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To not understand why other people are obsessed with 'thinking positive'?

(109 Posts)
MargaretCavendish Mon 06-Mar-17 19:13:02

As one of life's natural pessimists, I feel like the world is obsessed with 'the power of positive thinking' and 'keeping your hopes up', and I feel like I've just fundamentally missed something - what's so great about getting your hopes up?

To get this out of the way - yes, there's context. I'm almost certainly currently having a very early loss in a much wanted pregnancy. I saw the GP today and she agreed that this was almost certainly what was happening, but then added 'but we can't be sure so try and think positive!'. How could it be possibly be helpful for me to 'think positive'? Surely the quicker I accept this the quicker I'm over it? (This isn't a criticism of the GP, by the way, who was generally lovely) (Oh and also - this isn't a plea for sympathy about my chemical pregnancy! Flowers neither needed or expected!)

But, anyway, more generally: I feel like my approach - expect the worst, be pleasantly surprised if it doesn't happen - is just sound sense. I can completely see how being such a pessimist that you can't enjoy good things happening is bad, but I'm not like that. To be honest, I feel like I know more than one person who has made terrible life choices by being over-optimistic - bought houses they couldn't afford on the vague hope that their financial situation would improve, taken wild leaps of faith in their career that didn't work out, stuck in a bad relationship due to an unshakeable belief that their partner would change soon. Yet, the world still seems to be really wedded to the idea that optimism is the key to success and happiness. AIBU to be Team Glass Half Empty and proud?

bananafish81 Mon 06-Mar-17 19:42:23

I frigging hate think positive

I'm sorry for your loss - I'm infertile and have suffered miscarriages, my current treatment is going badly and we're approaching the end of the road

Every time I think positively I am disappointed

It doesn't change the outcome and I just feel like a dick for allowing myself to hope, and like the universe is having a bloody good laugh at my expense for being so stupid as to think that things could possibly work out

I don't see it as being pessimistic, but realistic. It's a self defence mechanism - it feels like there may be further to fall when it all goes wrong

If by some miracle something actually goes well, then it's a bonus.

I think positively about things within my control - success in my career for example

I don't think positively about my infertility because all the evidence thus far strongly suggests my body is unable to sustain a pregnancy, so I'm not sure what there is to feel positive about!

LilacSpatula Mon 06-Mar-17 19:44:46

Personally I find being positive is more about self belief and resilience which means you can withstand shit things happening. Works for me but each to their own. It's your mind and your mental health (as with everyone) is ours to take care of as we see fit.

HecateAntaia Mon 06-Mar-17 19:47:28

i prefer hope for the best, prepare for the worst.
i think , i have seen, what constant negativity can do to a person and how they suck the joy from your soul my parents . but also jolly hockey sticks polly anna crap is equally annoying.

theres a balance to be had, i think.

RiceBurner Mon 06-Mar-17 19:49:40

YANBU. I feel the same was as you do, ie be prepared for the worst while (still) hoping for the best.

Doing something constructive can (sometimes) help a situation to move in the right direction, but I don't see how positive thinking (alone) can make a difference to an outcome which is clearly beyond our control? (Like the opening of the "Deal or No Deal" boxes for example where the contents of the box cannot be changed by any amount of concentrated positive vibes.)

PS Very sorry for you current (uncertain) situation.

hellokittymania Mon 06-Mar-17 19:49:49

LilacSpatula I totally agree . I started my own organization as a very naïve 23-year-old girl with a disability and I moved to southeast Asia and had to cope with a language barrier and everything else that goes with living in rural Vietnam pre-iPhone and selfie era . I was robbed countless times hit when I went out on the streets ended up in hospital a few times was hit by a motorbike on a few occasions and much much more . I also saw some people that I know on here posting some pretty negative things about me today and if I did not think as positively as I do I would not still be running this organization 10 years later . I need to stay positive and healthy to do the work I do and to put up with peoples bullshit .

maggiethemagpie Mon 06-Mar-17 19:52:43

I'm what's known as a defensive pessimist.

