So you happen to have an office presentation and you didn’t deliver it to the boss’s expectation. You are starting to panic and the alarm bells start ringing in your head. You look around, and you want to talk to someone about it. To your luck (or lack of it) you happen to meet this colleague whose motto of the life is to stay positive. You open the flood gates and tell them how you’re feeling, and him, being him, tells you what he tells everyone irrespective of how the situation turned.
There are people who are so panglossian in nature that it almost makes you wonder if they are delusional. They go with affirmations that makes them concentrate on the good that exists and are quite obsessed with feeling the “good vibes”. The self-help industry has time and again stated that maintaining a positive outlook towards life is salubrious to one’s health.
The problem that arises from thinking positively is that one suppresses a lot of negative thoughts and emotions, which actually are vital to one’s well-being. Anxiety has been shown in a lot of negative light but without anxiety, surviving would have been a problem. In fact, had it not been for anxiety, we would have got ourselves killed.
See a snake in the woods? You have this very weird feeling and you stay away from it, which is the reason you survived on the first place. Had you ignored what you felt and thought of getting one with nature by knowing the snake, the chances are you wouldn’t have lived to tell your tale.
It’s not by accident but by design that anxiety is devised to alert us the moment we are going to do something which is potentially stupid and could land us in trouble. Similarly doubting ourselves generates anxiety because it forces us to acknowledge that there are forces that we can’t control and we are better of not doing something which will get us or anyone in trouble. But instead of learning to become comfortable with doubt, our culture has instead decided to get rid of the anxiety.
The other problem with “staying positive” is that positive thinking fools our minds into perceiving that we have already attained our goal, which could actually hamper us from pursuing our goals.
Some critics of positive thinking have advised people that they shouldn’t dwell a lot on wishful thinking and they should discard all happy talk and see things a little more realistically by focusing on the challenges or obstacles. But the assessment given by them also seems extreme at times.
There are always two reasons why we do what we do, either because it feels that good and because we think it is right. Sometimes, those two reasons align, sometimes they don’t. Doing meth may feel really good but on in the long run it will fuck you up. Similarly, even though positive thinking could feel pleasurable, it does not mean it is good for us.
Positive thinking is like drinking alcohol: moderation is the key, none is better than too much, a little is better than none.