I see a lot of pieces online about how we can improve our lives with more positive thinking. Practice gratitude. When you are angry with someone, look at how you are projecting your negativity onto them. Minimise your problems. Love everybody. Now, if the only problems in your life exist because you’re a miserable, negative sort of person who projects this onto others, feels no gratitude and has no love in their heart, this may in fact work. In some situations, it can get you killed.
The trouble with glib positive thinking prompts, is that they do not have any nuance, or any capacity for detail. They also make you wholly responsible for your life experience. Yes, you can change any experience by changing how you feel about it. If you are being bullied at work, or beaten at home, you can make this easier to bear by feeling grateful for even having a job or a partner. You can tell yourself that it’s not so bad, and that you are creating the problem by projecting your negativity. You can love them unconditionally. This will destroy you, one way or another.
Then there are the positive thinking ideas that reassure us that we’ve chosen this life-experience for a reason. There is something we must learn. And ‘God’ would not have given us more than we can deal with. Fantastic, not only is you life awful, but you chose this before you were born, and your deity thinks you can take it. Again, people who stay in dangerous situations can and do end up dead. Every time I read an assertion that the challenges are here for us to find loving answers to, I want to scream. Some people, if you stay around and love them, will take you apart, metaphorically, literally… Sometimes the only lesson to learn is how to get out as safely and quickly as possible. It’s worth being very careful about this one, because leaving a dangerous situation can trigger rage, and statistically you are most likely to die at the point when you try to escape. Help and a good plan are essential.
New Age fluff is fine if the biggest problems in your life are that can’t have everything you desire, your ego is not stroked enough, and you have no idea how to be satisfied with what you’ve got. If your problems are first world issues of excess luxury and too much advertising then yes, those positive thinking prompts may be good for you, and won’t do any harm. If you go to bed afraid of the person who lies next to you, then lying there in the darkness trying to figure out why you are projecting this negative emotion onto them, will keep you there, and keep you hurting and frightened. If you’re being shouted at, if your days are a barrage of criticism, mockery, and humiliation, if there are normal things you do not dare do because you fear the consequences… stay away from the New Age noises. You do not need more love and patience. You do not need to accept that you chose this life course and have work to do. You do not need to buy into the idea that it is somehow your life’s purpose to deal with a person who makes you want to die.
Every time you read some statement about changing your thinking to improve your life, please, please add a mental footnote: This only applies if you are not dealing with a psychopath. This is only true if you are not surrounded by assholes, by petty, mean-hearted gits, or by those who enjoy knocking other people down.