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The majority of us have been taught to just “think positive,” and we will be happy and successful. This message has been so ingrained in us that most of us have taken it for gospel truth. A deeper level, the “Gospel of Positive Thinking” causes:
The “Gospel of Positive Thinking” is a message of negativity! This is not an attention-getting phrase, but is based on:
Like many people who value success and self-improvement, I spent years trying to practice positive thinking. Often after reading positive self-help books, I felt worse, since I agreed with what they were saying, yet I still did negative things. I asked myself, “What is wrong with me?” Also, after attending self-help seminars, and listening to countless self-help tapes, I still had not achieved any fundamental changes in my personal life. I finally realized that trying to have an exclusive focus on the positive was the source of negativity in my life.
I have spent much of the past 20 years working with people who were experiencing major life transitions I have found that an exclusive focus on the positive, caused professionals to be unable to think about leaving their positions, caused them to use a faulty way of thinking, and led them to make personal and business decisions that were doomed to fail. It also caused them to take unsuccessful approaches to transitioning into the next stage of your life. By seeing peoples’ experiences, you can learn and apply these lessons to your life.
As a long-time sales trainer with major medical corporations such as Johnson & Johnson and CR Bard, I knew how important positive thinking was for professional success, yet I also knew that positive thinking did not work. Finding an answer to this question was a major motivator for me to attend graduate school.
While doing graduate research, I read an article in The Smithsonian Magazine in which the widow of Dale Carnegie stated that he could never finish the last chapter in his famous book How to Make Friends and Influence People. Dale Carnegie could not write about what to do when things go wrong.
What Does Work: The Thought-Process of Wisdom. A Balanced Way of Thinking
The great failure of positive thinking is that it is naïve; it presumes perfection, that there is no downside to any decision, no trade-off. Rather than only focusing on the positive, we need to take equal account for the negative aspects of our pursuits; every decision has trade-offs, and it is in our best interest to consider them in our endeavors.
The following is a list is the faulty thought process of absolute positive way of thinking and counterbalancing wisdom-based balance way of thinking.
Be Positive, Don’t Think Positive
There are two types of positives: positive thinking and being positive. Being positive is the key to success and is different from positive thinking. Positive thinking only occurs in your head, while being positive encompasses your entire being, all aspects of your life.
Being positive provides a solid foundation for your having a positive attitude and naturally activates your positive emotions. It provides you with a basic confidence that enhances your ability to experience success as well as significance. Being positive expands your definition of success which helps you not just judge success by financial worth, but also from your personal sense of worth. It is not just about increasing your stock value, but also how much you value yourself.
Living positively, not just thinking positively, stops us from perpetually living on an emotional roller coaster by no longer having our emotions swing from one extreme to another. It helps you experience peace of mind by eliminating constantly feeling anxious about having a negative thought or feeling. Being positive, rather than thinking positively, enables you to add genuine positive entries to your “personal balance sheet.” It allows you to become free and break through the repressed fears and negativity that have accumulated over the years.
The absolute aspect of positive thinking creates “emotional thinking” which causes us to believe that we are our thoughts, projections and facades. It makes us unaware that the absolute positive personal paradigm is built on the belief that who we are is fundamentally lacking and defective.
The negative effects of “emotional thinking” cause us to feel bad about ourselves, as well as think and view ourselves negatively. The negative feedback of the thought pattern of absolute positive thinking is responsible for tricking us into thinking that we are positive, while also believing negative assumptions, beliefs and convictions about ourselves in a number of ways.
Accusatory Self-Talk: What Is Wrong With Me?
The first negative “emotional thought pattern” of absolute positive thinking is accusatory self-talk which causes us to be harsh on ourselves all the time. The constant replay of self-accusatory statements causes us to continually remember what we did “wrong” over and over again in our minds. It often causes us to constantly find fault with ourselves for not automatically knowing the “right” answers. Self-accusatory statements are responsible for our being our own biggest critics and blaming ourselves for everything which often results in many of us fundamentally disliking ourselves, and some even hating themselves. The “emotional thinking” of accusatory self-talk triggers our remembering all the times we were not absolutely right, not able to think of the perfect solution, or were one hundred percent successful which activated the old negative messages that we were conditioned into during early childhood.
