The Positive Thinking Culture Is Creating Neurotic Spiritual Seekers

Quote Start Where You Are

Over the past year I have begun to notice a growing trend in spiritual circles, so much so I feel the need to talk about the rather large elephant in the room that many spiritual teachers are failing to address fully. The intense emphasis on positive thinking is creating a state of neurosis in many people on the spiritual path.

While some people are brought up to view life experiences positively, a greater number are not. While positive thinking may come naturally to a rare few, some interpret positive thinking as the way to enlightenment, a way to a better life. This is simply not true.

From Louise L Hay encouraging affirmations, saying ‘I LOVE YOU’ in the mirror, to Abraham Hicks encouraging everyone to get in ‘The Vortex’ to countless others, they fail to bring clearly to everyones attention that positive thinking is often a forced state by many because they feel they ‘should’ be thinking positive, even if they do not feel that way. Many faking it till they make it, going against the flow of their own inner state.

By pushing against ‘what is’ we merely increase the feeling of ‘negative’ thinking further.

No Need To Drown In The ‘Negative’

If you were to drop affirmations, drop the beliefs that you need to practice gratitude and envision a better future for yourself, this does not mean you will drown in a negative soup.
You may notice when you feel sad, frustrated, angry, lonely, sensitive, that the very belief that you need to feel better and more positive and different to how you actually are is causing the suffering in the first place.
When we resist ‘negative’ thoughts or emotions we simply fuel them further.


Stop fuelling the negative by resisting it through positive thinking!

Everything is a choice. We can drown in the feelings and thoughts if we play the story of ‘I must feel happy, better, relaxed’ – but we needn’t. 


I Played The ‘Positive’ Story Or So I Tried

For many years I followed diligently many spiritual teachers from The Crimson Circle, Seth, Abraham Hicks, Louise L Hay and many others. As some of you may know I spoke out about this HERE. I never had a ‘positive’ vocabulary growing up so I thought I needed to find one. I spent most of my time resisting feelings of lack, not feeling good enough by affirming and visualising a ‘better’ future. But I ignored the deep feelings of unworthiness inside and instead it simply increased the anxiety I was feeling, increased the ‘negative’ thoughts and feelings and I had many periods of depression as a result over a 13 year period.

“If we really looked, we would see that the things we are labelling as positive, although they feel good and they release feel good hormones into the blood stream, those very things are often what hold us back and keep us dependent; we can even become addicted to and dependent upon those feelings. Whereas the things we are labelling as negative, are often the very things that help us to push forward, overcome obstacles and make us independently precocious.”


The ‘Dark’ Feelings Want Your Attention And Your Compassion

Guest House Rumi


As I recently began practising mindfulness I discovered ‘negative’ feelings are my family and I need to treat them as if they are my children. In the past I beat those children up, locked them in cupboards, ignored them. Can you imagine doing that to physical children? It would be seen as abuse. Yet many of us do this to our negative thoughts, we abuse them by force-feeding them ‘positive’ sweet-grass juice.
If you put two children side-by-side, one is smiling, joyful and laughing, and next to him or her a child looking sad, angry or crying – would you ignore the second child? Would you tell the second child to suck it up and be like the first child?
If you did, you would probably create a neurotic child that did not feel good enough.
This is what ‘positive’ thinking teachings are creating in many people. A back door way of self abuse under the illusion of doing something good or right.
Our inner children no longer need abuse they need our attention.

How Do You Know When You’re Smothering The Negative With The Positive?

That niggle in your tummy will tell you. You may say that affirmation and you do not feel the meaning of the words at all. And if most of you reading are honest, this is generally when you affirm. If you feel great and affirm you’re simply affirming what is real for you, but if you are affirming when your in a dark place inside, you’re beating up that inner child and ignoring what they need – your love and attention not a beating over the head with a ‘positivity’ stick.

“..if you are affirming when you’re in a dark place inside, you’re beating up that inner child and ignoring what they need – your love and attention not a beating over the head with a ‘positivity’ stick.”

If you visualise your ‘future’ when you feel in deep doubt, your abusing your inner child once again. These are all signals to begin paying real authentic attention to what is going on within you.

Time for present moment awareness – not occasionally but more consistently.


If I Don’t Think Better Thoughts My Life Will Never Change – Is This True?

I used to think if I let go of hopes and dreams, got really present I would be so depressed and bored. I was not happy with my current experience. I was horrified at the thought that this would remain the same forever. I was so attached to outcomes and I had resisted present moment teachings over the years. I dabbled in the teachings of Eckhart Tolle and Mooji but I always allowed myself to get pulled back in to ‘Creating Your Reality’ teachings. As my ego found the imagined future far more enticing.
But what I discovered was bringing myself into the present all my doubt and fear lessened. My inner worry-wart took a back seat more, and once I began to witness my feelings instead of trying to make them something better, I felt this compassion inside begin to grow and the ‘negative’ feelings no longer took me over most of the time. 

