Author Topic: Is positive thinking negative?  (Read 14137 times)

KhedrubGyatso

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Is positive thinking negative?
« on: January 30, 2012, 03:28:10 PM »
The 21st Century American ideology is the belief that everything will turn out all right in the end if we remain optimistic. This is the dominant mode of thinking spreading across the world which influences everything from business decision to cancer treatment.
A writer and sociologist who was diagnosed with breast cancer dismissed it as ‘ delusional ’ and is now challenging the notion that a positive attitude increased chances of survival. She interviewed motivational speakers whose message over and over again to her was ,‘ You can have whatever you want  so long as you focus your thoughts on it.’
She said that the success rate for cancer patients was so low that it seemed to point to the opposite of what these people were saying. She also mentioned about the 2008 global financial meltdown , which amongst other factors she attributed to optimistic people over borrowing and optimistic banks ( biggest casualty ) over lending, believing  things will turn better.
As Buddhists, we believe in cause and effect. Is positive thinking negative according to actual experience by the writer? This contradicts the law of karma. Is she missing something in her research and claims even though the arguments seemed rather convincing?

negra orquida

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Re: Is positive thinking negative?
« Reply #1 on: January 30, 2012, 04:02:24 PM »
I guess positive thinking does help improve one's feelings / mood... but positive thinking is nothing if there is no action to follow up on it.

Positive thinking can slap you in the face if there is no valid basis for being positive. In this case, positive thinking or being optimistic would become overestimating ourselves or being over confident.  Very good examples would be very "optimistic" American Idol contestants who really are terrible singers, they go on stage, deliver an awful and painful performance, and they get so pissed off and depressed when the judges tell them they cannot sing.

According to Wikipedia "Being optimistic, in the typical sense of the word, ultimately means one expects the best possible outcome from any given situation".

In Buddhism, we are taught to be positive all the time. For example the 8 Verses of Thought Transformation, it is all about turning a negative situation (from a mundane point of view) to a positive situation where we can use it as a precious opportunity to practice Dharma.  The first 7 verses are on compassion, with the last verse on wisdom.  So the important ingredient to optimism is that it must be balanced out with wisdom in order to be helpful to us.

diamond girl

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Re: Is positive thinking negative?
« Reply #2 on: January 31, 2012, 05:26:23 AM »
Personally, positive thinking is a positive virtue..and I am not being cheeky here.

Have you ever had a conversation with someone who just says "No" and everything is just negative? The tone is monotone, there is no excitement, it is like talking to a brick wall with a mouth to just say "No" People like these do get themselves into depression as the smallest matter/problem will be blown out of proportion.

Several years ago I saw a dvd called The Secret, which since then have become a number 1 international hit. I prescribe to this power of source theory. The power of source is positive thinking with the substance and focus to make it happen. When one has the power of source, and complemented with basic positive thinking, this person will generate the actions and plans to make things happen with results.

Therefore, I agree that positive thinking in it "cheerleading" form i.e with no substance is only half way good and may not generate the actions. This then makes me relate to the teachings of Buddhism and what has been already mentioned. Karma is a done deal, but we can create the causes to have other results if we practice with purpose and create the merits to purify. It sounds pretty basic but it is really that simple.

Positive thinking with clear motivation creates the causes for results - good results. With Buddhism in our minds too, we can create the results to benefit many others. Thus, the people behind this website are amazingly positive and purposeful. Look at the results! THANK YOU.

yontenjamyang

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Re: Is positive thinking negative?
« Reply #3 on: January 31, 2012, 08:20:18 AM »
Is positive thinking negative? My answer will be no. But let's qualify what positive thinking is not.

Positive thinking is not just thinking about the outcome of something and sit back waiting for it to happen. Positive thinking is not falling into someone else's scam or delusional thinking as in the 2008 Global Financial meltdown. Positive thinking cannot be applied very well when it involves others unless one can convince others to think the same with the same positive thinking.

For anything to happen it needs positive action. I read that from thought we have speech, then action, then it becomes a habit and then it becomes destiny. So what it means is that we need to translate the thought to action before it can become a destiny ie reality. So if one has an idea (positive thinking), then speak to enough people about it to generate support, put the idea into action; do the action enough to become part of you that it becomes a habit so much so that it then becomes destiny or reality.

That is how positive action works. Unfortunately, it is also how negative thinking works and it is far more easier for negative thoughts to manifest into reality.

Cheers!

Positive Change

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Re: Is positive thinking negative?
« Reply #4 on: January 31, 2012, 04:48:34 PM »
Personally positive thinking for me really means realizing how one came to this negative point and coming to terms with it by making the best of the situation and by NO WAY does it mean that one negates or ignores the fact that the situation is negative. That to me is NOT positive thinking!

Hence to answer your question, I do not think positive thinking per se is negative. In fact if realizing one's situation and trying to counter it is in fact positive and though sounding simple enough is not easy to practice.

lightning

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Re: Is positive thinking negative?
« Reply #5 on: February 01, 2012, 03:28:33 AM »
Positve thinking is of course, definitely not negative : ??? But over-confident and dismissal of warnings and possible danger is considered harmful.

triesa

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Re: Is positive thinking negative?
« Reply #6 on: February 01, 2012, 03:56:51 AM »
What is positive thinking? I find this explanation on one of the webiste.

"Positive thinking is a mental attitude that admits into the mind thoughts, words and images that are conductive to growth, expansion and success. It is a mental attitude that expects good and favorable results. A positive mind anticipates happiness, joy, health and a successful outcome of every situation and action. Whatever the mind expects, it finds."

But like what PositiveChange has just mentioned and which I agree totally that this should not negate us to evaluate the negativies of the real situation, but by applying positive mental attitude to get the best possible outcome of the negative situation. To me, this is positive thinking.