Expect the worst and you won't be disappointed!

Tcga745 Mon 06-Mar-17 20:01:52

I am very pessimistic and as such reasonably cheerful as I always expect the worst and if it doesn't happen that is a bonus. I am rarely disappointed because I expect and plan for disaster.
DH, on the other hand is generally always disappointed because he is so optimistic. I think I am wiser.
I hope someone is looking after you

highinthesky Mon 06-Mar-17 20:03:47

I'm really sorry to hear of your current predicament OP, but you must be positive. Think of all the doom and gloom your GP must see, if she was miserable and showed it, how would it make you feel as her patient?

It's taken me a lot of effort to reverse my natural negativity because it started to make me very unwell (I wouldn't have believed it was anyone else). It's still a work in progress but I'd rather be happy than feeling sh*t all the time.

Here's something to think about: youtu.be/5cysPPnZEhM. grin

Ironwoman123 Mon 06-Mar-17 20:27:47

I think I worry about the worst but in reality I do try to be positive. I think so what if that happens I can do xyz instead or it won't be that bad even if it happens.

I try not to say "I'm tired" or "I'm so sick" even if I am as it makes me feel worse if I admit it to myself for whatever reason!

Ironwoman123 Mon 06-Mar-17 20:28:42

So sorry for your current situation OP. I must admit when I had a similiar situation I can't say I was particularly positive.

ToastVacuum Mon 06-Mar-17 20:34:25

YANBU. You're not alone!

Smile or Die: How Positive Thinking Fooled America and the World

The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can't Stand Positive Thinking

Userone1 Mon 06-Mar-17 20:40:38

Yanbu fuck all this relentless posivitveness. It's perfectly natural to feel other ways too.

Trills Mon 06-Mar-17 20:49:06

People who are positive all the time waft about saying "it'll be fiiiiiiine" while the rest of us do things like booking tickets and checking times and putting petrol in cars and making sure there is milk so we can have a cup of tea.

Userone1 Mon 06-Mar-17 21:07:54

I'm actually feeling a bit down today, I'm sitting in bed eating cheese balls, watching crap tv. I don't have a positive thought going on right now.

But this is perfectly fine, it's the 'cheer up brigade' that make me feel it's wrong!

RJnomore1 Mon 06-Mar-17 21:19:28

There is a line. If you don't think positively to some extent you wouldn't ever take risks or do things that are putwith your comfort zone.

But there is most definitely a line. Positivity won't cure cancer or feed your children.

I guess it might let you try a different treatment or go for a better paid job though.

Anyway there's nothing wrong with being realistic. No one is always positive and hopeful all the time. There's an art in knowing when to cut your losses too.

MargaretCavendish Mon 06-Mar-17 21:21:41

I'm really sorry to hear of your current predicament OP, but you must be positive.

Erm, no I mustn't. I think you've confused 'thinking positive' with 'being a positive person' (I think most people who know me would think of me as a fairly cheery, very calm person - I don't go around wailing or anything), but I don't actually see why I need to be either tonight. Something a bit rubbish has happened to me. It's not the end of the world, it's very common, and all that, but I reserve the right not to be smiling about it tonight.

MargaretCavendish Mon 06-Mar-17 21:24:48

bananafish I'm so sorry to hear that you've had such a horrible time. It's so unfair that this has happened to you. It's rubbish, and I think you get to deal with that and prepare yourself for disappointment however you like.

camelfinger Mon 06-Mar-17 21:32:47

I remember going to an early pregnancy unit, and lovely as they were, I would have much preferred it if they had told me that it was more than likely to be bad news (it was a mc) rather than trying to get me to focus on the tiniest glimmer of hope. I am a positive person, but I think if anyone tries to emphasise positivity over actual facts for the likes of infertility and serious illness then they simply don't know what they are talking about.

