How Positive Thinking Can Come With Side Effects

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It seems to me that we live in an era where “positive thinking” has become such a powerful trend that it’s impossible not to see such a message anywhere I look. Everyone seems to spread the word of how “your thoughts create your reality” or “positive thinking attracts positive things” I can’t help but feel stressed out most of the time I allow myself to get caught in this trap.

My story is different.

At first, I remember when the whole trend started, I was very attracted to the idea. I thought how easy it seemed to just wake up one morning and decide to sweep under the rug all the negative things and people that are part of my life and pretty much force this positive mask on myself, and all of a sudden, everything would fall into place. Or, what the popular slogan says, “Fake it til you make it.”. In theory, it sounds nothing short of perfect.

Low battery mode

All my life, I have experienced sudden and pretty overwhelming bouts of what I call “low battery mode”. It’s quite self-explanatory, but my “low battery mode” usually affects all areas of my life – I avoid socialising, physical activity, being productive, and generally – life.

In the beginning, I used to try different methods in desperate attempts to fight this feeling, but nothing seemed to work. Over time, I spontaneously learned to deal with it – I would either ignore it and pretend everything was fine, or I would let it defeat me and mope around for a few days waiting for the storm to pass.

The main problem I find about these bouts nowadays is that they affect my point of view and, therefore, my motivation. It feels like I wake up one morning and work on a “low battery mode”, unable to get the energy I long for. It’s frustrating because even the things I typically enjoy, I don’t. So, left to my own devices, I slowly run out of things to try so I can get back up as quickly as possible.

When my motivation is affected, I cannot be productive. I have tried so many things, but nothing works. It makes me feel – on top of everything else – sad. Writing is something I naturally do and the way to express myself the best possible way. I have always loved it. So, not being able to write deprives me of that life joy that fulfils me.

Positive turns toxic

“Positive thinking” sounded great because I saw it as a shortcut to feeling better or a way to quickly “recharge”. Unfortunately, it took me a while to realise it didn’t work like that.

The way I see this fad now is – an imposed brainwashing. I can say I hate it. Nothing worse than trying to tell your story and talk about the things that truly drain and overwhelm you, and have someone respond with, “Just stay positive”, or “Everything happens for a reason”, or “Visualise the life you want”. I don’t need that type of advice.

If anything, I find it extremely toxic and stressful. If I feel gloomy and demotivated, and I see others constantly smiling and imposing their attitude as the only option I should have, I will most certainly feel anything but positive.

For me, forcing a positive attitude just prolongs my “suffering” because I am just lying to myself that I feel great without actually feeling any better. And it goes on and on because I wait for my motivation to come back, and why is it not when I keep saying to my mirror that I feel wonderful, inspired, and ready to take on another business day?

Giving in and getting up

It wasn’t until quite recently that I discovered what works for me. At least for now. I found a quote somewhere that paraphrased, sounds something like – Suffering comes from resistance. When I thought about it, I could clearly see the pattern. First, I can feel my bout coming, I adopt the negative attitude, then I try my best to fight it, and when it doesn’t work, I start feeling sorry for myself and deny any accomplishment or productive piece of work I have ever done.

As you can probably guess, I simply decided to stop fighting. To stop offering that resistance that leads to suffering. This is where “positive thinking” proves toxic, so I let it go. I don’t need to feel positive all the time. I accepted that my bouts and the fact that as they come, so shall they go. They are just part of me and my personality, and accepting them as they are, strips them of the overwhelming power they had over me.

I can be ill-tempered and asocial at times; it’s just the way I am, and I let myself be. The same goes for my motivation. Yes, it would be great to feel the drive and inspiration to create all the time, but unfortunately, I can’t boast about that. I am still learning what triggers me to be creative.

So, what do I do differently now when the bout comes? First, I accept that I won’t be able to create amazing writing or anything of the sort and that I will most likely spend the next few days “recharging” and taking a healthy rest. Also, what works for me is doing anything that requires ‘doing’ but not ‘thinking’. It relaxes me a lot but gives me a sense of accomplishment too, which helps me feel better. For example, I really enjoy house chores. So, when the bout comes, you will find me compulsively cleaning the house or doing laundry and the like.

Having no motivation to write is also a good opportunity to learn something new about myself. What activities boost my mood, even for a few minutes? What new things can I try? What kind of people do I feel comfortable being around at this time? How does my wish to write come back? How does this affect the quality of writing? Self-discovery is always an interesting journey. Learning new things about myself helps me feel more comfortable and accepting with who I am, both as a person and as a writer.

I have always believed that generalising – both good and bad – can never be relevant or even possible. One thing cannot work for everyone, even if they are experiencing the same situation. So, the “positive thinking” trend may be good for some, but for me, it definitely wasn’t. I see it as something that doesn’t allow me enough room to be myself, and therefore it doesn’t allow me to learn and grow.

Now I let every emotion wash over me, and I watch how I react. I found it the best way to learn stuff about myself. I don’t offer resistance to bad feelings, regardless of how unpleasant they may be. I see them as an opportunity – maybe one day they will inspire me to write a really good story and share the experience that will help many other people struggling with the same thing.

So, how do you cope with having no motivation to be productive? Do you allow yourself to have bad days?



Milica Sekulic

In my career, I have tried many things, but writing has always been something I primarily aspired for. Both my BA and MA were in English language and literature, so I’m also passionate about reading and teaching.

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