Here on Diabetic Connect, we talk a lot about attitude, and how your attitude can affect how you feel, how compliant you are with your treatment, and how successful you are in making diet and lifestyle changes. What I hear a lot is that positive thinking can make all the difference. I say that a lot myself.
On the other hand, I also hear members talk about how positive thinking can be a form of denial. I’ve read examples from members for whom positive thinking was a way of ignoring their condition, telling themselves that if they maintained a positive attitude, and didn’t focus on their diagnosis, they could just ignore their diagnosis and it would go someplace else.
And there are those stories about how family members constantly tell them to think positive. Often, this is a way of telling them that they only want to hear when they feel good, not when they are having bad days, and to pretend that everything is fine. Family members may be in their own form of denial, hoping that if the individual with diabetes pretends to feel good, then their body will cooperate. As we often talk about, telling someone to think positive can be a way to trying to avoid your own feelings of helplessness about not being able to “fix” them and make them feel better. That leaves the person who is dealing with the condition feeling unacknowledged and isolated.
Positive thinking can be a great way to keep yourself motivated, to get through the bad times by giving yourself, or someone else, encouragement and support. Reminding yourself of what’s working in life, that you are doing everything possible, that you have faced challenges before and come out on the other side, that you have a lot of support.
On other hand, positive thinking can be a way of denying how you feel, keeping things inside when it might help to let them out, thinking that you can’t be honest about what’s going on, with yourself or with others. In that way, positive thinking can feel like one of the foam rubber bats, and hitting yourself over the head, or being hit over the head, every time you stop grinning. Smile or I will call the positive thinking police on you!
I like to use the word “optimistic” instead of positive. Optimistic, to me, implies being honest about how you feel but also being hopeful, acknowledging the challenges but also open to the possibilities that result from taking care of yourself, working closely with your healthcare team, and getting emotional support. Realistic and hopeful.
What are your thoughts about positive thinking? Any examples of when telling yourself to think positive, or being told to think positive by someone else, has been helpful? What about those times when it is not so helpful?
Am I on to something with “optimistic thinking?”
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