Don't deceive yourself with positive illusions
“Positive Illusions are unrealistically favourable attitudes someone has towards themselves, their experiences, or other people.”
We find the concept of Positive Illusions first in Taylor and Brown’s paper from 1988 entitled, “Illusion of Wellbeing: A Social Psychological Perspective On Mental Health”. It is truly a fine line to balance between positive illusion and perception. In some aspects of the New Age movement there is the thought that all you do is to ignore the “bad” and just thing good thoughts and the “bad” will disappear. This approach is very different to the practices of positive affirmations, visualisations, gratitude, etc. Lest we forget that is it not the same as Positive Psychology. Positive Illusion is a level of self-deception that is disconnected from and intentionally ignores the reality one is in.
Positive illusions often appear as a defence/coping mechanism due to the inability to face ones experiences from a perspective of self reflection; we want to avoid the pain. If we create this alternative reality where nothing “bad” exists, i.e. pain, then we don’t have to experience it. The source of positive illusion is avoidance. Of course there is no judgement of anyone who is practicing positive illusions, but, unfortunately, the strategy is a false one and will not allow for healing to take place. It will only perpetuate the pain until it becomes unbearable and one has no choice to face it without the illusion.
In order to distinguish between positive illusions and positive mindset, we need to be able to critically reflect on how we perceive our experiences and how we deal with pain. If we find ourselves dismissing thoughts, emotions and feelings in favour of something “positive”, we are not allowing ourselves to experience life and thus we are practicing positive illusions. We replace our reality with a construct that is an illusion. Some will argue that it is all an illusion anyway, and, sure, from an individual’s perspective I would agree. However, the emotions that we experience are real and it is when we use positive illusions to mask that pain that we get into trouble. A caveat here; if you are energy sensitive and take on the emotions of others, you do not need to experience the full brunt of the emotion, only the aspect that belongs to you, release the rest. As far as thoughts are concerned, of course we can programme our subconscious to serve up thoughts that are more mindful. However, we need to deal with the underlying aspects that cause our thought patterns and trigger our emotions before we can install healthier and more mindful patterns and habits.
The keys to creating the future you want and to not end up in positive illusions are to recognise and accept your experiences but to perceive your future in a way you want and to evoke the feeling of how you want to feel in the future in the present moment without supressing how you actually feel. It’s achieving that balance. We look into our past with accountability, compassion, acceptance, forgiveness and gratitude. We acknowledge our present moment and pursue our experiences with curiosity, while we visualise our future with open hearts, set audacious goals and take action.
It’s not what you think about what you think about that you want to change, but rather how and why you think about what you think about. When you understand that then you know what to heal. When we take ourselves out of our positive illusions we stop running from ourselves and we don’t allow our shadow aspects to rule how we perceive life.
There is no set process to this way of healing, it is something we experience over time and have our occasional eureka moments. The reason we are lead down paths such as positive illusions is to know the experience and know what we don’t want and what doesn’t serve us. Observe it and be grateful.