The second negative “emotional thought pattern” of absolute positive thinking is self-depreciation which is created by constantly belittling ourselves and viewing ourselves as failures when something goes “wrong.” Depreciating self-talk has a negative effect in our lives by creating strong disbelief in ourselves. It often causes Baby Boomers to not even want to think about the transition process, be tentative about leaving full time positions, feel hesitant about leaving, and seriously doubt that they will be able to make successful departures out of their companies.
Comparison Self-Talk: They Are Successful; I Am Not.
The third negative “emotional thought pattern” of absolute positive thinking is comparison self-talk. The “all or nothing” perspective of absolute positive thinking causes us to make comparisons with other people. Deep down over the years, we knew when we did not meet our absolute standards or live up to other peoples’ expectations, and when we failed to do everything perfectly. The “Prism Effect” of absolute positive thinking creates self-deception which has us see other people as being perfect.
The negative “emotional thought pattern” of comparison self-talk creates the tendency for many to believe that other people are more special, since they had the “right” family background, went to the “right” schools, etc., which had us put them on a pedestal and wish that we were them. The comparison “emotional thought pattern” has us focus on other people’s strengths and ignore their weaknesses while minimizing the awareness of our own strengths and focusing on our weaknesses.
Wisdom-Based Balanced Thinking
Expanded awareness, created by balancing the way we think, helps us realize that the reason why so many people who are disciples of the Gospel of Positive Thinking use absolute positive thinking is to pump themselves up because the majority of their waking hours are spent putting themselves down with negative self-talk. It also creates the realization that absolute thinking, be it negative or positive, is based on feeling negative about ourselves which in turn reinforces the stimulation of negative self-talk. Balanced thinking also makes us aware that what we are not our feelings or our thoughts.
Trying to think positively is a counterbalance to constantly feeling negative. Balanced thinking stops the devaluation process of self-depreciation by helping us appreciate ourselves for who we are, incorporating both our positive and negative life experiences since they both got us to where we are today, and are inherent parts of our life story. Balanced thinking creates the realization that sometimes things work and sometimes they don’t and this is OK since it is just dynamic balance being played out in our lives. When you balance the way you think, you will go beyond self-doubt to self-assurance. You will also stop negatively comparing yourself with other people by knowing that everybody has their weaknesses as well as their strengths. Conversely, you have strengths as well as weaknesses.
A wisdom lesson is that positive thinking causes us to think, and do, negative things.
Denial and the fog of optimism do disorient people that causes them to be confused, and go around in circles trying to figure out who we really are and where we can find a meaningful life when experiencing a major life transition.
When we are in denial, we are living in the fog of delusional optimism caused them to falsely believe there is such a thing as mental “pixy dust” or that by just wishing for something, it will magically make it happen. The positive projection and false positive image created by absolute positive thinking caused them to have a Pollyanna perspective which filters reality by allowing them to only be able to see through rose–colored glasses. The denial factor of delusional optimism causes us to be unrealistic and oblivious to things that are obvious to other people.
Conversely, when people’s lives are unconsciously based on repressed and denied negativity, this causes them to be pessimistic. Pessimists imagine and fear the worst. They assume that if they think negatively, they will be prepared and never be disappointed.
A Third Alternative: Realistic Optimism
Many people think they only have two choices: pessimism or optimism. Realistic optimism offers a third alternative. A realistic perspective helps us be aware of what can possibly go wrong, which enhances our chances for success. A realistic perspective fosters our taking a knowledge-based approach that allows us to be aware of the truth of situations and who we really are underneath the illusionary world of absolute positive thinking. It also counterbalances wishful thinking by helping us make effective decisions, since they are made with all of the facts.
Absolute positive thinking masquerades as Pollyanna Optimism which is a view of life that expects positive outcomes without regard for the environment we are in or for the need to have a Plan B. Pollyanna Optimism does not have us consider the possibilities of things not working out as planned.
