Popular culture has us believing that thinking positively will change our lives in a snap. So much so that when bad things arise, we feel like we're the idiots for even allowing it into our space. While it might be true that we are in control of certain things, it looks as if this kind of thinking has minimized the mere experience of difficulty, struggle, and pain. And sometimes it's not as easy as just "thinking positively", shifting, or rebooting our thoughts. Here's why:
1. You are dismissing the very issue you need to face
When difficulty arises, you're better off sitting with it than denying that it exists. Thinking positively might work for awhile, but if you really want to see your life change, then you're going to have to dig deep into your experience. Difficulty / pain / sorrow / anxiety present themselves because there is an issue that needs to be addressed that you haven't really paid attention to. And the best way to get through this dark night is by looking it in the eye and getting to know what you are really facing to explore all of its assets.
2. You miss out on learning more about yourself and your shadow.
At the core of shifting our mindsets is self-awareness; this means understanding where you are now to define where it is you would like to go. Simply "shifting" out of a bad episode actually has us missing out on what it could be telling us. Why is it presenting itself? What are we so afraid to see? to lose? to hear? and to accept?
Psychoanalyst, Carl Jung, defines personality and ego as a good mix or balance between the various personas inside of us - this means integrating the shadow (the parts we do not like) with the animus (masculine), anima (feminine), and the wise mind within. Next time you are faced with difficulty, try getting to know it better. Find out how its existence contributes to your sense of self and identity.
3. You lose the tools you could gain for combat
Confronting the difficulty, just like any task in life, will reap its rewards. How? Because it will give you the tools to combat it if it ever arises again in the future. By getting to know yourself in this situation, you exercise an emotional muscle also known as your emotional intelligence - equipping you with the tools you need to survive. So maybe a mantra might work for some situations, but maybe not for all. Sometimes the tools we need are in the people around us, the resources we seek, and the behaviors we can choose moving forward. Habit forming is combat forming.