#1164 "The Tyranny of Positive Thinking”

And How to Avoid It

In our last few +1s, we’ve been Optimizing our Optimism.

After hanging out with some long-lived nuns, we spent some time with Marin Seligman (NOT SMOKING two packs a day) then we spent some time with Sonja Lyubomirsky (journaling on our awesome future lives).

Today I want to go back to Kate Hefferon’s textbook: Positive Psychology and the Body.

RIGHT AFTER the section in which Kate chats about the nuns, she shares some wisdom in a sub-section called “Caveat to optimism.”

Cue suspenseful music.


Here’s what Kate has to say: “As with most of the topics in positive psychology, we must take into consideration the alternative viewpoints. We need to be very open about the benefits and indeed the negatives when dealing with optimism in health. Optimism may cause individuals to persist at trying to control situations that are biologically uncontrollable, which may in turn lead to enhanced levels of distress, disappointment and depression. It may also cause us to forgo adoption of medical advice and treatment. Overall, the ‘cult of optimism’ and tyranny of positive thinking must not go unheeded. Kashdan and Rottenberg have argued that psychological flexibility is imperative in illness and health environments, enabling us to adapt to uncertain environments and outcomes and to better adjust to these.”


The “cult of optimism” and the “tyranny of positive thinking” MUST NOT go unheeded.

Which is why Gabriele Oettingen’s Rethinking Positive Thinking is one of my favorite books and why we come back to her wisdom again and again.

One more time: Science says, we MUST (!) embrace the constraints of reality and honestly appraise obstacles.

It also says that unmitigated good isn’t good.

Instead, we’d be wise to counterbalance our levity with the appropriate gravity to create optimal BUOYANCY!


How about…


(Cue winning sound effect here. 🤠 )

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