Why Positive Thinking is not about Solving Problems

When we develop or learn cognitive styles that favor the negative paths of thought, we can laugh a little at the concept of “stinkin’ thinkin'”!

Positive thinking can come from two sources: an ability to look for solutions to the problem that is weighing us down; or an ability to stay on positive pathways of thought when a problem occurs.

But they are quite different thought processes. Sometimes there will be problems with communication when one person is a thinker and the other is a doer. The thinker may want to discuss the positive aspects of dealing with the problem, rather than the required tasks. The doer will want to discuss the tasks involved in making progress toward solving the problem and may have no use for extraneous conversation.

When the car battery is dead, for example, the positive doing thinker will immediately start thinking about finding a friend for a jump start, or to call the road service. Positive doers will focus on tasks and steps, not on beliefs, reasons, or potentialities.

The negative thinker will start thinking about the horror of losing their independent transportation source. Then, thoughts of what they will not be able to do will pop up. Then, thoughts of the financial problems will come to bear. Then, the sense of helplessness or overwhelming thoughts of being a loser will come up. This will all come before or instead of thinking about the steps required for getting a jump start or help. Negative thinkers will delay task oriented thinking.

The positive thinker will start looking at the situation in terms of the blessings that they have, the alternatives to an immediate purchase of a new battery if the bank account is low, and will put the problem into perspective. In positive thinking as opposed to negative thinking, the perspective and the importance of the matter is under control and is not allowed to go down imaginary or hypothetical paths of car breakdown horror.

Positive doers will definitely deal in advance with such problems as a dead car battery. They will have a cell phone, even if it is a pre-paid, emergency only cell phone. They will have a road service plan or will have the phone numbers of a large group of friends or family who can respond to help.  They will anticipate the problem and will have quick references for help well in advance of the problem. As a result, thinking is more about the steps that have to be taken, rather than who, what, when, where and why the problem occurred.

Positive thinkers may or may not prepare in advance for the problem, and may idle around for a while, but will avoid distracting themselves with discouraging thoughts. They will be able to stay more calm and relaxed, rather than losing temper, getting depressed panicking.

Negative thinkers may or may not prepare in advance for the problem, but will become unfocused, lose perspective, or lose temper and ability to take action because their thought paths are dysfunctional, focusing on the exaggerated nature of the problem, the unfairness of it all, who is at fault, the hopelessness of life and so on.

Much of our thinking process and thought patterns are handed to us by our parents and siblings or caregivers in our young lives. When these folk have been overcritical, dramatic, and negative, then we tend to be the same. When these folk have shown us different ways of thinking, such as doing what needs to be done before worrying about other issues; or putting things into perspective, then we tend to be the same.

Most of us are a mix of thought processes, depending on the magnitude or gravity of a situation. A dead car battery is a well known experience to a middle aged, long time driver. A dead car battery will represent a major catastrophe to a new driver, a person who is in tight financial times, or a person who is far from home.

As a result, both our ability to solve the problem and our ability to think positively are needed these days, but in the absence of easy or routine problem solving, positive thinking is a completely different resource that comes in handy.