Can Positive Thinking Create Negative Thoughts? (Part I)

I have long felt that we Americans (US) are overly preoccupied with creating a positive mental attitude. In fact in some circles like business and athletics a positive mental attitude (PMA) is a means to the ultimate performance in that profession. For those living alternative lifestyles, especially those involved in alternative healing methods, PMA can be the actual foundation upon which their lives are built. I have always thought this to be psychologically unhealthy. And now it seems that others are beginning to agree. [See “Can Positive Thinking Be Negative?” By Scott O. Lilienfeld and Hal Arkowitz; SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN MIND, May/June 2011].

Now don’t start clicking your tongue and wagging your finger at me. I am not saying that positive thoughts are wrong. Positive thoughts flow spontaneously and joyously through a healthy body – mind. What I object to is the stilted attempt at generating positive thinking out of negative being. To do so we have to deny negativity. This too is unhealthy.

In a recent article by psychologist Tori Rodriguez [”Taking the Bad with the Good” SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN MIND, May/June 2013] he tells us, “Although positive emotions are worth cultivating, problems arise when people start believing they must be upbeat all the time. … anger and sadness are an important part of life, and new research shows that experiencing and accepting such emotions are vital to our mental health. Attempting to suppress thoughts can backfire and even diminish our sense of contentment.”

We believe that a positive thought will neutralize a negative thought. It just isn’t true. If it were, we would all be living eudemonia simply by virtue of, as the old song suggests, “accentuating the positive and eliminating the negative”. There is no argument that life is one long emotional roller coaster ride. But that’s good. The contrast adds depth and meaning to our lives. Negativity is a natural part of life. “Unpleasant feelings are just as crucial as the enjoyable ones in helping us make sense of life’s ups and downs.” Rodriguez warns. There is no rocket ride straight to happiness and to believe it so is truly living with our head in the clouds.

[Continued: Can Positive Thinking Create Negative Thoughts? (Part II)

0 thoughts on “Can Positive Thinking Create Negative Thoughts? (Part I)

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  • Iona Tamsin Stewart says:

    You need to feel the negative feelings fully after which they will generally dissolve by themselves ( David R. Hawkins). Afterwards and in general it is best to have a positive attitude.

  • Bruno Dalle Carbonare says:

    Thanks, thanks, thanks… that someone is going to stop this vast spreading sometimes stupid idea of just positive thinking will solve your problems. There are always two sides of the coin. If you invest in one part also the other will grow in parallel and very often will hit you back with more impact as expected. And then we are astonished where it came from. It was our investement in one aspect neglecting the other.

  • Maybe not “New Science” or maybe new for those that have science as their leader! The Yin and the Yang,you can’t have one without the other, since time began.

    • Exactly Ceri… This knowledge was born when the first glimmer of self-awareness awakened in humankind some 75,000 years ago. We just seem to have forgotten our roots. That is why this all seems so fresh and new. The knowledge that came with this body–mind still works just fine. My feeling is, and I think you might agree, it is the move back to basics that will save our future.

  • I totally agree with what you have posted!
    Thinking positiv is a good basis and in my opinion it is always good to believe in a positive outcome.
    But it is not helpful if it means just disguising or ignoring negative thoughts, feelings, negative engery.
    Life is not only daylight, the night is also part of it.
    I think it is good to work on the negativity to transform it, but that, in my experience, isn’t done by just thinking positive.
    And finally my experience is, that thinking positive isn’t very powerful, but feeling positive is. And while feeling positive, negative thoughts are rarer to be found.

    • Thanks Meike, I like the way you think, or should I say feel… The ultimate positive feeling is Eufeeling which each of us has, usually tucked away somewhere, but can be felt in an instant with a single shift of perception. Thanks for writing.

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