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What is the fundamental premise of positive thinking

  1. Jul 14, 2012 #1
    What is the fundamental premise of "positive thinking"

    The only quantifiable effect of positive or negative thinking that I can think of would be how each mindset influences your actual behavior. But do positive thinkers believe that it also somehow produces effects via some unknown mechanism (or even magic?)? When I say positive thinking I mean in the common way its understood by most people (pop psychology or whatever). what do you think? Also, if it is magical thinking, then wouldnt this be a contender for that james randi million dollar prize or however much it is he offers?
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  3. Jul 14, 2012 #2

    Chi Meson

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    Re: What is the fundamental premise of "positive thinking"

    Nothing "magic" about it. Positive thinking leads to things being done. Negative thinking gets in the way of doing things. Even if positive thinking leads to mistakes on occasion, and even if some mistakes would have been avoided if someone had had the right negative thought, negative thinking will generally never produce results.
  4. Jul 14, 2012 #3
    Re: What is the fundamental premise of "positive thinking"

    This isn't as clear as you think. There's good, old fashioned, Dale Carnegie type positive thinking and then there's this "The Secret" fad thing:


    Old fashioned positive thinking just means having a good attitude. "The Secret" bleeds over into "magical thinking" which is extremely unrealistic (and can actually be an indicator of mental illness).
  5. Jul 14, 2012 #4


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    Re: What is the fundamental premise of "positive thinking"

    IMO the best thing is to have realistic thinking which is a mixture of positive thinking that is dependent on what has happened and is happening right now.

    The thing about a lot of the fad stuff is that they emphasize positive thinking and being good about yourself without any actual action or results and this is plain ignorance pure and simple.

    Reality checks in some form are needed. This whole thing about feeling good about yourself despite this is really troubling for me to see and I have seen this approach to teaching in high schools on practicum and it's troubling that this new generation of youth are being brainwashed that it's OK to feel good about yourself even when you haven't actually accomplished something.

    What this ends up doing is these kids get into the real world and the minute they face something even mildly difficult they snap like a twig (i.e. a thin stick).

    As a side effect of this people fool themselves into thinking that everything will just magically be OK for them which is rife with problems down the line.

    It also leads to what is known as hubris or what I like to call extrinsic pride. I define intrinsic pride as pride that is attained from having actually done something, wheras intrinsic pride is just a form of pride that is put on 'for show' to give the impression of having intrinsic pride: in other words, extrinsic pride is pure narcissism.

    The people IMO with a real genuine positive attitude are the ones that get things done and don't make excuses about things whereas the others who 'think' they have a positive attitude but don't are the ones that will make excuses and simply 'hope' that the world will just magically turn into a paradise.

    And they wonder why the world doesn't work the way they want it to when they do nothing: absolutely pathetic.
  6. Jul 14, 2012 #5


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    Re: What is the fundamental premise of "positive thinking"

  7. Jul 15, 2012 #6
    Re: What is the fundamental premise of "positive thinking"

    You need both positive and negative thinking for your survival and success at your tasks.
  8. Jul 15, 2012 #7
    Re: What is the fundamental premise of "positive thinking"

    The power of positive thinking is so great it can't be quantified! So awesome there isn't even a Wikipedia entry for it. The only Wiki entry I could find concerned widespread criticism by professional psychologists of a particular author who used anecdotes and some say well known hypnosis methods.

    I would have to say the power of skeptical thinking leads me to believe this is at best an outgrowth of the talk therapy era. That's when countless pseudo scientific theories and practices became popular as people grasped for straws in the vacuum of any viable alternatives. These included such notorious cult-like groups as Est (now Landmark) that made endless promises as to the power of free will or, essentially, mind over matter.
  9. Jul 15, 2012 #8

    Ivan Seeking

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    Re: What is the fundamental premise of "positive thinking"

    There is the cult side of this, but there are the credible aspects mentioned as well, which relates to behavior. What I think surprises people is how much of an influence it can be and how it can spin off successes that you wouldn't expect. Positive thinking isn't magical, but it can have a profound effect on a person's life.
  10. Jul 15, 2012 #9


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    Re: What is the fundamental premise of "positive thinking"

    That's the reason why the positive thinking needs to be supplemented with some kind of action or relation to reality whether is feedback from another ones situation or your own.

    The people that think positive but don't wish to get any feedback whatsoever from the reality (again whether its from your own experiences or someone elses) is just ridiculous because essentially what they are saying is "Things are going to work themselves out without me having to do anything" which is the utmost disrespect for personal responsibility.

    People without any form of personal responsibility, and those who don't acknowledge any (which is a lot worse) are the ones that will always screw up not only their own lives, but other people's lives around them as well and they really are a menace especially if god forbid, they have a role that affects other people (think not only localities and counties, but entire nations).

