Positive Thinking and Pollyanna
Thinking positively and optimistically is realistic not pollyannaish
© Jerry Lopper
May 6, 2007
Pollyanna, Steve Woods
Positive thinking is sometimes cynically referred to as pollyannaish, a naive and overly optimistic view of life. Thinking positively is not naive, nor unrealistic.
Sometimes positive thinking and optimistic people are dismissed as pollyannaish. But being a positive thinking person is not being a pollyanna. Pollyanna, the name of a young girl in an early 1900's book of the same title, has come to refer to someone who is naively and unrealistically optimistic. It is now a somewhat derogatory term and positive, optimistic thinking is at times cynically termed pollyannaish. It is not.
Pollyanna tells the story of Pollyanna Whittier, a young girl who goes to live with her wealthy Aunt Polly after her father's death. Pollyanna's philosophy of life centers around what she calls "The Glad Game": she always tries to find something to be glad about in every situation.
In the current definition, pollyannaish thinking implies that one ignores or refuses to recognize negative events. This is not a characteristic of thinking positively.
Positive thinking accepts the reality of a negative event and encourages appropriate emotions. The positive thinker does shift as quickly as possible to optimistic thinking. This is the critical factor differentiating pollyannaish from positive thinking.
Negative events are troublesome. They bring out appropriate negative emotions, such as sadness, fear, and anger. It is appropriate and healthy to acknowledge and experience emotions natural to a negative event.
Positive thinking is simply the habit of spending sufficient time with the negative emotions to heal, without dwelling there unnecessarily.
Don't be intimidated by the cynical judgments of others that thinking positively is unrealistic. Looking for positive content in a negative event is not being out of touch with reality, but instead, is seeking a way to feel better as quickly as possible.
Reality, after all, is what we think it is.
The positive opportunities co-existing in every negative event are just as real as the negatives. But if you don't believe positive opportunities are there, you won't see them. That's an established scientific fact of how our brains work.
Research studies corroborate that we see what we believe is there to be seen. The scientific term for not seeing something because we aren't looking for it is scotoma, a mental block to something that exists.
Positive thinkers see the reality of the positives of life, without ignoring the negatives.
Positive thinking is a healthy resilience to the negative events that sometimes intrude on our lives. Moving on to the positives of life as quickly as possible is a strategy for greater happiness, better health, and longer life. That is reality.