This fantastic article from Joel Minden at Psychology Today makes an excellent point about positive thinking and the limits of its usefulness in making real long-term change in your perspective. The problem? Often we choose things that are too positive, outside the realm of our own experience and therefore unrealistic. To combat this, he suggests:
replacing negative beliefs with ideas that are more accurate and useful.
For example, when you catch yourself thinking in unreasonable ways, begin to assess accuracy. Some questions to ask yourself:
- What’s the evidence to support this belief?
- Is there any evidence to reject it?
- Is there a more accurate way to think about this situation?
Next, consider the usefulness of the belief and whether it would benefit you to change it. Some questions to ask yourself:
- What’s the likely effect of thinking this way?
- How does it affect my emotions? My behavior?
- What would happen if I changed my belief?
Using exercises like these to move toward more accurate and useful beliefs can have a huge impact on the intensity of unpleasant emotions.
Being a pragmatist that relies heavily on the extensive critical thinking skills my social science background gave me, I realized this is how I have approached my self examination and attempts at change without ever realizing it. The affirmations I created all have some basis in reality even if they didn’t feel emotionally true to me at the time because of my depression and flagging self-esteem; they are things I have known and felt before, or can see objectively, when I’m not in the mood to punish myself for some of my less desirable qualities.
Though I hadn’t really worked this out in my head, reading Dr. Minden’s article helped me see and understand my process clearly and why it’s successful for me now when it wasn’t in my teen years and why it works for some and not others, so I wanted to share this important insight with my readers as well.
That’s why reading these kinds of things really are helpful, as they can help us understand both what we’re doing right and where we may need to make adjustments to attain the desired effect.