Are you tired of hearing people tell you to just "stay positive" when life kicks you in the teeth and all you want is to cry? Are you fed up with reading self-help books that promise to help resolve your life problems, when in reality all they advice you is to "keep a positive mindset" and do nothing more?

If so, I'm sure my new article will resonate with you. It's titled "The Bullshit Philosophy of Positive Thinking" — and for a good reason. I wrote it because, like you, I'm done with all the bullshit the self-help industry is trying to sell us and so many people fall for. My aim behind writing it is to dispel the myth of "positive thinking", and to show how we can effectively deal with our problems, not by negating them — as the philosophy of positive thinking urges us to do — but by accepting them.

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BY SOFO ARCHON

positive-thinking

Illustration by Jim Cooke

“Just think positively and all your problems will vanish into thin air. Don’t care about taking action to create the life you want – just sit where you are and visualize with positive intent that everything’s going to be alright.”

This is the philosophy that many self-help coaches, authors and so-called spiritual teachers are preaching. It has been named “positive thinking” and is selling pretty well, considering that the positive thinking industry is a multi-billion dollar industry.

But what if I told you that it’s total bullshit?

You might be thinking: “What the hell, Sofo, have you gone crazy? Your entire blog is about how to overcome suffering and live a better life – in other words, about how to let go of the negative and experience the positive – and now you are telling me that positive thinking is bullshit?”

Yes, that’s exactly what I’m telling you. But before you’re too quick to judge, let me explain myself.

Shutting Your Eyes Won’t Make Your Problems Disappear

If you look at life without the filters of ideology, you will see that it contains both positive and negative realities: There’s pleasure and pain, love and hate, peace and war, and so on and so forth.

According to the philosophy of positive thinking, however, we shouldn’t think about the negative side of life, and, in fact, we should pretend that it doesn’t even exist. This way, we are told, we won’t be affected by it. Not only that; if we don’t think about it and instead focus on the positive side, the negative will go away just like that.

“Don’t worry about the starving children in Africa. Just pray for them and they will be alright.”

“Don’t worry about rising sea levels, environmental pollution, and biodiversity loss. Just keep a positive mindset and our planet will recover from all the damage that has been inflicted on it.”

“Don’t worry about your job that you hate or your relationships that are messed up. Just visualize that you’re already living the life of your dreams and you will soon find the ideal partner and the perfect career.”

Needless to say, positive thinking won’t do a damn thing about all the above. The African children will keep on dying in millions from starvation, our planet will keep on being harmed, and your life will keep on sucking. In fact, things will get even worse. By not paying our problems any attention and actually doing something to resolve them, with time they are bound to become more and more complicated and hence increasingly affect us and the world we live in.

ostrich-philosophy

“Look, here’s the little trick I use that makes all my problems disappear.” —Master Positive Thinker

To give you an analogy, positive thinking is like being in a house that’s on fire, while trying to convince yourself that everything’s OK, believing that this way the fire is going to disappear. Of course, the fire will keep on burning and growing wilder until it eventually consumes the entire house and yourself along with it.

That’s why I call positive thinking a bullshit philosophy: Not only doesn’t it work, it’s counterproductive too – that is, it creates the exact opposite results of what it seeks. The question, then, is why do so many people buy into it?

The Appeal of Positive Thinking

Somewhere I read the following profound words:

“Do not be afraid to accept ugly truths, and never be afraid to reject beautiful lies.”

Unfortunately, the wide majority of us (and by “us” I mean “humans”) doesn’t hesitate for a moment to accept lies that are beautiful and reject truths that are ugly. That’s because ugly truths remind us of serious life problems that we need to resolve, and to do so we need to go through a lot of hardship and pain. And who likes to experience hardship and pain?

No one (well, except masochists, I guess).

So we tend to avoid facing our problems. And what’s the best way to do so? To not look at them at all, in a desperate effort to fool ourselves that they don’t exist.

It’s no wonder, therefore, that so many people buy into the (bullshit) philosophy of positive thinking. They want to hear beautiful lies that will make them feel that everything’s alright, and hence that they needn’t stress about anything. And since we are living in a world where money is the ruling force, of course there are going to be some cunning individuals who are willing to sell positive thinking and exploit others’ insecurities for their financial gain.

Personally, through my writing I like to state the truth as it is, even if it’s at times terribly ugly. I know that many of you — my readers — might be put off by it, but I also know that this is the only way to face our problems and deal with them, on a personal and a collective level. So if you’re a long-time fan of The Unbounded Spirit, I’d like to take a moment to praise you for being such a badass reader and a committed seeker of truth.

you are awesome-Bill Murray

From Positive Thinking to Realistic,
Action-Based Thinking

Imagine you are chronically ill, suffering from a painful, debilitating disease. You can pretend all you want that your disease isn’t serious, and have faith that you’ll soon recover to good health, without doing anything to treat your condition. However, in reality this will do nothing to help you heal — your disease will keep on being there, and chances are that it will be worsening as you age.

