451 Illusion of Positivity

Research by James Collard, Matthew Fuller-Tyskiewicz (2020). Positive irrational beliefs and mental health. Journal of Rational-Emotive & Cognitive-Behavior Therapy. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10942-020-00375-y

Written by Robin N. Fatovic M.S.

Is it helpful to always look on the bright side?

Psychology researchers argued that being overly positive, like thinking one is always in control, successful,and makes no mistakes, can result in irrational beliefs or “illusions.” Thinking this might be harmful to mental health, they studied the beliefs and mental health of 1240 people from Australia using a questionnaire.

Results? Participants who had overly positive beliefs had more anxiety, depression, and stress. They also had lower self-esteem, less optimism, and less ability to cope well. Does this mean we should never think positively? No! However, when we create an illusion of positivity and something goes wrong, this can create disappointment. To cope, accept that a situation is a challenge, but difficult. It’s okay to experience uncomfortable emotions, but don’t try to avoid them. Instead, accept the discomfort. Sit with it. Accept that we cannot control certain forces. Learn from it. Figure out what you can control in the situation and try to change it. If you ever have a belief that is overly positive in a way that does not really accept the reality of the situation, ask yourself, “is this thought really helpful?”

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