We’ve all heard it from our friends, family members, and co-workers many times throughout our lifetimes — especially when facing challenges: “Think positively.” “Every cloud has a silver lining.” So, how true is this? Must our experiences always be “positive” in order to gain from them? And is it possible that painful, or even “negative,” circumstances might often teach us the most about who we are, how we show up, and what we really want from life?
All too often, our culture subscribes to the “positive thinking” remedy in order to rationalize situations and make them seem better than they really are. This helps numb the pain of challenging situations, so we can feel slightly better about ourselves as we experience them. But disguising painful wounds with positive masks disconnects us from our true feelings which, when actually acknowledged, have the greatest power to guide us to the most conscious choices and values-based decisions.
In order to shift ourselves into the most optimal circumstances, we need to courageously acknowledge and accept that darkness and pain exist in the world — and not just within others. That’s right, it exists within each and every one of us. And when we acknowledge this fact by accepting our pain without judgment, we generate a clear awareness of where we really are and the realities presented by any given situation, so we can respond with the most accurate solutions.
For starters, when we face the truth of what’s really going on inside ourselves, painful or not, we empower ourselves to take actions that are most aligned with our core values. By avoiding negative thoughts or feelings in an effort to be positive, we often misguide ourselves into decisions that negate what matters to us most, only to cause confusion within ourselves and to those around us. Too much of this can cause significant personal turmoil as actions become misaligned with personal truths, causing the world to respond to us with more of the same painful situations. Why? Because we pretended not to be bothered by them in the first place!
On the other hand, when we confront our less than positive thoughts and feelings with honesty, we allow ourselves to become aware of where we actually stand. This helps us act in accordance with the truth of our internal compasses, which more accurately guide the people, places, and things in the world around us to respond to our needs with the most aligned opportunities. We need to give ourselves a little more credit and a lot less judgment when it comes to experiencing pain and negativity from time to time. We stand to suffer a lot less when we simply accept that, “Yes, I experience pain sometimes,” as do all human beings, and guess what? That’s perfectly okay.
Why not face the truth and allow ourselves to experience all of the colors that come with it — dark, bright, dull, or vibrant? And why not allow the truth to exist as it is and, in doing so, allow it to guide us in the directions that serve us most, versus assuming that only positivity can carry us forward? In fact, when we accept the truth of situations for whatever they are and take note of our feelings without judging them, we begin to inform ourselves with the most useful information for progress. Conscious choices align with the truth of who we really are at the core, and no positive thought can compete with that. So, positivity or truth? The choice is ours.
Nina Cashman is a member of the DailyWorth Connect program. Read more about the program here.