I used to believe positive thinking was the key to happiness and fulfillment. I even wrote an article in Positive Thinking magazine titled “Act Positive, Become Positive!”
I’ve grown a lot since the article was published in 2005.
I’m no longer an advocate of thinking or acting in any way contrary to how we’re feeling. Trying to control our thoughts, push away our emotions or deny the present moment is disingenuous. By avoiding or dismissing our true feelings in the here and now, we dishonor ourselves.
I had been doing that for the majority of my life. Because the world told me I was supposed to “smile and be happy” and “don’t be so emotional and sensitive,” and “why are you so depressed, you have nothing to be depressed about,” I quickly discovered that people were uncomfortable around my deep emotions so I needed to “tone it down” and mute myself so others can be more comfortable around me.
After 40+ years of pretending to be someone I’m not, I finally realized that I was dishonoring myself in the name of “being positive” and fitting in. So now I teach a powerful process of allowing our emotions to flow, fully, openly, as we witness them from the seat of awareness, love and compassion which leads to a more positive mindset that comes naturally and with ease, rather than a willed, forced attempt to “think positive”.
We’ve all had moments when we were in a slightly bad mood, maybe something didn’t quite go our way and we got a bit cranky or frustrated, and someone reminded us of the good things we have. Sometimes a simple reminder is enough to get back on the positive track, realizing that the negative thing that happened isn’t worth fretting over after all. When this happens, our energy lightens and shifts to a more positive state, and we’re not pretending, denying or pushing away the negative, instead our perspective and understanding expands to a broader vision (to encompass the negative and positive) rather than remaining narrowly focused on the negative only.
In this case, positive thinking is helpful because we weren’t deeply wounded to begin with.
“THINK POSITIVE” IS BAD ONE-SIZE-FITS-ALL ADVICE
Like most axioms, people tend to generalize positive thinking as an all-or-nothing blanket rule to practice in all aspects of our lives all the time.
Saying to someone who’s struggling with depression and mental illness, “you have to look on the bright side, think positive!” is dismissive and incredibly harmful.
Telling someone who’s learning a new skill to think positive rather than getting down on themselves for not mastering it yet is helpful.
Positive thinking is a mental act, a state of mind, that in many cases can shift one’s energy toward a healthier, happier state of being and living. But sometimes, taking positive physical action toward the thing you want and confronting your negative thoughts or emotions results in a more positive state of being naturally, instead of feigning or forcing a positive mental attitude.
For example, if you’ve been out of work due to the COVID-19 shutdown, it’s more helpful to spend your time looking for a job, updating your resume and working on overcoming your fear and uncertainty with practiced trust and acceptance, or if you can financially afford it, using that spare time as an opportunity to slow down and do things you enjoy, rather than lie around in bed all day for months complaining about being unemployed and desperately willing yourself to look on the bright side.
There’s a time to honor the negative feelings of having lost the job, but those feelings need not last for months, or even days.
THE POWER OF EMOTIONAL CLEARING TO INDUCE POSITIVE THINKING
Understanding your emotions as simply energy in motion and learning how to move them through you frees you from days, months and years of bondage to them. Rather than getting stuck in the bad feelings of losing our job and spending the next few months drowning in them, if we allow those unpleasant feelings to flow freely, without resistance, latching on to them or creating stories around them, they’ll come and go quickly, leaving us open to more positive, better feeling energy, and then positive thinking comes naturally as a result, rather than a forced mental concept.
The problem is that’s where most people get stuck. Not knowing how to flow their energy. And that’s when they try to slap positive thinking on top of limiting beliefs and painful emotion, which then becomes nothing more than a cover-up, a pretense, a temporary feel-good band aid that hides the deeper wound and inhibits its healing.
If you have negative self-identified stories around being unemployed, whether they’re old stories from the past or new ones, you create deeper wounds that need more than positive thinking to overcome it. Perhaps your dad lost his job when you were a kid and you saw the family well-being go downhill after that, with your parents fighting all the time or not being able to have the nice things your friends had, for example. Maybe you equate being unemployed with being a loser, lazy, rejected, deadbeat, not valued, useless, etc. Maybe you see it as a reflection of your worth. Whatever stories you’ve created around being unemployed, your emotions will mirror your belief in those stories.
Some people are unemployed and feel incredibly free and grateful for the extra time to work on fulfilling their dreams. They have different stories about being unemployed.
It goes deeper than merely positive thinking from a mental level, it’s rooted in our beliefs about things such as unemployment and about ourselves inherently, which causes us to feel good or bad about it.
THE HARM AND DANGER OF POSITIVE THINKING
Trying to force yourself to think positive when you have deep rooted beliefs and stuck, unresolved energy only causes you to feel worse about yourself. You start wondering if there’s something wrong with you, why everyone else seems to be able to “get it” except you, and you feel weak, unspiritual, unevolved, broken or otherwise not good enough or even deserving enough. It causes a downward spiral that makes it worse than before you tried to think positive, and becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy that holds you captive in your negative loop.
This is when positive thinking becomes harmful and dangerous. It not only avoids the real cause of your unhappiness, the unresolved wound, it also veers you further away from healing it.
There’s a famous saying, “In order to heal, you must feel.”
I like to say, “In order to heal, you must flow.”
