The Power of Negative Thinking
In the self-help world you will often encounter the idea that simply thinking of the positive outcome you want will make it happen. This idea has been shared by motivational speakers for years and does have some scientific basis. Called “learned optimism” by Martin Seligman, viewing the world from a positive perspective helps you understand that failures or misfortunes are just temporary setbacks and can lead to growth. The struggle that many people face with this way of looking at the world comes from having big dreams without figuring out how they are going to get there.
We all know that life isn’t always easy. No matter how much optimism we have, there are times when things don’t go the way we plan. In fact, a constant barrage of positive self-affirmations in the face of disappointment has been shown to actually make people feel worse about themselves, according to cognitive psychologist Timothy Wilson. This disparity between how we envision our lives and the reality of the situation can be difficult for people to reconcile.
This is where a healthy dose of negative thinking can be a helpful addition to the mix. Setting goals and envisioning a better life is just the first step but preparing for the possible obstacles along the way can help ensure success. This idea of practicing learned optimism in conjunction with practical realism (or countering a positive thought with a negative one) is called mental contrasting.
Many of us already do this when planning big things, such as having a contingency plan for rain during a wedding. However, when our smaller day to day tasks don’t go as planned, we tend to assume that this could not have been prepared for or prevented in any way. We tend to forget that we all have bad habits, fears, and other difficulties, and that sometimes there are unexpected surprises that will change our day. This can be difficult to reconcile when we are assured by most mainstream beliefs that a positive outlook will get us through anything.
The key point here is to embed our vision of the future within the context of the issues that we face, preparing ourselves for the “what if” moments as much as we prepare ourselves for amazing outcomes. Identifying the strengths that you have, the motivations for your actions, and the purpose that drives you is just as important as looking ahead to the possible obstacles that you may face. Imagining how you will overcome such an issue gives you the tools you need to be ready for whatever comes your way.
Are you struggling to set goals and see them through?
At The Therapy Centre we have skilled Psychologists, Social Workers and Psychotherapists who effectively treat a variety of issues that may be difficult to process on your own, from everyday challenges to traumatic events with more lasting impact, like the death of a loved one, a life-altering accident, or a serious illness as well as anxiety, depression and other mental health issues.
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Our offices are located at 2525 Old Bronte Road in Oakville and 849 Upper Wentworth Street in Hamilton-just minutes from the QEW and easily accessible from Peel Region, Halton Region, Halton Hills, Stoney Creek and Niagara Region.