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Article updated 2018

‘I haven’t found a job in 8 months, but I know I will, it’s OK.’

‘I’m 45 and I’ve never had children and I have always wanted them. It’s OK, there’s still time.’

Positive Thinking is thinking.

It’s not feeling.

It’s merely a coping strategy.

And much to my frustration, depending on when and how we use positive thinking, it has the potential to rob us of our lives.

Why?

Because it’s not living. Thinking is not necessarily living.

Feeling and experiencing and opening to the realness of what’s actually happening IS living.

Opening to being vulnerable to people and to the moment is living, as it requires courage.

Positive Thinking is a form of thinking.

But even more damaging than that.

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Positive Thinking is used as a way to Block things Out

Positive Thinking is often used as a way to block things out.

Eg: ‘We’ve been dating 8 months and he still has his dating profile up. I know I am probably worrying over nothing. But it is disrespectful, it almost hurts.’

Well, in this case, we’re not worrying over nothing. We are simply steering ourselves in the direction of avoidance of understanding of the man’s position, and therefore blocking ourselves from valuable time wastage and blocking ourselves from living our lives in a High Value way.

Worrying about his dating profile still being up is legitimate. It is a worry and we worry because it hurts. The worry isn’t a lie. Pretending we shouldn’t worry by diminishing our feeling doesn’t make us more alive. It just holds the hurt at bay.

But telling ourselves we’re worrying over nothing is a trick to keep us lazy and somewhat blinded.

To keep us from actually feeling anything.

And in some cases, it keeps us from seeing the truth.

The truth could be anything really, but a positive thought isn’t helping when our lives are not in danger and when we are safe in our own space to feel and practice empathy.

Positive Thinking could cost us our Relationships

There is positive thinking.

And then there’s presence.

Positive thinking can be about ourselves, or we can try to think positively for a mate or a friend, to try and stop them from stressing. In this way, positive thinking can be a gift at times.

But what about our presence and what about practising living as the other person? That takes a desire to want to understand the other person, rather than stay in our own little world of positive thinking.

What if the other person really just wants someone else to feel their pain? Maybe this kind of empathy is a higher currency than helping them to think positively.

Why try to help someone by positively thinking with them and for them, therefore minimising their emotional truths and intensity in the moment, when we can feel their pain with them?

But, what if Nobody is there for You if you start to experience Pain and Pleasure in Full?

I know you ask, BUT – who will be there for ME when I really, truly fall in to a heap of my emotions and who will pick me up?

I know, it is hard. But we have to start somewhere. It will be wonky at first. But we can’t encourage people to truly be there for us and not fake be there for us if our primary and only way – of dealing with things is to think positively.

If you feel positive thinking is really good still, that’s OK.

It works and should be used sometimes.

I just don’t like it as an all-round method of practise because again, it is used a lot not to make us more alive and to give us more empathy for the person we are positive thinking about. It also often isn’t used to help us actually move through a bad situation and ask ourselves;

‘How can I add value?’

‘What am I not seeing here about this situation?’

‘What are the needs of the other people involved that I am not empathising with here?’

Instead, it is used to keep our status quo of old emotions.

It does nothing but encourage our lazy patterns of not wanting to feel – feel about our own life and feel IN to other people and their world.

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Use Positive Thinking when it is Valuable and Necessary

As for blocking things out and thinking positively to cope, in many situations, there just is no choice. So Positive thinking can really help. We can use positive thinking to keep the status quo when it’s necessary.

Perhaps we can’t feel our real emotions in a particular situation right now. Hence, we need to hold off until we feel safe, and positive thinking will help right now.

I can understand that, and I think it’s GREAT to use it then.

Positive thinking used from a Place of Fear…

I just don’t like using it from a place of fear.

Like any strategy, it doesn’t matter how good the strategy is, it can possibly backfire on us when we use it from a place of fear. That costs us our lives.

We can choose to LIVE or to have half-lives.

