The Pitfalls of Positive Thinking

by Doris Helge, Ph.D. © 2009

Birth canals are small, uncomfortable passageways that simultaneously produce almost indescribable joy and pain. We are always giving birth to new aspects of ourselves. We walk down frightening paths only to discover new layers of confidence. Our self-doubts arise specifically so we can give birth to heightened degrees of self-love and empowerment. An uncomfortable feeling such as anger, fear, or sadness rears its head and most of us want to numb, disguise, or deny it.

This approach is usually as successful as trying to transport bullfrogs in a wheelbarrow. Negative feelings continue to demand our attention. Since we didn’t heed the call the first time, painful feelings scream louder. Unpleasant situations magnify so we can gain the personal growth available from them. Do you know anyone who left an unpleasant job or relationship only to re-create the unpleasant scenario?

Running from painful emotions can also place our physical health at risk.  When we repress negative emotions, we stifle the flow of energy through our bodies. We inadvertently suppress our immune system and perceive events as more stressful than they really are. We feel confused and disconnected from the people we love.

Whether we are avoiding anger or love, the price of our unwillingness to be honest about our feelings can be quite high. On the other hand, allowing life to touch us has tremendous benefits.


Positive psychology is often confused with the use of positive thinking and affirmations. When we rush toward a positive conclusion without gaining the wisdom available from an unpleasant event or emotion, we unintentionally set ourselves up to repeat a negative experience. You’ve known people who walked away from an unpleasant job or relationship and later repeated the scenario.

When we struggle to “put on a happy face” or try the “fake it ’til you make it” approach, even if we gain a brief respite from uneasy feelings, we find ourselves struggling to maintain a façade. Buried feelings never die. They resurface, usually at a very inconvenient time. Then we repeat the same uncomfortable emotions and difficult challenges.

When we strain to “release” or “let go of” painful experiences or emotions, we have labeled emotions like anger, sadness, and fear as negative or toxic. Many people don’t understand that pain and pleasure exist side by side in our brains. Anger cuddles next to peace, love, and happiness. Fear is nestled next to confidence.  Sadness snuggles up to joy. You can see that suppressing a negative emotion can stifle our ability to experience the opposite positive emotions we love.

Consider the example of anger, which is passion for ourselves. (“I deserve better than that” or “I want more out of life.”) When we embrace anger (experience it), more self-love appears. Once we express our irritations in a safe and constructive way, we usually discover that we’ve angry with ourselves because we’ve positioned ourselves in an uncomfortable situation. Then we stop blaming other people, our compassion for them increases, and forgiveness is spontaneous.

Most parents love their children too much to try to protect them from painful learning experiences. Wise parents shield their children from unnecessary pain or danger by teaching them how to be physically safe and develop decision-making skills. However, parents with foresight know that efforts to guard their children from any pain would cheat them out of developing their abilities to meet life on its own terms. They would grow up as shallow adults totally unprepared to solve problems or empower themselves by meeting new challenges. The same is true for us as adults.

Discover the hidden gifts of negative experiences and emotions. Then you’ll never feel like a victim to unpleasant feelings and life experiences that are amazing tools for the healthy personal power and self-love you crave.

Discover how to safely use all negative emotions to create healthier relationships and a more fulfilling, successful work life. Once you know how to use anger in a healthy way, you’ll open a magical door to greater self-respect and rich, rewarding relationships. Learn to feel the sweet memories that are hidden within your deepest grief. Studies that chemically analyzed tears indicated that teardrops cleanse stress hormones. That’s why we feel less fatigued after crying. Our sobs are an innate gift because tears assist the body in washing away toxins.

Learn why you should be celebrating self-doubt and fear. These negative emotions are like the first robins of spring. They are announcing the imminent arrival of a bright new future and bold new layers of confidence.


Asking for help when you feel stuck is a sign of high self-esteem. (You’re saying to yourself, “I deserve a better life!”) Would you like to work with a compassionate coach who helps you overcome the blocks to your happiness and success? Sign up for your FREE complimentary consultation. Discover how quickly you can move into the fast lane and achieve your dreams. Email us at:

Visit and claim your free ebooks & podcasts, including “Secrets of Happiness” and “Get the Respect & Appreciation You Deserve Now.” Doris Helge, Ph.D., “The Joy Coach” is author of “Joy on the Job” and “Transforming Pain Into Power.” Discover more at

© 2011. Permission to reprint this article is granted if the article is in tact, with proper credit given. All reprints must state, “Reprinted with permission by Doris Helge, Ph.D. Originally published in “Transforming Pain Into Power” & © 2011

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *