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Thursday, February 20, 2014

The danger of positive thinking

The topic addressed here may have nothing to do with politics, but it sure is a pet peeve of mine. There are few things more dangerous than positive thinking. I've seen a number of positive-thinking entrepreneurs lose their shirts because they came under the impression that a crummy idea will conquer the universe as long as the person trying to make the plan work radiates slap-happy optimism.
According to a great deal of research, positive fantasies may lessen your chances of succeeding. In one experiment, the social psychologists Gabriele Oettingen and Doris Mayer asked eighty-three German students to rate the extent to which they “experienced positive thoughts, images, or fantasies on the subject of transition into work life, graduating from university, looking for and finding a job.” Two years later, they approached the same students and asked about their post-college job experiences. Those who harbored positive fantasies put in fewer job applications, received fewer job offers, and ultimately earned lower salaries. The same was true in other contexts, too. Students who fantasized were less likely to ask their romantic crushes on a date and more likely to struggle academically. Hip-surgery patients also recovered more slowly when they dwelled on positive fantasies of walking without pain.

Heather Barry Kappes, a management professor at the London School of Economics, has published similar research with Oettingen. I asked Kappes why fantasies hamper progress, and she told me that they dull the will to succeed: “Imagining a positive outcome conveys the sense that you’re approaching your goals, which takes the edge off the need to achieve.”
Hm. Maybe this subject is political...
In a provocative new analysis, Oettingen and her colleagues have suggested that public displays of positive thinking may even predict downturns in major macroeconomic outcomes. They used a text-analysis program to measure the tone of articles in USA Today between 2007 and 2009, and found that especially positive articles predicted a downturn in the Dow Jones Industrial Average between a week and a month later. The researchers also analyzed all twenty-one U.S. Presidential inaugural addresses between 1933 and 2009, and found that Presidents who waxed optimistic about the future saw a rise in unemployment and a slowdown in economic growth during their terms in office.
Can't you visualize George W. Bush telling Tony Blair to think happy thoughts about the upcoming war in Iraq?

If you keep your chin up, your chin becomes easier to punch. Instead of constantly forcing yourself to think happy thoughts (out of a secret fear that Billy Mumy will send you into the cornfields of entrepreneurial failure), why not follow a more practical philosophy? Nous devons cultiver notre jardin, dudes.
Comments:
Wow. A major pet peeve of mine too.

Reality is that sometimes you're just f**ked. And you explain your situation to someone and they say, "I'm sure that it will just work out fine." Why are they sure? On what factual or experiential basis is this comment based upon? It's just a saying that their parents said to them when they were kids. And thinking that way can prevent a person from examining the situation and coming up with a reality based plan of action. And if the reality is that you're just f**ked, then maybe it's better to live in reality than quoting pablum which keeps you living in delusion.

If there's any benefit to the idea, it would be that it doesn't help to dwell on your f**kedness. Repeating the same negative thoughts until they become a well worn neural pathway in your brain, is bad for a person. But there are techniques to address this situation head on. Techniques based upon recognition of the problem, such as meditation. Using mindfulness to learn to suppress repetitive thought patterns which can be harmful. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (Post Trauma Syndrome) is an example here.

As for politicians, people don't like to be told that they're f**ked. After all, for a huge portion of our population, denial is the default strategy for dealing with problems. Just look at our collective response to our planet's accelerating climate instability.
 
Hope is the most poisonous of all emotions. It was the most awful of horrors, which is why it was the last to remain in Pandora's box.
 
Well, you know what they say about the laws of thermodynamics.

First Law: You can't win.

2d Law: You can't even break even.

3rd Law: You can't quit the game.
 
Yes and how is the hope and change working for everyone. I was wondering the other day with the lack of critical thinking be taught the sheeple will have no idea they're being lead down the path of doom. Oh right it's already being done.
 
A good book on this hokum is Barbara Ehrenreich's Bright-Sided. I can tell you from personal experience this crap is the bane of cancer patients. I wanted to punch my first oncologist in the mouth when he started out instructing me on keeping a positive attitude before I even realized I was sick. WTF? I fired the moron within the week.
 
Hope is political pabulum for an infantilized nation.
—Joe Bageant
 
I like snug.bug's comment. I'll think positive thoughts about Google and do a test here of which handle accompanies this post.
 
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