In Part #1 of ‘Negative vs. Positive Thinking’, I gave you an overview of the conscious and unconscious mind and a glimpse into positive and negative thinking. Review on link below:

In Part #2, we are going to explore the dark side of positive thinking and how to embrace and manage this dark point of view.

For years I’ve touted the extraordinary benefits of Positive thinking as a valuable tool to overcome negative thoughts and enhance life mentally, spiritually, emotionally & physically. Science has proven that fostering emotions such as kindness, love and gratitude yield massive benefits.

Author and counselor Meg Selig reflects my point of view exactly when she wrote in the December 13, 2019, issue of “Psychology Today,” Let me be clear: By negative thinking, I do not mean negativity. “Negativity” involves a habitual attitude of anger, cynicism, helplessness, or sadness in all or many situations. “Negative thinking,” by contrast, means the ability to see the potential dark side of people, ideas, places, and things, in order to respond to them in a realistic and self-protective manner.

LIFE FACT: Our brains are hard-wired for negativity. In the deepest recesses of our ‘primitive’ brain we are built for survival which means we are also built for finding solutions to survive.

Regardless of the evidence, some people seem to see the darkness instead of the light.

Let’s jump right in and look at the dark side of positive thinking or what many call ‘toxic positivity’.

Darkside #1: Pressure put on you to always be positive:

Society and even our ‘positive thinking’ friends often place pressure on us to always look at the water glass as half full instead of half empty. In general, this type of communication often increases pressure on individuals to not only constantly maintain a positive attitude but also to make them wrong if they don’t. How exhausting and unrealistic! Instead of helping, this pressure can make people feel guilty if they slip into the negative side of thinking. That is when it becomes ‘toxic’.

I have never met anyone who can maintain a positive attitude all the time.

We define toxic positivity as the excessive and ineffective overgeneralization of a happy,
optimistic state across all situations. The process of toxic positivity results in the denial,
minimization, and invalidation of the authentic human emotional experience.
-Samara Quintero, LMFT, CHT and Jamie Long, PsyD, The Psychology Group
While positive thinking is largely beneficial for mental health and overall well-being, it is important to acknowledge that, like hypnosis, it is not a cure-all solution and may have some downside.

Darkside #2. Setting yourself up for unrealistic expectations:

Excessive positive thinking can sometimes lead to unrealistic expectations and a tendency to overlook or ignore potential obstacles or challenges. This can lead to disappointment or a sense of failure if things don't go as expected.

Expectations are often the source of anxiety. That does not mean that all expectations are necessarily negative. It is when an expectation is unrealistic that one can go over to the dark side of positive thinking.

Expectations do not manifest your goals. But it’s important to recognize that optimism doesn’t guarantee a positive outcome because we can never, ever control every situation in life.

Dr. Dan Brennan, health care columnist, public speaker, and television personality writes, Some expectations can be good and encourage you to overcome obstacles and chase your dreams. However, when your expectations are unrealistic, it can create friction, misunderstandings, frustration, and more.

Darkside #3: Ignoring potential risks:

Positive thinking may influence individuals to overlook potential risks or dangers by being overly optimistic. This can result in poor decision-making or a lack of awareness and preparedness for potential difficulties.

There are a multitude (mentally, physically, spiritually emotionally and socially) of potential risks and negative outcomes created by ignoring or denying risks. The two that come to mind are refusing to leave a destructive relationship and denying an underlying health problem or an addiction. I have personally seen this denial ruin many relationships, personal health and, even result in death.

Research bears that out. A 2012 study undertaken at the University of Queensland and published in the journal Emotion found that when people think others expect them to not feel negative emotions, they end up feeling more negative emotions.

A generally positive outlook is not harmful. However, a person who believes that they must only be positive may ignore serious problems or not address underlying mental health issues. Similarly, people who demand positivity from others may offer insufficient support or make loved ones feel stigmatized and judged.
-Boris C. Bastian, School of Psychology, University of Queensland, Australia

Darkside #4: Suppression of negative emotions:

Constantly focusing on positive thoughts may result in suppressing or avoiding negative emotions, which can be unhealthy in the long run. It is important to acknowledge and address negative emotions rather than simply trying to push them away.

Consider demeaning someone’s loss. Grief, sadness, and mourning are normal in the face of loss. A person who repeatedly hears messages to move on, get over it or be happy, might feel as though others do not care about their loss. A parent who has lost a child, for example, might feel that their child was unimportant to others, compounding their grief. Or someone who has lost their spouse or best friend might feel similarly.

