In our 21st century western societies, we have been conditioned to ‘think positively at all times’. Tons of self-help books have been written about the magical powers of positive thinking, ‘mind-over-matter’ and the dangers of not getting what we want, because of our ‘negative’ thoughts or vibrations.
Our total devotion to positive thinking leads us to often forget about the conditions and limitations of the physical and biological reality in which we live in. When a problem occurs which needs our attention, it doesn’t help to wish it away with positive thinking. The problem will still be there, requiring positive action in order to address it.
Even worse: an obsession with avoiding pain and failure, is the actual cause of disease, and therefore even bigger pain. As the physician and therapist Gabor Maté states in his book ‘When the Body Says No’: “the overwhelming need of the child to avoid pain and conflict is responsible for the personality trait or coping style that later predisposes the adult to disease”.
What do we need instead? Gabor Maté talks about counterbalancing this tendency to avoid pain with negative thinking. I prefer to talk about evidence-based thinking. Being fully aware of the internal and external factors that are holding you back from reaching your goals and achieving happiness in your life, is the most important step towards healing, towards being whole again.
To quote Maté once again: “We have seen in study after study that compulsive positive thinkers are more likely to develop disease and less likely to survive. Genuine positive thinking -or, more deeply, positive being- empowers us to know that we have nothing to fear from truth”.
And when we have nothing to fear from truth, we have nothing to fear from failure or pain, right?