Why positive thinking is a fool’s game — and what really changed my life
(This post was originally published at medium.com.)
I have been fooled — by myself.
Not just once, but countless times.
A fool’s game is a game you cannot win, you can only walk away.
The moment you realize you have been fooled can be seen as a gift or a curse, but everything thereafter is a choice.
At the last day of the game, the trick will be revealed and with it a bitterness that dwarfs any other resentment:
You will not only be shown who you could have become if you had walked away the other day. But you will realize that it has been you creating the fools game all the time.
This is the moment you realize:
I have been fooled — by myself.
And I have reason to believe that you, too, have gone in the same trap.
In this post, I am going to share with you the truth about positive thinking and why it does not work for any of us as expected.
In fact, it is part of the problem and ignoring it means not finding peace in life, ever.
Positive thinking — Your biggest frenemy
Throughout my life, I was stuck in negative thinking patterns.
Sometimes I lost what was mine, sometimes what I had was not enough. Sometimes my world felt apart pushing away my dreams beyond reach. I worked harder with grim willingness, while achieving less than others with ease and happiness. I got smarter and better but less confident than ever.
I felt unhappy for all kinds of reasons and there was no peace in my life. I didn’t realize that I had all the power within me.
One day I got my wake-up call:
I just had lost my job after one year. A job I tried to get for six years. And with all the sacrifices that came with it, I promised myself that this ain’t gonna happen again.
This is when I decided to change my mindset.
I started to consult people that are wiser than me. I read books and blogs, watched videos, got inspired by quotes and stories, and I got more active in many ways.
The core message of this early journey was this:
“Your thoughts create your reality. Your mind is more powerful than you know.”
– Neale Donald Walsch
I kind of realized that somehow I created my own life situation. Everything that had happened to me, was because of me.
I had 100% responsibility of my life and only I could change it.
Therefore, I started to think positive, at least I tried.
It seemed to work at first, but soon I realized that instead of staying positive, I simply avoided the negative.
I went down a devious path:
I lied to myself that everything is fine without actually feeling it.
It seemed that other people and situations bring all the negativity into my life and I wanted none of it.
Mentally I kept shouting: “Get the heck out of here, I am trying to be happy and positive.”
I was on the brink of bursting from all that boiling positivity.
I got frustrated, angry, sometimes even hateful. I justified my reasons and excuses, instead of being kind and positive.
I had failed again. And here comes what really bothered me:
I got frustrated about getting frustrated. I simply couldn’t stay positive, there was always something not right.
Here is an example:
Every time I and my girlfriend have a fight it has been built up before:
One of us is in a bad mood. She would normally complain about something to express her emotions while I would try to keep up my “high spirits” (without actually feeling it). In both situations, my positive energy simply dwindles away and leaves nothing more than a thin mask, a joyless smile.
Ready for action…
Thoughts are just thoughts
I couldn’t be positive when I needed to be. It didn’t work the way it was supposed to.
So I kept looking for an answer:
“You are not your thoughts, and you are not the product of your thoughts.”
– Alan Finger
Now I was confused. If I am not my thoughts, how can they create my reality?
And if my mind is so powerful, why am I unable to control it in a way that serves me?
The problem in disguise
“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”
— Albert Einstein
Here I was, realizing that my thoughts are actually part of the problem.
What if not only our way of thinking is part of the problem?
What if thinking is the problem?
How could positive thinking be any different from negative thinking if both are two sides of the same coin?
In order to answer that question, I had to understand what thinking actually is and where our thoughts are coming from.
Where do our thoughts come from?
The old Egyptians considered thoughts as being one of the six senses which is also symbolized in the Eye of Horus.
In a way, you are actually perceiving your thoughts rather than thinking them. And depending on your inner focus you see either more negative or more positive thoughts.
Just like the saying, I believe what I see, you start to believe what you think. Even worse, you believe you ARE what you think.
All your inner self is doing, is observing these thoughts. It is aware of them.
So how are we creating our reality then, you may ask?
Modern quantum physicists have come to the conclusion that the presence of consciousness, the so-called observer effect, does not only alter reality, but it also creates it.
You observe and create at the same time. You literally observe into existence.
“I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness. We cannot get behind consciousness. Everything that we talk about, everything that we regard as existing, postulates consciousness.”
— Max Planck
While you are observing your thoughts you also create them at the same time.
Observing and thinking are not the same.
For a better understanding, we should look at what happens in our body when we have a thought.
