The Pitfalls Of Positive Thinking

by Doris Helge, Ph.D. © 2009

Birth canals are small, uncomfortable passageways that simultaneously produce almost indescribable joy and pain. We are always giving birth to new aspects of ourselves. We walk down frightening paths only to discover new layers of confidence. Our self-doubts arise specifically so we can give birth to heightened degrees of self-love and empowerment. An uncomfortable feeling such as anger, fear, or sadness rears its head and most of us want to numb, disguise, or deny it.

This approach is usually as successful as trying to transport bullfrogs in a wheelbarrow. Negative feelings continue to demand our attention. Since we didn’t heed the call the first time, painful feelings scream louder. Unpleasant situations magnify so we can gain the personal growth available from them. Do you know anyone who left an unpleasant job or relationship only to re-create the unpleasant scenario?

Running from painful emotions can also place our physical health at risk. When we repress negative emotions, we stifle the flow of energy through our bodies. We inadvertently suppress our immune system and perceive events as more stressful than they really are. We feel confused and disconnected from the people we love.

Whether we are avoiding anger or love, the price of our unwillingness to be honest about our feelings can be quite high. On the other hand, allowing life to touch us has tremendous benefits.


Positive psychology is often confused with the use of positive thinking and affirmations. When we rush toward a positive conclusion without gaining the wisdom available from an unpleasant event or emotion, we unintentionally set ourselves up to repeat a negative experience. You’ve known people who walked away from an unpleasant job or relationship and later repeated the scenario.

When we struggle to “put on a happy face” or try the “fake it ’til you make it” approach, even if we gain a brief respite from uneasy feelings, we find ourselves struggling to maintain a façade. Buried feelings never die. They resurface, usually at a very inconvenient time. Then we repeat the same uncomfortable emotions and difficult challenges.

When we strain to “release” or “let go of” painful experiences or emotions, we have labeled emotions like anger, sadness, and fear as negative or toxic. Many people don’t understand that pain and pleasure exist side by side in our brains. Anger cuddles next to peace, love, and happiness. Fear is nestled next to confidence. Sadness snuggles up to joy. You can see that suppressing a negative emotion can stifle our ability to experience the opposite positive emotions we love.

Consider the example of anger, which is passion for ourselves. (“I deserve better than that” or “I want more out of life.”) When we embrace anger (experience it), more self-love appears. Once we express our irritations in a safe and constructive way, we usually discover that we’ve angry with ourselves because we’ve positioned ourselves in an uncomfortable situation. Then we stop blaming other people, our compassion for them increases, and forgiveness is spontaneous.

Most parents love their children too much to try to protect them from painful learning experiences. Wise parents shield their children from unnecessary pain or danger by teaching them how to be physically safe and develop decision-making skills. However, parents with foresight know that efforts to guard their children from any pain would cheat them out of developing their abilities to meet life on its own terms. They would grow up as shallow adults totally unprepared to solve problems or empower themselves by meeting new challenges. The same is true for us as adults.

Discover the hidden gifts of negative experiences and emotions. Then you’ll never feel like a victim to unpleasant feelings and life experiences that are amazing tools for the healthy personal power and self-love you crave.

Discover how to safely use all negative emotions to create healthier relationships and a more fulfilling, successful work life. Once you know how to use anger in a healthy way, you’ll open a magical door to greater self-respect and rich, rewarding relationships. Learn to feel the sweet memories that are hidden within your deepest grief. Studies that chemically analyzed tears indicated that teardrops cleanse stress hormones. That’s why we feel less fatigued after crying. Our sobs are an innate gift because tears assist the body in washing away toxins.

Learn why you should be celebrating self-doubt and fear. These negative emotions are like the first robins of spring. They are announcing the imminent arrival of a bright new future and bold new layers of confidence.


Asking for help when you feel stuck is a sign of high self-esteem. (You’re saying to yourself, “I deserve a better life!”) Would you like to work with a compassionate coach who helps you overcome the blocks to your happiness and success? Sign up for a FREE laser coaching session. Discover how quickly you can move into the fast lane and achieve your dreams. Email: today.

