Why positive thinking does not work for some people

Why positive thinking does not work for some people

The power of positive thinking works both ways: in favour and against you. Studies by the Society for the Study of Motivation warn against the negative impact of positive thinking.


Thinking positively can make you feel demotivated to take action (why would you?), not consider challenges (that is so negative) and can reduce confidence (when you can’t get the positive vibe).

There are plenty of situations in life when a positive approach is not helpful. And it is the plastic ‘no matter what but I will tell myself it is positive’ attitude that ultimately is not doing anyone any favours.

When positive thinking doesn’t help at all

Ingrid found a lump in her breast and went to have a series of tests and just before her appointment with the consultant her friend said: ‘I am sure it will all be okay’. And of course, Ingrid is thinking: ‘Really? How the hell do you know? And why should I have done all these tests in the first place if it was 100% certain all is okay?’

Another Ingrid went through a rough patch in her relationship. Was he having an affair? Did he not value her anymore? Where was the fun gone that kept them going for all those years? Talking to a friend about it, she listened to the comment: ‘I am sure he is fine and the two of you will be fine. You are so great together.’ And of course, Ingrid is thinking: ‘Well, we were, but we are not now. For all I know it feels very different and who are you to tell me we’ll be fine?’

Ingrid number 3 struggled at work. Didn’t get on with her new boss, felt undermined by her colleagues and felt trapped. She needed the security of the job and was therefore anxious to apply for a new one somewhere else. Her friend advised her to ‘Just change your behaviour and all will be fine’. Something Ingrid immediately dismissed in her mind. She had been trying different ways over the last two years and nothing had changed.

What all Ingrids had to deal with was the unsubstantiated remarks of the friends, who were keen for them to have a positive outcome, but all they said was plastic. It had no substance, wasn’t based on reality and a cheap shot at making Ingrid feel better. Even though the friends meant well, it really was just BS. Most likely inspired by the wish to feel a bit better themselves about the situation.

Reality is step one, a positive approach is step two

Of course, Ingrid might have a massive tumour, about to lose her partner and her job. That is the reality.

The question then is about how to approach reality. And the crux is to see the reality for its grimness and seriousness, and the next step with a dose of positivity.

Breast cancer? I know you are able to cope with it and I will help you in any way I can.

Partner gone? That is going to be tough, but it will open up a new life and new chances.

Job lost? Isn’t this the opportunity to change the career you have been talking about?

The power of approaching life from a realistic point of view, instead of embracing plastic positivity will help to make the right decisions to deal with challenges.

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