12 The Right and Wrong Way to Think Positively

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We all have our doubts, and this is understandable. But many of us are hoping that when we come into contact with God and the Spirit World and the truth about it all, we’ll be hit with some staggering proof that will wipe all our doubts away. Too bad it can’t happen like that.

Students of positive thinking are encouraged to do the worst thing: push all negative thoughts into their unconscious.Doubt is the opposite of faith, with faith being basically inner certainty about everything we now doubt. And no inner experience can come by way of outer events. It just can’t happen that way. What has to happen is that we prepare the inner conditions by removing our blocks and hurdles—in short, everything standing between us and true faith.

For the sake of argument, let’s say we receive our hoped-for proof. But oops, we hadn’t yet gotten around to clearing out all our obstacles. For a moment, we would be so impressed, saying ‘Wow, this is wonderful, and strange, and amazing.’ But once the glow wore off, the doubts would surface again. Then we’d say something like ‘maybe that was just a coincidence.’

If the inner soil is not adequately prepared, the seed won’t take. One level of reality can’t replace the other, it can only be integrated into it. And that can only happen through slow and steady inner development. Experiencing absolute truth is like being with a live organism; it needs care and attention and nurturing and development. It can’t come by way of a miraculous burning bush.

We understand this phenomenon as it relates to the growing human body. The growth happens so slowly, so step by step, we hardly notice it while it’s going on. Then boom, we’re at a new stage. The process is not an iota different for spiritual or emotional growth. Shortcuts and quick measures hope to eliminate the effort needed, but they never pan out with any lasting effect; they are the playthings of the forces of darkness. Slow and steady is the way to win this race, in accordance with divine law.

So no matter how astounding the experience, we can’t get to spiritual enlightenment in one shot. Faith comes by methodically and persistently walking a path of soul purification, getting to know ourselves as we really are, understanding our conflicts and seeing the ways in which we sidestep spiritual laws. And if we’re in conflict, divine laws are being stepped upon.

As we work, one step at a time, to free ourselves of our inner chains, our doubts will come less and less often. But they won’t go away overnight. They’ll just show up less often, until they disappear altogether. This, amigos, is the only way.

All divine processes work this way, by making progress little by little, leveraging personal effort to achieve anything substantial and permanent. We may not even be able to assess how our sense of faith blossoms as our growth process unfolds. This of course will be true for those just starting on a spiritual path of self-healing, but at various points along the way, we may be assailed by doubts, although often with lessening impact. Following is some simple advice for how to deal with these sporadic eruptions of doubt.

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As we may know, there are two forces within the human soul. There is the Higher Self, or divine spark, which is the part of us that strives in the direction of perfection of the whole being. Our Higher Self desires integration of all our separated aspects; it knows the greater truth regarding anything we have doubts about, and it wants to bring this into our conscious awareness.

Then there’s the other part, the Lower Self, which comprises all our faults and weaknesses, our ignorance and the attitudes that make us break divine law, whether we consciously intend to or not. This part fears the certainty of the Spirit World. For with knowledge comes responsibility, and the Lower Self wants no part of that. This part would prefer to stay ignorant—if you don’t mind—and free from any obligation to overcome the ways of the Lower Self, which by the way is no small feat to accomplish.

So there’s a yearning to know the truth of spiritual reality, which would mean eternal happiness and bliss, and which we doubt we can ever have, and which also—did we mention already?—is not easy to attain. So our Lower Self is working against our best interest, using its fear and its own reasons to make us doubt the Higher Self that desires to be in truth. It says, “it’s for your own good, you know, to avoid disappointment.”

So inside each of us, there is a battle going on between the Higher Self and the Lower Self. Wherever there is any disharmony, the two natures are at war. Whenever doubt reappears, it is Lower Self talking. When doubt disappears, Higher Self can be heard. That’s when we know that God and his wonderful creation is the ultimate truth where it’s all possible and unhappiness doesn’t really exist.

It’s when the Lower Self is stronger that we believe the voices in our ear telling us doubt and despair and hopelessness may be true after all. Here’s the million-dollar question: which side is right? Who’s telling the truth and who’s talking trash?

