September 29, 2015

Positive Thinking: how Easy is It?

Have you ever considered how complicated and personal the thinking process is? Some of us are usually upbeat, while some of us have to struggle to find happiness. Yet, that’s a simplistic explanation. Perennially positive people should not discount the fact that hopeful thinking is difficult for some people. It just is.

Our minds are not water faucets that we can quickly turn on and off. Our brains are complicated organisms. Just ask any neuroscientist/neurosurgeon. Life isn’t always as simple as making a quick choice and being able to continuously live by it.

Keeping a positive mindset has become a hot topic in religion and pop culture. Many famous people are discussing and writing books about it. The experts make it sound easy. But is it?

Roadblocks to Positive Thinking

I’ll be frank. I have depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and general anxiety disorder. There, I said it. In addition, I found out today that I am seriously deficient in vitamin D. This is the vitamin that helps to regulate our mood. Let’s just say that I could sooner stop Niagara Falls from falling than I could completely discipline my mind.

I appreciate the many messages of empowerment offered by authors and speakers today. I really do. If we internalized only the constant negativity that is everywhere today, we wouldn’t want to get out of bed in the morning. Yet, I am not always able to immediately implement their suggestions.


She is a friend who had a more difficult childhood than 90% of us can even imagine. Her life since then has been filled with trials, too. Therefore, keeping her thoughts positive has been a never-ending challenge. She has given me permission to use her unedited comments on deciding to think constructively from a recent e-mail:

People are making this sounds like this is a “real choice” issue; i.e., you and I can CHOOSE to drop everything we’re doing and go skinny dipping! OR……CHOOSE to rack up debt on a credit card by shopping at the most expensive places at the mall…..or CHOOSE to eat a whole thing of Chinese food all by ourselves!
This isn’t very compassionate at all to those of us who, through no fault of our own, have suffered deep depression.
You know, LIFE HAPPENS! We can’t be in a state of ecstasy 24/7 for the rest of our lives! I mean, a “choice” to be joyful? Tell that to the 9/11 families if they saw the planes flying into the WTC with their loved ones trapped inside!
And we’re supposed to jump up and down and say, “WOO HOO!”
The Prophet Elijah

He seems to have suffered from depression. In I Kings, chapter 18, he wows a crowd of hundreds, maybe thousands, when he defeats the priests of Baal. The power he showed was truly amazing! However, by chapter 19, he is running and hiding in a cave. He sees only negatives in the present and future, including his own imminent death.

My Conclusion

An optimistic mindset is absolutely crucial, especially in these times of worldwide chaos and confusion. However, we should keep in mind that constructive reflections are easier for some of us than others. You can tell discouraged people that “It’s all inside your head.”, or, “Just let it go.”, but that’s not the most supportive and effective reaction.  Such a response may seem to diminish their very real, complicated feelings.

For more on accepting people of different personalities, please see my book,  Accept No Trash Talk: Overcoming the Odds 

How have you been patient with people of different ways of reasoning?

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