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Some Thinking on Positive Thinking

February 24, 2010

I recently read a lukewarm review of my book on a blog where the author said that basically it all summed up to positive thinking (which wasn’t that original). I had some negative thinking about this review, but that’s not what stuck with me and not what I want to talk about here. What stuck with me was throwing my philosophy into the category of positive thinking, when I actually have some ISSUES with that category.

One of the things I struggle with is a bad attitude. I am a GIANT complainer. I walk around feeling afraid and screwed often. At my best, I am inspired and filled with the wonder of life. At my worst I can be a petty, paranoid, and rigid. I’ve talked here before about some of my issues with creativity books, how I felt they did not address directly the miserable worker in me. Likewise in creativity’s sister industry, inspiration, I often feel alienated by the relentless positivity: BE FEARLESS! BELIEVE IN YOURSELF! IT’S ALL GOOD! Well, what if you are STILL afraid? What if you just DON’T believe in yourself? What if you feel SCREWED? Then are all your desires unachievable? It took me awhile to realize that being fearless is not only unrealistic for me, but TOTALLY OVERRATED in getting to where you want to go. Ditto with belief in oneself. Also, I don’t know anyone who experiences GOOD 24/7. For me, I came to realize that I don’t even need to have RADICAL SELF ACCEPTANCE to move forward. What I needed was smaller than that. I needed to just think, SCREW IT.

For me, it may not be it’s ALL good, but it may be more along the lines of SOMETHING is good and that is where the messages in my book lie. It was a HUGE shift in my brain to start thinking in smaller somethings than in all or nothings. Yes, this is a form of positive thought, but it’s not just a coating of sugar and sunshine and puppies and flowers. It’s an immediate way to narrow your focus to the real and touchable. When someone says to me YOU CAN DO ANYTHING, my brain is PARALYZED by the enormity. I want to ask, “Can you be more specific?” I think this is true for a lot of people. Negative thinking, as in “I can’ do x” or “I can’t have y” is actually a great way our brains narrow the world down for us into a focused context. Our brains can now chug along and act with specific set of rules and boundaries. The trick is to SHIFT those boundaries so they do include the options of x or y. Looking to what SPECIFICALLY works is a way to do that.

So I guess, yes, my book is filled with positive thinking, but I hope it goes beyond cheerleading. My hope is that it lets someone like me–cranky, disbelieving, and with an overwrought sense of helplessness–move the fence a little in their brain to see that (blade by single blade) the grass in their very own yard is green.

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