I posted the above quote on my instagram a few days ago and a good friend of mine commented “👏 The power of reframing reality.”
The comment got me really thinking. All of my life I’ve been a big fan of reframing negative (non-constructive) thoughts to positive (growth-oriented) thoughts.
Like many others, I used to think swallowing positivity is the best way to deal with arising negative thoughts, feelings, and emotions.
But in the past year, I’ve experienced a whole other way of living, that has healed and empowered me in ways that would have been unbelievable to me before. #wokeAF #buddha 😇
Now, I believe reframing may only work in the short-term and is very damaging in the long-term.
“Wait… but why? Shouldn’t all positive thoughts be good and healthy.”
The answer is No. A big NO!
Too often we’ve been told by self-help gurus, mainstream media, and “rationality champions” that negative thoughts are bad, should be avoided, and turned positive. Therefore, we must turn the other way, reframe, and think about them differently.
We take the microphone from the part of us that was hurt, sad, or angry, and give it to another part of us that is “positive” and “rational.” This is what is commonly referred to as “reframing.”
And, yes, that may temporarily make us feel better by thinking “things aren’t that bad” “Look at the bright side…”
But what happens to those suppressed “negative thoughts?”
Glad you asked! Negative thoughts ain’t going no-where ! They will just be in the same exact spot, suppressed, and growing in sadness, frustration, anger, and pain.
But if you’re like me and the other 99.99% of the other people, you will definitely not notice their suppressed presence.
Instead, depending on what kind of feelings you’ve been suppressing, you may notice different symptoms rising. Just to name a few example, you may feel:
- Slowed down, e.g. slower in accomplishing tasks, demotivated, easily distracted, making attainable plans but can’t really achieve them, …
- Irritated often e.g. complaining daily about different things, sense of bitterness, regularly frustrated, …
- Unknown sadness e.g. rush of sadness for no apparent reason, …
- Not being/doing enough e.g. haven’t been productive enough , haven’t accomplish enough this week/month/year, …
5. Explosion (when shit hits the fan) e.g. emotional breakdown, physical body pain or sickness, panic attack …
But don’t worry at all if you don’t see any of these symptoms in yourself!
We are double black belt masters at numbing and distracting ourselves from noticing these negative symptoms. From your regular Netflix binging to non-stop instagram scrolling to keeping “busy” and working all of the time.
There are many ways to tranquilize oneself!
So we only notice these negative symptoms in those tiny moments that we happen to be not distracted enough.
Even if we notice any of these symptoms, we always have “GREAT REASONS” for why they are happening. Rationalization helps us accept ourselves more (temporarily), but dismisses the fact that these symptoms are pointing to a more rooted problem that needs to be addressed ASAP. Which in turn, makes the issue happen again, but next time in greater force or a different flavor.
Forcing positivity down our throat is not a good idea and it will backfire in much bigger ways that we cannot understand!
So what’s the solution?
What should we do with our nonconstructive thoughts? Should we binge-eat the whole gallon of ice-cream next time the thought hits us?
Great questions indeed! I’ll write more on the solution in a separate article.
But meanwhile, try to listen to the thoughts you label as negative or nonconstructive. Hear everything they want to tell you. You won’t need to act on the actions they’re telling you (e.g. binge-watch all seasons of Ozark). But if you listen with curiosity and calmness to their feelings and emotions, you will be surprised at what will happen next.