I have been skeptical of positive thinking. As a recovering addict to the habit of negative daydreaming, just trying to replace positive affirmation with negative habit seemed too easy and new-agey. And in my case, positive thinking didn’t seem to work that much.
This is how my “replacement” went. I have a negative idea in my head, and then I quickly replace it with a positive way of thinking. Voila, now I have successfully reinforced my negative attitude by 1. Bringing it up and 2. Touching it again through the “replacement” process and 3. Remembering it in the shadow of the positive label (after all, they are twin brothers).
What is fundamentally wrong with a simple “replacement” is that I do not “change” it at all. I have been living around the axis of the negative idea, and after flipping it in a positive way, I still continue to live along the same axis with a different label. I may restate my obsession as my passion, but the fact remains that I still live according to the obsession/passion axis.
What I really need is to move away from the old bad habit, not to paint a nice color on top of it. Therefore, the necessary process must be “shift and refocus” rather than “replace.” In order to not think of a pink elephant in the room, is it better to replace it with a green rhino or to think of a donut on the table outside the room? I can shift my attention to the donut, move out of the room (thus leaving the negative axis), and refocus on my donut and a peaceful donut life. The pink elephant is gone. Sayonara. Hasta La Vista, baby. (Use this phrase in real conversations at your peril)
Unfortunatly, in many cases I just can’t move away without seriously facing the bad habit first. I can move out of the room and eat the donut only after hunting the pink elephant down, or he will roar out in revenge and crush me while I am tasting the yummy donut. Therefore, I still need to take care of the negative item first—and there I need something positive, but not in the way of “affirmation.”
What I can do is not to flip my addiction/emotional turmoil/confusion into passion/dynamic personality/sophistication and declare they have been taken care of. Instead, I can pull them out and “describe” them. Sorry my negative aunties, I am not going to put a nice dress on you. Instead, I am going to strip you off. In public. You are ugly no matter what, and I will show everybody how truly ugly and miserable you are under your ugly costume. Because no matter how different each one of you negative aunties look, there is always fear at your core. A fear is a fear is a fear. There is no way to sugarcoat it.
I do not deny positive affirmations, though. I still need to carefully choose words when I describe negative incidents, or else the words can haunt me even stronger. But the strategy remains the same: Strip the layers of disguise off my negative idea and to see what sits at the core, which is always fear. I expose it in the public arena of my inner world, and march onto my donut proudly. That’s positive.