Recently I came across this video by Mitch Horowitz who is using it as a ‘trailer’ for his new book due out next year.
The idea he is expressing is not new of course and flagged up in the video are the well known books by Dale Carnegie and Norman Vincent Peale.
Listening to Horowitz in the video, I am reminded of a work colleague many years ago who would say “you’re right— but you’re wrong!” and I think that is true of Horowitz here. He doesn’t quite understand the history or the implications of the idea he is promulgating and he deals with it as if it were a purely American concept.
Most people will have heard the phrase- “Every day, in every way, I’m getting better and better” and most would probably regard it as a trite, banal even, piece of new age style wishful thinking.
Indeed, it was enthusiastically adopted by all the new age hippie-drippies who imagined that indolence was the road to bliss but there is a huge difference between wishful thinking and positive thinking, the latter requires a great deal of energy to make things happen as you would wish them to.
The phrase was coined by Émile Coué (1857 – 1926) who was a pharmacist in Troyes, France before he began to study psychology and what he was referring to came to be known as Positive Thinking, the phrase used by Horowitz.
Most people tend to dismiss Positive thinking as nothing more than wishful thinking, as indicated above. Scientists in particular will reject the notion because it does not fit current orthodoxy, in other words they cannot ‘prove’ it exists/works so they dismiss it.
However the idea goes back a long way and can even be found in the Bible – Mark;11:23,24: the second cited verse can be paraphrased as ‘believe that it is so’
And there are examples of how it might just be true; how the implanting of an idea in the mind can have a psychophysiological effect. Positive thinking, in the form of self belief might just work.
One of the best examples of self belief was Cassius Clay (later known as Muhammad Ali). His mantra of “I am the greatest!” became self fulfilling. By repetition of that phrase he convinced himself and others that he was invincible; and he was (with a little extra help from his corner in the fight against Henry Cooper)
It helped that he had innate talent, having won Olympic gold in 1960.
Unfortunately there are others with great self belief but without any notable abilities (politicians for example) who become a profound nuisance and inflict their invincible ignorance upon the world.
Implanting an idea in one’s own mind and believing in that idea can bring that idea into reality; Clay/Ali being a good example of it.
But what if an idea is implanted in one’s mind by others? Does that work also?
Well, the advertising industry relies on it. This is why seemingly intelligent bloggers and commenters often use the word ‘simples’, this word having been subliminally implanted in their minds by a stuffed toy in a TV advert for something or other.
If smart, savvy people can be persuaded to mimic, parrot fashion, something which has been subliminally implanted into their minds, what else has been implanted there?
And do they realise they have been.’brainwashed’ in this way?
This implanting of an idea in the mind is the psychological phenomenon of projection, the very powerful human ability to see what you believe, with no idea that you’re actually projecting your beliefs into something says Dr. Charles T. Tart
In his 1986 book Waking Up, he introduced the phrase “consensus trance” to the lexicon. Tart likened normal waking consciousness to hypnotic trance. He discussed how each of us is from birth inducted to the trance of the society around us. Tart noted both similarities and differences between hypnotic trance induction and consensus trance induction. He emphasized the enormous and pervasive power of parents, teachers, religious leaders, political figures, and others to compel induction. Referring to the work of Gurdjieff and others he outlines a path to awakening based upon self-observation.
Self-observation, or being self aware is of vital importance for life in general. Our brains are like rubbish bins; everyone we meet will deposit all sorts of nonsense in there and, if we are not alert to it, some of the nonsense sinks into our psyche. It is necessary to think positively, i.e. critically, about every notion that arises from our subconscious and pass that notion through the filter of our reason.
However, there is a downside to belief—it can kill you!
That is when there is a blind faith in ideas and the lack of critical examination of those ideas … This is when positive thoughts becomes negative thoughts. Strong belief affects the mind/body relationship, the psychophysiological effect mentioned above.
Émile Coué explored this idea and stated that in any disparity between the unconscious and the conscious mind the unconscious wins every time, the result of any conflict being borne by the physical body.
Aldous Huxley says the same thing – And anyhow the body seemed perfectly well able to look after itself. In reality, of course, it always does look after itself. All that the conscious ego can do is to formulate wishes, which are then carried out by forces which it controls very little and understands not at all. When it does anything more – when it tries too hard, for example, when it worries, when it becomes apprehensive about the future – it lowers the effectiveness of those forces and may even cause the devitalized body to fall ill.
The best way to avoid such a fate, brought on by thinking negatively, is by altruism; to forget our own little ego and keep a positive outlook and, as The Bible suggests to sustain a sense of goodwill to all.
Lorenzo Pia, who is a cognitive neuroscientist at the University of Turin, states-
“A positive state of mind affects your genes.
Scientists show that people who are happy because of a profound sense of purpose and meaning in life tend to have a sort of favorable gene-expression profiles in their immune cells, strong expression of antiviral genes and also low levels of inflammatory gene expression. In contrast, those happy because of consumatory-self-gratification lifestyle have the opposite, namely low antiviral and antibody gene expression and high inflammation.”
As this story in the Daily Mail suggests we can help ourselves by helping others.
And if you don’t believe that, then obviously you would rather be a heartless hypocritical old buzzard like Ayn Rand who believed that selfishness was a virtue!
The Virtue of Selfishness is a collection of essays presenting Ayn Rand’s radical moral code of rational selfishness and its opposition to the prevailing morality of altruism—i.e., to the duty to sacrifice for the sake of others.
Ayn Rand didn’t believe in altruism or the Welfare State but she relied on it at the end of her life.
If you ever needed proof of Karma, there it is!
So remember – Think Positive, it’s good for you and here is a very eloquent confirmation of it by Iain Carstairs.