The Power & Pitfalls of Positive Thinking by Doris Helge, Ph.D. (c) 2009
Positive psychology is often confused with positive thinking & affirmations. Discover how to celebrate fear as a forecast of new confidence.
Birth canals are small, uncomfortable passageways that simultaneously produce almost indescribable joy and pain. We are always giving birth to new aspects of ourselves. We walk down frightening paths only to discover new layers of confidence. Our self-doubts arise specifically so we can give birth to heightened degrees of self-love and empowerment. An uncomfortable feeling such as anger, fear, or sadness rears its head and many people want to numb, disguise, or deny it.
This approach is usually as successful as trying to transport bullfrogs in a wheelbarrow. Negative feelings continue to demand our attention. Since we didn’t heed the call the first time, painful feelings scream louder. Unpleasant situations magnify so we can gain the personal growth available from them. Have you ever known anyone who left an unpleasant job or relationship only to re-create the unpleasant scenario?
Running from painful emotions can also place our health at risk. When we repress negative emotions, we stifle the flow of energy through or bodies. We inadvertently suppress our immune system and perceive events as more stressful than they really are. We feel confused and disconnected from the people we love.
Whether we are avoiding anger or love, the price of our unwillingness to be honest about our feelings can be quite high. On the other hand, allowing life to touch us has tremendous benefits.
Studies that chemically analyzed tears indicated that teardrops cleanse stress hormones. That’s why we feel less fatigued after crying. Our sobs are an innate gift because tears assist the body in washing away toxins. Many recent studies have explored why men tend to die seven years earlier than women. Researchers noted that most men seldom cry. Even when they allow tears to well up in their eyes, they rarely shed these very precious, innate rejuvenators. It seems that we forgot to tell our little boys that the strongest trees
- those that tend to live the longest - bend with the wind.
Many women would rather cry or feel hurt than express anger. Just as men were told, “Big boys don’t cry,” most women were conditioned to believe that anger is unbecoming or “not ladylike.” Some women fear anger because they have been in hurtful situations when others were enraged. Some women take pride in the fact that they put the needs of others before their own, but they secretly resent doing so.
Gender-related patterns of hidden anger or sadness are associated with the physical diseases we tend to develop. Recent studies have examined why women tend to develop higher percentages of chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, and arthritis while men have higher percentages of other diseases such as heart attacks.
THE PARADOX AND A POTENTIAL SHIFT
Positive psychology is often confused with the use of positive thinking and affirmations. In coaching, rushing toward the magic of possibility thinking can disempower us.
We can unintentionally set ourselves up to repeat a negative experience. When we “put on a happy face” or try the “fake it ’til you make it” approach, even if we gain a brief respite from uneasy feelings, most of us will have to keep putting on a façade. Buried feelings never die. They resurface, usually at a very inconvenient time. Then we repeat the same uncomfortable emotions and difficult challenges.
Thinking we are practicing positive psychology, many people advocate “releasing” or “letting go of” painful experiences or emotions. Feelings such as anger, sadness, and fear are often labeled negative or toxic. Humans were created with pain and pleasure side by side in the brain. Anger cuddles next to peace, love, and happiness. Fear is nestled next to confidence. Sadness snuggles up to joy. You can see that suppressing a negative emotion can stifle our ability to experience the opposite positive emotions we love.
Consider the example of anger, which is passion for ourselves. (“I deserve better than that” or “I want more out of life.”) When we embrace anger (experience it), more self-love appears. Once we express our irritations in a safe and constructive way, we usually discover that we’ve angry with ourselves because we’ve positioned ourselves in an uncomfortable situation. Then we stop blaming other people, our compassion for them increases, and forgiveness is spontaneous.
Most parents love their children too much to try to protect them from painful learning experiences. Wise parents shield their children from unnecessary pain or danger by teaching them how to be physically safe and develop decision-making skills. However, parents with foresight know that efforts to guard their children from any pain would cheat them out of developing their abilities to meet life on its own terms. They would grow up as shallow adults totally unprepared to solve problems or empower themselves by meeting new challenges. The same is true for us as adults.
It’s essential that we discover the hidden gifts of negative experiences and emotions. If we don’t, we may feel like victims to feelings and life experiences that could have been profound tools for the healthy personal power and self-love we crave.
Discover how to safely use all negative emotions to create healthier relationships and more fulfilling, successful work lives. Learn to celebrate self-doubt and fear. Like the first robins of spring, these negative emotions announce the imminent arrival of a bright new future and bold new layers of confidence.
Reframing positive thinking in this way merges positive psychology with the possibility thinking that is essential to masterful coaching. This is one of the greatest gifts we can give and receive.
ACCEPT THE ASSISTANCE YOU DESERVE
Asking for help when you feel stuck is a sign of high self-esteem. Would you like to work with a coach who helps you use sound science to overcome the blocks to your happiness and success? Contact Doris for a FREE laser coaching session. Discover how quickly you can move into the fast lane and achieve your dreams. Email: Doris@ConfidentCoachConnection.com today.
Acclaimed as a “Master Coach,” Doris Helge, Ph.D. is an IAC & CTA-certified coach, mentor coach & coach trainer. Founder of the IAC-licensed coach training school described at www.ConfidentCoachConnection.com, Dr. Helge has taught for four international coach training schools. She is also author of books published in many foreign languages, including “Transforming Pain Into Power — Making the Most of Your Emotions” and “Joy on the Job.” Discover more at www.CoachingByDoris.com.
You can also claim free ebooks & MP3s, like “Secrets of Happiness,” “Thrive in a Wobbly World,” and “Get the Respect & Appreciation You Deserve Now,” at www.FreeJoyOnTheJobEbooks.com.
© 2009. Permission to reprint this article is granted if the article is in tact, with proper credit given. All reprints must state, "Reprinted with permission by Doris Helge, Ph.D. Originally published in “Transforming Pain Into Power” at www.TransformingPainIntoPower.com. © 2009.