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03:03 PM on 09/08/2009
Too many comments to read them all so apologies if this was posted before. I like the idea of positive thinking and action - but to think that we create our own reality seems crazy to me. I always try to imagine how I would feel reading stuff like this post if I was, for example, a woman in Darfur who watched her husband get killed and her children taken away - or any number of horrible situations so many people on this planet find themselves in every day of the week. We are fortunate if we live a relatively uneventful life - not marred by tragedy or horrific suffering - but the plain fact is that for most of human history - and still for the vast majority of humans living now - life sucks - are they all responsible for their own 'reality'?

I've often wondered how a 'positive thinking' proponent would address such issues.

And don't even start me on karma!!!

Now 'collective karma' - I could get into that! Maybe its the same for collective positive thinking and action?! Maybe if we can just all be positive together..... lol !!!
03:54 PM on 09/08/2009
That is the best post I've read on this topic, Mamabear. Well done.
06:18 PM on 09/08/2009
Here's a perfect example of collective action...It's slightly off-topic but I think the principle applies to this situation.

The “Mad As Hell Doctors” from Oregon are making themselves heard at the Obama Administration with an email campaign that threatened to shut down the White House inbox.

The road-tripping, physician-activists from Oregon known as the “Mad As Hell Doctors” received a pressing call from the White House this week to demand they remove a letter on their website requesting a meeting with President Obama to discuss “the moral, social and fiscal imperative” of a single payer health care system. The reason for the call: too many emails from supporters have overwhelmed the White House inbox."

Adam Klugman, National Creative Director for the Mad As Hell Doctors campaign and the person who received the call, puts it this way. “Chris Whitty from the White House Office of Scheduling called me and said that he has been ‘besieged with emails’ from within the millions of single payer supporters in this country who feel that Congress and the President have completely turned their back on them. It told him that it’s not our campaign that’s applying pressure. It’s the people. I also told him that we’d be glad to take the letter down, just as soon as the President agrees to meet with us.”
11:00 PM on 09/08/2009
Absolutely on topic. When have we had an easier way to make thoughts real? A decade ago the mainstream media ignored the same doctors (and other people) who tried to get the truth out. We have power by working together, worldwide, and the Internet makes that instantly possible. "We must all hang together, or we shall all be hung," as Benjamin Franklin put it.
02:47 PM on 09/08/2009
Positive thinking doesn't always work, but negative thinking never works.

Unfortunately, no amount of positive thinking is going to change that flat tire, or pay the mortgage, but you will really do feel better if you don't whine and complain all the time. Why, you ask?

The byproduct of positive thinking is ACTION. Negative thinking doesn't progress toward action, only the endless loop of the status quo.

Two thoughts to remember:
It takes as much energy to wish as it does to plan (Eleanor Roosevelt)
You miss 100% of the shots you never take (Wayne Gretsky)

Good luck!
08:43 AM on 09/09/2009
Positive thinking always works. If I walk into a situation expecting the best, I might not have all of my expectations met, but I will be able to point to the 'silver lining'. It is likely that I will focus less on the negative outcomes as a result.

Negative thinking always works. If I walk into a situation expecting the worst, I might not encounter the total disaster that I expected, but I will be able to point to something bad. It is likely that I will forget/marginalize any positive outcomes as a result.

These are just methods of justifying expectation.

What does not always work (one might argue it rarely, if ever does) is wish fulfillment, which some might confuse with positive thinking. Sorry to say it, but those who believe in 'The Secret' or karma are subscribing to pseudo scientific claptrap.

Positive thinking and negative thinking are methods of self delusion. They both work for their practitioners. I thought we were all aware of this stuff by now.
02:29 PM on 09/08/2009
i agree with this article. you can't just be positive without the intention of action to actually change your circumstances. things don't happen magically, they happen when that internal switch is clicked on and you finally get that life is about choices and the actions of those choices coming to fruition in this dimension you currently live in.
02:22 PM on 09/08/2009
Hello Russell, The title "positive thinking doesn't work" is misleading. What we actually mean is that positive thinking without the corresponding positive action doesn't work. Human nature is such that positive thinking and feelings typically translate to meaningful actions that in turn produce good results.

