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The benefits and limits of positivity

October 1, 2020

Positivity is an interesting concept. Advice often focuses on “being positive”. It’s hard to imagine advice to the contrary. Would someone be considered helpful if they advised that you be “more negative”?

I’ve found that positive thinking works really well when your general temperament is pessimistic. This is where positive mindsets or positive affirmations come into play. If someone generally slants towards the negative, a dose of positivity can bring that person back to neutral.

Recently, I’ve found a few people on the internet talking about “toxic positivity”. This is a situation where someone is so positive that they can potentially hurt themselves. How is this possible? Well if someone is so positive yet they ignore the real negative consequences of their decisions, it can lead to bad outcomes.

I don’t think positivity is the answer. But I also don’t think it’s the problem. I think the issue is reality testing. Are people making decisions based on reality?

If negativity causes you to distort reality, then a dose of positivity can be helpful. But if a positive person tries to say positive things to ignore a negative reality, then we’ve got a problem. How can someone make high quality decisions if their reality is distorted?

How do you live a life more grounded in reality? It boils down to having the most accurate interpretation of your experience. That takes a lot of practice. But in time, it is well worth it.

For more on my thoughts of Positive Psychology:
Does Positive Psychology Work?

Dr. Eric

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