I respect that you and I were both probably encouraged to express positive emotions and not bad ones from our parents. A lot of parents seem to not want to deal with a child’s difficult and heavy emotions, as it scares them, too. As a result, we learned that Positive Thinking will ensure that the people around us will be more likely to keep liking us and stick around.

If we’re a positive person, then we get love. Right?

Well no. We might get approval and superficial acceptance. Not Love.

Because apparently, people don’t like dealing with people’s difficult emotions.

But I say that what we REALLY don’t like is people’s difficult emotions directed AT us, we don’t like people’s emotions creating a threat to our relationship with them, making us feel divided and separate, and making us feel as if we are the problem. Nobody likes to feel blamed.

But difficult emotions like fear, jealousy, rage, envy, hate…are ok. They are just emotions.

Speaking of bad emotions – Here’s why Positive Thinking is so damaging:

It’s because, if we reduce our responses to life’s situations to a set of positive thoughts, we inevitably block bad feelings and Real Truths out. And once we do THAT – we block out the Real Joys in life, too; because a habit of blocking things out isn’t automatically discriminatory.

As Brene Brown mentions in her talk on Vulnerability, when we numb pain, we also numb joy.

In other words, we can’t block bad stuff out and keep the good feelings in and experience THEM in full force.

We are stuck in a half life of ‘meh’ emotional states.

In THEORY we could CHOOSE to NOT block out the joys and to experience good things FULLY – but most of us aren’t that disciplined and conscious. We like to think we are, but we don’t have that much control over ourselves. Our old childhood patterns have been ingrained and reinforced and practices for far too long.

Ad so our biology ‘body memory’ as I like to call it, knows more about our well-used habits and goes straight to them, disregarding our apparent ability to exercise conscious choice.

This is especially true when we are in a fearful state; because that’s when we are really challenged.

My definition of Living

My definition of Living is to fully experience life with openness, not with fear. This openness means being our vulnerable selves. Not our half selves We have to be willing to open ourselves for real.

For example; instead of having intellectual discussions with a man because that keeps our emotions safe and contained, we actually act on the buried spontaneous desire to put on pink underwear and do a dance that follows no routine but our own silly moment of spontaneity. (NOTE: This is not a strategy to be used in EVERY scenario, it is good in some situations, but it may not be the best in your situation, I used it to give you an example of what I mean).

And to fully experience life, we must feel openly – that involves the body; our biochemical state (many people choose to use drugs to experienced an altered state), when we can experience any state we want to at any point if we choose to, without drugs).

Being open means NOT blocking out how our every chosen word, every chosen action, night hurt others, makes other hate us, or makes other more of a raving fan of us, and makes people around us feel like we are a gift.

We are always affecting others.

And the most important ones are the ones we already trust to some extent, and the people closest to us.

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Openness is not something you give to everybody

I talk about the value of openness and vulnerability. But A lot of people won’t like you for it anyway. There are plenty of people in the world who don’t understand it, don’t want to understand it, and would rather separate themselves from others. I think that is OK. We just need to learn that there are people we choose to give our presence and openness and vulnerability to, and there are people we don’t give it to.

Maybe we need to block out how some people affect us.

But everything we block out still lives inside waiting to be expressed somewhere.

To finish…

Positive thinking is just thinking.

And more than that, it’s not even thinking.

Positive thinking can be a form of blocking out what is real.

While other people are experiencing life fully, what of us who block things out?

In the case of us who have always wanted children but our age makes it too late, we are denying ourselves the chance of truly feeling the pain related to not having children. And if we do that – what if it really IS too late? What if we have to feel THAT pain? Well, we don’t have much of a choice. We can keep blocking it out, and keep on that way until we die.

That is fine…if you choose to positive think about it, that’s fine. It has its consequences, and that is what I am trying to demonstrate in this article.

BUT – if you stay open and feel the realness of the ‘stuff’ behind the positive thought – that comes with consequences, too.

You just need to choose which consequence is better for you.

