Exploring the Pitfalls of Positive Thinking
You always hear that you have to think positively and that to be happy, you have to have a constant positive attitude. While being mostly positive is important, there are some pitfalls associated with a constant state of positive thinking. Once you know what these pitfalls are, you can start to alter your thinking in a way that is more realistic. When you are a realistic thinker, you are better able to make decisions and solve problems that will help you with things like advancing your career and building more meaningful relationships.
The Optimism Bias
Humans are inclined to anticipate that bad things will happen to them more often than to other people. On the other hand, people also think that they will have more good things happen to them compared to other people. This is a bias that affects attitudes toward taking risks and the drive to take those risks. Risks are a necessary part of life, especially when you want to grow and succeed. If you are afraid to take risks because you think that they will end badly, you will miss out on opportunities. The other aspect of this bias shows that if you think that good things will just happen, you are less likely to take risks because you do not think that you have to take action for things to occur.
You need to balance your optimism and pessimism to be a healthy risk taker. You need to know when a risk is necessary and when you can skip taking one. If you cannot find this balance due to an overabundance of positive thinking or fear, you will find that you are not growing and that your life is not progressing at the rate that you want it to.
Putting Too Much Focus on Positive Thinking Distracts You
People naturally think positively most of the time so there is no need to focus on trying to think positive. This can distract you from the real things that are happening in your life. When you put a lot of emphasis on thinking positively, it actually forces you to focus on negative things more than you should. This is because your brain essentially wants to take a break from the positive since you are forcing it to be positive all of the time.
When negative things happen, such as losing your job or ending a relationship, it is important that you allow yourself to process the negatives of the situation. You have to let yourself be angry, sad and other negative emotions. This allows you to truly confront the situation and work it out so that you are able to learn from it. If you try to act like everything is great in an effort to be positive, this will eventually backfire due to negative emotions building up without a proper outlet.
Illusion of Control
If you force yourself to be positive all of the time, this gives the illusion that you are in control of everything. However, it is impossible to be in full control over all aspects of your life. There are many things that you cannot control and it is important to accept this. This allows you to be a realist and to see situations and events as they truly are, whether they are good or bad.
Distracting from what is Important
When your focus is solely on being positive and looking at life through rose-colored glasses, this distracts you from a variety of life lessons. Negative things happen to test your emotions and so that you can learn from them. If you cannot see a situation for what it is, it is impossible to deconstruct it and learn from it. You have to be able to manage unhappiness and disappointment to work toward being truly happy and fulfilled in all of the aspects of your life.
To best manage your thoughts, it is best to not be overly positive. Humans are meant to experience a wide range of emotions and when you try to suppress certain emotions in favor of positivity, you are just allowing negativity to build up. This can lead to issues like stress and anxiety, both of which can feed into larger problems. While tackling life with a positive attitude is important, just make sure that you allow a balance with your emotions for optimal mental health and self-development.
- Rosemary Kitchen
Katsnelson, A. (2011). The Pitfalls of Positive Thinking. Retrieved on February 25, 2015 from http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-pitfalls-of-positive-thinking/
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