Positivity Reinvents Us – Mediated Positivity

January 29th, 2013

Blind positivity is not really that positive. In fact, if there is any single overarching confusion about how positivity science works, it is in the mistaken belief that one should hold positive beliefs all the time, even when things are painful and challenging. This kind of positivity is related closely to the magical thinking that is promoted by trainers who psyche you up to walk on hot coals. The recent film “The Secret” works positivity in this vein as well, that thoughts are magical and just by saying them and repeating them you will get your wish granted.

While positivity research does support the profound effect that our words and our thoughts have on our life trajectory and our health, there is a subtle but significant difference which requires being fully present to the situation you are in. False positivity glosses over painful and challenging moments and can even make you feel guilty for having them. True positivity encourages you to feel everything in the presence of painful challenge and asks you to look for what else you might be missing. Positivity consciousness is not a deletion of negativity, it is a mind balancing act that encourages you to invite positive recognition, curiosity and wonder into difficult moments.

Not surprisingly, a recent  10 year study published in Social, Psychological and Personality Science reported that the more that the individuals were able to experience and hold mixed emotions, both the negative and positive aspects of a situation, the slower their age related health decline. Likewise, a second paper published in PLoS One reported that patients who were able to experience both joy and grief in the context of a therapy session achieved the greatest boost of mental and emotional wellness, as compared with those who focused only on the good or bad.

The truth is that life holds, more often than not ambiguous, poignant, bittersweet moments that require the maturity of emotional balance. This is where positivity science offers the most profound insights by adding a wider perspective to what might have only been perceived as a loss. In even the most taxing and painful life situations, employing bridge emotions like curiosity and wonder offers us a wider view and the open heart that brings a loving balance.

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