What we need to do any time we’re in a state of doubt is retire into silence. Then ask God: which is true? Then listen for an answer, which may or may not arrive immediately. In the coming days, just stay open to hearing an answer. It will always come.

Of course, what we may not sense in that moment is that the answer is already settled within. The mere fact that we feel depressed when we are in doubt, but we feel joyful when we are in truth, tells us a lot. Truth—even unpleasant truth—makes us happy. Yes, along a path of self-knowing, we are going to turn over some unflattering stones. But when our desire to be in truth trumps everything else, then even unpleasant truths will bring strength and renewed happiness.

Untruth, by contrast, has a knack for robbing us of peace, pleasant as an untruth might feel for a short bit. For deep down, our Higher Self knows the truth, and we feel that. Truth is not depressing. And in that is the answer to whatever question we haven’t yet settled when we’re sitting in doubt. So we can ask either our own Higher Self or God about the truth—in the end, they are one and the same.

Eventually, when we have overcome our inner hurdles and are mature enough to stay in a state of truth, those proofs we were hoping for will come from without—not once, but a hundred times over. These aren’t proofs trying to convince us of the way of reality and to help us overcome our doubts; rather, these are proofs that will be more wonderful than anything we imagined, and they will arise naturally as a byproduct of the inner victory of navigating a path to God.

Short version: once we no longer need proof, we’ll get it in spades. At that point, we won’t need additional confirmation to be happy, as we will already be in truth. This means that whenever we doubt, we are not in truth. Pause a moment and take in this profound wisdom and divine law.

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This brings up a subject of great dispute: positive thinking. As many believe, it is indeed essential for anyone who wants to mature spiritually. Unfortunately, it is often wrongly understood and therefore applied in the wrong way.

One of the fundamental building blocks of any spiritual path is developing clean and sound thoughts. After all, our thoughts have form and substance and are part of our reality. Unclean thoughts then build disharmonious creations that lead, eventually, to impacting our destiny. Our thoughts include not just our waking conscious thoughts, but also our emotional reactions and our unconscious thoughts. It’s always so tempting for us to push uncomfortable thoughts out of our awareness, but we don’t realize that those thoughts then have the power to do infinitely more harm than any conscious thought ever could—even our worst ones.

When a thought is conscious, we can deal with it. When it smolders in our unconscious, it’s like a time bomb that builds highly destructive forms around itself. As a result, diligent students of positive thinking are encouraged to do the one thing that is the very worst for them: they push all negative thoughts out of their mind and into their unconscious, completely disregarding the discrepancy between what they actually think or feel and what they want to think or feel. All in an intention to not harbor negative thoughts.

So how do we parse the difference between our thoughts and our feelings? Thoughts can be controlled through the conscious direction of our will, similar to how we control our actions. But feelings cannot be directly controlled. For example, we may know it is sinful to hate, but that doesn’t stop us from hating if hate is what’s in us; we can’t change this just because we want to. Similarly, we can’t force ourselves to love a person, much as we might wish to. We can only affect a change in our feelings indirectly, by remote control, as it were. When we do our work of self-discovery, we naturally and automatically change our feelings. And don’t forget, this takes time.

One way to go about this is to bring our unconscious thoughts into our consciousness. Positive thinking, however, attempts to work in the opposite way; it tries to convince us of out-of-sight, out-of-mind. Well-meant as this may be, it’s a lie. And this is the real tragedy of the wrong kind of positive thinking.

Folks, it is imperative that we meet whatever exists in us squarely. Otherwise that part in us that doesn’t like looking at unpleasant aspects is going to win. Then unconscious negativity ferments and works against us harder than our admitted negative thoughts.

So what’s the right way to practice positive thinking? First, we need to watch our thoughts, observing them quietly and in a relaxed way. Pay attention to whatever emotions arise, noting they may or may not be parallel to our thoughts, and may or may not be what we want them to be.

We need to learn to spot our Lower Self in action, accepting the way it presently exists and knowing it’s temporary—how temporary being entirely up to us. We can look away, but our Lower Self is a reality on this plane of existence and we can’t turn a blind eye to any reality, on whatever plane it exists. Well, we can, but that doesn’t make it any less real.