We have to be rightfully concerned with the entitlement culture or narcissist culture which is prevalent among a segment of our population where people hope for something great to happen by living in denial and not taking the appropriate action.

To me a healthy state means the following: realistically assess and accept the current situation, think positive and take appropriate action to change a negative situation and to maintain a positive situation.
01:55 PM on 09/08/2009
Positive Thinking doesn't work, but Positive Feeling DOES work. The distinction is that you can't get your limbic brain to believe something that does not feel true to you (thats why muscle testing and theta healing works). You have to believe it a gut or cellular level for it to be true. If you believe it at that level you send out those vibes and you act differently, almost unconsciously. Affirmations can work, but I think everyone has an underlying issue or blind spot that needs to be addressed before affirmations can do their job.
adjunct professor, artist, writer
01:54 PM on 09/08/2009
As I prepare to file bankruptcy for the second time in my life, I'm also pondering entering a PhD program that I will likely finish just as I turn 60. Since I'm relying a great deal on the help of family and friends to do the former, I question the practical and ethical ramifications of the latter. Do I have the right to ask people for help with discharging my responsibilities and simultaneously undertake new ones?
I agree with the overarching principle of this writer, that thoughts that don't lead to actions are quite useless. To see things clearly in these respects, I owe it to myself and those who put their trust in me to take the best care of myself I can. To that end I'm active in a small local choir, I write and make art, and i try to find the emotional wherewithal to take the small step of going to the gym more often than twice a month. These may seem like small things, but when you're down, they become Herculean.
Our choices are simple, but not easy. We can keep trying or not. Trying includes obtaining knowledge, understanding and wisdom, and taking action on all of those.
I honestly don't know if this makes any sense or not. It's just what I'm wrestling with at this particular fork in my road.
02:23 PM on 09/08/2009
Hi - your post begs a couple of questions for you to answer for yourself, privately. First what is the underlying issue or blind spot that caused you to go bankrupt the second time? Are you aware of it ? What did you miss that is causing this? I suspect the bankruptcy came about rather unconsciously, but you probably FELT the bankruptcy rather than it being a FACT in your life that you did not assign a meaning to. By assigning meaning, emotion or feeling, it becomes part of you. You might need to address this blind spot, otherwise it won't go away. And, why a PHD now, why not focus on what you already have that you can use to make your life wealthier and simpler (and possibly avoid the bankruptcy), then pursue the PHD? I am assuming that if you are PHD eligible, you must have good grades and probably a Masters in something. If so, can you not reinvent those skills into something profitable?

Good luck!
adjunct professor, artist, writer
03:16 PM on 09/08/2009
As you might surmise, these are complex issues. I was advised to go into bankruptcy by my sister's accountant. I did not initiate it, though my actions certainly led up to it.
Why the PhD now? I'm 55. I want it and it will help my career. I'm a college teacher in liberal studies and have made my share of mistakes, both by acting and by not acting. My biggest mistake has always been a lack of faith in myself.
As for marketing myself, I'm out there but no takers so far. We keep plugging, yes?
01:48 PM on 09/08/2009
I once read "faith without works is dead", believing in yourself, having hope, having a positive outlook on life is really just bottled up emotion, but take that emotion and put it into action then great things start to happen. I feel good about getting older, about my empty nest, but if I am not willing to do something with an empty nest, renewed freedom then what's the use of achieving the goal of getting my children educated and married off. Yeah, life does suck at times, and its disgusting what can happen to your life and the mess we can create for ourselves. There is no action in thinking about how blessed you are, but there is a lot of action in breathing, and taking one step at a time toward your future, toward your recovery, toward your happiness.
01:33 PM on 09/08/2009
"Positive Thinking" is our secular religion. It started here in this country. It is based on our system of boom and bust capitalism.

You are not allow to be glum in our capitalist Ponzi scheme. But you will always be glum in it because the prevailing norm is always to be dissatisfied with what you have or where you are. The norm is to believe you are wrong not to be on top. You are wrong to be hurting or have a problem. No one will help you in this inhumane Ponzi scheme. You must hypnotize yourself into victory.

