Negative Side of Positive Thinking

By JP Sears, Holistic Coach

We adopt an attitude of positive thinking so that we can see the bright side of life, propel us through hard times, and believe that we are creating the reality we want. But when does our optimism become an intangible substance of self-medication, numbing us to large aspects of life and self? How in the world could our positive thoughts become our worst enemy while, due to the nature of positive thinking, we see them as our ally? Is there a way to use positive thinking so that it creates genuine benefit, growth, and opportunity?

As a healthy muscle has the ability to oscillate between the two polarities of tension and relaxation, it becomes greatly troubled if it loses its ability to dynamically step in and out of both polarities. If the muscle is stuck in a state of tension, rigidity ensues and the biomechanics of the rest of the body are adversely effected. If the muscle is stuck in a state of flaccidity, instability develops while casting aberrant biomechanical faults throughout the body.  Perhaps we can look at the mind with the same respect for the ability to be fluid and dynamic between its polarities, while being aware that there is dysfunction to behold if it becomes dogmatically stuck in any one place.

Text Box: “Focus on what you want.” “Let it go.” “You’re just a beautiful person.” Examples of the comfortable pillow that positive thinkers rest their heads on.

In this article you’re invited to consider the often overlooked negative polarity of positive thinking.  If we are blind to the negative side of positive thinking, then perhaps we run the risk of being consumed by it (or realizing we’ve already been consumed by it). Would you believe that the genuine human elements of authenticity and vulnerability are displaced by dogmatically positive thinking? 

Head and Heart Living

If we’re stuck in a rut of only being able to see the positive, while we believing we’re on a mountain top, what are the actual risks that we run? Would you believe that the primary detriment is that our head becomes disconnected from our heart? When self-medicating with positive thoughts, we can regard them as a membrane between us and the emotional life that lives in our hearts.  “Everything will be just fine,” “Stay focused on what you want,” “Mrs. Right is coming your way, just visualize her…” What do these mantras actually separate us from about ourselves? Can we ask, “How would I feel if I don’t get what I want? How would I feel if Mrs. Right doesn’t show up? How do I feel now given that she hasn’t shown up?” Is there loneliness, sadness, low self-worth?

While it’s not a fire walking enthusiastic experience to be intimate with these types of pains that positivity separates us from, I dare say that it is damn authentic to embrace them. I’d even get riskier and suggest that we become more whole when we can say “yes” to what is actually in our emotional heart rather than just being able to say “yes” to that which we want. Is the intensity of positive thinking typically proportional to the intensity of fear we have about feeling what’s in our own heart?

When considering that the two worlds of the human head and the human heart can coexist together or they can be on opposite sides of the solar system, we can illuminate ourselves with the consideration that our positive attitude is not to be mistaken as evidence that we’ve actually healed, resolved, or let go of a troubling feeling within us.  The slippery slope all of a sudden has tremendous traction if we avoid letting the thoughts and attitudes of our heads discount the life within our heats.

Light of Positive & Dark of Negative

There is a story of a man who was on his hands and knees very anxiously searching every nook and cranny under a street light for something. A passerby asked him, “What are you looking for?” The man replies in desperation, “I’m looking for my keys, I can’t get into my house without them!”  As the man continues his search, the passerby asked, “Is that where you dropped them?” The man replies, “No, I lost them over there in the dark alley, but this is the only place where there is light!”

The words of Carl Jung resoundingly echo a great consideration, “Enlightenment isn’t found by imagining light.  It’s found by becoming conscious of the darkness.” How can we experience the light of our positive thinking without it being at the expense of us drowning in a river of denial?

Negatives of Positive Thinking

·      Emotional disconnection

·      Control drama created by the ego

·      Availability for intimate connections with self and others lowers

·      Deafening of intuition

·      Compensations for denial are adopted

·      Ability to think is constricted

Positives of Positive Thinking

·      Provides a quick fix of upliftment

·      Offers a possible route of solution

·      Reduces sensations of pain

·      Creates hope

·      Actions are logically driven

·      Sensation of safety increases

Achieving Balance

How can we have a fluid relationship of non-attachment to our own thoughts where we’re not drowned by the overburden of positivity or negativity? In other words, is there a way to help our thoughts serve us rather than us being a servant to them? While these are timelessly proverbial questions, you’re invited to consider the following to enhance your journey.

1.    Use thinking as a tool, not a philosophy. If we treat our thoughts as our living philosophy, will we inevitably be the mistreated slave? We may realize there is significant evaporation of the richness and mystery of life when we fundamentally believe everything we think. The light of this shadow can allow us to enjoy and benefit from positive thoughts without them necessarily having to discount our hearts. As thinking finds what is perhaps its rightful place as a tool, we also find expanded access to the tools of feeling and intuition.


2.    Question what is being hidden behind the positivity. When we notice the preaching of our inner optimist, we can choose to uncomfortably, yet beneficially, challenge ourselves with the question, “I wonder if something is hiding behind this positivity?” Our inner optimist will be the first one to try and take control by answering, yet is likely the least credentialed to offer valuable input. The voice of our feelings and curiosities may be the qualified party to receive counsel from.


3.    Stay connected with feelings. The demise of our heart begins when we only know how to live in our head. A compensatory dogmatism of positivity doesn’t seem to be enough to ward off the ill effects of a closed heart. In the light of any challenge, be it miniscule or sizable, what would happen if we acknowledged our thinking interpretation of it and then quickly pull the trigger with, “And how am I feeling right now?” Though comfort isn’t always the result, in fact it’s improbable, openness of the heart and authenticity are likely what we’ll find.


Can we muster the courage to unapologetically ask ourselves on a regular basis, “What is on the other side of my positive thinking?” “What is my positive thinking a compensation for?” Or are we too scared to leave the illusion of certainty and security that is abundant in the atmosphere of our magical positive thinking? Jungian analyst James Hollis poses a very disturbing question when he asks us to consider whether the purpose of our life is to be a positive person or a whole person. As we know, when we can integrate our perceived positive with our perceived negative we’ve just invited a new awareness of wholeness to live through us. As you walk your appropriate footsteps on your respective path of growth, if you wish, mindfully consider whether your trail is offering more meaning, wholeness, and authenticity or if it’s eclipsing these virtues.

About the Author

JP Sears is a Holistic Health Coach in San Diego, CA.  His one-on-one client practice specializes in holistic emotional healing and resolving self-sabotage issues.  JP regularly facilitates classes and workshops nationally and internationally on a variety of inner healing topics while being widely acclaimed for his heartfelt and dynamic style.  For more information on upcoming classes, tele-classes, or becoming a client, please visit  You can also subscribe to JP’s YouTube Channel at and follow him on Facebook at