When Positive Thinking Becomes Dangerous

There is a popular belief that has been misinterpreted, misunderstood and, I believe, misused.  The mind is a powerful tool, allowing us to co-create with life.  And while the mind is powerfully creative, we do not live in a vacuum.  We cannot know what lessons we are here to learn, or to help others learn, and what through the actions of others has yet to be revealed to us.  This is a soul’s journey, and it is only with great compassion and humility that we can walk it with true grace.

We don’t control the world, we create our realities based on the way we choose to interpret and respond, but there are much larger forces at play. 

To believe we control life is dangerously arrogant.  At the least it is used as a more insidious way of judging ourselves and others.  At the very extreme, it can cause us to cease listening, operating under the belief that if we believe something strongly enough, we can bend life to our will.  

How damaging and presumptuous of us to tell a rape victim, or a mother who has lost a child, that they created that experience, somehow inviting it into their lives.  Or that the victims of any horrible crime or act of terror, and their families, are somehow to blame for their experience. 

While these men, women and children may one day be able to find a gift borne out of that experience, it is compassionless to rob one of their right, and their need, to feel and process their experiences in order to come out on the other side of it.  We are not machines quickly calculating the benefits of every life event without the need to experience any emotional fallout.  Nor would we want to be.

Life is a much more complex web of interwoven laws and theories, and it seems like a gross over-simplification to say anything we are experiencing is a result of our thoughts alone.  I believe in the Law of Attraction, but I also believe in the Law of Gravity, and no matter how much we tell ourselves we can fly, if we jump off of a building we are going to fall - at least at this stage in our evolutionary journey as human beings.

I’ll never forget the lack of compassion I once heard in a fellow yoga teacher’s voice as she shared the story of a friend who was murdered.  While going through a separation and potential divorce, and the disappointment and re-grouping that kind of life change invites one to engage in if they are going to keep their life real, she was attacked and killed by an intruder.  I cringed as I heard the story-teller share her suspicions that the victim may have been depressed, which would explain why in her weakened emotional state she could attract such a thing into her life.  I neither felt, nor heard, any true or genuine compassion in this person’s voice as she espoused her newly acquired belief so confidently.   

Then there’s the new-age guilt this engenders for anyone on the conscious path who is trying so hard to create with conscious intent only to realize they have created something else. 

It makes light of the human journey, and is most doggedly professed by those who recently found the power of positive thinking, and just haven’t been disillusioned yet.  It’s a better-dressed form of judgment and blame, almost imperceptible in its new duds.  This new-age pop-psychology feels like such an improvement over the old victim-mentality, because if you’ve been walking through life hitting yourself in the head with two hammers, and suddenly you realize what you’re doing and drop one of them, it feels like a dramatic improvement, but you’re still hitting yourself in the head.

Sometimes the honesty is the work, not the changing of the mind.

If I kept believing that I controlled life with my thoughts alone, I may have put a lot more time and energy into bending the reality of my experience when I was in the corporate world to fit some ideal in my mind, maybe almost convincing myself that I loved it when I genuinely didn’t. 

I could have used visualization techniques to manifest more or less of something, almost buying into the belief that I was getting what I truly wanted.  And while to a degree I may have been successful, it wouldn’t have been in alignment with a deep, inner truth that there was another, richer path for me to take.  I would have missed out on the gentle nudges of spirit - of life - encouraging me in a new direction.  I would have missed out on the wonder and beauty of the last ten years. 

I have come across those in my travels that only see the value in feeling good, and won’t stop long enough to be real, even with themselves, out of the belief that the mind is so creative that to allow anything other than bliss is an error.  But how real can that really be?

We think an average of 60,000+ thoughts per day, and it would be impossible for us to monitor all of them.  But if we can learn to become aware of the energy that is moving through us, to recognize and allow rather than stuff or deny what is happening for us, and then strengthen our ability to let go and transcend our fluctuating emotional state rather than try to deny or control every one of our thoughts, we stay real...we stay honest.

There is no light without shadow.  There are those that live in houses where everything you see is neat and in order, but you look under the bed, or open up their closets and you find a chaotic mess.  It’s the same new-age “guilters” that would have you believe there is no value to anger, sadness or grief - some of the emotions with the greatest gifts to share.   

Our emotions always have a message for us, and if we tell ourselves there is no true value to certain ones, we are more inclined to pretend we aren’t feeling what we’re feeling.  All of this can lead to completely missing the message. 

Author and speaker Marianne Williamson says the Universe is simply here to agree with us.  Do we really think we can fool the universe into believing we are happy and positive because we portray only that to the outside world?  True humility means recognizing that life is at least as smart as we are. 

The real work is not avoiding difficult emotions.  It’s getting quiet enough, and honest enough, to recognize what is old, egoic stuff looking for a fix of drama and suffering, and what is spirit talking to us, inviting us into another moment, another opportunity, to be completely and uncompromisingly honest with ourselves. 

 


 
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