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Friday, 15 November 2013

Pam Laird on Positive and Negative Thinking

Philosophising about life is often not rewarding. Well, pretty much never!  Day to day living on this planet is a bit of a gamble and when you take some time to study companion travellers, most of them seem to get on with life using a que sera sera approach.

Then we start to think how the population seems to be made up of either positive or negative thinkers with I suppose, a few degrees in between. Remember the prisoners looking out from their cells…… “Two men look out from prison bars, one sees mud, the other, stars.”

A perfect illustration written by — Mmmm! According to Google, could be any one of the following…  Frederick Langridge 1849-1922, Oscar Wilde 1855-1900 or Dale Carnegie 1888-1955. Carnegie, probably not, but there it is, an apt summing up of the two main opposing divisions of human nature. Author unknown.

Is there anything positive about negative thinking? Apparently there is or so a psychology lab in New York would have us believe. It seems that assuming success in a venture can disappoint as one assumes an achievement without taking the necessary steps to achieve it. I can see that might be a problem for a particular goal but what about daily living and the effect on everyday contacts through work, recreation, home life, parenting etc?

The argument goes — picturing certain obstacles to one’s achievement  activates the realisation that further study or exploration may be required. Recognising such an obstacle would therefore more likely create success.

   As mentioned, this attitude may well have adverse effects on those around and cause reactions that in themselves are unhelpful. Is there an upside to negative thinking? Perhaps negative thinkers should confine themselves to certain professional areas of their lives rather than causing ructions and dismay among family and social contacts.

Is positive thinking a good thing? We hear today a great deal about positive reinforcement for children. On the face of it, this process appears to be a good idea, but do the children grow up thinking they can do no wrong and their efforts are always right? That their work does not require further investigation and/or  checking for errors?

So often today we hear of young ones expecting, as of right, to be the most popular child, an assumption of success in exams, the right to a new home fully furnished, that the usual steps in business to career achievement do not apply to them. That they will expect to be managing director the day after tomorrow! All these are obviously unreal beliefs, perhaps brought about by a surfeit of positive reinforcement.

   Is there an upside to positive thinking? Most certainly ‘yes’ from the immediate relationships point of view with work mates or family, yes there is. Taking into account the unreality of over-emphasising a child’s confidence, the value of given talents or abilities and results of exams etc., yes, of course this can be overdone. So a parent or teacher has to find a middle way.

Middle way or not, no-one wants to live with a combination of Pollyanna and Shirley Temple or Eyeore and Scrooge, do they?
Pam Laird
Nov 2013

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