Stay Positive—If You Can

At a certain stratum of society (middle-class, semi-New Agers?) everyone is always nagging one another to “stay positive.” I think staying positive is great advice. But just try taking it. I don’t know about you: I was brought up in an averagely dysfunctional American family that emphasized worry first. And that attitude was the inheritance of a background of a perpetually insecure ethnicity—not to mention the whole 50-thousand-year human legacy that comes of  living on the verge of being stomped to death by fierce stampeding hooved beasts—or other forms of instantaneous annihilation. So when I say staying positive isn’t easy, I’m not kidding, guys.

 Today, some smart folks are beginning to have a little empathy with the class of us who can’t stay positive for more than a few blessed minutes before the ancient programming of fear and doubt kicks in. In one book, The Human Side of Cancer, the author, Jimmie C. Holland, M.D. talks about “The Tyranny of Positive Thinking”—not the thinking itself, of course, but the insistence on it. 

 Holland, who practices at Memorial Sloan-Kettering, the Manhattan, NY cancer hospital, says: “…a refrain I often hear from people with cancer: the notion that feeling sad, scared, upset, or angry is unacceptable and that emotions can somehow make your tumor grow. And the sense that if the person is not in control on the emotional plane all the time, the battle against the disease will be lost. Of course, patients … didn’t come up with this notion on their own. It’s everywhere in our culture: in popular books and tabloids on every newsstand, on talk shows, in TV movies.”

 I like to listen to a certain church service on my computer a couple of times a week. I want to be positive. But these people—and I like them and find them inspirational—equate having negative emotions with a lack of faith… It’s sort of a hard-headed point of view, I think. I’d say, these negative emotions have me, not the other way around. Believe me, if I could help having these terrible feelings, I would.

 Another book out there, Bright Sided, How Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America by Barbara Ehrenreich, critiques our societal culture that insists on looking at the positive rather than the realism that she calls for. Positive thinking is all about oneself, she says, rather than living a life of authenticity, dealing with problems that may be foreseen, and service to others.

 I’m not lecturing here against positive thinking—just saying that in my view, it may be a little oversimplified. We do have good reasons for being positive, I believe, and a positive attitude may indeed evoke a positive response from the universe. I’m just saying that for me it’s not so easy, though I work at it—and that in some ways, a false positivism may result in failure, a sense of guilt, and despair.

 Or let me put it another way. I recently seemed to be rather ill. I worked with a distance healer and a healer in person and did other things based on a positive belief that the universe would see my point and give me a pass. In the end, I went to the hospital with a severe gastrointestinal infection (salmonella). I gave in to the negative, and ultimately, I didn’t die because I accepted what was true for me at the moment. 

A free story download that has to do with the effect of our thoughts on us:


4 thoughts on “Stay Positive—If You Can

  1. I’ve read almost every book printed on Positive Thinking and have tried my damnedest to incorporate it into my life, but you’re right it’s not that easy. Day to day struggles are sometimes so overwhelming being positive is hard if not impossible. We get to where we think our heads are above water and suddenly another crises arises. Being bombarded daily makes all things difficult, but positive thinking especially. Although, it’s worth the effort. Every night before I retire, I pray – everyday when I awaken – I pray. Being positive, visualizing the best outcome, does work, but also taking the time to feel the real emotions of that moment is also important.

    • I pray and grope for the positive constantly. My question to myself just now was whether I should allow the negative to arise, crest, and break. This is a very difficult path we’re on. We only see how difficult as we get older. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  2. The theories of postive thinking, visualization, will power, etc. rely on thinking we can do it by ourselves… I’ve read books where the hero or heroine succeeds by utilizing the power of human will. If will power worked–I tend to be very willful–I’d be farther along than I am. And as Yolanda points out, life is so daily; it’s full of challenges.

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