The Power of Negative Thinking

November 26th, 2009 by Bob Bly

In her new book Bright-Sided, Barbara Ehrenreich makes clear she is not a fan of the law of attraction, and says that positive thinking is a “mass delusion.”

She also says the notion that our thoughts can directly affect the physical world is irrational.

To believe in the power of positive thinking, writes Ehrenreich, “requires deliberate self-deception, including a constant effort to repress or block out unpleasant possibilities and negative thoughts … [positive thinking] encourages us to deny reality, submit cheerfully to misfortune, and blame only ourselves for our fate.”

Even Martin Seligman, author of “Learned Optimism” and a proponent of positive thinking, noted in his book that the one advantage pessimists have over optimists is that their thinking is more realistic and therefore they are better equipped to handle life’s disappointments.

How about you? Are you a:

A. positive thinker …
B. realistic pessimist …
C. somewhere in between?

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17 responses about “The Power of Negative Thinking”

  1. Twitter Trackbacks for The Power of Negative Thinking - bly.com blog - bly.com direct marketing blog [bly.com] on Topsy.com said:

    [...] The Power of Negative Thinking – bly.com blog – bly.com direct marketing blog bly.com/blog/general/the-power-of-negative-thinking – view page – cached In her new book Bright-Sided, Barbara Ehrenreich makes clear she is not a fan of the current law of attraction mania, calling positive thinking a “mass delusion.” [...]

  2. Satvik said:

    I’m a positive thinker in the following sense: I believe in my ability to achieve what I want in the long run, and I believe that your mentality has a huge effect on your life. This isn’t because thinking automatically affects reality-it’s because human brains automatically look for the type of information that your mind is focused on.

    If you believe there’s a lot of opportunity to improve your world, you’re more likely to notice opportunity when it’s there. And if you’re optimistic about your future, you’re perfectly equipped to handle the temporary defeats that come along your way.

  3. William Reynolds said:

    The only reason Thomas Edison finally invented the light bulb, after a zillion failures, is because he chose to be happy that he’d found a zillion ways not to invent the light bulb. If that’s the power of positive thinking, then I’m grateful for it. Candlelight strains my eyes.

  4. Clay said:

    A pessimist takes a failure and sees it as just that – a failure. An optimist takes a failure and learns from it and moves forward.

    Optimism and “pollyanna” thinking are not the same things. I am a positive thinker – but I do understand that things don’t always come easily and without challenges.

    As Jigoro Kano, founder of judo, said – and I’m paraphrasing a little – the secret is when you get thrown seven times, to get up eight times.

  5. Andy said:

    I believe that I am more an optimist than a positive thinker. I’m not a big believer in the law of attraction. I do believe that if you are open-minded and have an optimistic attitude, you will recognize opportunities as they present themselves. I also believe that having a negative outlook prevents you from seeing these same opportunities. That is why I choose to be optimistic.

  6. Bill Perry said:

    I believe in the Law of Attraction because it works for me. That’s my litmus test.

    I will admit I get pissed at people who say “positive thinking” is useless.

    Negative thinking is far far worse. Negative thinking closes one’s mind to possibility and opportunity.

  7. David Vallieres said:

    There’s really no debate. If you think ‘you can’, you can… if you think ‘you can’t’ then why even try? You already know ‘you can’t’. This is what I call the “T” factor of success. You can be a realist or a pessimist or anything else but if you want to accomplish something in this life that’s worthwhile you need to THINK about a problem and turn it over and over in your mind until a solution appears. It has nothing to do with the law of attraction, positive thinking or anything else. The brain is a powerful tool, that’s all. If you know your brain is a tool then it can help you if you know how to use it. If you know it’s purpose, limitations and strengths you can use it to create your own life as you want it to be.

  8. Steve Rainwater said:

    One of my biggest strengths has always been to make the most of a good opportunity when I recognize it as such. I can list several periods in my life that have made huge positive impact because I recognized them and acted, or fell into them and reacted well.

    I am optimistic by nature but analyze things to death in the evaluation process. My wife takes this as negative, but I tell her it is just sorting things out.

