Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness (c) 2018 Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries
When positive thinking is denial’s cousin, it is not helpful.
Denial is believing your spouse means “I love you,” while treating you like dirt. Denial is unnecessarily gaining weight and telling yourself you are still healthy. Denial points out another’s mistake, the same mistake you have made a dozen times.
Rain is real
Members of a depression support group, many of us fresh out of the hospital, watched as gray merged with silver droplets, creating a panel of sleet over the window. Someone complained about the weather.
The therapist’s response sounded confusing. He said, “Look for the positives.”
I asked, “What’s the difference between denial and looking for the positives?”
“Denial is saying, ‘there is no rain’,” he said. “Looking for positives accepts the rain, then deliberately chooses to focus on what is going well.”
Is, as in “is going well,” drove the point. He did not use wish or claim. Instead, he suggested hope for change comes from noticing what is positive about reality.
Later he said, “I’m not telling you to just think positive. I’m not that guy.”
Rain is wet
Positive thinking tries to convince us the rain is meaningless. Perhaps one admits to the storm, yet summarily dismisses it with, “it’s not wet!”
Children’s the-little-train-that-could had positive thoughts. “I think I can, I think I can” motivated it to chug its way over a mountain. If that little train did not have wheels, no amount of positive thinking was going to carry it.
Positive thinking is different from positive change in that it has no inherent honesty. Trying to pump up a languishing spirit by embracing fantasy is a temporary feel-good solution at best.
While denial calls addiction a bad habit, positive thinking recognizes addiction and tries to wish away the consequences. Denial says “I’m ok” when nothing is ok. Positive thinking says, “I’m not ok, but everything will be perfect tomorrow!”
Certain times may call for rah-rahs for rah-rahs’ sake. However, there is more power in truth. It is amazing what we can face and accomplish in the realm of our mental health if what we genuinely want is positive change.