The Positive Thinking Trap
With a title as provocative as this, one could easily be forgiven for thinking that my purpose is to promote gloomy thoughts, a ‘realistic’ take on life and its events peppered with a generous dose of cynicism. Not at all. However, what alarms me is when personal development, affirmations and the belief that we create our own reality are peddled in ways that are superficial and lacking in any real meaning, or are used as a vehicle for avoiding what is abundantly visible – human suffering.
It seems that our capacity to meet, see and feel human suffering is so low that we must either tell others ‘look on the bright side’ with little to no regard for their true feelings, or, use positive thinking to such a degree in our own lives that we’re simply creating another false persona that lives on the other side of a split from our deeper feelings – feelings of anger, loneliness, self loathing, self hatred, and worthlessness. We berate ourselves and one another with statements like ‘Believe in yourself!’, ‘Focus on the positive!’, ‘Try harder!’ – all in all, what that does is make us blind to not only the very people we think we’re trying to help, but also blind to our own pain.
So what is the alternative? Many are not comfortable with the alternatives on offer for it seems that many of us will do almost anything to avoid facing our core wound. On the other end of the scale, there are those of us who have been stuck in our story and in our victimhood for years, if not decades. Misery is our calling card and tales of woe and blame become our justification for every failure, disappointment and episode of unhealthy behaviour. In many respects, the positive thinking junkies and the woeful worriers are cut from the same cloth – both behaviours are designed to avoid what is really present. Admittedly, the woeful worriers would probably come out on top if they were in an authenticity competition with the positive thinking junkies, but only by a hair’s breadth. Neither habit is truthful – one usually blames the self, the other usually blames other. It still boils down to blame, and where there is blame, there is shame.
The Mind Myth
The mind is but a mere servant of consciousness, it is not consciousness itself. Consciousness is the entirety of our being, not just our mental capacity. There is a myth that if only we ‘think’ positive thoughts, then there will be a positive outcome and that we will feel better. However, it is true to say that if we find ourselves walking through an industrial landscape we will more than likely feel better if we look at whatever trees there may be and the patches of blue sky than to dwell on the toxic fumes billowing from each and every chimneystack. A consciousness is the entirety of our being; we then end up lacking in one or many areas of our lives if we believe that the mind is consciousness itself. The limits we experience in our lives are in direct ratio to our self awareness, the awareness of our consciousness on many levels, not just the mind.
The purpose of this article is not to speak against ‘looking on the bright side’ or even finding things to be grateful for, these are helpful habits, especially when challenges abound. What is being addressed here is the illusory and potentially damaging hope there exists when we believe that if only we ‘think’ better thoughts and ‘say’ positive statements that everything will turn out for the better.
From an energetic point of view this creates a split in our consciousness and it also can have a debilitating effect on our ability to relate with compassion to other human beings and our ability to see who is really there – we actually end up relating to the world and to other individuals through our 6th chakra – the so called Third Eye. Why isn’t that a good thing?
When positive thinking becomes addictive we end up living our life from our upper chakras, especially from the 6th – Third Eye. Much of our life force energy is pushed upwards and outwards, literally creating a screen onto which we project our desired outcomes. We then begin to look out at the world through the filter this screen creates – and often this screen creates only a flimsy image, its truth being wafer thin.
One of the areas in which projected images have a damaging effect is with human relationships. When we are addicted to positive thinking and have created images from which to live with all of the energy we’ve pushed up to our Third Eye, we then often see our idealised image of the person we are interacting with, not who is truly there. Similarly, as we project such a clear image of how we want to see ourselves then two things are happening – we are not seeing the other person for who they are and we are not showing the other who we are. This makes the interaction inauthentic and it invariably leads to disappointment.
Hang on a second, but isn’t it good to see the potential of other people? First of all, no-one can be assisted to reach their potential if they are not being seen for whom and where they are right now. Also, whose image? Yours or theirs? When we project our image onto another person, and do so with vigour (positive enthusiasm) it alienates and it is potentially abusive – there is no room for them to exist outside of our image of them.
When we use our Third Eye in this manner it is invariably happening because we are by passing the heart.
The truth of another and the truth of who we are can only be seen through the heart. This is not sentimental, for the heart, when awakened, is the bridge between the lower and upper chakras and when we view others, the world and ourselves through the heart we are using all of our consciousness, not just our thinking mind.
The Third Eye is able to create an effective Heart Bypass as it is also a doorway to the celestial realms- a realm in which the potential of all life and all consciousness can be seen. However, we are human beings and we attempt to bypass our humanity through living focussed in a sphere of consciousness that is either ‘other worldly’ or ‘potentiality’, we miss a lot of not only who we are, but also who the other is. When we focus on life through this chakra it can be quite confusing when an article such as this is presented. You may say: But I feel good, that’s a good thing, right? The reason for feeling good is that this layer of consciousness opens doorways to our celestial body, also known as the ‘spiritual bliss body’ – but that’s a good thing, right? No, not when the foundation is under developed or missing.
Each layer of human consciousness is building block, a layer or tier, just like an apartment block. The building cannot stand if its foundation, basement and lower floors are not in place and functioning.