I just feel that sometimes, positive thinking makes my body and my emotions smaller. It’s unexpressed stuff going on in there and that makes me feel sick. But that’s me.

And what about the job seeker?

In the case of the job seeker who may YES, eventually find a job, what’s wrong with really feeling and letting it sink in that the reality is that no employer has picked them up yet, and for good reason? What’s wrong with opening to that reality?

If we opened to it, and felt the pain, at least then, we’d be free of the tension of positive thinking…and we open a path for asking ourselves a useful question, like, ‘so, what does the work actually look like fro the perspective of the boss of this company? What would this boss FEAR in the process of hiring and what would this boss LOVE and feel enticed by in a potential employee?’

If we open to that reality, then we can become more real, and more present, just a better and more relevant job candidate, and once we’ve felt the pain and the fear associated with the situation, it will be over; the emotions will be over, they always end at some point, and that will leave more free space in our hearts and minds for understanding and writing a compelling offer that actually compassionately adds value to the potential employer, instead of being so in to our own selves that we settle for ‘oh, somebody will hire me!’, which could cost us an entire year of our life, having no job and no income.

I believe this is true of positive thinking:

For most of us, it’s simply a tool for blocking out negative emotions; it’s actually a response out of fear. It’s not an open, full response.

And that PRACTICE of blocking real feelings out and labelling it ‘Positive Thinking’ can lead us to live an emotionally impoverished life because it’s merely a coping mechanism and not a way of truly living.

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Do you believe in Positive Thinking? Do you use it? What do you think of it?

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Smilee DesignEsther ShiDaniellaKatRenee Wade Recent comment authors
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Smilee Design
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Smilee Design

Hi,

You’re absolutely right, most of ‘The Feminine Woman’ have lees confident and feeling weak in there mind. This is a useful message and have good points for those kind of Women. Keep sharing these kind of ideas with us.

Thank you.

Kat
Guest
Kat

Great article. My boyfriend is always telling me to think more positively but I think he is too numb to everything going on in his life and that has caused him to shut down completely to me. It’s really hurtful, and in turn I think I have become less open in response. It’s just a bad cycle to get into. I need for him to open up and feel my pain that I express but I feel like he can’t. I sent him this page, I hope that he reads it and can see the value in it. This could… Read more »

Daniella
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Daniella

Hi Kat, the change starts with you. I believe you need to live by example. Sending him that article might be a wrong idea, because if he is already numb he might just feel like you’re trying to control his emotions. so instead of being numb back. consciously choose to be open to everything around him & show him you trust yourself to feel these things. I hope this helps. Pls don’t take this as a bad idea. there’s so much truth to this.

Rachel
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Rachel

Great article, thank you! Ive been reading your blog for about six months. I can honestly say that you have helped me feel. Ive let myself cry and feel pain. It was hard and frustrating at first, the advice of the finding a safe place, mine being the bathtub really helped. I laugh more now. I feel lighter. Ive noticed that being present and feeling emotions is not hard to do except for making the conscience effort to be aware and reminding myself to do it all the time. That in itself makes me think to much, I’m hoping the… Read more »

joan p
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joan p

Wow! I am a recently retired clinical social worker and I’m reading this article because of some personal relationship issues I’m trying to work through. Having been a cognitive behavioral therapist who worked with people with chronic mental illness and addictions I relied on processing thoughts and feelings and prescribing positive positive affirmations, I was first shocked at the declaration that positive thinking blocks feelings. The more I read the more intrigued I became, then I started weeping. I realized how much I have been blocking and why my life has been void of strong emotional connections with friends and… Read more »

ET
Guest
ET

Hi Renee, I enjoy your blog. I waited til age 36 & 38 to have kids. I wish I had taken the time to have them sooner. I kept putting it off til the last minute and it can be much harder to conceive in your late 30s than in your 20s. And to me, your comments about positive thinking mean that a woman should face her fears and feel them instead of putting them off. Because facing your fears is better than not facing them. Many people from all walks of life go through this. I find myself doing… Read more »

