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Positiphizing vs. Catastrophizing

Just the other day, a client of mine was telling me how they practice positive thinking all the time but nothing good ever happens to them. They have Post-It-Notes all over their house, on the bathroom mirror so they read every time they use the facilities, on the refrigerator so they see it every time they are in the kitchen, and even on the front door where they read it out loud as they open the door. They surround themselves with positive sayings and affirmations and yet nothing changes. I was super curious about this so I asked them, “What do you think about that when you read all those affirmations and positive words?” Their response was telling, they said, “I think about how all this positive thinking is just bullshit and how it never works but I’m going to do it anyway because I don’t like the alternative. At least when I say these things I don’t feel as helpless.”

In my experience, positive thinking is great, it’s better than not, and it’s also kind of a waste of time. If you’re going through all this work changing your thinking but sabotaging it all by thinking contrary and even negative thoughts, then what good can it do? I mean, seriously. Saying all this positive stuff while thinking about it as a waste of time is truly a waste of time.

Positive thinking needs to go beyond the words and into positive feeling…positive seeing…positive believing. We must step beyond just the thinking and this is where Positiphizing comes in. To understand positiphizing, we must first understand what it is not; what its opposite is. The opposite of positiphizing is catastrophizing. Catastrophizing is taking false beliefs and even real experiences from that past and projecting them into our futures. A great example of catastrophizing can be found in people who have a phobia of flying. They take an opinion, fear, judgment, worry, etc, and then project that into the future. They tell themselves about what their future airplane trip is going to be like based on those fears and past experiences. They’ve taken that flight thousands of times in their minds months before they’ve even boarded the plane. They feel a sickness in their stomach when they think about packing their bags. They feel panic and literal heart palpitations thinking about waiting in line at the TSA check point. They break out into a cold sweat when they imagine being on the plane, seeing the doors close, and hearing the engines accelerate. They think about the experience and feel the fear in their bodies, they see how this disastrous trip plays out in their mind’s imagination, they feel the panic, sweat, and tears before they’ve even stepped into the cab to go to the airport. The entire trip is known to them as they visualize, imagine, and think about their fears and project them into the future with great detail. In actuality, they’re training their brain to become more and more fearful every time they go through this obsessive catastrophizing story and they create such a feeling of dread that they can’t even get on the plane due to the horrific fantasy they’ve concocted in their head. I trust you can see how this person has created a reality for themselves from a place of fear and worry that is projected into the future which becomes their reality.

Positiphizing is the exact opposite of this. If you’re good at catastrophizing then you have great potential for being an excellent positiphizer! In positiphizing, you use all the same skills but you focus on creating an experience that is beneficial to you. For example, let’s take flying. The same person could think about flying in a different way. They could say to those fearful thoughts, “Thanks. I know you’re trying to protect me. What would it be like to fly effortlessly?” Seriously, what would it be like to fly with ease? To be “water of a ducks back?” To go through the experience of flying in a state of flow? What if they saw themselves smiling at everyone they made eye contact with while walking through the airport. What if they felt a sense of warm relaxation in their belly as they boarded the plane? Could they feel an open deep breath as the doors of the plane closed and a flush of loving knowing that they will be embracing their loved ones in a very short time? Instead of practicing their fear weeks before their departure, maybe they can practice this grace instead?

The interesting thing is that they (we) have all the tools to do it. The same tools and skills we use to catastrophize we can use to positiphize! It’s really up to you. What do you choose? How do you want to live your life? The “reality” of this moment, right now, was created from the thoughts, feelings, experiences of our past. If we want a different reality tomorrow, then let’s positiphize a life, world, global experience filled with love, kindness, compassion, and possibility for all.

As we positiphize in bigger and greater ways, we start to create a world full of the positive affirmations on those silly notes and posters that we leave all over the place, just now, those sweet sayings have real life feelings and experiences backing them up.

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