Staying positive is an idea that's become a hallmark of Western corporate operation--it's in just about every leadership, business or self-help book. But not everyone believes focusing only on the bright side in everything is helpful. This blog post from Ideapod outlines the surprising way controversial spiritual guru Chandra Mohan Jain (also known as Osho, Shree Rajneesh and Acharya Rajneesh) viewed positive thinking.
A summary of Osho's take
Osho essentially dismissed positive thinking as a philosophy, calling it "bulls--t" and "the philosophy of hypocrisy".
"The philosophy of positive thinking means being untruthful," Osho said. "It means being dishonest. It means seeing a certain thing and yet denying what you have seen; it means deceiving yourself and others...
"Dale Carnegie started this whole school of positive philosophy, of positive thinking: Don't see the negative part, don't see the darker side. But by your not seeing it, do you think it disappears?...The negative is as much a part of life as the positive. They balance each other."
Establishing a different frame of mind
Considering the above, Osho thought that the right approach to positivity was to look negativity in the face and let it go. To him, it was a lot like having a bite of rotten raw meat in your mouth. In that situation, you probably wouldn't just say, "Everything will be fine! Dinner is in an hour!" No, you'd likely admit it tasted awful and spit that sucker out and rinse the first chance you got. In the same way, you have to get rid of what's negative, not simply use positive thinking to repress it and make believe it's not on your tongue. When you face and consciously remove what's negative in this way, you're left with more of what's good.
Osho's not alone
Although Osho's philosophy might seem off the wall, it's worth noting that psychologists today often use a line of thought similar to Osho's when helping people move out of denial surrounding trauma, abuse or other hurt. They believe that facing the reality of those negative feelings and experiences is the key to moving past them and living a healthier, happier life. In fact, some are quite vocal about the negative side of positive psychology. Barbara Held, for example, maintains that drawbacks to excessive positive thinking include feelings of guilt or defect from being unable to shake negative feelings with positive thought.
Does all this mean that you can't give yourself a pat on the back once in a while or tell someone to have courage? Of course not. What's good deserves to be recognized as such. It merely means that, as you try to be positive, you also should be cognizant of the negative and try to come up with reasons why you are (or will become) able to overcome what's not so rosy. It means that, ideally, you'll treat what's bad as a learning opportunity and grow from looking at the issues. This is a logic-oriented process where you justify the conclusion you're coming to and make conscious, educated plans about how to move forward. It is not simply saying what you want to be true. It is acknowledging facts, both good and bad, so that you can make it true--it's problem solving with an understanding of strengths and weaknesses and clear, measurable steps. Once you have a realistic, grounded plan and initiate it, progress happens you can feel positive about, with the predictability of the plan relieving worry and stress.