    This year, following a second read of the renowned Think and Grow Rich, I took proactive steps (for the first time ever, I might add) to implement the Law of Attraction in my life – beginning in the Fall of 2008 (with written goals, daily meditation, shared a copy with my wife, made myself accountable to others, etc.) to prepare for 2009). To Bill’s litmus test above, it did NOT work for me…not even close. If I listed the number of personal, family and business difficulties I experienced this year it would blow the readers hair back, so I’ll spare you.

    As my optimistic self however, I continue to view the future as full of opportunity, which I’ll access better due to many lessons learned, so I can also call it a good year. slr

  9. Bamboo Forest - PunIntended said:

    I find that feeling disappointed is the result of not giving it our all. That’s the real cause of disappointment. Failure really isn’t.

    And the fact of the matter is, when engaging any task and believing it will result in a positive outcome we are sending a direct message to our nervous system to get the job done, successfully.

    On the other hand, when doubt reins supreme and you don’t have that edge that’s generated by positive thinking, your outcome will undoubtedly be compromised.

    So if thinking positively increases performance, than I’m all for it! The best athletes in the world believe they are going to do well every time. If they were to have some doubt in that area, their performance would show it. Of course this doesn’t guarantee success, but it certainly stacks the cards in your favor!

    I’m not a believer in the law of attraction for the most part. It’s pretty redicilous.

    Though I do believe our beliefs play a HUGE role in how we perform.

    The best personal development book I’ve ever read by a very large margin is “Awaken the Giant Within” by Anthony Robbins. He speaks at length of the importance of believing in ourself and how that can change everything. And yes, believing in oneself is really what positive thinking is.

    Though I’m sure everyone has heard this before, it merits repeating.

    Roger Bannister was the first man to ever run the 4 minute mile. Shortly after his achievement many others followed suit.

    Why?

    Did everyone across the globe all of a sudden by some mysterious coincidence begin to grow more muscle tissue? No.

    One simple factor changed: People began to believe it could be done. And then rapidly it began to be done over and over again by many different runners.

    The power of belief is huge. When we believe in ourselves we are engaging in positive thinking.’

    Really… My approach to this kind of thing is simple: What works? What gives the best results?

    That’s all I care about… the politics of it do nothing for my life. Pursuing strategies that have proven to show results since the beginning of time is what I’m looking for.

  10. Mele said:

    I agree with Bamboo Forest—do what works. What works for me is feeling confident in reaching my goals. I feel confident in reaching my goals by trying things out, choosing that which I am best at, and going for it.

  11. Kyle said:

    I like the term ‘Possibility Thinking’.

    You do find what you are looking for. Tony Robbins does a simple exercise. Close your eyes. Now open them and for 5 seconds find only things that are Red. Then,do Brown.

    Likewise, If you are looking for negative you will find more of it. Tony Schwartz says humans default to negative so it does take effort to look for creative possibilites.You don’t have to deny reality to look for possibilities.

  12. David Singhiser said:

    Being realistic or negative always helped me be depressed.

    Being realistic or negative always helped me quit early.

    Being realistic or negative always helped me be alone.

    Faith and hope on the other hand . . .

  13. Jack Courtney said:

    It depends on the situation. But most of the time, I’m a positive thinker. I always bear in mind that there are so many ways to solve a problem. As long as we know our ability and capacity, everything will be fine.

  14. Jeff W said:

    The fact that thought is produced by a gelatinous blob floating in fluid contained in a hard bony case is irrational. Yet…

  15. Jessie Jacob said:

    Being too positive thinker can make you more lax or confident that you think that everything will change even with a minimal effort coming from you to make it possible. However, if you are a negative thinker, you tend to attract more bad vibes into life. Same way with positive thinker, you get nothing from it. So for me, realistic pessimistic is much better then be a positive thinker from time to time.

  16. Jack Mower said:

    I’m more on in between. I tend to be realistic at times, but still think positive in order to solve any possible issues.

  17. Elisha Dusky said:

    Currently it sounds like Expression Engine is the preferred blogging platform out there right now. (from what I’ve read) Is that what you’re using on your blog?

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