Positive thinking: Panacea or prison?

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Positive thinking: Pancea or Prison? at Spiral Nature
Those of us connected to modern forms of spirituality and so-called New Age philosophies will not be strangers to the notion of positive thinking. It’s been touted as the cure for what ails you, the best thing to come along since sliced bread, a regular panacea for existential dread, depression, indecisiveness, and most importantly, a means of manifestation.

Anyone who has encountered the popular book The Secret should be familiar with the formula: If you truly believe in something and invest your belief in that thing, you will be able to draw your desires towards yourself by resonating with that frequency.

We are currently in the thick of this “power of the positive” mindset and we see it everywhere, even in the political realm where we are shown examples of people “pulling themselves up by their bootstraps.” Everywhere we are indoctrinated with the notion that positive thinking can overcome massive obstacles, but is there a limit to its usefulness? Furthermore, can an overly positive mindset become another stumbling block on the road to growth? Considering these questions, I would like to discuss what role positive thinking really plays in our workings. Is it the panacea that we were promised, or can positivity, like other tools, also become a prison?

Let’s break down the effects of positive thinking on our magick, step by step.

Step one: Crafting intention

In this step, we begin to think about what we want. This step requires some introspection, meditation on the heart of desire. Locating the form of our manifestation requires finding something close to the core of our being — something that can motivate our deepest passions, emotions, and ultimately, power.

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Where does positivity come into play during the stage of crafting our intentions? Belief itself is a core element of all workings and in this way, positive thinking can play the role of enabling belief. We need to believe that it is possible to manifest something before we can begin to manifest it. Our belief in our potential opens a doorway through which energy can flow. One of the major stumbling blocks when doing a working is in wielding our belief. It can be difficult to get all levels of our being on board with our magick. We may have stray parts of ourselves, or core beliefs still attached to previous states of being, and may struggle to let go of outmoded forms of thought. It is important that we begin our work by addressing beliefs that hold us back. We must believe in our ability to manifest our desires before we can even begin the process.

So, what exactly happens when we face a roadblock to the belief in our own power? Positivity plays an important role in this process, but it too has its limitations. You can’t just turn on belief by saying a few magick words. It is during this process, I would argue, that a person goes through their most profound transformation. You have to address and transform the framework of your mind and spirit, and that’s not always easy.

The most effective tools for transformation are not going to be the same for all people. For example, affirmations are useful for some people, but I have heard of some people trying to trick their subconscious by using negative beliefs for their benefit — telling themselves that they can’t do something and having this lead to a positive result. I guess some people’s subconscious minds are contrarians.

The most important thing is to use what tools work for you. We want to accomplish a goal, and the process we use to achieve our ends is going to change and grow over time. We need to work on our belief structure, change it to suit what we want to accomplish, confront and acquaint ourselves with the deepest workings of our minds, and begin to align the disparate parts of ourselves into a working whole. Positive thinking has a role to play in this work, but it is not a positivity that merely adheres to our affirmations.

We absolutely must become witnesses to what is alive within ourselves. It might not always be pretty and it might not match up to our ideas of what we should be. This is where positivity can sometimes get in the way. If we try to adhere to our idea of outcome, we can begin to play the game for the end, which makes it difficult to remain present within the process. We cannot possibly achieve our ends without remaining alive to the process.

Positive thinking can allow us to craft a vision of a desirable outcome, and it can help us to invest and believe in the power of our manifestations, but in the end, it is a dose of sober realism that puts the polish on the whole process.

Related: Disentangling “will”, by Seth

Positive thinking: Pancea or Prison? at Spiral Nature

Step two: The work itself

So, now we have set our intention and we know what we would like to manifest. We have also worked on our core beliefs and addressed any wandering ghosts or demons whispering limiting beliefs into our ears. We have a strong faith in our ability to manifest our desires and have cultivated a positive mindset around what is going to happen. We need to have a sense of quiet expectation. Something is definitely going to happen. It might not be exactly what we expect, but we know that magick is afoot. The threads of fate are being spun and we have our hands dipped in the process. The power is beginning to flow and we know that we are a part of it all.

At this stage in the working, we usually raise energy and craft the spell itself. We seal our intent into physical form and send our ripples out into the energetic fabric of the cosmos. At this stage, it is not so much positive thinking that is required but rather a lack of hindering energy. Positivity at this stage seems like an act of will, and at the stage manifestation we must act as a kind of lightning rod for universal energy. In this state of being, we are neither positive or negative. We do not judge or hinder, we merely act as a pathway for universal force, and this pathway has been shaped by our previous work and the statement of our intent.

As magical practitioners, we need to be able to raise ourselves beyond binary distinctions of positive or negative. Belief, in this state of being, is located beyond the normal physical realm. Our work peels back the veil and this means that we submerge ourselves in spirit, a place of no place, a being of no being, a thing that is nothing. To believe in a positive outcome would not be going far enough, we have to delve into the realm of gnosis. We have to connect with the simplicity of the will that exists beyond ourselves, to shift the very nature of reality.

So, you have successfully merged with the true will and delved into the land of no land, you have spoken your words of power, dissolved yourself, and become one with the universal life force.  Now what?

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Step three: The work ends and begins

You have taken the red pill, the fabric of the cosmos is forever changed. You are a bit of flotsam on the river of time. Once you craft your working, you will now be living the effects of the work. You will experience the change in consciousness wrought from the crafting of intent. You have altered your spiritual garb and are going to be trying on the fit.