Biology of thinking
Every time you have a thought the brain emits chemical signals to the body. The body reacts to these transmitters and performs accordingly. This, in turn, causes the body to send a confirmation to the brain which makes you now feel exactly the way you are thinking.
Every cell is able to receive information outside of its boundaries via receptors on the surface membrane. Each time it receives a signal it gets activated to perform accordingly. Those chemical messengers are neurotransmitters, neuropeptides, and hormones.
Each time you have a thought, neurotransmitters activate certain neuronal networks that could create a picture in your mind. This will cause neuropeptides to be released into your bloodstream which in turn will activate the respective glands to release specific hormones.
When your body takes over control
Be it negative or positive thinking, you will eventually start to feel the way you think. And since the brain is in constant communication with the body, we will think the way we feel.
This, in turn, will produce more corresponding thoughts and so on.
We first feel the way we think and then we think the way we feel.
This happens all the time, fully automated by our subconscious mind. We always think, feel and behave in the same way, over and over.
Our memorized experiences become memorized emotions, which over time become a certain mood. A prolonged mood eventually becomes part of our personality.
What has started as a thought about an experience turns into who we are, our personality. But just like having thoughts about an experience, rather than the experience itself, we have thoughts about who we are, rather than just being us.
Instead of observing reality, we observe our thoughts about reality.
Thinking has become part of our self-identity. This occurs when we keep thinking and feeling the same experiences over and over again.
In a way, this is what creates our reality.
We are broadcasting coherent waves into the quantum field that will make reality align to it.
In other words, we are living in the past because we can’t let go of it. This in turn also has to recreate the very same past over and over again into our present lives.
The hypnotized observer
However, I don’t see thinking itself as being good or bad.
It is the identification with your thoughts which causes all your problems.
The moment you detach from your false identity with your thoughts, body, and emotions, you stop giving it more power. You start to see life without the narrow filter of your thoughts.
The point is that we are not even aware of being hypnotized by our own thinking and feeling.
Imagine being in a cinema watching a movie:
You are totally entranced by the plot. Your body and mind react to what you see on the screen like it is happening for real.
Only this time, you are watching the movie called your life with you being the lead character. The screen shows your perceived reality.
The moment you realize that you can stop looking on the screen, you are awakening.
This is the first step in your enlightenment process that detaches you from the delusion.
Now everything seems to feel wrong, stale, and not what it used to be. You have the urge to leave but you don’t want to lose your old life, so you try to stay and keep watching.
You keep playing the fool’s game, just like I did.
The ability of metacognition has allowed you to observe your own thinking. Only that now you try (positive) thinking to change your reality.
Many people are stuck at this stage in life.
This means living life as an afterthought. You look forward and you look backward, you look around and you try to “improve the self” because you feel life is nothing but an illusion.
And it is frustrating that none of your efforts change anything and they won’t unless you get beyond your “enlightened and awakening state” which will keep you between two realities.
You are already directing your life without even knowing it
The secret is not that you can fill the movie with positive thoughts.
The biggest revelation is that you are the projector!
You are not only seeing an illusion, you see the illusion of your own creation!
Have you ever wondered how it would be to be a director? Or even better, how it would be to be the director of your own life?
Here is the good news: You already are the director of your own life.
But just like the director of an orchestra, you need to turn your back to the crowd. And this is the hard part.
You don’t want to leave what has become familiar to you and you don’t want to leave your precious identity behind.
But this is the only way to move on.
And as you continue along your path you will realize that this is just the beginning.
You awaken to who you meant to be.
But how do you know which way to go?
“Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are.”
— Chinese Proverb
Simply relax into who you are. This requires awareness.
Paying attention means being conscious. Your attention is your focus. Just focus on being present. You cannot think and be present at the same time.
Your thoughts either deal with the past or the future, but never with the present.
But your life happens now.
Get into a state of open focus where you openly observe and simply be you.
Relax into who you meant to be. You are the immense power beyond your thoughts.
Creative self-expression means to create by expressing yourself. You meant to be you in the purest possible way. Your vibration, your light, your voice, and your energy always contribute to the whole.
The more you contribute to the big picture, the more the big picture will align to your energy. Abundance, synchronicity, bliss, gratitude, love, and creation will become an integral part of your life.
This is not extraordinary by any means, this is the natural state of being. From there everyone can move on to higher realms of being. What is considered to be normal right now, is nothing but living way below our full potential.
