Why does Positive Thinking often get a bad rap?
As a Positive Thinking enthusiast for over a decade I have often defended it. Explained it. Taught it. Through it all I have pondered its poor reputation. (Just think positive? Bah! And then pigs will fly over my piles of money, right?) But now, after all these years, I know the reason people turn their nose up at it.
It's been misnamed.
If you are already feeling positive, the term Positive Thinking sounds great. (Yes! Give me more of that!) But if you are feeling terrible, the term Positive Thinking can sound like a punch in the gut.
Oh, I'm going through all of this and now you want me to think positive too?!
Even if you can get past the initial sour-faced reaction about thinking positive, the doing of it often doesn't work. Not when you are really, really having a hard time – and you really, really need it. Pulling a positive thought into a depressed or angry brain is like dragging a suitcase without wheels through the airport. On carpet. When the plane is already boarding.
So instead I'm going to rename Positive Thinking. I'm going call it... um.... Positive-Thinking-Uness-You-Need-Relief-First Thinking. (It's catchy, don't you think?)
Because here's the deal: you can't have joy until you feel relief. And you can't feel relief if you are trying to pound a round thought into a square head. Wait, now we all look like SpongeBob SquarePants.
Where was I?
There are many teachers who recommend you look in the mirror and say affirmations over and over again to yourself even if they don't feel good. That never worked for me. Instead I had to find an affirmation that was even remotely doable.
"I'm beautiful inside and out!"
No, I don't feel beautiful. I'm wearing 10 day old sweat pants and I have baby spit on me and I can't remember when last I showered.
What feels like a better thought that I can actually maybe even try to believe?
"I'm proud of me."
Yes. Yes I am. Because this baby is doing well and I'm taking care of it despite the trail of houseplants I have left behind me. Huh.
Eventually, "I'm proud of me" became "I'm beautiful inside and out", sweatpants or not. Why? Because I needed the relief from feeling bad about myself before I could feel the possibility of liking myself.
But maybe I'm different. Maybe there are a lot of people who find affirmations work even if they hate them. Who find Positive Thinking a great idea even when they want to poke it in the eye. But mostly I find people who pick a different affirmation to repeat without perhaps realizing they are drawn to it because it's a relief-filled chocolate coated in positive potential instead of a huge, head-sized, how-am-I-going-to-swallow-that glump of sugar.
Glump. Yes, I just made that up.
So when the term Positive Thinking makes you scrunch up you face, remember my new name: Positive-Thinking-Uness-You-Need-Relief-First Thinking. Or PTUYNRFT for short.
With this knowledge you can look at perennially positive people not as strange aliens from an annoying planet but simply as people who have practiced the art of relief.
And now you can too.