Tyler Woods, Assistant Editor for Psychology Today writes, A growing body of research finds that it may not be our negative emotions doing the harm but rather our reactions to them. A study published earlier this year in the journal Emotion found that people who judge their negative feelings as bad or inappropriate are more likely to experience mental health problems compared to those who judged their negative feelings as good or neutral. At the same time, people who felt good about the positive emotions they experienced were more likely to have better mental health.

A large part of mental health is learning the skill to reframe your thinking. Below is an article I wrote on how to reframe: Learn and use.

Darkside #5. Lack of problem-solving:

Positive thinking alone may not be sufficient to solve complex problems or overcome challenges. While a positive mindset can be helpful, it is equally important to actively engage in problem-solving and take necessary actions to address the issues at hand or as perceived for the future.

It is important to strike a balance between positive thinking and acknowledging the reality of situations, as well as allowing oneself to experience a full range of emotions.

In fact, there is another way to look at negative thinking


Julie K. Norem, PhD, professor of psychology at Wellesley College, writes in her book, The Positive Power of Negative Thinking: Using Defensive Pessimism to Harness Anxiety and Perform at Your Peak, Many pessimists are highly successful and even happy. Their secret: They have made their feelings the basis of an effective strategy–defensive pessimism.

Using defensive pessimism is essentially anticipating a negative outcome and then proactively
taking positive steps to avoid that outcome. Think about a football team anticipating a number of their opponents’ offensive plays and then making plans for responding to them. Or astronauts who run countless negative scenarios so they will have instinctive positive reactions if a situation should turn dire.

Without such a strategy, negative thinking can lead to a life of limited outcomes, distress, and
negativity. Unless you learn to recognize and turn fear-based negative thinking to your advantage,
you might make choices that lead to your own personal disaster scenario.

By developing the skill to recognize when you are in fear and to reframe your thinking, you are able to make empowering choices.

Here is a brief look at what I consider the major fears the average person experiences, as well as the negative, fear-based behaviors that could result.

• Fear of rejection can create rejection by making you avoid people and isolate yourself, or reject
others before they can reject you. It can also create rejection by making you attempt to dominate,
control, or manipulate others, thereby pushing them away.

• Fear of failure and fear of change can create failure by leading you to refuse to take risks,
avoid challenging jobs, pass up opportunities, and step out of your comfort zone.

• Fear of success can create failure by making you do the things that will create a barrier to
achieving success. Classic symptoms include procrastination resulting in missed deadlines, poor
communication, and getting into arguments with peers or friends

• Fear of commitment can create failure by keeping you from committing to anything or anyone, or by
making you overcommit and unable to say “No.”

• Fear of poverty can make you—or make you feel—poor by leading you to spend more than you earn or by hoarding what you have.


Life and career coach Helen Dillion writes, Using these periods of negativity is actually how we learn to improve ourselves. It’s how we can better understand our strengths when we are faced with challenges that make us dig deep within ourselves to overcome those difficulties.

Negative thinking actually holds benefits that can help us move forward in life. And see that something needs changing in your life or in the world.

The bottom line is that using the power of negative thinking can, as Pachter and Magee write in “The Power of Positive Confrontation: The Skills You Need to Handle Conflicts at Work, at Home, Online, and in Life,“… help you protect your life and health by saving you time, trouble, and money, and by sorting out the good people from those who might take advantage of your caring nature. While positive emotions such as gratitude, happiness, and love make life worth living, a dash of negativity can be a helpful spice in the recipe for a good life. So, accentuate the positive, but don’t eliminate the negative.

Me to you, the reader, “Accentuate the positive. Embrace and use negative thinking and fear to your advantage.”

Learn about and use these signposts to live an exceptional life.


Author's Bio: 

An extraordinary speaker for the complexity and uncertainty of 2023, James Mapes defies categorization. When philanthropist/Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen quizzed Mapes as to how one person could do so much during his life, James’ answer was simple: “Because no one told me I couldn’t.”
A true Renaissance man: speaker, coach, philosopher, clinical hypnotist, actor, award-winning performer and best-selling author. He delivers a message of unlimited possibilities, passion, love, fun and adventure. Mapes is a living example of the creativity of the human mind at work and his mission is to educate and entertain.
James is considered the world’s foremost authority on applied imagination. His interactive, lively and challenging programs include creativity, motivation, leadership, change, wellness and peak performance.