Mindfully balancing positive thinking with healthy realism (Steering clear of cynicism and the Pollyanna complex)

Dear Integral Meditation Asia,

Is it possible to balance positive thinking with healthy, critical realism? The article below explores some mindful pointers for doing both, together in a mutually supporting manner.

The class schedule for June is out, see the schedule below the article. It includes Practical meditations for spiritual awakening , an Integral meditation & mindful walking retreat & a Developing mindful self-confidence workshop.

In the spirit of mindfulness,


Mindfully balancing positive thinking with healthy realism (Steering clear of cynicism and the Pollyanna complex) 

One of the basic skills for dealing with stressful situations and becoming more mentally balanced (and therefore more mentally resilient) is to know how to balance positive thinking with a healthy sense of realism. To do this, one of the keys is to understand that both positive thinking and realism have both a ‘higher’ expression, and an extreme or imbalanced expression.

Positive thinking
The higher expression of positive thinking involves:

  • Seeing the positive side of every situation.
  • Thinking and envisioning the best possible outcomes.
  • Thinking from a sense of fullness rather than lack.
  • Taking responsibility for the situation and our role in it.
  • Ensuring that what you think and say about a situation are framing it in a helpful and constructive light, and not a negative one that will sabotage a potentially fruitful outcome.

The lower, imbalanced or negative expression of “positive thinking” involves what is commonly called the Pollyanna complex the characteristics of which are:

  • Turning a blind eye to the very real drawbacks, risks and dangers of a situation due to naiveté, underlying fear or just because we believe we can just ‘think’ our way to a positive result.
  • Choosing to trust people, groups or inner aspects of yourself who are really not reliable. Sometimes this is naiveté, sometimes we have become attached to an outcome that causes us to not want to see what is really there.
  • Confusing realistic risk assessment (necessary) with negative thinking that will sabotage our positive thoughts and visualizations (unnecessary and dangerous).

Healthy realism
The higher or positive expression of realism involves:

  • Being able to take a good hard look at a situation and make an objective or scientific assessment of the real risks or drawbacks of the different courses of action that we might choose. If you doubt the objectivity of your own perspective, get someone else’s.
  • Not being attached to outcomes. Attachment to outcomes blinds us to risks and drawbacks.
  •  Without being cynical, knowing when others are not revealing the truth about a situation, or when we may be hiding the truth from our self.

The lower, unhealthy extreme or imbalanced expression of realism involves:

  • Undue cynicism
  • Being a victim of circumstance
  • Thinking the worst due to fear, anxiety or anger
  • Any time where there is undue or unhealthy emphasis on the worst-case scenario

So, in conclusion mastery of this aspect of transforming stress involves

  • Combining the higher expression of positive thinking and healthy realism together
  • Avoiding imbalanced extremes of either.

This week you might like to take a particular life circumstance and, bringing it to mind ask yourself:

  • What are the positives in this situation that I can enjoy, develop and appreciate?
  • What are the risks, drawbacks or dangers that I need to be aware of and integrate into my response to what is going on?

It can sometimes be helpful to actually write down the answers to these questions, but either way, the idea is to set up a mindful way of processing your reality positively and intelligently, avoiding undue cynicism and the Pollyanna complex.

© Toby Ouvry 2017, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website www.tobyouvry.com

Upcoming Courses at Integral Meditation Asia

Ongoing on Wednesday’s, 7.30-8.30pm – Wednesday Meditation Classes at Basic Essence with Toby

Ongoing on Tuesday evenings, 7.30-8.30pm – Tuesday Meditation Classes at One Heart with Toby (East coast)

Tuesday & Wednesday evenings from June 6-7th – Practical meditations for spiritual awakening & enlightenment – A six week course

Saturday June 10th, 9.30am-12.30pm – Integral meditation & mindful walking deep dive half day retreat

Saturday June 17th, 2-5pm – Developing mindful self-confidence – A three hour workshop
June 20th & 21st – Summer solstice  balancing and renewing meditation 

Integral Meditation Asia

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