The common sense of perking up and getting on with a human life can't keep up with the pressures of Ponzi Capitalism. And so we've lost our common sense.
02:33 PM on 09/08/2009
Most Americans live in a very harsh uncaring society where if you have problems or have 'failed' it is deemed your own fault. Most other societies around the world do not think this way, at least not nearly to the same extent. The only group here that i find is mentally equipped to deal with low status and survive are the African Americans, their continued pride and attitude to each other is inspiring in many ways.
12:48 AM on 09/10/2009
But even African Americans don't have a history of surviving low status and other problems very well. And such that they do, they've struggled for a couple hundred years to achieve.

I agree with you about the dismal attitude of full responsibility in America. I think it is to blame for some of our high rates of depression and illnesses to which stress relates.

It may also be a factor in our inability to address many social ills such as child abuse and poverty effectively: Why bother aggressively reducing such problems when we believe that victims can OVERCOME and achieve just as those not suffering in such ways?
01:01 PM on 09/08/2009
Making the best of a bad situation and appreciating what you have will help you feel better. Not saying no to everything and pursuing what you want is just common sense. Truly believing you can attract wealth and love and whatever just by thinking about it is not sound, and the dark side of it is blaming the victim for their life because they aren't delusional.

People who are exceptional at something generally spend a great deal of time and energy improving their performance, visualizing the necessary actions, not thinking themselves as having done.
12:53 PM on 09/08/2009
I have been living in California for the last 18 months and I cannot believe what a mess this country is in. It is honestly incredible and it seems to me that it stems largely from this me first, win at all costs, I am the only one that matters thinking. The outcomes that Wall Street has just delivered to you all are not at all addressed by all this positive thinking crap, they are just further encouraged. Why not try some rational unself centred decision making for the common good. Or is that socialism? Wake up you are being outperformed at every turn by societies that have a different mindset. This scramble to the top of the pile outlook works maybe while there are endless new resources for everyone to exploit, but for the first time in American history they are running out. Much of the rest of the world has decided to stand up for itself and you are just going to end up stomping on each others faces in this scramble to the top. Look at the reality and fix it. Fix the California govt system, get a sensible health care policy, put some controls on Wall Street. Start thinking about each other. Maybe the reality will be better.
You're so full of what's right, you can't see what
07:02 PM on 09/08/2009
Excellent viewpoint.

We are a sick, selfish and immature society.
11:49 AM on 09/08/2009
I'm a pessimist and always expect the worst: this has helped me from becoming disappointed with the terrible decisions made by the rich and powerful. Much better to be a pessimist and a realist, than a pollyanna optimist living in fantasyland.
11:07 AM on 09/08/2009
Positive thinking works some of the time but negative thinking works all of the time!
My unauthorized autobiography
03:40 PM on 09/08/2009
An optimist knows what a sad place the world can be. A pessimist has to learn it anew everyday.
05:49 PM on 09/08/2009
Neither a lender or borrower be.
10:27 AM on 09/08/2009
I'm glad I finally clicked on this & read it - some very good points here! I esp. liked **I've heard [also:read, seen] it before, but haven't successfully applied it, therefore it doesn't work.**, since I have a couple of people like that in my life.

It seems that it's all about about the premise: what is meant by 'success', etc...
10:20 AM on 09/08/2009
Positive thinking combined with white privilege are the ingredients to success in the corporate world.
03:45 PM on 09/09/2009
Don't forget sex, class, and health privilege. And half a brain...usually.
Urban Homesteaders are Realists
10:19 AM on 09/08/2009
One of The Big Secrets to Happiness is to just accept What Is. It rained on your picnic plans? Oh well, rain happens, how are you going to respond? The person you're attracted to wants to be with someone else? Oh well, you can't control the wants and needs of other people -- what to you do about it? Do you adapt to the situation? Do you look for a lesson to be learned? Do you reflect within yourself to see what changes you might have made to have a different outcome? (i.e., made alternate picnic plans, create a life that is happy with or without a mate? etc).

We don't have to label situations in our life as "bad" (That's awful! It shouldn't have happened to me!) or "good" (That's great! I want thing to happen like that always!). Situations just ARE. To not accept what IS is like swimming against the current. It creates only suffering.
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11:25 AM on 09/08/2009

Acceptance is the key. Also the awareness that we cannot see the future and it might be quite different than what we imagine.