Do you think Bob Marley was right when he sang "Don't Worry, Be Happy"? It is a nice thought.
But what if American culture has imposed a mandatory optimism on us, leading to a reflexive response to dismiss negative information in an unhealthy way?
We don't like feeling sad; so we ignore real facts, allowing problems to persist in our lives. This can lead to a protective ignorance of issues that may need to, in reality, be addressed in order for us to move forward.
Ignoring problems doesn't solve them
Problems don't cease to exist because we ignore them.
Sometimes, in an effort to minimize drama, we refuse to face real issues properly.
And when those around us are struggling, we tell them not to worry so much because life is short; "Be happy."
But what we are really doing is belittling their worries, instead of listening and allowing their feelings to be justified. We need to understand that emotions arise subconsciously in our brains, and our reactions to them are involuntary and happen at a subconscious level. Solutions to our worries will only arise when we face them directly, make necessary adjustments, and move forward on a new path.
"Don't worry, be happy" is often an unrealistic and unuseful answer.
To solve problems, we need to realize we DO have power
If positive thinking causes us to disregard negativity to a point where we feel powerless to make changes for the better in our lives, we are doing it wrong.
"Positive thinking ... acknowledges both negative and positive events and chooses to focus on the positive aspects rather than the negative ones. [It] means dealing with a negative event, allowing the appropriate amount of time for negative emotions to surface, and then moving on from the negativity by focusing on the positive."
Let's work harder at adopting an attitude of realism where we acknowledge and are not ashamed of our feelings, and then work to make positive changes in our lives.