Balanced thinking integrates realism with optimism. When optimism and realism are integrated, wise decisions are made by expecting the best, but preparing for the worst. Realistic optimism is created by balancing the way you think which helps you deal with life’s ups and downs, and look at what possibly could go wrong. This enhances your ability to make well informed business and life decisions by counterbalancing an overly optimistic view that often generates a spin scenario of success.
Realistic optimism provides the ability to look realistically at what is as well as what is possible and then think about what practically needs to be done to make it a reality.
Perfectionism has us falsely believe that there is a perfect world.
Realistic optimists are aware that we live in an imperfect world in which things do not always work, relationships break up and bad things do happen to good people. The realistic optimist sees the negative possibilities which provide objectivity, and has the ability to factor in what can possibly go wrong, but expects and chooses positive outcomes.
A false positive image creates intolerance for process thinking. This undermines the creation of a learning attitude and often leads to an abhorrence of mistakes. Realistic optimists feel comfortable with taking a process approach to crafting the lives that they truly want to live. Realistic optimists transform talking positively into taking positive actions which creates a greater chance of success. They also realize that they need to make the effort to make their decisions a reality. They are aware that they need to plan for how they are going to deal with obstacles that may emerge, which increases their confidence level in their ability to get things done.
Business Owners Case Study
The deleterious effect of the fog of delusional optimism works against owners having a substantive perspective which is needed to make real changes in their businesses. I have heard professional advisors for years complain about how owners want an unrealistically high price for their business which is not based on what the company is really worth. A realistic perspective leads owners to ask a realistic price for their businesses which greatly facilitates the selling process. A realistic perspective helps them be aware of the fears and the emotional attachment that is often associated with selling a business so they can take effective actions to counterbalance them. It also allows owners to identify their companies’ strengths and weaknesses so they can fix any glaring defects or problems and create a realistic strategic plan for what needs to be done to increase the value of the business.
Wisdom Lesson: “Get Real!”
Temporary denial is healthy. Chronic denial is unhealthy, since it is used to keep a false positive world intact. False positive thinking is created and maintained through denial. In order to stay positive, you have to make negatives go away! As repression deals with the “lite” threats to positive thinking, so denial deals with any serious threat to its defective way of thinking.
Denial is the foundation for the false façade of the False Self and the illusionary world of the false positive projection. It is also the roof of the repressed negativity in our unconscious. Denial is the defender of the inflated False Self and the zone of comfort.
The false preaching of the “Gospel of Positive Thinking” has us believe the illusion that we can simply deny our negatives away. The truth is that by denying our negative feelings and thoughts, we actually allow them to run our lives.
Denial is the greatest inhibitor of personal growth. It makes us unaware of the negative assumptions, beliefs and convictions, which empowers them to grow and run our lives. The process of denial often creates a basic mistrust in ourselves by having us say we are going to make changes that we want to make, yet denying the fact that we really don’t have any intention to do what needs to be done to make the changes really happen. Denial makes us vulnerable to unexpected “negative” events which can cause serious negative consequences in our lives.
What Genuine +’s?
Denial goes both ways; the process of denial makes us unaware of “negative” things, but it also makes us unaware of the genuine positive parts of ourselves. Denial creates an unawareness of our unique gifts and talents which prevents us from leading a purposeful and fulfilling lives. It causes many people to die with their unique gifts and talents never being used. We have a responsibility to use our talents to make the world a better place however we can. Not only does denial keep us unaware of genuine positives that are already within each of us just waiting to be discovered.
R&D, this time, does not stand for research and development, but repression and denial, and is the reason why many people are unable to make successful transitions into the next stage of their lives. For example, denied fears often caused business owners to emotionally sabotage the sale of their companies. It also creates the illusion that we are strong and in control, while we actually feel weak, fearful, and often powerless in the face of change.
Denial is the creator of imbalance! In order for something to be imbalanced, something needs to be missing. Awareness of what has been denied allows us to balance the way we think and the way we live our lives. Expanded awareness is the natural outcome of balanced thinking. Only by becoming aware of, and accepting, the negatives, will you be free of them.
A + sign symbolizes the two negative processes of absolute positive thinking. The vertical line represents the process of repression, and the horizontal line that of denial. Also, let it remind you of how absolute positive thinking keeps you unaware of the genuine +’s of how you really are.
