The Dangers Of Positive Thinking

Perhaps try harnessing the power of negative thought for a new path to happiness. Psych Your Mind writes:

When you walk through the self-help aisle of any bookstore, you are likely to see plenty of books based on the notion that positive thinking is the key to getting what you want. The message is clear: just keep telling yourself “I can!” and envision yourself accomplishing your goals. Success will surely come your way.

Not so, says years of psychological research. Certain kinds of positive thoughts, known in the research as fantasies, can actually be detrimental to performance. When we fantasize, we idealize our futures. Fantasies are not based on past experiences, meaning that we can have fantasies about achieving things for which we have no training or practice.

To understand why fantasies are a type of harmful positive thinking, let’s take a look at four negative consequences of them.

1. Reduced energy

Generating positive fantasies about desired outcomes can sap energy. For example, researchers asked undergraduates to imagine that they won an essay contest. Those who fantasized about positive outcomes reported that they felt less energized than those who did not fantasize.

2. Mental, but not actual, attainment

Indulging in thoughts about a bright future can lead to “mental attainment” of that future: thinking as though you have achieved it.

3. Bad planning

This one’s pretty simple: if you only think about how positive your future might be and how easy it will be to get there, then you don’t plan for obstacles that might be in your way!

4. Pursuit of unfeasible goals

One problem with positive fantasies is that they don’t help people distinguish between feasible and unfeasible goals. When people fantasize about a positive future, they show levels of goal commitment that are independent of their expectations for achieving those goals.

9 Comments on "The Dangers Of Positive Thinking"

  1. I would always trust the word of an expert
    over my own experience
    I’m positive of that

  2. Jesus Borg | Aug 1, 2012 at 3:28 pm |

    The cartoonist R. Crumb spent a big chunk of his time drawing pictures of women with big asses and jerking off to them and then eventually he became a famous artist and all These big assed women wanted to have sex with him, so then he tried all the sexual fantasies on them in real life that he had previously dreamed up on paper. All his jerk off fantasies eventually came to pass. I mean very literally down to the minutest details.

    I guess the point of view of the Authors of this study is that instead of spending all his time fantasizing and  jerking off he should have developed his interpersonal skills and maybe consulted a dating coach and went out there and chased these women.

    But he didn’t really do that. He capitalized on how awkward and weird he was through autobigraphical comics, didn’t play by the rules, dissented against the establishment, became famous and let them come to him.  

    I liken it to sigil magic.

    • The only thing to get is money | Aug 1, 2012 at 8:48 pm |

      Cynicism for the win! Oh yeah! FUCK SELF HELP AND POSITIVITY! Stay awkward, live in misery, capitalize off of it and die in misery! The negative is the positive.

      *BTW cool anecdote on R.Crumb. I love his art and his penchant for big asses. I’m an ass man myself*

      • Jesus Borg | Aug 2, 2012 at 10:59 am |

        Plus he’s not dead and I hear not miserable, so he has that going for him. He lives in France, with wife and they both agree to fuck around once in a while and still stay together. Shes an artist too and does weird trippy art also. I am sure he grew as a person during his life, he has spiritual interests and is concerned about equality and envirnmental issues. He is also an avid musician. But I think there is much more to fantasizing than having it drain your energy because one study showed that in a clinical setting.

  3. Sounds great if for some reason you believe positive thinking and fantasy are one and the same….

  4. Brian Flowers | Aug 1, 2012 at 8:03 pm |

    No shit. You’ll never be disappointed if you’re always expecting the worst. You’ll ALWAYS be disappointed if you’re always anticipating the best!

    The key to a happy life: “Prepare for the worst, and hope for the best.” Always over-estimate your chance of failure (So you succeed more than you think you should). Always underestimate your income, and overestimate your expenses (So you always have plenty of money when you need it). Try to make friends and start relationships, but expect people to hate you (worst case is they live up to your expectations!) And always underestimate how much you can get done in a day (So there’s always time to relax!)

  5. Harryheck | Aug 2, 2012 at 12:44 am |

    thesis 11

  6. thedreamtime | Aug 2, 2012 at 2:32 am |

    If you only base yourself on previous experience, it’s not likely you’ll do anything new or revolutionary. It’s the “what if…” kind of thinking, however impractical, that brings about innovation. If you’re too scared of dreaming stuff up because you’re afraid you’ll disappoint yourself then by all means stay “safe”…! It’s unfortunate but not everyone’s meant to change the world.

    • thedreamtime | Aug 2, 2012 at 2:36 am |

      BTW: A great book about this is “New Think” by Edward deBono, talks about the whole “logic vs lateral thinking” thing. Sometime’s it’s better to be “wrong” on purpose and to skip some logical steps, making a few leaps and then figuring out how to get there logically in case the result is any good, as opposed to always having to be “right” every single step of the way…

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