The “Power of Positive Thinking” has been sold and marketed so much it’s been widely accepted as the way people “should” behave, think or act. Sadly, the truth behind the value of negative thoughts and emotions has been driven into the shadows, to be ignored and avoided. Thankfully, more and more people are coming to understand that our negative thoughts partnered with a positive attitude (they are not mutually exclusive) can be a powerful combination for personal and professional success.
The problem is that while positive thinking can yield some mental health benefits, an excessive and rigid search for positivity can bring about the opposite effect.
Sticking with the analogy of germs, negative thoughts and emotions (including stress) can be a good thing in moderation — like germs or viruses that stimulate the functioning of the immune system. There are a number of benefits of negativity, and at least some negativity in one’s life from time to time is probably desirable.
First, negative thinking can be adaptive. When problems arise, worry can be a constructive thing if it leads to problem-solving. Anxiety is useful when we are threatened and are in need of safety. (For example, you should feel some anxiety when driving in poor weather.) Sadness is a normal emotion in the context of loss. In fact, it is believed that the symptoms of depression evolved to facilitate the need for rest, protection and self-soothing.
Second, negative life experiences (including negative thoughts and emotions) often play a significant role in maturation and character development. Guilt and shame not only allow us to recognize and correct mistakes we’ve made, but also to become a better person. Repeat experiences with frustration help build tolerance and may ultimately assist in the development of patience.
I’ll keep you posted as more and more people spread the word!