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  1. #1

    Default The Poison of Positive Thinking

    http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/p...ticle-1.359097

    It's a fascinating juxtaposition. On the one hand, the holidays are a time of hope and renewal, culminating in the boundless optimism of New Year's resolutions. Yet as 2008 lurches to a close, it must be said that of the myriad factors in America's teetering economy, the most ironic is the role of positive thinking.
    In recent years America's native optimism has snowballed into a veritable avalanche of positivity. The market penetration of the movement's top authors is jaw-dropping. Eckhart Tolle sold 3.5 million copies of "A New Earth," his latest tract on "living in the now" - in one month. "The Secret," Rhonda Byrne's tribute to wishful thinking, has sold at least 7million hardcover copies plus 2million DVDs. Joe ("The Attraction Factor") Vitale cracked the million-copy threshold through viral marketing alone.
    These and other authors preach a build-your-own-reality view of life. Vitale, for example, describes affluence as a simple matter of "placing your order with the universe. It's really that easy!"
    Meanwhile, Anthony Robbins and other top seminarists tout their favorite ploys for defining away negativity. "There's no such thing as failure," asserts a key piece of Robbins dogma. "There is only feedback."
    Such pop-culture nostrums receive reinforcement from formal psychology, thanks to celebrity shrink Martin Seligman, who's credited with inventing so-called positive psychology. "Posi-psych" inverts tradition by focusing on silver linings, not dark clouds.
    With this chorus of positivity playing as the nonstop soundtrack of American life, who can blame society for losing its regard for prudence and moderation? All of our major economic woes are, at least in part, creatures of unchecked optimism, compelling evidence of what happens when timeless proverbs like "a penny saved is a penny earned" are scorned as outmoded and "disempowering." Indeed, self-styled Texas pastor Joel Osteen ("Your Best Life Now," over 4 million copies sold) built his Lakewood Church into a national icon by framing acquisitiveness and flash as virtues. "God wants us to be prosperous," he told Time magazine.
    Unsurprisingly, America maintains one of the lowest personal saving rates in the free world - putting us in a very precarious position as we try to weather this economic storm. In 2005 and 2006, that rate sank below zero as consumers spent every nickel they earned. We giddily underplanned and overextended in every measurable area of endeavor. Consumer debt skyrocketed. Unqualified buyers took on mortgages from banks that had no business offering them. Lenders optimistically assumed that escalating property values would vindicate their investment; borrowers told themselves, "It'll all work out somehow." Thus was sealed the fate of the mortgage industry and aligned ventures on Wall Street.
    In corporate settings, risk aversion and contingency planning have become signs of "naysaying." To many executives, writes renowned management consultant William Altier, "the idea that they should devote time and effort to thinking about things that could go wrong is anathema, un-American, disrespectful of apple pie, motherhood and the flag."
    You might think the advocates of personal empowerment would feel chastened by the fact that all this rude interruption by reality comes at a time when positivity is being celebrated as never before.
    Think again. Rather than concede the fallibility of an unfailingly positive attitude, they counter that some negativity must have snuck in, queering the deal. (This is the logic Byrne used in blaming Hurricane Katrina victims for failing to repel the storm with upbeat vibes.) Vitale characterizes America's doldrums as a byproduct of "the media bad-news scenario," making it sound as if unemployment, the foreclosure crisis and the looming collapse of major industries didn't exist until the media reported them. He argues that what we need now is even more pie-in-the-sky.
    Or as best-selling guru Wayne Dyer puts it in the title of his new book, due out this January: "Change Your Thoughts - Change Your Life."
    Yeah, that'll work.
    No one is suggesting that people should curl up in the fetal position and expect the worst. This is about balance. Realism isn't fatalism, and failure isn't just "feedback." Sometimes failure is failure. To leach misfortune of its sting is also to leach it of its lessons.
    Some dreams - like some mortgages - are too big for the dreamer. Some risks aren't worth taking. Today more than ever, we should view our options in life through the clearest possible lens, not a rose-colored one.
    Now there's a resolution that will serve us well in 2009.
    Steve Salerno is the author of "Sham: How the Self-Help Movement Made America Helpless."


    Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/p...#ixzz2mCNAXzha
    Although I think Salerno exaggerated the claims of most of the self-help people gurus on the list, I think he was spot on in the criticism of the author of The Secret. She believes people who gets hit by tsunamis deserve it.

    Although when claims that ridiculous are made most of us can see how awful and hurtful they are, when people make smaller claims of the same sort, we miss out on the harm it causes. "You won't feel down if you just smile." "You won't get sick if you stay positive," and so many more things of that type of statements are ridiculous and hurtful. These attitudes towards those who are struggling do damage when it accumulates.

    I believe the antidote to this is accurate, honest, and genuine thinking.

    Allow people to be genuine, and make their conclusions based on evidence and testing their assumptions. They may change their minds over time. When embeded in a culture where we can't even hang out with someone who says something "negative" (no matter how softly it is delivered), this is going to make a lot of people miserable.

    I claim it is positive thinking that is doing more damage than negative thinking in modern culture. I further claim that the way out is to allow people to be genuine and give accurate assessment of their beliefs.

    This New Year's perhaps we can resolve not to put people down by telling them that they deserve their personal tsunamis because they aren't positive enough. Let's allow them to be real.

    What say you?

    Accept the past. Live for the present. Look forward to the future.
    Robot Fusion
    "As our island of knowledge grows, so does the shore of our ignorance." John Wheeler
    "[A] scientist looking at nonscientific problems is just as dumb as the next guy." Richard Feynman
    "[P]etabytes of [] data is not the same thing as understanding emergent mechanisms and structures." Jim Crutchfield

  2. #2
    Earth Exalted Thursday's Avatar
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    Without discipline, anything and everything is destined to fail.
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    Senior Member cafe's Avatar
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    That sounds so much like the prosperity/word of faith movement that was a big thing in Evangelical/Charismatic Christian circles in the eighties and hasn't died out yet. I hate so much about it. It's an evil philosophy that, among other things, encourages social darwinism. So many people are hurt by this. I can't say how much I hate it.
    “There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.”
    ~ John Rogers

  4. #4
    Scream down the boulevard LadyJaye's Avatar
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    Very well said ygolo. I would love to kick all of The Secret people square in the crotch.



    Most people fear their emotions. Or the possibility of what a "bad" feeling might cause. We've been told to smile all the time, to think positive thoughts, that feelings like anger and frustration are "bad" or negative. If the goal is honesty, then you must allow yourself to take the path that leads to it - not all are full of sunshine and flowers. I think that many people are taught that anger and frustration = ingratitude. If you're not peaceful and serene, then you must be doing something wrong. I was told for years that my faith in God wasn't strong enough, and that's why desperate things kept happening to my family. I didn't pray enough. I didn't believe enough. I wasn't positive enough. That form of thinking is just as poisonous as being a pessimist. I also find it ironic that these people who market themselves as the "power of positive thinking" are actually very negative, because they lay the blame of all of life's problems at the door of their audience members, when that isn't reality at all. I would love to believe that I had control over every minute detail of my life, but I don't think that's rationally the case.

    What I want is the reality of a situation, so then I know how to go about trying to fix it. I have to compete with enough optimistic thinking and fairy dust in my personality already, I don't need people's whimsical BS to clutter things up more.
    7w6 so/sx

    " The bird of paradise alights only on the hand that does not grasp." - John Berry

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    Senior Member INTP's Avatar
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    Who ever wrote that article is a retard who somehow got through the school and learned some fancy words and how to write. Also i think that he shouldnt be allowed to write articles like that since what he is saying can cause some harm to people.
    "Where wisdom reigns, there is no conflict between thinking and feeling."
    — C.G. Jung

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  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by INTP View Post
    Who ever wrote that article is a retard who somehow got through the school and learned some fancy words and how to write. Also i think that he shouldnt be allowed to write articles like that since what he is saying can cause some hharm to people.
    Admittedly, he exaggerated the claims of many of the self help gurus.

    But compared to the author of The Secret, that offense seems minor in comparison.