We create a Heart Bypass when the trauma and drama of early childhood has been overwhelming for us – if it has left us scarred and shamed, full of unacknowledged worthlessness and self-hatred. The Heart Bypass in this case is created in avoidance of the ‘ugly truth’ we’ve told ourselves in an attempt to grasp at the wonderful images, ideals and feelings that the Third Eye and Celestial Body can provide. As humans we are at their best when we are in alignment – when the celestial is firmly grounded in the physical body, living fully in the physical world, and when words, actions, deeds and words of encouragement are expressed through an awakened heart.
Use of Will
Along with an addiction to positive thinking comes living a will centred life. When we live our life from will we value our capability more than our ability to surrender, be value effort and determination more than vulnerability and we favour strategy more than we value allowing. None of these qualities are bad things in and of themselves, however, an addiction to positive thinking, which is really a defence around vulnerability and the truth of how we actually feel about ourselves, is often polarised into viewing outcomes as either success or failure or the self as either good or bad, enough or not enough.
As we got older, the more will we have to use to keep our positive thinking ship afloat, the more control we will need to exert on ourselves, our environment, circumstances and on other people. This is where the cracks really begin to appear in the fabric of the reality we have created. Strong use of will couple with a disallowance of negative thinking, along with a heart bypass add up to personal relationships that simply do not work, or which turn out be disappointing. When we’ve set up these circumstances in our life, relationships are a challenge as we invariably relate to everyone through our image of how we want things to be and not how they are.
Facing What is Real
There is absolutely nothing wrong with re-framing circumstances into the positive and looking for what can be gained. However, an impulse to re-frame everything in every moment, to disallow yourself and others to feel less than positive is not only bordering on abusive behaviour – it is in fact abusive behaviour, especially towards the self.
When we are motivated to invest so much energy into berating ourselves into a positive view of the world, we are running at high speed away from something that we are not wanting to face. Our deeper wounds cannot be resolved in the mind. It cannot be understood, analysed or paved over with positive thoughts. This misunderstanding comes from the belief that the mind is the home of consciousness. It is not, it is merely its servant. Our mind is but one part of an entire being of consciousness that spans every aspect of our being. The only way to transform a core wound is to encounter it, to feel it, to allow it to transform in the light of consciousness and awareness, this cannot be done by the mind, and we cannot think our way out of it.
Positive thinking is often the band aid we use to cover up feelings of inadequacy, shame, guilt, self hatred and worthlessness. When we have the courage to face what is real, it ceases to have power over us and we no longer need to convince ourselves of our own self worth through an attachment to positive thinking. When we cease denying our own vulnerability, we will then be able to tolerate the vulnerability of others, also no longer abusing them directly or indirectly with our intolerance for authentic doubt and difficulty. No one wants to be around those who wallow in suffering; likewise, no-one wants to be around someone who is blind to the truth of who they are.
When positive thinking becomes our main form of medicine, there is a strong tendency to want to fix that which is not working and to ‘get rid of’ unwanted feelings. When we become trapped in the grip of addictive and abusive cycle positive thinking it then becomes increasingly difficult for us to face the reality that we are perhaps not at all happy with our life’s circumstances and that in reality we experience little to no peace, little to no contentment and little to no authentic self worth.
Doom and gloom and addictive positive thinking are but opposite sides of the same coin of shame and an inability to encounter deeper feelings of worthlessness. Given time and a willingness to tell the absolute truth, we will then find both inner and outer resources that can gently hold our hand as we lead into worthlessness and self hatred and then out the other side as a renewed compassionate human being.
Healing the Heart
Stepping off the positive thinking treadmill takes as much courage as it does to put down a cigarette for the last time or to refuse that alcoholic beverage. It can, it its extremes, be as damaging to your self esteem and your relationships as any other addictive behaviour that seeks to numb and deny what is really present. When we have the courage to face what is, name what is, and above all, feel what is; then the shackles that have bound the heart can be unleashed. As the heart in unleashed the goodness of who you are will be realised and once that happens, blessings and opportunities begin to more effortlessly flow into your life.
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6 thoughts on “The Positive Thinking Trap”
Many thanks for that raw truth…I feel uncomfortable and emotional….it was a detailed description of what I have been doing all of my life…and detailed description of where it has taken me…to anything but a positive place. I am in the midst of yet another reality collapse within my life where I have to face another avalanche of “oh shit I’m here again”. So your words have shone a bright light on lots of awkward, hidden things I didn’t want to realise. Thank you.
Breathe into the discomfort. When we avoid discomfort, we’re actually choosing long term suffering in favour of short term pain – Namaste, Shavasti
Thank You Shavasti!
One of the most powerful core gems here is in the: “willingness to tell the absolute truth”.
I’ve started a blog on this article!
I have also just begun writing a book on the greater self awareness that we can have through communicating our truth!
You are most welcome. You may be aware that my audio book has just been released – Teachings form an Awakened Heart. 5hrs, and I discuss the ‘willngness to tell the absolute truth’ in more depth.
An amazing article….profound, brilliant, truthful and inspiring. I love the way Shavasti speaks of the Core Wound, and the courage, willingness and open heart required to embrace and integrate it. Shavasti is one of the masterful teachers of our time of Great Change. His words are powerful….take them in….contemplate them…and allow them to do their ‘work’. Awesome!
Thank you Tuck, your support for my work is deeply appreciated – Shavasti