When ‘Positive Thinking’ doesn’t work

This cartoon highlights a well researched topic: positive thinking.

Numerous studies have been done that highlight the negative impact that ‘forcing’ ourselves to think positive can have on our health and lives. A good book to read on this subject (written by a psychologist) which covers the research on this is Julie Norem’s The Positive Power of negative Thinking. The actual well researched truth is that thinking positively only works if you are already predisposed to feeling and thinking positively!

But doesn’t that mean that positive thinking only works for those people who don’t need it?

The good news is that the reason for us having a negative response to positive thinking is actually very simple and has been well known by Transactional Analysis psychotherapists for over 60 years. It’s called LIFE SCRIPT.

We now know that if there is a LIFE SCRIPT belief which contradicts the positive thought we wish to hold, then it is actually held somewhere deep in our unconscious mind. We may not even know about this contradiction. We only get to know about it when we find ourselves right back again in the “same old, same old.” This is because…

Embedded in our MASSIVE unconscious mind is a contradictory idea that simply won’t go away, no matter how often our tiny conscious mind tries to suggest otherwise. It is like a mouse trying to push an Elephant out of the room….

This is why sometimes, ‘positive thinking’ can actually make us worse – as this cartoon suggests! The more we ‘push’ at an idea that conflicts with our life script, the more our unconscious actually has to resist it. One study showed that some of the women who successfully lost weight during a weight loss programme actually harmed themselves badly after their ‘success’ at making this weight change*. This would be because of their life script. This is why we have to be INFORMED about changes we wish to make. In some cases it can even be a ‘life and death’ matter.

Although funny, the cartoon above captures this poignant human tragedy. As he doggedly continues to  push himself towards his goal of weight loss – he has given up trying anything that might work, for the absurd “One Day Diet” book – he is experiencing what I call ‘The Script Back Lash’.  This script back lash will only increase in intensity the harder he tries unless he actually understands what is going on. One look at him and we can all guess where he is actually headed…

 This is why we need to have a clear idea of just what our life script consists of so we can manoeuvre successfully through life…

After all, if you are a cab driver and you know there are roadworks in Pimlico, you can still get to your destination. You just need to know a different route, perhaps one that takes you through Victoria. This is what THE KNOWLEDGE does – helps you identify where the roadworks in your head are, and it points out a few smart alternatives so you don’t get stuck in the traffic.

“LIFE SCRIPT lies at the very heart of THE KNOWLEDGE. Identifying the key features of our life script and learning ways to ‘drive around it’ actually begin on day one and then continues throughout the training programme.  You simply cannot learn this material in a book, on a video, alone or even quickly. Anyone who tells you otherwise is most probably – as the cabbies would say – “‘avin’ a giraffe!”   –   Gerry Pyves

(* described in:  Bessel Van Der Kolk (2014) “The Body Keeps The Score”)

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