Letting Go Of The Focus On ‘Trying To Be Positive Does Not Mean You Will Always Think Negative

Being mindful and not ‘trying’ to be positive when you feel like crap is not only a relief but allows you to experience real genuine compassion for yourself. This does not mean you will never think a positive thought ever, it simply means by being present, allowing the feelings without fighting, your thoughts naturally evolve into more relief bringing thoughts. You will no longer be all ‘RA RA RA my life is good!’ there will simply be no attachment to either good or bad (see HERE) and this in itself is a real blessing.


Compassion Is Not Fake Positive Thought

You may be thinking if you are depressed or suffering that no way can you feel compassion for yourself but when I say compassion what I actually mean is you begin to simply feel your feelings. Watching your thoughts, feeling those feelings, cradle you in space that gives you room to be. When I go to my meditation group for example, I can often have so much fear come up inside me, and instead of running or resisting I simply sit and feel the feelings and often it feels like I am holding the feelings in a container that has a sense of love inside. I don’t make this love, it just seems that it is there by embracing what is.

Mindfulness Is Beginning More And More To Be Used In Therapy Sessions


Therapists are now beginning to see the benefit of bringing people back to the present moment through mindfulness. They are beginning to recognise that distraction and resistance is not what is helping patients but by allowing and embracing feelings and getting in touch with the moment is key to finding relief from symptoms.

So if you want a different way of looking at your feelings and experiences and are finding ‘Positive’ thinking is not working, begin right where you are now. Stop distracting from the feelings and let your feelings become your family. And release your attachments to the positive.

It may just be what brings you the freedom you have been seeking all along.


If you have experienced mindfulness how was it for you? 
Do you find embracing your experience more rewarding 
than thinking positive in the usual sense?

And if you are based in the UK check out this article in the Guardian this year. You may have an NHS in your area funding a course in mindfulness.



If you live outside the UK type ‘Mindfulness Course’ or classes into the search engine for your area.

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Photo Credits:
Photo 1 Unsure of photographer as posted everywhere online. If you are the photographer and want credit or removal please contact me.

Kelly Martin
Kelly Martin

Kelly Martin, author of ‘When Everyone Shines But You’ is a dedicated writer and blogger who fearlessly explores life’s deepest questions. Faced with a decade of profound anxiety and grief following the loss of her father and her best friend Michael, Kelly embarked on a transformative journey guided by mindfulness, and she hasn’t looked back since. Through her insightful writing, engaging podcasts, and inspiring You Tube channel Kelly empowers others to unearth the hidden treasures within their pain, embracing the profound truth that they are ‘enough’ exactly as they are.

Find me on: Web | Twitter/X | Instagram | Facebook


  1. dream109
    August 9, 2013 / 10:01 am

    Hi, Kelly, a very interesting post. I remember a quote Tony Robbins said along the lines of positive thinking being like a garden full of weeds, where you expect them to go by ignoring them. What you really need to do is go inside and pull those weeds up.

    I'm lucky that positive thinking is what changed my life. It was the beginning of something that flipped the way I looked at things. I agree that simple positive thinking on its own is not enough. Healing from the inside is required as well. I still use positive thinking, because it does get me into the place I need to be.

    I feel that it works for some people and it doesn't for others. Like with most spiritual tools. 🙂

  2. Andy Bowker
    August 9, 2013 / 6:34 pm

    wow, this is so real and saying it like it is. Sometimes the spiritual books can make you feel a bit guilty if you are not on the level of their beliefs. Like you I feel there's been a big emphasis on positive thinking and it's got a bit out of balance.

    This is clearly a post written from experience. Always good to see you writing from your heart. Keep up the good work 🙂

  3. August 10, 2013 / 5:46 pm

    Glad to hear that you feel it has worked for you Rachel.
    To me, in essence, I feel that if anyone is present enough, embracing all feelings, there is no need for affirmations, for example – life is then their affirmation. For me it was always a temporary thing and I feel it is possibly the same for many. A sugar coated statement that is very temporary, gives a temporary uplift but the stuff underneath is still there and needs to be embraced at some point. Most people I am sure will readily admit, when in the pits of despair, when feeling hopeless, when feeling like a failure saying to themselves "today is going to be a really good day" or "life is just getting better and better" for example is a hit with a positivity stick that increases the negative energy they are trying to not feel. But it all depends where you are coming from on positive thinking? Perhaps you can share how positive thinking has been a more consistent tool for you and in what way? I am interested in how it works for some and not others as you say.

  4. August 10, 2013 / 5:52 pm

    Thank you Andy, yes I have been there bought the t-shirt (bought a whole shops worth of t-shirts). I do feel we need to come back to centre and focus on the very simple of teachings now – now is all there is and here is where we are. So if we can embrace all of who we are, the good, bad, ugly and indifferent, right now, without trying to make ourselves feel something other than how we feel, the relief, freedom and openness is far greater than the temporary relief say for example affirmations can bring. Or in some cases the deeper resistance affirmations can bring. I feel there is a negative side to positive thinking, as much as there is an imbalanced side to immersing wholely in the negative. If we remove the labels of 'this is a better thought' or 'this is a bad thought', I am sure life would flow more freely. We attach to the good and bad and this causes so many internal issues for us humans being. And just to talk of labels I find if we must label labelling thoughts neutrally has helped me heaps "critical mind" "future mind" etc etc… this brings it home to me that I am not my thoughts.

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