Rich Evans, former Committee on Publication for Arizona
With ten kids, I find positive reinforcement indispensible. They gain confidence from honest recognition of the good work that they do. Positive thinking certainly seems more helpful than negative thinking. But it falls short of real help at times and, as some note, it can feed off delusion rather than inspired understanding. Not ideal.
In a recent article by Bob Carden, “How positive thinking can trip into costly delusion”, published in the Arizona Daily Star (special to the Washington Post)*, “positivity” is readily panned. His basis is the duping that occurs when unreasoned positive expectations spur financial ruin…the kinds of ruin we have seen from the frenzy around economic bubbles or “get rich” scams.
Carden interestingly attributes the founding of positive thinking to the 19th century spiritualist, Phineas Quimby. Quimby sought to heal physical maladies from a positive energy, albeit through physical touching and a belief in some transference of magnetism through water thought to cure. His method wasn’t particularly spiritual, and certainly did not attribute any healing to a divine influence or power. This left his patients in a personally dependent position. That seems more downside than upside.
Whether one thinks negatively or positively, being dependent on the mind of any person, even oneself, is risky. My kids rightly don’t make decisions based merely on what I say to them, but rather on what they know to be a wise choice from all they have experienced. Also, I don’t think they want to rest merely on their own limited opinions and inexperience. So, when in a negative thought pattern, to whom or what does one appeal? Even when in a positive thought pattern, where is the foundation that removes the risk of reversal?
I was raised with plenty of positive support and good friends to “be there” when I needed a boost. But after college in the Peace Corps, far away from parents and friends, I needed healing of malaria and, instinctive for me, I turned to prayer or affirmation of a source of support beyond human opinions… let’s call it a sense of drawing on universal love and spiritual law that I know as God.
When I returned suddenly from the Peace Corps, after a complete recovery from malaria entirely through reliance on prayer (not mere positive thinking) and a growing understanding of the universal, regenerative power of divine Love, I faced the prospect of applying to law school out of cycle. It was April. Most law school admissions were closed for the following fall. I hadn’t taken the LSATs. I hadn’t been awake for an entire day for over a month. I arrived in country for temporary quarantine on Tuesday. The last test for late admissions was Saturday. I was in San Francisco; the testing center that would take me on an exception basis was Northwestern Law School in Chicago. I flew in Friday night, packed a bag lunch and left at dawn to arrive early and take care of the unusual, untimely registration for the all-day exam.
Positive thought is certainly more helpful than pessimism, or I might never have tried to pull this off. But there needed to be more. There was no cheering section, no magnetic head rubbing to make it through this experience. I had learned in the healing of malaria to depend on a spiritual and divine sense of calm and power, the stillness of prayer, to overcome whatever doubts I had and whatever physical challenges might come along to defeat completing the day successfully. That deep turning to prayer in advance of the exam resulted in a successful day in every way.
Being positive is useful, so long as we aren’t being gullible. But stepping up to a sense of divine law that governs us all, like the law of aerodynamics governs all that flies, we find a source outside of ourselves that is much more than positive thinking…it is universally present and powerful and brings results without the risk of delusion.
*The Arizona Daily Star, Sunday, April 13, 2014
Published by the Arizona Silver Belt newspaper April 30, 2014