    Thankfully the people that are just wishful thinkers often don't get that far which is a good thing.
  11. Jul 16, 2012 #10


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    Re: What is the fundamental premise of "positive thinking"

    My favorite story about positive thinking was told by motivational speaker Zig Zigler, a man who really had both feet on the ground (and who would have been appaled by these brain dead mystical definitions of positive thinking)

    Long and charmingly told story short, it goes like this:

    I'm 57 and absolutely no amount of positive think will ever make me a quarterback for the NFL no matter how much I want it to be so. SO ... the power of positive thinking all by itself will never get you anything, BUT ... positive thinking will always get you more than negative thinking.
  12. Jul 16, 2012 #11


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    Re: What is the fundamental premise of "positive thinking"

    As a practical matter, the power of expectation and belief is considerable. When we are faced with a difficult task, we will do better if we have the belief and expectation we will succeed, and we will do worse if we think we are doomed from the start.

    But can this be quantified? I can think of an experiment, but it requires patience and self-discipline. Roll dice 100 times in the firm expectation and belief that you will roll a certain number, one that you visualize each time you roll. Write down the results as you go. Repeat as often as you can maintain concentration and focus on the problem. Next, have a couple of beers, turn on the TV, and roll the same dice 100 times, writing down the results, and performing the task in a perfunctory and distracted manner. Is there a difference in your results? Repeat these tests enough to persuade yourself one way or another.

  13. Jul 16, 2012 #12
    Re: What is the fundamental premise of "positive thinking"

    I think there is a tendency here to conflate optimism with positive thinking. A dog can be endlessly optimistic about food falling on the floor, but that is not what people usually are referring to as the power of positive thinking.
  14. Jul 16, 2012 #13
    Re: What is the fundamental premise of "positive thinking"

    I recommend the book As a Man Thinketh. It's a small downloadable book, free I think. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/As_a_Man_Thinketh
  15. Jul 16, 2012 #14
    Re: What is the fundamental premise of "positive thinking"

    As I said earlier, what people mean when they say it is not a foregone conclusion and can't be assumed. For old school people such as myself, Ivan, and Chi Meson it has no cult-y, magical connotations. It was a meme we grew up with, disseminated by all teachers, coaches, etc., and that form is still in evidence. "Think positive!" is the ubiquitously recommended alternative to pessimism. In my youth most kids were given this book:

    The Little Engine That Could
  16. Jul 16, 2012 #15
    Re: What is the fundamental premise of "positive thinking"

    That's pretty much how I see it too. A hold over from the days of talk therapy, but also an expression of a cultural bias towards free will and rugged individualism. (You will be optimistic!) The few studies I've seen on the subject suggest that optimism and pessimism tend to be related to one's economic status. The less wealthy a person the more pessimistic and conservative they tend to become with what resources they have, while wealthier people tend to become more optimistic and less realistic. The idea that everyone should think and feel the same way or that any particular way of thinking and feeling is superior in every situation is, of course, absurd. But very understandable in classist societies.
  17. Jul 16, 2012 #16
    Re: What is the fundamental premise of "positive thinking"

    Reminds me a little of an episode of the IT crowd episode with Spaceology:


    Just right your wish down on a piece of paper, turn your back to space, and throw the piece of paper over your shoulder!
  18. Jul 16, 2012 #17

    jim hardy

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    Re: What is the fundamental premise of "positive thinking"

    from op:
    from zooby.. :
    the wiki mentions rays or frequencies
    My logical brain says of course not
    but there's those everyday things that suggest some kind of telepathy

    eg i drive along the road and spot a stray dog ahead with that downtrodden look of abandonment and hunger, the poor guy's head is down and his gait is strained. He is ignoring the cars as they whiz by, but when i'm about 100 yards away he stops, turns and makes eye contact with me, watches for seconds as i go on.
    How did he spot a soft touch? How did he single me out?
    ( after several days of this i took him home. )
    Or ever notice how a girl can tell if you're staring at her from behind? As if she can sense a nearby lascivious thought (see Asimov's "King Leer".)
    Or when you get out a flyswatter those pesky flies hide? As if they sense our sense of empowerment..
    Or why the kids catch all the fish.....

    There's plenty of food for speculation.

    old jim
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  19. Jul 16, 2012 #18


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    Re: What is the fundamental premise of "positive thinking"

    My philosophy is along the lines of

    Chance favors the well-prepared.


    You make your own luck.

    i.e. zoob's non-magical explanation.
  20. Jul 20, 2012 #19
    Re: What is the fundamental premise of "positive thinking"

    chance favors the well-prepared thats true, nice point... Negative thinker will talk himself out of the game, and his chance of success is therefore yup, zero..
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