Positive thinking! Feeing Happy! – Two myths that need to be shattered

Many of us – and many of our clients – walk around believing that everyone else is happy or doing much better than we/they are. We want to ‘feel’ happy all the time and if we are not able to do this, we think there’s something wrong with us. The positive thinking camp encourages us to get rid of negative thoughts and feelings – and while it sounds good, ever tried doing it? The reality is that it doesn’t work!

 The other myth that is commonly believed is that we should be able to control what we think and feel. That’s not going to happen either! Despite what self-proclaimed gurus state, we really can’t control what we think and feel. Our mind thinks negative stuff, we feel bad, anxious, worried…That’s part of being human. And it’s alright! 

The problem starts when we try to avoid feeling and thinking what we’re really feeling/thinking or when we try to control it. That starts a vicious cycle that mostly leads to more frustration and feeling worse. So, how would you coach a client who is struggling with this? Before you work with a client, try this experiment on yourself first. Not to get perfection, but to experience the humility needed as we (and our client) struggle with it.

Try this experiment: (1) Notice all the little things you do each day to dodge, change or blot out unpleasant thoughts and feelings. Notice how little long-term effect these things that you try to do (control strategies) have. Try this for a week.

(2) Next, each time that you have a thought or feeling that you label as negative, judgmental, stressful, anxiety producing, anger generating…just say to yourself ‘I notice that I’m having this…(name the thought / feeling)’.    And that’s all!    The goal is not to change it, nor to make it go away, nor to make you feel different.  Be OK with what you’re feeling.   Just tell yourself you’ve noticed the thought or feeling: ‘I notice…(thought/feeling)’.    Try this for a week!


Reference: The Happiness Trap: Stop Struggling, Start Living by Dr Russ Harris

Check out details of our ICF accredited 125 hour ACTP Executive Coach training program being held in October and December in Bangalore, on this website’s ACTP/ACSTH page. Why not use this as an opportunity to visit India / Bangalore?

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