Contrary to absolute positive thinking, there is no such thing as an absolute safe world, one of the false benefits that keeps us within its tyranny. Balanced thinking allows us to realize that rather than be either safe or free, we can be bothsafe and free.
The following are additional ways that positive thinking causes us to think and feel negatively about ourselves.
Overgeneralization: “I’m a Failure If I Fail”
The first way absolute positive thinking causes us to fail and view ourselves negatively is by the emotional thought pattern of overgeneralization. This deceptive emotional thought pattern creates the tendency to view ourselves from an absolute perspective, which causes us to internally talk to ourselves in sweeping negative terms and to falsely believe that “we cannot fail.” This deceptive emotional thought pattern works against our being successful by having us assume that no matter how much we achieve our goals, if there was any gray area whatsoever, then we have not been successful.
Overgeneralization works against success by causing us to focus on what could stop us from achieving our goals while ignoring the benefits of being successful.
Overreacting: Small Negative Thing, Big Negative Response
Another fallacious emotional thought pattern of absolute positive thinking is that of overreacting which causes us to blow insignificant things way out of proportion. Small “wrongs” trigger major negative responses in our lives, and cause us to exaggerate what we perceive as being negative.
The emotional thought pattern of overreacting creates the tendency to come down hard on ourselves which reinforces our being our own harshest critics. Overreaction creates a negative mental formula: negative subjects or events trigger negative self-talk, and the outcome is negative results in our lives. For example, when people are asked: “What are you going to do after your leave your company?” it triggers the thought pattern: “What the heck is wrong with me, since I don’t have the foggiest idea of what I am going to do with my life?” This often results in a harmful decision: “I am going to stop the discussion of leaving my company anytime that the subject is brought up.”
Jumping to Negative Conclusions
“I Know It Won’t Work Out”
Jumping to negative conclusions is another “emotional thought pattern.” The need of people who use absolute positive thinking to make decisions quickly in order to not deal with ambiguity or uncertainty creates the tendency for us to believe negative conclusions about ourselves without giving them any careful thought or analysis.
The “emotional thought pattern” of jumping to conclusions creates the false beliefs that: “ I don’t measure up” or “I’m never good enough” which results in prejudging the idea of making a personal transition by assuming that it is not going to work out. The false conclusion stops many people from thinking about the whole idea of “what’s next” which leaves their futures open to chance. Another way the deceptive emotional thought pattern of “jumping to conclusions” interferes with making a successful transition is by a process known as negative forecasting which causes people to imagine that the transition process will turn out badly based on no logical reasoning.
Inferiority: “I Don’t Measure Up”
When we don’t live up to our ideal standards or achieve unattainable goals, the either/ or basis of absolute positive thinking causes us to feel like failures, and it further confirms the negative beliefs about ourselves that have been repressed by absolute positive thinking. The emotional thought pattern of inferiority causes us to think negatively about ourselves which reinforces negative personal convictions. Believing that who we are doesn’t measure up leads to the conviction that who we are has no value and that what we have to say or do is equally of no value to other people.
The emotional thought pattern of inferiority often causes people to feel second-rate to others who they believe are more intelligent, attractive, social or successful than they are. It makes them feel bad for not coming from a perfect background, being perfect, doing everything perfectly. Measuring ourselves to the absolute standards of perfectionism often results in our having low opinions of ourselves and feeling frustration and a deep sense of powerlessness.
The expanded awareness of balanced thinking helps you realize that absolute positive thinking creates a self-reinforcing feedback loop which causes us to feel negative about ourselves and creates the need to always think positively which is an overcompensation for feeling bad.
Balancing the way you think counterbalances the negative effects of absolute positive thinking by having you correctly believe that: “I do measure up.” You can fail and it can be a great learning experience. Balanced thinking offsets the emotional thought pattern of oversimplification and helps you realize that you are not a failure if you fail because what you do does not define who you are. Another way balanced thinking counterbalances the emotional thought pattern of oversimplification is by helping you discover the true positive facts of who you really are and focus on the details that need to be addressed for successful outcomes.
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