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There’s another way we misunderstand the principle of positive thinking. It springs from the fact that everybody wants to be happy. This is a natural wish of our Higher Self, which knows there is a price to be paid for it. The Lower Self, however, has the same wish to be happy, but not the same willingness to pay any price. The price is the effort one has to make to get to know all aspects of themselves, including all that’s currently hidden. It involves overcoming our faults and learning spiritual laws—such as the law that there is always a price to pay for privilege.

The Lower Self, not surprisingly, wants to attain happiness through outer means and without paying the price of conquering itself. The basis for conquering our lower nature is being honest with ourselves, analyzing ourselves and coming to know ourselves. In its pride, the Lower Self wants to be perfect and not have to do the tiresome work needed to get there. The Higher Self knows that the only map to perfection is through the hard work of purifying the inner self. The Lower Self simply wants to have its cake and eat it too.

All our life difficulties are associated with our Lower Self and result from breaking spiritual laws in some way or another. As we mature, we become prepared to accept the workings of these laws as a way to honor God; we don’t even try to get out of paying the price. Conversely, misapplied positive thinking wants to reach outer perfection quickly by learning thought control. This is a start, but it isn’t enough.

The Lower Self latches onto this idea because it’s such a good match for what it wants. But with true positive thinking, we accept the consequences for what we have done—whether in this life or perhaps in a previous life we no longer recall—saying, “I have to work out the effects of having broken spiritual law. Part of this means accepting the consequences I am facing right now.”

One red flag to watch for is needing to practice—very hard—at positive thinking. The reason we sometimes try so hard is that our desire for happiness is emanating from our Lower Self, so we are inclined to quarrel with God. We might accept, in our minds, that God doesn’t want us to be unhappy and have hardships, and that ‘we create our own reality.’ But emotionally, we don’t really know this yet if we’re still wanting something for nothing.

One price we must pay is to accept our difficulties, knowing they won’t last forever. For God is love and wants only the best for us. But to be happy, we must accept the law of cause and effect, and we can’t jump over effects through mere thought control. But nice try.

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We can’t be happy if we love our precious little selves in such a way that a little pain would be too unbearable. We must become detached enough from our ego to accept life’s necessary pain, until eventually pain won’t be needed for us to develop. Now don’t think this means we should wallow in every little twinge, becoming resigned to hopelessness.

It just means we should realize that every pain we experience has been self-inflicted, and so we have to bear it, accept it, and most importantly, find its cause. That’s how we eliminate it once and for all. How do we find the cause? By following a path of self-knowing (starting to recognize this refrain?). Find the fault responsible for the hardship and oust it at the root. During this gradual process, we can honor God by accepting spiritual laws. We need to shoulder our pain with courage and humility, not loving ourselves so much that we can’t put up with a little pain. We can do this, knowing that experiencing a little discomfort is not the end of the world. That’s the best way to practice positive thinking.

Fostering such an attitude will bring us the profound conviction that we have nothing to fear—God’s world is a happy place and we have much we can look forward to. We’ll automatically get recalibrated about time, sensing intuitively just how short the span of our little pain really was when viewed from a broader perspective. We make our difficulties into insurmountable mountains, when they are far more manageable if we’re willing to meet them head-on.

Think of the Holy Scripture verse that says: “He who wants to win his life will lose it. He who is ready to give it up will win it.” What do we think this means? It means that if we’re holding on so tightly to our ego and our vanity, and are so afraid of a little pain we won’t let go—we won’t give up our life—we’re gonna lose it. The “it” we’ll lose is harmony and happiness, from within and from without.

But if we don’t take ourselves too seriously, realizing the comforts of our ego are not oh-so-very important, and that a little pain or hurt vanity never killed anyone, we can give up our ego-selves and in return, come alive. We won’t constantly be worried about what people think, or believing we can’t show affection or true feelings without jeopardizing something. When we go with the laws of the universe, we’ll find the love and respect we can’t have when we’re holding on too tight.

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