I know, it doesn’t sound as poetic as the rhyming version but how about this:
In order to let go, you must flow.
If we want to let go of anything (beliefs, thoughts, emotions), we can’t resist them. Resisting and pushing them away only makes them stronger and binds them to us merely by the magnetic energy of resistance. If emotions are energy in motion, they need to be in motion, not tucked away, shoved aside or locked up in the corner of our hearts because it’s too painful to deal with.
Some people hold on to their painful stories and emotions unconsciously because they’re so accustomed to thinking and feeling that way, they don’t know who they are without it. To them, it’s better to feel bad than to face the uncertainty of having no identity.
HOW TO MOVE NEGATIVE OR DENSE ENERGY THROUGH YOU
Beliefs, thoughts and emotions are all energy. We create thought-forms with our consistent, tightly held beliefs and those thought-forms create their own thought-forms and we carry them throughout our lives, stacking up old thought-forms on top of new thought-forms and before we know it, we feel trapped and suffocated because there are so many thought-forms weighing on us heavily. This is the same with our emotions.
And we wonder why we consistently feel so bad, even when things are good, and why we can’t just flip a switch and “think positive” like other people we know. It’s because they’re not carrying around so many dense energy-forms.
We quite literally have a dark cloud hanging over us, following us around. From an energetic level, this dark cloud is the dense energy created from negative thought and emotion forms.
So how do we let go?
We let go by letting them flow.
We don’t try to cover them up under the pretense of positive thinking. We don’t try to push them away or deny them. We don’t smile when we feel like crying. We don’t look on the bright side when our wounds are raw and bleeding. We don’t try to think or be or do anything other than who we are in this moment.
If who we are in this moment is a self-pitying, bubbling mess, we allow the thoughts and feelings to flow through us without latching on to them or resisting them. We LET ourselves be a self-pitying, bubbling mess. We witness ourselves unfolding, releasing, crying, screaming, whatever it is we’re feeling, and we breathe into it with compassion, love and acceptance.
If we’re not feeling particularly compassionate, loving or accepting of ourselves, we breathe into that too and allow it to flow. We continue to flow whatever it is we’re feeling, no matter what it is.
It’s the flowing and the releasing, with complete allowing, that heals the wound. Acceptance is cleansing.
THREE TIPS TO HELP YOU RELEASE NEGATIVE THOUGHT & EMOTION
1. Set a meditation cushion, yoga mat, pillow, towel or something similar in a quiet space in your home. Could be a closet, a corner of a bedroom, the bathtub. Whatever space that you can energetically clear as a “safe space” where you can feel safe to flow your emotions. Designate this spot a “no judgement zone” where even if you’re judging yourself, you’re gently reminded to let the judgment go. So any thoughts and emotions can be free to fully flow through you, no matter what they are, positive or negative. The intention isn’t to change, fix or manipulate our feelings to more positive feelings. The intention is to simply LET whatever feelings we feel flow so that they can pass through unobstructed by our resistance.
2. Write your thoughts out in a journal or piece of paper. Thoughts, like emotions, need to flow too. When you write, they don’t remain stuck in your mind floating around endlessly repeating themselves over and over, they flow from your mind through your body and onto a piece of paper outside of you. In this way, they lose some of their power over you because they’re no longer held captive inside you. Take your worst thoughts that you’d never admit to anyone and express them onto the paper freely, openly. Often, we push away thoughts because they’re unkind or unspiritual and we judge ourselves for being awful to even think them, but when we deny them, they turn into thought-forms that linger around. (This is why we keep repeating the same thoughts over and over and over day after day year after year, by the way.) Writing them out releases them to be free to move along, away from us, and dissipate. (Or be latched onto by another similarly vibrating passing thought-form of someone else. But that’s another article for another time!) If it makes you feel safer, rip it up and throw it away when you’re done.
3. If the thoughts and emotions are overpowering and don’t allow you to sit still or quiet your racing mind, use your body to help them flow through you. Whether it’s dancing around your house, jumping up and down, shaking your arms or jogging in place, the intention is to get your body physically moving for a few moments so that the frenetic energy inside you can be released. You can also vocalize it by making noises, sighing consciously and using your vocal chords as an avenue of their escape. It doesn’t take long, a few minutes of jiggling about and making nonsensical grunts does wonders to release the pent up energy inside you.
Like the fallacy of the “one-size-fits-all” advice to think positive, these tips aren’t “done-once-then-healed”. It takes time to release old, stuck energy, especially if the wounds are deep.
It took us a lifetime to stack one unfaced emotion on top of another and another and another. It won’t go away with one try. Sometimes we get lucky and release a heavy load in one session but often it’s a day to day, moment to moment practice of releasing and allowing, releasing and allowing, each time painful thoughts and emotions surface.
It takes consistent practice until one day it becomes a habit. And eventually that habit turns into our way of being, everyday, and we can walk around the majority of the time BEING positive instead of tediously trying to will ourselves to think positive.
Knowing where you are on your empathic and emotional journey can help you so you don’t waste your time on advice or techniques that will only make things worse for you, spiraling you down even further into the pit of self-doubt and pain unnecessarily. For Alchemists, the reminder to think positive typically works in most situations since their state of being is one of positivity and joy. For Identifiers who are still struggling to release deep painful emotions, the reminder to think positive can do more harm than good.