What’s Wrong with Positive Psychology?

I don’t know about you but the whole “think positive” thing had mixed results for me.

So I’d look at an upsetting event and I say to myself “think positive… think positive…” and try to come up with a better way of framing something.  Except it’s all mental gymnastics with none of the heart.  I may come up with a better, more positive viewpoint but beneath that thought I’d still feel very conflicted, stressed, worried or upset.

We human are emotional beings, in most life situations feelings come up to let us know how our subconscious views the event.  Our subconscious being the lower, more foundational part of our psyche, it has a stronger coloration of our experience no matter how furiously we tap dance on top of it.

But that’s not to say that positive psychology is all wrong.  It’s just missing a big piece of the picture.

Now if something upsets me, first I focus on the emotion.  Ideally, I’d sit in a quiet place alone and I just pay attention to it.  But even on the go, I just breathe deeply and take note of how I feel.  I try not to distract or numb myself.

And then after I feel like I spent enough time doing so — when the emotion seems to be losing some of its charge — then I open myself up to a more positive view.  Tom Volkar taught me to ask “what’s good about this that I don’t yet see?” and wait for an apt interpretation to come.  I resolve to feel good about whatever is happening when all is said and done.

So it’s a two-step process.  First, process the feeling.  Then open yourself up to a higher viewpoint.

Works much better than pasting a forced positive story atop a pile of stress.

Give it a shot, let me know how it plays out for you.

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