Positive Thinking, Denial and Negative Thinking

Positive thinking, denial and negative thinking

Positive thinking, denial and negative thinking

In this week’s Success Newsletter, I would like to reveal the difference between positive thinking, denial and negative thinking.

First a quick update:

In 5 minutes… get rid of a toxic friend”
How do you know when it is time to let go of a friend? How do you know when that person has become toxic? Read my quotes and insights in the Ryanair magazine.

Now, let’s talk about the difference between positive thinking, denial and negative thinking.

Dr. Norman Vincent Peale’s book “The Power of Positive Thinking” was first published in 1952, a book that gave hope to a post war culture. Since then it has sold 5 million copies and is recognized as one of the pivotal books of the self-help movement; it is often compared to the book “The Secret” for teaching that obstacles and difficulties in life can be overcome by the power of the mind and positive thinking. The book even claims you can “Assume control over your circumstances.”

However, the book also has its critics such as Harvard scholar Donald Meyer who claims that following the book’s teachings leads to aggression because it teaches people to flee and avoid one’s own negative thoughts, rather than gain mastery over them.

We all struggle with negative thoughts and you may have heard, said or been told to: “Stop being so negative; think positively!”

What does that mean?

Positive thinking is simply solution-oriented thinking.

Negative thinking is the shutting down of the possibility of a solution.

And denial is the belief that there is not even a problem in the first place that might require action towards a solution.

Take the example of a pilot who is about to take off in extreme weather of ice.

Does the pilot choose to de-ice the wings or does he simply say “Let’s think positively; no need to de-ice”?

Refusing to de-ice the plane is not negative thinking but rather it is denial-based thinking i.e. the ice won’t affect us, there is no ice, there is no danger.

Take another example: you have just received the results of a medical test and you have a serious illness.

Do you deny the existence of the illness?

Do you think negatively and assume that there is no hope, no solution or, do you think positively and take action, focusing on the solution, focusing on necessary action to getting better?

It is easy to also confuse positive thinking with optimism; they are not always mutually exclusive.

One can be optimistic but take no action to find a solution or to create a new outcome (another form of denial.) Meanwhile, the pessimist says “there’s ice on the wings – we are all going to die’ and yet he refuses to take any action.

Thus, I teach that there is also a second component of positive thinking – optimism.

You need to have optimism.

Positive thinking focuses on the solution with a sense of optimism and hope.

Hope can also spur us to take action. In other words, the mindset is ‘we can find a way; we can make this better; we can turn this around; we transform it from a bad event into a good event.’

Negative thinking, on the other hand, achieves only one thing – it destroys all hope and possibility of transforming the event because what you’re really doing when you’re thinking negatively is saying and concluding that ‘there is no way out; there is no possible solution; we are victims.’

The latter point is critical.

When one thinks in negative terms (the mindset that there is no solution), then that person is entering victim mode ‘I am helpless; I have no power; I have no control; I am doomed; nothing can change; things cannot get better.’

Obviously that belief becomes a prophecy that comes to fruition because the ‘victim’ takes no action and therefore the belief will be true.

In contrast, consider the psychological and behavioral dynamic of the words “It’s done.”

For example, your boss, parent, friend or colleague asks you to do something and they request it in a particular timeframe: “Can you do this for me, by 5 PM today?”

Without flinching or consciously processing the request, and with raised enthusiasm or with complete calm & confidence, you respond:

‘It’s done!’

And by 5 PM that day, you fulfill the request; you succeed in completing a challenging task.

How does this happen?

When you utter the words “It’s done” you are automatically telling yourself ‘It has been completed.’ You are not just saying it will be done, you are not just saying it is possible, you are actually directing your subconscious mind as if the task has already been done, and accordingly you take the appropriate steps and action necessary to complete the task.

Again, what you have done without conscious awareness, is that you have adopted positive thinking – you have already agreed internally that there is a solution, that solution is possible, and it will be done/has been done.

You have also convinced yourself that this task will be pleasant – there will be positive stimuli and therefore, it will be easier for you to take action.

If, however, on the other hand, you respond with “I’ll try” or “I don’t think I can do it” or “It can’t be done” then you have just directed your subconscious mind to conclude and find all the ways and reasons that it can’t be done.

gain, you have adopted negative thinking – you have shut down all possibility of a solution and/or your mind is now working to prove that belief to be true i.e. “it can’t be done.”

You are not simply setting yourself up for failure – you are subconsciously planning and have decided to fail. You are also convincing yourself that this will be a highly unpleasant task and therefore you will be even less apt to take action.

This dynamic also often involves subconscious visualization that may or may not be recognized consciously. Read my article about the Placebo Effect and the power of the mind and visualization where I cite a study involving college students who improved their basketball motor skill – the Pacific Coast one-hand foul shot, using mental practice only; they improved almost to the exact same level as a second group of college students who physically practiced.

Thus far, I have emphasized the difference between positive thinking (focusing on solving the problem/challenge), negative thinking (shutting down the pathway to a solution to the problem) and denial (claiming that there is no problem and therefore, no action is required.)

The same principle applies to emotions and thoughts.

We cannot deny when we feel down, unhappy, angry, depressed, lonely or lost. We cannot deny when we have negative thoughts of doom, failure or fear.

We might try to deny those emotions by affirming our way out of them but that is a very temporary state.

The emotions and thoughts quickly return unless we chose to find the root cause and thus a solution.

Accordingly, negative thoughts and emotions cannot be denied (“I feel great”); they cannot be simply wished away, pushed away or cancelled out with positive thoughts; a hunch or intuition about a situation, person or future event also cannot be denied or neutralized.

Instead negative thoughts and emotions must be met with a positive mindset, positive thinking that responds with “I’ll find a way; I’ll find the solution” and then followed with action to change the actual cause of those initial thoughts and emotions! And intuitions also require acknowledgment, action and a response.

Remember, when you choose positive thinking combined with action, you are no longer helpless or a victim; instead you are actually taking charge of your life and your outcomes. And the chance of positive results now increases dramatically.

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I wish you the best and remind you “Believe in yourself -You deserve the best!”

Patrick Wanis Ph.D.
Celebrity Life Coach, Human Behavior & Relationship Expert & SRTT Therapist

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