You’ve heard it a million times: Think positively, be grateful!
And now, the #PositiveVibes has taken over your social media too. It’s become virtually impossible to scroll down your Instagram feed without seeing a barrage of posts with messages on the lines of ‘Inhale The Good, Exhale The Bad’.
Yet, when ‘life happens’, no amount of positive thinking, laws of attraction, and self-help books seem to work. In fact, we find ourselves feeling emptier than ever. Sounds familiar?
UAE-based Acceptance-Commitment Therapist, Mindfulness Consultant and the Founder of the Free Spirit Project, Briar Jaques busts some positive thinking myths:
DISTRACT YOURSELF, SQUASH THAT NEGATIVITY! BE POSITIVE
Let’s take a trip down memory lane. As children, every time we hurt ourselves or were upset, we were told, ‘Honey, don’t cry, be brave, it’s going to be okay, here’s a lollipop’. Or, some of us were just left to cry because our parents thought that ‘crying it out’ would make us resilient.
When a child hears ‘stop crying, be brave, be strong’ his or her premature brain understands it to mean ‘suppress your emotions, stop feeling, and weakness is substandard’. And when a child is given a lollipop, he or she understands that the only solution to a problem is ‘distracting yourself with something unhealthy’.
The final nail in the coffin is the good old ‘wail on’ which is understood by the child as ‘cry’ because emotions are a hopeless abyss to lose yourself in.
It’s no wonder then that most of us end up with unhealthy coping mechanisms like emotional repression, over-expression, and distraction.
DO THIS: Allowing yourself to feel and express how you feel is super important. Example: ‘I know you’re upset.’ Hold the child (AKA you), let him or her feel and then help explain why they’re feeling what they are feeling.
MYTH No. 2
YOU ARE SO BLESSED. BE GRATEFUL, LOOK AT THE POSITIVE!
“You’re upset because something is going wrong in your life. The pain is showing up in obsessive-thinking patterns and as stomach upsets, the tension in the neck and jaw, headaches and insomnia. And just when things can’t seem to get more difficult, you remember—or you’re told—that you should be grateful. So, in effect, you have no right to be feeling this way, as there are others really suffering,” says Briar.
This statement insinuates that if all your needs are technically met, then you’re just a whiny, spoiled brat, right? So, on top of feeling down in the dumps, you also start feeling also guilty.
DO THIS: The first thing to address is that emotional and physical pain are the same. If you’re feeling out of whack, address it like you would a broken arm. Never ever let anyone—including you—talk you into thinking that just because you have things to be grateful for, that you have no right to feel bad.
IF YOU ARE POSITIVE, YOU WILL ATTRACT SUCCESS
Positive thinking is indeed essential for successful manifesting. But, that alone doesn’t lead to manifestation; it’s merely one of the many components of the ‘secret formula’.
The key is to authentically align the vibration of our thoughts, feelings and belief systems so perfectly with each other, that we may achieve what we want.
DO THIS: Address your subconscious belief systems (with the assistance of a therapist) and rewire your stubborn neural pathways to align together with positive thoughts! And then...the perfect job or guy, may not be a dream after all!
HAVE COURAGE, BE BRAVE, BE STRONG!
Firstly, it’s important to define what courage is. It is the ability to address uncomfortable feelings and non-resourceful behavioural patterns when they show up.
DO THIS: The famous last words ‘face your fears’ have less to do with bungee jumps and more to do with facing the emotions that you have a hard time accepting. Once you’ve addressed that and learned how to deal with them (perhaps with site assistance of a counsellor or therapist) then ‘thinking positively’ is an essential part and productive part of the process.
IF SOMETHING GOES WRONG, THINK POSITIVELY AND YOUR REALITY WILL CHANGE
When we’re emotionally and physically upset, our minds operate with cognitive distortions. These are thought patterns that include out-of-control thinking like: ‘What if?’
“When this happens, we are in fight-or-flight mode and our ability to think fairly, logically, and effectively is limited due to the pre-frontal regions of the brain (parts responsible for a higher reason and impulse control) going ‘offline’,” says Briar.
When we try to beat these distortions with positive statements, rational thoughts and thinking strategies, it has limited impact and we end up with an argument in our head.
DO THIS: “When we withdraw attention from thoughts and focus on our breath and the body senses, emotions (unless they are being stimulated by a real-life emergency situation) will last for about 96 seconds in our body and then subside. Then positive and rational thoughts may be used to bring the mind back to a state of equilibrium,” says Briar.