The limits of positive thinking

positive thinkingWhile Pluto was in Sagittarius (1995-2008) optimism and positive thinking (Sagittarian traits) rose to an art form.  Pluto tends to bring a compulsive drive to any sign that it travels through, and while a certain degree of optimism and positivism is a good thing, the benefits of this kind of thinking end when other feelings are pushed into the underworld of the psyche.

Having worked a great deal to perfect my own positive thinking apparatus, I know very well how powerful changing your thought patterns can be.  When Pluto entered the more dour and practical sign of Capricorn in 2008 many found it difficult to maintain the habits of positive thinking and started to fall into fear and despair as the life they knew during the economic downturn began to spiral down along with the economy.

What I have learned in my own journey to transform my life is that along with changing our thought patterns we must honor and release the negative emotions that cloud our lives.  We can’t just ignore them or pray them away.  These old hurts and sadness and frustration and rage linger in the body until they can be processed through the psycho-emotional system and released.  These emotions and feelings are our teachers.  They are the debris that remain after painful experiences which we would just as soon forget so that we can more fully understand what happened to us.  This is the role of Chiron in the birthchart – to trigger these old feelings so that they can be processed and healed.  Chiron’s archetype is the mentor – the teacher who having undergone great trials gains great understanding and is able to impart wisdom to others.  These skills come after the healing of the wounds by which Chiron is well known.

My sister told me the other day that her book club is reading a book called Positivity so I looked it up.  The author proposes that if your ratio of positive emotions to negative emotions is 3-1 you will flourish and achieve success in the world.  This makes perfect sense and there is no doubt that cultivating positivity from the outside in, “acting as if” to change your thought and habit patterns, is a powerful step to change.  But this kind of system fails to provide a tool for reaching the darkness in the psyche and transforming the painful places that keep us from being able to embody that positivity in a real sense.

The author of the Positivity book was involved in some interesting research:

The varied good outcomes empirically linked with positive affect support the broaden-and-build theory, which asserts that positive emotions are evolved psychological adaptations that increased human ancestors’ odds of survival and reproduction (). The theory holds that unlike negative emotions, which narrow people’s behavioral urges toward specific actions that were life-preserving for human ancestors (e.g., fight, flight), positive emotions widen the array of thoughts and actions called forth (e.g., play, explore), facilitating generativity and behavioral flexibility. …

The theory holds that in contrast with the benefits of negative emotions—which are direct and immediately adaptive in life-threatening situations—the benefits of broadened thought–action repertoires emerge over time. … Positivity, by prompting approach and exploration, creates experiential learning opportunities that confirm or correct initial expectations. By contrast, because negativity promotes avoidance, opportunities to correct false impressions are passed by (). These findings suggest that positive affect—by broadening exploratory behavior in the moment—over time builds more accurate cognitive maps of what is good and bad in the environment. This greater knowledge becomes a lasting personal resource.

Although positive affect is transient, the personal resources accrued across moments of positivity are durable. As these resources accumulate, they function as reserves that can be drawn on to manage future threats and increase odds of survival. So experiences of positive affect, although fleeting, can spark dynamic processes with downstream repercussions for growth and resilience.

Despite the fact that this research has been “debunked,” I have no doubt that this is true.  Seeing a silver lining in every cloud is tremendously beneficial for moving through difficult life experiences.  However, in attempting to live this way we often fail to face our demons and challenges which can hold us back in the long run.  In my  work we seek out that darkness and those negative emotions so that we can transform them into a framework of positivity rather than ignore them, avoid them, or stuff them in a corner of the psyche. (This link goes to a self-guided workbook that you can use on your own to effect lasting change.)

By | 2016-08-22T07:36:09+00:00 August 22nd, 2016|Life|0 Comments

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