Now imagine that you, instead, decided to let a doctor have a look at you and tell you what is the underlying cause of your disease and how to treat it. The doctor might inform you that the treatment involves some pain — it could be that you need surgery or to take a heavy dose of medication with possible side effects. But you know that, no matter the extra pain you may undergo during the treatment, in the end it will be worth it. That’s because afterwards you’ll be relieved of the chronic pain caused by your disease, while the additional pain caused by the treatment will only be temporary. So you decide to treat your disease, and get back to being healthy.

Like in the above example, if we wish to overcome our life problems, then we need to do something about them. By that I don’t mean to merely repeat positive affirmations in our minds and wish that all is going to be perfectly fine. Rather, I mean to stand up from our chairs, roll up our sleeves and take concrete action. But first we need to accept our problems, instead of denying them, as the philosophy of positive thinking urges us to do. We need to look at them in the eye, examine why they are there, and search for ways to effectively deal with them.

Of course, this can be quite a tough thing to do. To admit that something is wrong with our lives is a bitter pill to swallow. And to change it might require painstakingly hard work. But, whether we like it or not, there’s no other way to go about it. Either we work our problems out and suffer for a short while, or we ignore them and suffer for as long as we’re alive.

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Whilst I agree with some of the points mentioned here, I don't recall anyone or any book or any video saying that all you need to do is think positive and all your problems will go away. As far as I know, the whole idea of positive thinking is to train yourself to believe that something positive IS possible and then go and make it happen - instead of sitting there saying "It's all fucked, there's nothing I can do, we're doomed etc".

Positive thinking, to me, is not bullshit, but an absolutely necessary part of living - IF one wants to have any control over their situation. I know this because I have never ever seen one person succeed from thinking NEGATIVELY.

I agree RHOR. Very well said.

It's a case of positive thinking, positive attitude, positive action. 

I have encountered many "Christians" however who pray that God will take their woes away or fix things magically. Rather contradicting the whole point of god giving humanity free will. "God helps those who help themselves".

(Rose, G and I have just dealt with a case of someone from outside our community who refused to follow advice and help themselves, it was very frustrating).

Thank you for your kind comments, Martin.

After many years of naively busting my guts to "help" other people, stupidly thinking it was true *caring* - and getting kicked up the arse for my trouble, I now adopt the philosophy that unless they specifically ask me for my help in a certain area, I am content to allow them the opportunity to learn to solve their problems by themselves. After all, depriving them of a such a valuable educational experience would not be very LOVING, would it ?

Yes, it's a funny thing to watch how selfish prayers always seem to fall on Divinely deaf ears, while those requesting something to Love others are most often curiously granted - 'what with God being Love an' all' ;-)

nb. This is why I believe the statement "God helps those who help others" is probably just as true a statement as the one more well known. ♥

I hear you RHOS.especially the last statement.

One of our members recently proclaimed that Yours Truly has never accomplished anything of any significance, but you are right: Our true significance is defined by how we interact with and help our fellow human beings, not what we do for personal benefit.

(and sometimes that means standing back and letting others figure things out for themselves: The hardest part of raising children or training newbies in the workplace by far!).

Agreed with your comments indeed Michael, but some folk use it as a shield to prevent the knowledge of the bigger picture.

The door to the universal flow can't be opened without some of those experiences life throws at us.  Many of those experiences or knowledge can be painful. Using positivity to guard ourselves against reality can leave you in a bubble and out of touch with reality.

No pain, no gain could be said too.

I couldn't agree more, Rose. The way I look at it is that the test comes with the pain. It is easy to think positive when everything is going great, but a whole lot harder when the chips are down.

That's when trust and faith matter the most. 

I like that quote the author of the article shares:

" Do not be afraid to accept ugly truths, and never be afraid to reject beautiful lies."

People whose minds are infected with this " positive thinking " philosophy are often the ones who look like scared rabbits and mutter about the idea of dangerous technologies destroying our natural skies being " too negative." They steadfastly refuse to look up...I mean really look up!

They've possibly watched too much Oprah Winfrey and have fallen for the popular positive thinking philosophy that Norman Vincent Peale ( 33rd degree freemason ? ) and numerous others are famous for eg Robert Schuller " pastor " of the wealthy Crystal Cathedral " church."  I have found the adherents of this kind of thinking that I have come across in my life, to actually be full of fear under their " happy,happy " facade. Some " Life Coaches " are paid exorbitant amounts of money to teach this BS to their clients. ( In reality, often the life coaches' lives are not exactly perfect if you scratch the surface.)

As you can see from my little rant Rose, this article has struck a chord for me!  I'm not into " doom and gloom " fear porn either, as it's the other extreme of the over-the-top-positivity ...just realistic. Striving to keep a balance!

Hear ya

RIP Penny Bright https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=...

Sorry it took us so long to wake Penny, thanks for being at the coalface.

This will appeal to everyone and takes us a lot deeper than positive thinking.

Dr Joe Dispenza

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