I'm so happy :)
Guest
I'm so happy :)

I’m so happy…my body has temporarily reatched a stage of euphoria ♡ it feels like the best feeling EVER after feeling so conditioned for so long. You can’t even imagine. My heart is and has always been in the right place and I genuinely do have my heart in the right place for that matter, but very often I feel hurt for nothing and over concern myself with others where it’s probably not even necessary. Some how I found the courage inside to be open and authentic for the first time ever. It meant truly feeling all my painful emotions… Read more »

Katelyn
Guest

Hi Renee, In a documentary I watched a few months ago there was a quote that really resonated with me. It was something along the lines of “The brave may not live forever but the cautious never live.” I’m not really sure why this article reminded me of this quote. It has been in my experience that positive thinking does nothing POSITIVE for me. Funny isn’t it? Something that is labelled as positive isn’t actually all that positive in affect? In the past, when I have attempted to use positive thinking that there was a very distinct restricting in my… Read more »

Zeyno
Guest
Zeyno

Dear Renee, Another insightful, wise article from you, and really you should be out there publishing. I have been following your posts for a few months now, and its like the dots connect. So thank you. One thing in this post Is that I was not clear about the following: “We just need to learn that there are people we choose to give our presence and openness and vulnerability to, and there are people we don’t give it to. Maybe we need to block out how some people affect us. But everything we block out still lives inside waiting to… Read more »

Sara McInnes
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Sara McInnes

GOod article renee, love your writing.

Tammy
Guest
Tammy

Hi:) I liked this article very much. I used to be a single mom & people would say “chin up” or “those kids matter more than your own selfish needs, get focused & keep going”. I admit I started touting the same stuff. Yet one time a friend said such things & I was in a very dark place – and the only thought that came was “no! At some point YOU matter too!” – I ended that friendship & started relating to others who had compassion & allowed me to be me, warts & all. It was WAY easier… Read more »

Elle
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Elle

This is so me. With my ex, i tended to “sugar coat” his wrong doings by looking at the positive of anything he did.I was blindsided and everything he did i would look at the positive, instead of looking at it for what it is! Im a bit scared of being too positive with this new man I am currently seeing/dating. everything is going fine, except Ive heard some very negative things about about his past from others. I don’t know whether continuing to see him is just being “positive” or should I confront him about what i have heard?… Read more »

Faith
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Faith

Hi Renee, i love your post they have helped change my relationship life I would like to disagree very strongly with you here.Positive thinking is like faith if you put in in Christianity.As a Christian myself i follow the word that says the just shall live by faith meaning thru it all what will give you life is faith and faith is hope,seeing things that are not as though they are and that is what positive thinking is. Positive thoughts will result in you feeling good which is the space you need to drive away fear.Positive thinking is not ignoring… Read more »

Esther Shi
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Esther Shi

I think the difference here is that your version of thinking positive means focusing on something that is realistic or at least is based on true faith. I’m also a Christian myself, been through many difficult years of emotional turmoil, and I have full faith that everything I’ve been through are for my good. This is realistic and is based on true faith in Christ because I have experiences and reality to back up what I believe in. What Renee might be talking about is the kind of positive thinking that is not based on reality or true faith but… Read more »

Aime
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Aime

Hello Renee, I really love your blog and am so grateful there is a place for women to explore different areas of themselves, relationships and life. I feel that there is a difference between positive thinking and denial. The movie “the secret” talks about positive thinking not as just thoughts but how they interact with feelings. I agree suppressing feelings never works. It doesn’t help to stay in a bad situation by clinging to empty positive thinking. I feel genuine positive thinking is about acknowledging your emotions and honouring them, then being open to life and making attempts to heal… Read more »

Kendra
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Kendra

Hey Renee!

Interesting take on positive thinking. It’s been the latest trend and while it does have its advantages, I also noticed people use it as a way to carry on a sort of fantasy because their reality might not be something they want to deal with. And it also makes it harder to talk to others about anything “negative” and to connect in general.

