Forcing positive thoughts

Why forcing positive thinking won’t make you happy

“…emotions like sadness, guilt, grief and anger are beacons for our values. We don’t get angry about stuff we don’t care about. We don’t feel sad or guilty about stuff we don’t care about. If we push these emotions away, we are choosing not to learn about ourselves. We are choosing to ignore our values and what is important to us.” Source: A Harvard psychologist explains why forcing positive thinking won’t make you happy – The Washington Post

Forcing positive thoughts

What I’m reading on Positive Thinking

Article: “A Harvard psychologist explains why forcing positive thinking won’t make you happy,” Washington Post

Article’s Key Points

  • The “tyranny of positivity” is leading to a (largely) fundamentally-avoidant cultural dialogue
  • Emotions are “beacons for our values,” including our sadness, guilt and anger
  • Pushing away [negative] thoughts and emotions only serves to have them come back magnified
  • “…emotional agility is a skill set that builds on our ability to face our emotions, label them, understand them and then choose to move forward deliberately.”

What about Law of Attraction and Positive Thinking?

In energy work, we talk a lot about the importance of positive thinking when it comes to applying the Law of Attraction (i.e. the world reflects back what we project). The idea is if we are to attract what we want, we have to project and feel what we want. A lot of folks confuse this with forcing positive thinking, and positive emotion. But there’s a huge difference between forcing positive thinking/emotion and cultivating *positivity*. This is one point I’d like to clarify from the article.

The way out is through

Cultivating positive thinking: It is safe to feelSo many of my patients and students come in deeply desiring “to be rid of” what feels uncomfortable and unpleasant. They want to “get rid of” their anger, their sadness, their guilt, etc. When we force positive thinking in these cases, we stuff the unpleasant. Or, we dissociate from our being, so as not to feel the unpleasant. But what happens to the ‘unpleasant’ in these cases? It compounds, because it’s not being dealt with. Now we carry the weight of the last time we felt this unpleasantness, our resentment for having it at all, and the frustration of not having dealt with it already, etc. Multiply this compounding by each time this emotion or story arises. Each time we stuff part of our experience, or dissociate from it, it makes our negativity seem that much more real, and that much more insurmountable. But the good news is, you don’t have to get over it. You can move through it.

Feel the emotions, listen for the needs

In the system of Nonviolent Communication, emotions simply reflect needs being or not being met. They’re reflections, not entities. So, to cultivate positivity would be to hold in compassion where we feel sad, angry, guilty and afraid. To listen to what needs are not being met and to what values we hold dear. Through listening, we open the door to serving our values and needs. I see time and time again in Reiki sessions ‘negative’ emotions and thoughts simply dissolve when tended to with love and willingness to understand. This is Law of Attraction in action — being the embodiment of love, staying in the frequency of what you want.

Need help?

Sometimes we can need support to take that first step or even to persevere in the face of discomfort. Reiki can be an excellent support on this journey in helping to create a space of unconditional love and illumination. To book your local or distance treatment today, visit Black Pine Holistic Healing’s online scheduler.

Reiki, Self-Care

Candid Camera

by José Manuel Ríos Valiente, Flickr CC License

Lately I’ve been finding myself more curious about the band posters posted in my neighborhood. Mostly they feature someone or a band of people somewhat sneering at the camera, Ke$ha style. Normally I wouldn’t think twice about it, except I just started seeing it everywhere– badasses on telephone polls, badasses in clothing store windows, wherever– just anywhere someone wanted something to look cool. And it just hit me, this is what we’re all trying to emulate? Is it actually uncool to be seen smiling?

I’m reminded of a patient I had once, who I encouraged during a Reiki treatment to smile at her gallbladder. (It’s really not an uncommon phenomenon in qi gong practice.) She scoffed. What was more amazing is when I consulted with a colleague, she misunderstood me and thought the patient suggested smiling to her own gallbladder– to which my colleague laughed. I hadn’t realized that taking the time to see what’s inside us with kindness was laughable to most people. And not even the kind of laugh that brings a genuine smile to one’s face!

Ekman and Friesen conducted research in the 1980’s that was able to show the marked differentiation between “enjoyment [or felt] smiles” and “false [or masking] smiles.” They found the muscles around the eyes, in particular the zygomatic and orbicularis oculi muscles, would only contract during smiles spontaneously occurring with positive emotion. Our eyes can’t fake it! (Think you’re good at spotting the truth? Check out some photos….) What’s more fascinating, is Kleinke, Peterson, and Rutledge found in the late 1990’s that for self-aware folks, mimicking another individual’s positive or negative facial expressions directly resulted in their feeling positive and negative emotions. In other words, just trying on an authentic smile (remember to engage those crow’s feet!) is enough to evoke positive emotion. They also found this sense of positive affect was further increased when participants saw themselves in a mirror. This underscores for me that not only is something happening physically that is affecting the emotional body, but that seeing truly is believing. When we see that something is possible, that, for example, we can be happy, we are that much more open to being happy. And what’s super cool? Our happiness has been shown to reach almost three degrees of separation— causing those around us to feel happier, too. (I love the author’s note, page 8, that likens the reach of happiness to that of obesity and smoking behavior.)

So, let’s just step back for a minute – and think, if our emotions can be affected by the faces we see every day (think: mirror neurons); and we’re constantly looking at pictures and billboards and posters of scowling people; and the mood we’re trying on can affect three degrees of separation… WHOA! This is more serious than I thought! You could almost say there’s a contagion out there that is plaguing people with hardness. That just to face the world, we have to process an array of emotion. And more than ever, it’s important to prioritize kindess; to prioritize a kind smile towards yourself and others. The deeper that smile, the more we encourage those around us to try on deeper and deeper depths of happiness. So, smile at your gallbladder. Smile at your pinky toe. Smile at your inner organs and top layers. Anything and everything that deserves feeling good, feeling appreciated, feeling loved. Your shared happiness may be the cheapest and most meaningful investment you make in yourself and in those around you!

Need more encouragement? Let martial artist Gene Dreyer show you how to be a real badass!