At work certain people try to overemphasise positive thinking in others when they're just trying to cover up the fact that they've fucked up or are rubbish managers and other people have to deal with it.

msrisotto Mon 06-Mar-17 21:37:06

I dunno. My overall pessimistic demeanour has benefitted from thinking positively - the worst might not happen - because sometimes, it hasn't and i've saved myself some worry. What's the point of worrying until the feared thing actually happens after all? We can deal with the thing when it comes but worrying doesn't deal with anything. I'm not saying to deny reality or anything, just saying how it has helped me not to be pessimistic and to postpone my worrying until the thing actually happens.

LadyOfTheCanyon Mon 06-Mar-17 21:40:23

I am an absolutely relentless realist. I completely believe in the mantra "hope for the best, prepare for the worst." Best of both worlds, innit.
I'm a very measured person. Shit happens, and nice things happen. Just because my gran died the other week didn't mean I couldn't enjoy birdsong outside her window a couple of hours later.
I try and notice the shit stuff when it's happening for what it is in a "this too will pass" way. Helps a lot.

bananafish81 Mon 06-Mar-17 21:47:07

There's a difference between not being miserable and thinking positively

OP describes being told to think optimistically about a situation with an unfavourable prognosis

Refusing to feel unnecessarily optimistic about a given situation isn't the same as being miserable

Being told to 'think positively' when the odds are stacked against you, to focus on the possibility of a good outcome instead of the likelihood of a bad one, in certain circumstances, implies that attitude has any bearing on the outcome

I wanted to thump the nurses and acupuncturists who told me to 'think positively' during my IVF cycles. Why? It insinuates that if I don't think positively, I could negatively affect the outcome. As though it's my fault if things don't work out

Why should I think positively about my fertility treatment? It feels absolutely foolish to feel optimistic about a situation where the prognosis isn't good. Why should I believe that it is going to work and set myself up for even more disappointment when it doesn't? My outlook isn't going to change the outcome - so telling me to 'think positively' is just another thing to feel guilty about. As though I'm not trying hard enough by pretending I think it's all going to turn out rosy.

Not wanting to 'think positively' isn't the same as wallowing or feeling sorry for myself

But it hurts too much to allow myself to believe that I will get there one day. To feel optimistic that my treatment will work and I will eventually become a mother. That if I get pregnant I won't lose another baby

Why must I think positively about the situation when it's just setting myself up for disappointment?

Not wanting to think positively about something doesn't mean I'm a misanthrope who can't take joy in life. It means I don't have the expectation that things will go my way. Why should I open myself up to even more heartache?

bananafish81 Mon 06-Mar-17 21:48:59

Erm, no I mustn't. I think you've confused 'thinking positive' with 'being a positive person'

OP - yes exactly this! FFS why must we have to face a shitty situation and pretend it's sunshine and roses?

BestZebbie Mon 06-Mar-17 21:55:07

I think that people say "think positive!" when they assume that the other person might be overwhelmed with negative thoughts and emotions and see no way out of the trauma - they are effectively saying "remember that there is light at the end of the tunnel". Eg: as an attempt to get someone back to realistic from what they assume must be past that into over-negativity and distress. If you are more emotionally detached (at least whilst bad things are actually taking place) and therefore not actually floundering, it then seems odd to be asked to be happier, as you'd be starting from your fairly balanced state.

I agree with the OP that generally, being accurately realistic is better than being either "negative" (can drag situations down by itself) or "positive" (doesn't manage expectations, can feel like not recognising trauma as valid).

Justkeepleft Mon 06-Mar-17 22:30:57

When I experienced a loss only one person said to me "that is completely shit" and I will love her forever for that. No silver lined platitude just it is what it is.
Itade me feel supported and loved rather than having to put on a show for someone.

So takenyour time to feel things, masking never helps.
It isnshit justbletbit be that for a while. My thoughts are with you, it sucks.

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