The Power of Positive Thinking
Updated: Mar 25, 2019
Telling someone to “stay positive” can have a devastating effect.
There was a time when I was battling depression, and it was taking every ounce of energy I could muster to make it through the day.
My body felt heavy. I was tired even when I was able to sleep. My mind was full of thoughts of the pointlessness of it all, and these thoughts filled me with despair.
I simply didn’t have access to positive thoughts. Positive thoughts felt like lies. I desperately wanted to experience joy and happiness, but I didn’t know how to access these emotions.
I would read about “the power of positive thinking,” and the idea that you can think a positive feeling into existence. When I wasn’t able to do this, I believed something was wrong with me. I felt very ashamed that I couldn’t get over feeling depressed.
I’ve since pulled myself out of depression, and this is what I’ve learned about why “the power of positive thinking” doesn’t always apply.
Bottled up emotions don’t disappear. For example, if a person needs to grieve, the only way to get through that grief is to feel it. It’s not possible to make the grief go away by thinking positive.
Thoughts are repetitive and habitual. Ninety-five percent of what you are thinking today, you were thinking yesterday. It takes time and practice to learn how to 1) notice thoughts, 2) notice emotions that arise from thoughts, 3) allow thoughts and emotions as they are, and then 4) choose a different perspective. We can’t skip over this learning process in the way that “just think positive” implies.
A fundamental part of healing is being able to share your true feelings with another, and to be witnessed without judgment. Telling someone to “stay positive” conveys an unwillingness to be that witness. It cuts off connection between people and it shuts down the opportunity for healing. It is a violent statement in its ability to keep people separate.
Today, I have more access to positive thoughts than ever before. This is because I’ve been studying my thoughts for a while now, and because I’m committed to feeling my feelings. It’s definitely not because I just "stay positive” if I’m feeling down.
About the Author
Diana Calvo is a certified coach who helps people get unstuck and transform their day-to-day experience of work and life. After 20 years successfully climbing the corporate ladder, Diana experienced her own journey of healing and awakening. She discovered her true calling to guide others on their journey out of suffering and into a life of purpose and joy. Diana left the corporate world to start her own coaching business. She lives in Denver, Colorado with her dog Joey and a beautiful view of the mountains. She works with clients across the globe.