All that your thoughts are capable of creating is an endless pursuit of happiness that never seems to be within reach.
5 Reasons why your thoughts do not create your reality
Your thoughts don’t create your reality because
- they are not who you truly are. YOU are the creator, not your thoughts.
- they are concerned with the future or the past but reality happens now. You are actually living in the past or the future as long as you think and identify with your thoughts.
- they cannot last very long. Your thoughts are verbalized in the form of self-talk or they flicker through your head as images. It is impossible to hold on to a thought for long, you can only repeat it over and over again. You never get real traction with your thinking, just dis-traction.
- they are always just a simplification of reality and can never truly engulf it. They are limited by their own nature.
- they are a static, discrete, and clearly defined entities. But nature and the universe are in endless motion, change and growth. A thought by itself can never do that, it is just a thought, simple as that.
Not your thoughts create your reality, it is the energy behind them.
Dealing with emotions
Simplified you could say that positive emotions tell you that you are in alignment with your true self because you live from the inside to the outside.
Whereas negative emotions such as anxiety, anger, fear, and sadness are related to the external world. They make you focus on things in your environment that are not in alignment with who you are.
By embracing those negative emotions you allow yourself to truly understand what it is that causes you to be out of balance. Emotions such as sadness help you to analyze your outside world and to take measures to transform them into something positive.
This is the true meaning of alchemy, to turn lead into gold or turn sadness into happiness, anger into courage, fear into creative actions, and anxiety into self-love.
The simple truth that is difficult to master
“Before Enlightenment chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment chop wood, carry water”.
I don’t like to use labels like being enlightened or not. But the point I want to make is that you shouldn’t expect anything to change. At the same time, everything is going to change.
Any change you want to see in your life starts within you. Everyone has desires and dream that are surprisingly similar, but only a few people are willing to change and to make sacrifices.
Nothing comes without a price.
If the old you got you where you are right now in your life, you cannot expect that the same “old self” produces any different results. The same input produces the same output.
You need to change first before anything in your life can do. But rather than putting on a new mask that reflects a “fancy self-improved self” why not get rid off any masks altogether?
Any reality you can ever wish for is a reality where you can be who you truly are.
You start to live in the reality you most desire the moment you accept who you are and experience it in the here and now.
This reality is now.
Your mind seeks the solution in a distant future which will never arrive.
Seeking to create your reality with your thoughts is the very reason you are not creating it the way you want!
Creation happens now but the energy of your thoughts can only reproduce the past.
Simply be aware and live life from your heart-space.
This way, you not only create a new reality but the very reality you most desire from the core of your being.
The disconnected self
Once I realized that I need to be more aware, I noticed something else.
While I was trying to observe myself I felt kind of disconnected from reality. There are two aspects here that feel slightly different.
One is that you get to know yourself for the first time and see the world with different eyes. You simply feel you are not your old self anymore.
The other one is that you are observing yourself through your thoughts. Again, you are thinking the experience rather than living it, but this is okay as long as you notice it. The aim is to simply observe, to be present, to be alert and aware.
It is a very subtle shift you can barely notice at first. But just like anything else in life, it is an ongoing process that takes practice.
Energy flows where attention goes
“Everything is energy and that’s all there is. Match the frequency of the reality you want and you cannot help but get that reality. It can be no other way. This is not philosophy. this is physics”
– Albert Einstein
The biggest power you have is to decide in which frequency you want to tune into. By choosing where you want to put your focus on, you choose to create the very same thing.
Conscious focus does not need thinking. But thinking needs conscious focus because it is a result of it.
The most powerful way to create your reality is to enter a certain state of being.
By this, I refer to being consciously aware of your emotions and thoughts without identifying with them.
Whenever I notice my thoughts carrying me away, I bring my focus back to the here and now. I am creating reality in every single moment, therefore I am simply disinterested in my thoughts that are disrupting this experience.
Back to the breath! (Exercise)
“Everything is hard before it is easy”
― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Being aware sounds simple but can be actually quite difficult to master if you have been unaware most of your life. Just like anything else in life, it takes consistent practice.
Therefore, start with a simple exercise that will help you to detach from your thoughts.
- Sit down to meditate.
- Without altering your breath, simply observe it.
- Become fully present without identifying with your thinking
You will notice all the little tricks your mind is using on you and how noisy it actually is.
Do this free guided meditation (from The Samadhi Center Website)
This guided meditation is the perfect way to get started