You shouldn’t think too much about what is going to happen at this time. You should be curious, alive in the moment, and on the lookout for the effects of your working. If you did your work well, you shouldn’t need to be constantly reinforcing a positive attitude. Ideally, you would have removed many of the obstacles to simply living your manifestation.

The reality of living in a physical dimension with many other beings, both spiritual and physical, is that you are not always immune to the effects of these exterior forces. You may find that as you begin to live your work, you come up against a more powerful intent that stands in opposition to it. For example, if you are doing workings that have to do with establishing something as lofty as world peace, these working require the alignment of many if not all other individuals on the Earth, not to mention a remake of our systems, societies, relationships, and individual selves. You may find that, at this point, positive intent within your own individual sphere may not be enough to overcome these forces.

While a positive mindset alone might not be able to create world peace in a world that is not yet ready for it, staying true to your values and your work allows you to act as a beacon for other wills that are pulling towards the same aim. You make your ripple, and that ripple can inspire others and connect you to a whole network of magicians and energy-workers that are creating a manifestation together.

You might find that the more you ask for, the stronger your belief needs to be. Positive thinking can act as a shield from opposition. It can allow you to remain firm in your working even when evidence seems to act in opposition to your aims. However, it remains important to refrain from entering into the world of delusion. Just like belief, positivity can become a trap for our spirits when it becomes untethered from the flow of the universe. We can easily get caught up in the internal spaces of our minds, shutting ourselves off from the ebb and flow of currents that surround us. When we invest in delusion, we cut ourselves off from the source of our power.

As in all things, there is a balance to life. There are polarities that, when in balance, lead to harmony. It is only through the balance of polarities that universal energy can be expressed. The universal life force is neither one thing nor the other. It is infused into all things, all shades and recesses of being, and all corners and aspects must be examined and understood. Therefore, in magick, we must embrace both light and dark, creation and destruction. We must stay true to our workings but also allow our workings to work us. We must remain open to the transformative potential of the world to act on and within our spirits. Our workings are meant to move without into the world, but also within into the innermost dimensions of our spirits.

Related: What is mindfulness, anyway? Reviews of five new books, by Donyae Coles

Positive thinking: Pancea or Prison? at Spiral Nature

Step four: Our workings in relation to others

In the process of self-actualization, of bringing our most true and authentic selves into being, we must remain in contact with the ways in which these selves operate within a matrix of connection with the people, places, and things around us. We are not just selves, but working parts of larger and larger ecosystems. We are members of communities and inhabitants of the Earth. When we use positivity as a means of investing in our workings and bringing our truest being into the light, we must remain conscious to the ways our beliefs affect those around us.

For myself, I am amidst a continual and ongoing process of manifesting mental and physical health. I have developed tools to help me maintain my health, and these tools are part of a process that continues to feed my growth, supporting the work as it unfolds. Some of the tools that I use are meditation, physical activity, and journaling. Some of these tools were suggested to me by counsellors, friends, and relatives, and most of these tools I began to use when I was ready to embrace them.

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My affirmations, as well as my beliefs, are not things I can impose on others. These are tools that I developed for myself, that I wield with my own will, and that I willingly embrace within my psychic constellation. They work for me, but I cannot assume that they will work for anyone else, or that another person is in the right place for the type of work that I am currently doing.

When I witness the struggles of other people, I might feel drawn to offer support in the form of advice or encouragement. I might want to share what has worked for me because I feel love or concern for them and resonate with their struggles. Positive thinking can be a tool for overcoming adversity, because it allows a person to establish healthy core beliefs and to overcome negative core beliefs that would otherwise hinder their growth.

However, positivity does not look just one way. It does not always look like a person getting up at 5 am to go running or buying a gym membership or meditating twice a day. Sometimes, the things that people need to do to take care of themselves do not look like the ways that I take care of myself. Sometimes the path that people need to walk down requires digging into their pain, dredging up their negative core beliefs and confronting them. It’s thirsty, tiring work. Sometimes we need to sleep when we are battling for our soul.

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Conclusion

As we continue to craft our workings, to confront our core beliefs and step into our own power, we must be careful not to judge others through our own lens. They are walking their own path, and we can’t know what kind of forces they are up against. Also, not all growth is linear. Sometimes, we need to go down those dusty, unwalked pathways just to see where they go. As those who peep beneath the veil, we should be comfortable with the knowledge that the dark sometimes needs to be let out of the dungeon to play in the light, to be examined, known, embraced, and incorporated.

We are beings of both light and darkness. Positivity, used as a tool, can lend us strength and allow us to raise ourselves up in the face of adversity, but it should not be the only tool in our packs. We can and should embrace negativity. It has its place. We should destroy what needs to be destroyed and build what needs to be built. Positive thinking is merely a prism, a lens, allowing us to establish belief in accordance with our will. As such, it can take its place as a part of a holistic process that takes us between polarities and hopefully, beyond.

Image credits: klara.kristina, Nicole Corpuz, Eddie Wong

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Chrysanthemum White Alder was born in Orillia, Ontario, Canada. She works predominantly in the medium of dance but her practice is informed by her vocal work, illustration and writing. Alder’s work is heavily influenced by occult philosophy as well as her spiritual praxis. She attempts to weave narratives both intensely personal, yet universal and considers art to be a medium of self and societal transformation. Alder completed a BFA at Concordia University in Intermedia & Cyberarts in 2009. She recently completing a residency during the Earth Spirituality Residency at Artscape Gibraltar Point and is currently editing a short work on Occult philosophy for self-publication. Alder lives and works in Toronto, Canada.

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