"Positive thinking" can seem extremely appealing and we can all find ourselves expending a great deal of time and energy in the pursuit of such "positive mindsets", distracting ourselves and pushing away unwanted thoughts and feelings. We can become very attached to our positive thinking and it can feel frightening to let go of this - who will we be, what might we discover, where might we end up, what if we are perceived as "negative" by others or become consumed by our feelings? It can sometimes seem like our only options are resolute positivity or total hopelessness.
In his recent book "When the BODY SAYS NO" Gabor Mate challenges this notion, instead encouraging us to pursue thinking:
"as soon as we qualify the word thinking with positive, we exclude those parts pf reality that strike us as "negative". That is how most people who espouse positive thinking seem to operate. Genuine positive thinking begins by including our reality. It is guided by the confidence that we can trust ourselves to face the full truth, whatever that truth may turn out to be".
In order to heal we need to find strength to turn towards and really look at what is hurting us: to gather the strength to think negatively "it is a willingness to consider what is not working. What is not in balance? What have I ignored? What is my body saying no to? Without these questions, the stresses responsible for our lack of balance will remain hidden".
His position chimes with many other great thinkers including that of Prof Paul Gilbert and Compassion Focused Therapy: "Compassion is the courage to descend into the reality of human experience".
Wise words indeed...