  7. #7
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    Why exactly is it harmful to frame 'failure' as 'feedback'? As long as the feedback is taken for what it is, warts and all, it can provide a much more realistic (and therefore beneficial) view than chucking it all to failure. Some problems do have a silver lining--the opportunity to practice, grow, and possibly do it all better the next time around.

    On the other hand, people seek quick solutions to their problems. "You want it? Just think it! That's The Secret!" That's bad news bears.

    Denying or being blind to reality in all of its forms is detrimental. I'll beat the drum of "misattributing wrong causes to effects is bad" until the day I die.

    edit: Whoa, I just read @LadyJaye's post. Spot on, all over.

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by bologna View Post
    Why exactly is it harmful to frame 'failure' as 'feedback'? As long as the feedback is taken for what it is, warts and all, it can provide a much more realistic (and therefore beneficial) view than chucking it all to failure. Some problems do have a silver lining--the opportunity to practice, grow, and possibly do it all better the next time around.
    I don't agree with everything the author of the article said. It was mainly food for thought.

    I happen to like Ekhart Tolle's books. I think Tony Robbins knows a lot about motivation. Seligman is one of my favorite authors. I don't think any of these in particular are giving people the "ignore reality and stay positive, otherwise you desrve what you get" message.

    But I think many of the followers of these positive psychologists twist most messages of this form into the same message as The Secret. That's the main problem.

    There are honest and mindful ways to use positive psychology. I try to use it that way. But I think a great many people usurp the reasonable messages into ways to club people over the head who aren't acting bright and cheery for the comfort of preserving a Polyana mindset. This will, of course, tend to make those who are struggling with pain feel worse.

    On the other hand, people seek quick solutions to their problems. "You want it? Just think it! That's The Secret!" That's bad news bears.

    Denying or being blind to reality in all of its forms is detrimental. I'll beat the drum of "misattributing wrong causes to effects is bad" until the day I die.

    edit: Whoa, I just read @LadyJaye's post. Spot on, all over.
    This was my main point. Perhaps I should have left off the link to the pop psychologist. But it was somewhat refreshing to have one of them advocate so strongly for reality

    Accept the past. Live for the present. Look forward to the future.
    Robot Fusion
    "As our island of knowledge grows, so does the shore of our ignorance." John Wheeler
    "[A] scientist looking at nonscientific problems is just as dumb as the next guy." Richard Feynman
    "[P]etabytes of [] data is not the same thing as understanding emergent mechanisms and structures." Jim Crutchfield

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    Level 8 Propaganda Bot SpankyMcFly's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ygolo View Post
    This was my main point. Perhaps I should have left off the link to the pop psychologist. But it was somewhat refreshing to have one of them advocate so strongly for reality
    I like reality as well.

    Two things I wanted to add.

    1) Most things in excess are bad
    2) That Nietzche saying "What doesn't destroy you makes you stronger" or some such, annoys me when I hear it given to someone in the throws of a real issue in their life. I think it's great when you can positively reassess or find the silver lining to something AFTER the fact, but while you dealing with it... yeah, not so much.
    "The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents... Some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the light into the peace and safety of a new Dark Age. " - H.P. Lovecraft

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    Scream down the boulevard LadyJaye's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SpankyMcFly View Post
    I like reality as well.

    Two things I wanted to add.

    1) Most things in excess are bad
    2) That Nietzche saying "What doesn't destroy you makes you stronger" or some such, annoys me when I hear it given to someone in the throws of a real issue in their life. I think it's great when you can positively reassess or find the silver lining to something AFTER the fact, but while you dealing with it... yeah, not so much.
    It annoys you because it's annoying.

    The only people who can say that are those who can escape and gain distance from their nightmares and problems. It's tough talk coming from a safe place. When your tits deep in what you fear most, you're not wishing Nietzche were there to comfort you.

    What doesn't kill you doesn't necessarily make you stronger. It can break you, wear you down, destroy you - all while leaving you alive to experience it.
    7w6 so/sx

    " The bird of paradise alights only on the hand that does not grasp." - John Berry

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