Visit and claim your free ebooks & podcasts, including “Secrets of Happiness” and “Get the Respect & Appreciation You Deserve Now.” Doris Helge, Ph.D., “The Joy Coach” is author of “Joy on the Job” and “Transforming Pain Into Power.” Discover more at

© 2009. Permission to reprint this article is granted if the article is in tact, with proper credit given. All reprints must state, “Reprinted with permission by Doris Helge, Ph.D. Originally published in “Transforming Pain Into Power” & © 2009

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Leave A Reply (9 comments so far)


  1. Rebbekah White
    8 years ago

    Doris, this article so speaks to me especially this paragraph:

    “When we struggle to “put on a happy face” or try the “fake it ’til you make it” approach, even if we gain a brief respite from uneasy feelings, we find ourselves struggling to maintain a façade. Buried feelings never die. They resurface, usually at a very inconvenient time. Then we repeat the same uncomfortable emotions and difficult challenges.”

    I have been doing this for so long and each time I tell myself I will release it and never seem to fully release it.

    For instance last week past things that keep “haunting me” came back to surface, I tried to fit the anger, the fear and all it did was make me sick! After talking to you and having someone to listen who was “away from the situation” I realized there is only so much my body can take and I needed to work on a problem and get it gone!

    I am practicing what you taught me and will be taking your advice, since coming to this decision over the weekend and feeling the strength from that decision, today I woke up feeling MUCH better! My chest is clearing up, I know once I take that final step and do what I need to do I will feel better and will be on the way to recovery.

    It is time I stand up for myself, and let others know what I need! I tend to want to help others and not take help when I need it. This time I know what I need and I know I need to get over my fear and just do what I know in my heart I need to do.

    Honestly it was only because of our talk! Thank you so much Doris not only are you a great coach you have become a very valued friend!

    Rebbekah White

  2. Doris
    8 years ago


    Your courage and your experience in transforming your own challenges into gold nuggets of wisdom, personal power, and freedom will inspire many people. I’m happy for you and also for all of your Heal Yourself Talk Radio Show listeners. Thanks so much for sharing your experience and comments.

  3. Amen Doris!

    I know from my own experiences of loss and grief that these emotions had to be fully accepted and invited to stay as long as they were necessary to move “through” them. I allowed them, observed the experience, wrote about & processed them until they no longer screamed to be noticed continually.

    I also had a spiritual practice that supported the knowledge that there was perfection right where I was, it didn’t need to be different, because the journey was my learning field that moved me to a higher level of existence.

    That as they say was “priceless”

    As always–I am thankful for your presence in my journey!

    Jude Eastman~Life and Soul Coach

  4. Dave Meyer
    8 years ago

    Great article. It’s not enough to ignore our negative emotions and feelings, we have to deal with them. Putting on a happy face will NEVER be enough until we learn to deal with the underlying issue. And if the emotion we need to deal with is anger, then we need to get angry.

    It’s odd that today we see to be seeing a lot of anger being demonstrated in public. Because while anger is a legitimate emotion and needs to be expressed, we do need to express it in a way that does not cause harm to ourselves and others. That’s another place where a coach can come in handy!

  5. Doris
    8 years ago

    Dave, thanks for pointing out the importance of becoming comfortable with the full array of human emotions so we act instead of react and never feel like a victim of a negative emotion or an uncomfortable experience. As your comment indicates, negative emotions are merely tools to a more positive, empowered future of CHOICE.

  6. Tammy Barbee
    8 years ago


    You are certainly correct. Anger does not get you anywhere towards another person or something in life. I have noticed this from other people who have negative emotions and when you associate with them it seems as though they bring you down. I say stick with those who have your interest and continue to move forward in positive thinking.

  7. John Agno
    8 years ago

    Yes, we all have competing commitments that must respected before allowing our perceptions to evolve toward positive behavioral change.

  8. Rebbekah
    8 years ago

    I had to come back and read more some of the comments posted, handling emotions the right way in our lives is such an important topic. How do you handle issues that are presented in public that needs to be addressed right away yet you don’t want to express out and out anger?

  9. Renee Barnow
    8 years ago

    Brilliant. Every word is a precious gem to be cuddled and honored. As a continuing student of positive psychology I am learning that my positive outlook is at times the direct result of negative experience. By friends with fear, an exercise I used with clients, we are creating a more comfortable place in which to co-exist. If we use compassion as the balm for anger, we transform those w/ whom we are angry including ourselves.
    As for shielding children from pain or uncomfortable situations, my Mom, a Holocaust survivor, says her biggest mistake was not letting her young kids see a neighbor who was in a wheelchair.

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