I liked your points of using positive thinking as a tool to help you accept reality as opposed to running away from it and how most tend to use it as a mask.

Little miss angry
Guest
Little miss angry

Do you know what, I am so so angry, I just want to be angry, miserable and fedup because that’s exactly how I feel inside and belief me I have a’lot to feel dam angry about. Half of my family have just left me and they didn’t even treatme as a person who counts. They just wanted to be dictators and rubbish me up as a person so when I dared to voice myself even the slightest bit they said no in so many ways. If you don’t do what we want you to do then you can not be… Read more »

Helen
Guest
Helen

Hi Renee, Thank you for another great article. I think positive thinking has it’s place, but it shouldn’t be a substitute for feeling the real emotion. Acceptance is key. Your article made me reflect on something that happened to me a few years ago. I don’t want to go into detail, but looking back, it was almost like everyone around me turned a cold shoulder to my pain, maybe they were thinking I should just forget it and move on. But I wasn’t able to, and I realise now that if those people had just acknowledged my pain (i.e. showed… Read more »

Helen
Guest
Helen

I just wanted to add, sometimes we try to cling on to relationships, but in this case I am very glad that those people are out of my life now. Sometimes it is a blessing to see others’ true nature. This allows us to make room for friendships that are more in line with our own true nature.

Angel-Eyes
Guest
Angel-Eyes

I can really relate to what Helen is saying, about really just wanting to be acknowledged.

I can’t even begin to count the times I’ve been said, tired to share with others my sad feelings but then felt as if I’m a problem for wanting to feel heard and understood.

This is great also about nneeding to finding acceptance within because we can’t wait forever from others.

I shall surely try and take on board these words of guidance ♡.

Helen
Guest
Helen

Thank you both Renee and Angel-Eyes for your lovely comments. And thank you Renee for creating this space for us feminine creatures to voice our feelings x

Erzulie
Guest
Erzulie

You are totally right Renee. The intensity of feelings has a bell-shaped curve. After some point, feelings will start to decrease and finally dissappear. If we block bad feelings before completing this process, they would stick to our subconscious (waiting to be cleansed). Positive thinking and law of attraction only work AFTER completing that process. I used to do that ‘positive thinking’ mistake as well. My mind is also used to focus on finding a solution very quickly, before feeling any pain. It was a very bad habit that was blocking me. I’m trying to stop that and to surrender… Read more »

Lucia
Guest
Lucia

I have always disliked the concept of “positive thinking”. My spirit just sensed that there was something artificial about it…Through this post I finally understood why. And I am glad I wasn`t wrong…

nunya
Guest
nunya

I think it’s important to feel your emotions but sometimes thinking positively works. Or at least thinking through things helps but things in perspective. I feel like if I feel bad, positive thinking doesn’t usually help. I feel it and I just do. But thinking positively has its benefits. I mean, what if you’re struggling with depression? Are you just going to tell that person…go ahead…feel that depression and then they end up suicidal or in a hospital? I don’t know, I think this needs to be clearer.

Pamela DeNeuve
Guest

Renee Thanks again for a very provocative post. I had built my life around positive affirmations. I always said, “get over your pain, think positive.” Sometimes “thinking positive” can cause mischief if I don’t get a pen and paper and count what does this cost me physically, emotionally and spiritually. I feel like in many ways, positive thinking has caused me to live my life recklessly. If I had a positive goal, many times I did not really take everything in consideration. At one time in my life, Ia botched surgery almost killed me, a relationship abandoned me due to… Read more »

Khang
Guest
Khang

Hi Renee, Unlike other blog entries from you which I often read with enjoyment state, i take this really serious. I sit straight and digest your innermost intention. Actually, I stop from just thinking positive (not every time) for a time until now. I came back to the issue, to the pain and learn to truly take my responsibility in the issue. It will hurt, sometimes, it hurt like dead but I help me grow much bigger than thinking positive. I truly experience this thought pattern. I stop just console my friends with nice words, I said: I feel your… Read more »

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