feel more positive!” …Yuck! If I am sad and/or depressed for whatever reasons (which may be considered “negative” in this context) and if someone tells me to be more positive, I would not appreciate that at all. I may even curse the person in my mind: “If it were that easy, I wouldn’t be suffering!! Shut the xxxx up!”

As I wrote in the past about emotions, we can’t deny our emotions. If they’re there, they’re there. But if we are pressured by others or force ourselves to feel in a particular way, in this case, “more positive,” it requires us to make unnecessary or extra efforts to do so. You are already feeling bad, right? Why would you want to exhaust yourself even more or end up feeling worse because you fail in your efforts to be more positive?

Often, the encouragement to feel positive is not even for the benefit of the individual who is suffering, but rather for those who are encouraging them to be positive. Because it is not pleasant to be with or witness someone who is not feeling “positive,” they want you to get over it. Ironically, the individual who is told to be positive may end up feeling worse, because his or her feelings are not validated or accepted. What we usually appreciate most is that your loved-ones allow you to be you, meaning if you are feeling sad, upset, and/or angry, then they just let you feel so. Once you fully feel “negative,” while at the same time are accepted by your friends and loved-ones in that state, then you can eventually feel better. In this case, because there is no forced effort to feel something that you really can’t feel at the time it’s a much better outcome.

Don’t get me wrong; I have no doubt that feeling positive is much better than feeling negative. We all wish to feel positive. However, if we are forced to feel that way by others or ourselves, additional judgment and forced energy come into the picture and it doesn’t help.

When we stop trying to force ourselves to feel “positive” we can actually end up feeling more “positive” naturally. I like that way better.

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