Or don’t. There is no tidy, one size fits all and solves everything answer to anything, ever. That assertion is one of my key bits of dogma, along with ‘shit happens’ and ‘there are always choices of some sort.’ Positive thinking can be really helpful. It can carry you through challenges, inspire you to do better, it can nourish, uplift and enable. You probably know that because the productive power of positive thought is rather self announcing. It may require effort and minor discomfort, but when it works for you, the payoff always makes that feel reasonable.
There are times when positive thinking doesn’t work. I‘ve got some examples from my own life which I can talk about easily, but no doubt there are other forms and manifestations out there, too. Sometimes, positive thinking is a trap with really sharp and pointy teeth.
Looking for the best in things, and in people, being upbeat and hopeful that things will get better, and that everything happens for a good reason and that there are life lessons to learn… I tried that in one context. I tried it for years, and it helped me do the following. I was able to stay positive about the way in which my life was getting ever narrower. I was able to work with the increasing demands being placed on my body, and on my emotional self. I learned how to roll with the knock backs, the put downs, and the physical pain. I saw the best, and I encouraged it, and in so doing I made it really easy for all the shit around me to continue. I was so busy being positive that I did not challenge over the negatives, protect my boundaries, deal with the massive problems in my life and I was not happy.
Only when I let myself admit that it had all gone to hell did I make the choice to get out, and only on getting out of that situation did my life stop going downhill exponentially and start improving. Sometimes, a hearty dose of negativity, failure, and giving up will save your life.
Then there’s the one that I pick up more casually, in the flows of online conversation. Those friendly ‘think good thoughts and you will attract good stuff to you. Be positive and you will heal. Your own negative energy is what’s getting you down and making you sick.’ I am not (I am encouraged to think) to speak of the stuff that depresses, frightens or ails me because that’s dwelling on the negative and will bring more negative energy into my life. The reason it has fallen apart for me before is clearly that I’m not positive enough (see above, if only I’d tried harder!). But when you’ve given your all and it wasn’t enough, and your body is just plain ill, and you need the human relief of speaking about the things that hurt… other people waving the power of positive thinking can be a bloody alienating experience.
Which is interesting, when you stop and think about it. The whole New Age think positive attract good stuff philosophy is supposed to be inherently good. It’s supposed to make everything better. How can something that is good have the effect of alienating, depressing and feeling like an attack if you are in a vulnerable place? The measure of a philosophy is what it actually does, and if a big part of what it does is knock people down, then it’s not a benevolent philosophy, no matter what it claims. So here’s The Real Secret.
Sometimes we bring that upon ourselves a bit, sometimes we don’t.
Sometimes we can fix it, sometimes the best answer is to quit.
Some things you will get over in your own time, others less so. Your attitude may have a role in this, but there are no guarantees. It is ok not to get over things if you are, for whatever reason, not able to get over them.
There are always choices. Sometimes none of those choices are good ones.
Sometimes there is no win, but only the person who quits is definitely beaten. Sometimes quitting is the only thing that can save you.
Shit happens, because the universe is a big place with a lot of different stuff going on and most of it isn’t personally aimed at you, whether that shows up as good stuff or disaster,
Shit happens, and when we are gentle with ourselves and each other and don’t use philosophy as an offensive weapon, the shit is a tad easier to bear.