the limits and pitfalls of positive thinking
> limits and pitfalls of positive thinking
|positive thinking is powerful?||Surely if positive thinking really were so powerful, it wouldn't need so many books? But there is certainly a strong case for some aspects of positive thinking.|
|negative thinking is pervasive||There's a positive thinking book called You Can't Afford the Luxury of a Negative Thought. Did you notice that the title is actually a negative thought?|
|negative thinking is taboo||People are bullied to conceal or suppress negative thoughts, or to reformulate them into pseudo-positive thoughts. Problems become opportunities or challenges, failures become learning experiences.|
|rejecting the negative merely reinforces it||Trying to forget is like trying to go to sleep - it has the opposite effect. The same is true of negative thinking.|
|positive thinking cannot be summoned at will||"If you feel bad about something, then it's your own fault for not being in control of your feelings. And if it makes you ill, that's your own fault too." Such nonsense some people talk!|
|positive thinking sometimes leads to excess||Enough is as good as a feast. But positive thinking isn't good at stopping when you've had enough.|
|and positive thinking doesn't always apply||Many important goals are intrinsically negative. Positive thinking isn't suitable for many important aspects of life and work.|
|the power of negative thinking||So are we right to be sceptical or cynical?|
Here are some snippets from the positive thinking movement, where negativity
is embedded in the attacks on negativity.
|You can't afford the luxury of a negative thought.||(book title)|
|You cannot under estimate the power of positive thinking.
I asked my Christian growth class what did they believe to be my number one dislike in people and they all responded unanimously...negativity!!
Jesus was often offended by negative thinking.
Positive thinking wants to establish a world in which there is no place for death or misfortune. This leads to the perverse insistence on finding reasons and causes for sorrow and disease, contingency and mortality.
This is contrasted with "the Democratic cult of Victimhood at the hands of society".
Look at this advice for depressed people issued by a US organization Directions for Mental Health. ("Before Your Appointment") A well-meaning series of negative injunctions, prefaced with a strong disclaimer.
These tips are not intended as a substitute for professional assessment, advice or treatment. Use these tips toGiven that depressed people often feel helpless already, this list could merely reinforce this. Alternatively, it might be effective as pacing, or perhaps even as an example of prescribing the symptom - a clever (but dangerous) form of reversal. A depressed person may face the truth and/or rebel against these negative injunctions - and the condition may start to improve. But then again maybe not.
enhance treatment at the advice of a professional, or in the waiting period before onset of professional services,
but not as a replacement for professional help.
Do not set difficult goals or take on a great deal of responsibility Break large tasks into small ones, set priorities, and do only what you can Do not expect too much from yourself Try to be with other people, it is usually better than being alone Participate in activities which may make you feel better: mild exercise, recreation, religious or social activities. Do not overdo it, or get upset if your mood is not greatly improved right away. Avoid making life-changing decisions about changing jobs, getting married or divorced, etc., without consulting others who know you well and have a more objective view of your situation at this time. Do not expect to snap out of your depression. People rarely do. Help yourself as much as you can, and do not blame yourself for not feeling up to par. Remember, do not accept your negative thinking. It is a symptom of the depression and will disappear as your depression responds to treatment. Remember, too, that your disorder makes you feel helpless and exhausted, and you will probably need help from family and friends. However, people who have never had a depressive episode may not fully understand its effect on you, and may say or do hurtful things unintentionally. It may be helpful to share this file of information with them, so they more completely understand your disorder.
Vision tends to be qualitative, rather than quantitative.
If something is scarce, it makes sense to get as much of it as possible. This is an easy programme for an individual or species to learn: to recognize something (or signs that indicate its potential availability) and go for it. This is straightfoward positive thinking.
But ‘enough’ is a second-order concept, much more difficult to visualize. In conditions of scarcity, experience of ‘enough’ may be extremely rare. This makes it difficult, if not impossible, to learn how to stop when enough is reached.
Other opportunities to overdose, for some animals, include salt.
One notion of negative thinking is the idea that all enthusiasm is either fake or foolish. All causes are suspect, all promises are false, all improvements illusory, change worsens. Not just apathy but entropy. Other countries label this as the British disease. A Spanish newspaper, commenting on the 1992 British election, used the term "Negative Thinking" in English, claiming there was no equivalent term in Spanish.
Pseudo-intellectual justification for this idea is provided by appeal to Popper, whose attack on Marxist ideology is thought to provide conclusive destruction of all possible ideologies and utopias.
The proper name for this, however, is anti-positive thinking. It represents a fundamental rejection of positive thinking, carrying with it both a powerful emotional distrust of positive thinking, and a powerful intellectual distrust.
But this form of thinking, whatever we call it, is tremendously powerful.
Page last updated on January 4th, 2001
Copyright © 2001, Richard Veryard