When we force ourselves to think only of the positive, we exclude or repress the negative. In the short-term, this might seem beneficial, but it will create problems later on. Anything repressed or buried never goes away.
Gabor Maté, in his book When the Body Says No, states that instead of pushing reality out of our minds, we need to trust ourselves to face the truth in its entirety, whatever that truth may be (whether it relates to our personalities, the personalities of those around us, our past experiences, or our present conditions).
In order to heal, it is essential to gather the strength to think negatively. Negative thinking is not a doleful, pessimistic view that masquerades as 'realism'. Rather, it is a willingness to consider what is not working. What is not in balance? What have I ignored? What is my body saying no to? Without these questions, the stresses responsible for our lack of balance will remain hidden. -Gabor MatéAnd when anything is hidden, it creates problems. In the context of Maté's quote, repression creates hidden stress, which increases our chances of developing cancer, autoimmune disorders, and other illnesses. Don't mess with repression because repression will mess with you.
This whole trend towards positive thinking is based on the widespread yet rarely conscious belief that human beings are not capable of dealing with their own realities. This has had a negative impact on psychological development, emotional development, economic development, social development, intellectual development, and even the health of our bodies.
An interesting bit of research that Maté quotes in his book is that positive thinkers are more likely to develop serious diseases and are less likely to survive those diseases than their more realistic counterparts. An example he gives is of recently-diagnosed cancer patients who, instead of expressing anger and confusion at their prognoses, say something like, "Oh well, life goes on, what can you do?! My life is so super awesome, and everything happens for a reason, lalala," and with a huge smile leave the doctor's office and proceed to try to wish their cancer away. Some slip into complete denial and fail to seek treatment of any kind.
These types of people repress emotions, hide the realities of their condition from themselves and their loved ones, and tend to avoid seeking help when real problems arise.
The ones who are more likely to survive are the ones who allow themselves to face the awful realities of illness, suffering, and death and, most importantly, they allow themselves to feel and express emotions of sadness, rage, and fear. These types of realistic thinkers who are open about their emotions also tend to have better intimate relationships, more genuine contentment in their lives (though acknowledging at every turn that life is full of ups and downs), and become active participants towards change in both their lives and in their communities.
Positive thinking is a denial of reality, a denial of difficult emotions, and at a deeper level, it is a denial of suffering and death. It is a denial of the human condition.
If and when positive thinkers do finally face reality about themselves, their experiences, and the world around them, they will feel far more broadsided than those who lived their lives looking right into the face of it, courageously and unblinkingly.
(image by gotmyphilosophy via DeviantArt)