When a situation is bad, negative thoughts do not really help much but will only make us feel worse and more depressed. The problem in most of us when confronted with negative and unfavourble situations which is always overwhelming, is how to change the axile of our mental attitude from negative to positive. It is quite common to hear people say : "Think positive!" but then the receipient would often sink back in his depressive mood becasue he thinks the other person does not really understand the full extent of his situation.

Positive thinking is not negative, to continue to change the axile of our inner mental attitude will lead to positive actions and eventually positive results, if not in this life, it will give us good results in future lifes as we rehabiutuate our thoughts, the law of casue and effect. In order to turn the mind toward the positive, inner work and training are required. Attitude and thoughts do not change overnight. Knowing that we have done our best and not moan about the results over and over again is also positive thinking.

Another reason why we like to be around with people with positive thought :

Positive and negative thinking are actually both contagious.
All of us affect, in one way or another, the people we meet. This happens instinctively and on a subconscious level, through thoughts and feelings transference, and through body language. People sense our aura and are affected by our thoughts, and vice versa. Is it any wonder that we want to be around positive people and avoid negative ones? People are more disposed to help us if we are positive, and they dislike and avoid anyone broadcasting negativity.

So it is all for good to start thinking positive!

Ensapa

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Re: Is positive thinking negative?
« Reply #7 on: February 01, 2012, 07:46:03 AM »
There are 2 types of positive thinking: the thinking that one should improve one's situation and self assurance. The first type of positive thinking is good as it encourages growth, improvement and change while the second type increases complacency and stops growth. Therefore when people mention positive thinking its always a good idea to ask and find out if it is the first one or the second one. These days it is usually the second one passed off as positive thinking and it is usually easier to just accept and 'see the positive' side of the situation even though it is in reality bad and something needs to be done about it rather than to actually do something about it.

Klein

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Re: Is positive thinking negative?
« Reply #8 on: February 01, 2012, 09:04:50 AM »
"She said that the success rate for cancer patients was so low that it seemed to point to the opposite of what these people were saying. She also mentioned about the 2008 global financial meltdown , which amongst other factors she attributed to optimistic people over borrowing and optimistic banks ( biggest casualty ) over lending, believing  things will turn better.

As Buddhists, we believe in cause and effect. Is positive thinking negative according to actual experience by the writer? This contradicts the law of karma. Is she missing something in her research and claims even though the arguments seemed rather convincing?"

If I understand the question correctly. the word "negative" used in this context refers to not having favourable results. In this case, positive thinking does not guarantee positive or favourable results. Therefore, my answer to "is positive thinking negative?" would be both YES and NO.

Karma (ie. cause and effect) has many attributes. Just by thinking alone is not enough to create the results that we may want because we could have created other causes in the past that would interfere with the goals that we're trying to achieve currently.

shugdentruth

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Re: Is positive thinking negative?
« Reply #9 on: February 02, 2012, 06:18:04 PM »
I was once told by a Lama that negative thinking attracts bad spirits. Because bad spirits have the same negative energy. So, from a spiritual come supernatural point of view, I try very hard to keep a positive outlook. Perhaps if something really good came along and we are very negative about it, it could transform that something positive into something negative??

DS Star

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Re: Is positive thinking negative?
« Reply #10 on: February 03, 2012, 12:25:04 AM »
Really, can "Positive Thinking" be "negative"? By logic, is it possible?

Lets look at their definitions:
Positive =   
1. tending towards progress or improvement; moving in a beneficial direction
2. Measured or moving forward or in a direction of increase or progress

So logically how can it be negative when we tell ourselves to "progress, improve, moving in a beneficial direction"?

"Positive thinking is a mental attitude that admits into the mind thoughts, words and images that are conductive to growth, expansion and success. It is a mental attitude that expects good and favorable results. A positive mind anticipates happiness, joy, health and a successful outcome of every situation and action. Whatever the mind expects, it finds."

Now... the point on "expectations" comes into picture...

"Positive thinking" becomes "negative" according to KhedrubGyatso because it gives "false hope" to cancer patients and also causing optimistic people to made "bad decisions".

A writer and sociologist who was diagnosed with breast cancer...

...She said that the success rate for cancer patients was so low that it seemed to point to the opposite of what these people were saying. She also mentioned about the 2008 global financial meltdown , which amongst other factors she attributed to optimistic people over borrowing and optimistic banks ( biggest casualty ) over lending, believing  things will turn better...

KhedrubGyatso seems to be convinced by the cancer stricken writer's theory...

...Is positive thinking negative according to actual experience by the writer? This contradicts the law of karma. Is she missing something in her research and claims even though the arguments seemed rather convincing?

Well, if we really believe in the Law of Karma, we would not have this kind of doubt.

"Thinking" is already a form of "action" which creates 'karma'. By thinking positive, we are planting positive karma seeds in our mind-stream, we are providing positive 'conditions' for positive karma to come into ripening just like farmers clearing away weeds in order for their crops to grow.

Positive 'energies' as the 'Cause' will attract positive seeds as the 'Effect'.  So how can positive energy attract negative things to come? That is not logical.

The slow 'success rate' of cancer patient not necessary means it is 'negative'. To Samsaric views, getting healed from sickness is considered as 'positive' but what is 'real healing'?

The patient may not be cured from his/her cancer but as long as the patient has a calmer and happier mind, it is a positive result. A positive mind will definitely help the patients to face their final moment in peace and thus help them to go to a good rebirth.

What is the point of having a healthy body if the mind never in peace and happy?

Being optimistic is not bad. It became negative only when we are 'over' optimistic with false hope fueled by our own greediness and wrong analysis (especially on the case of 2008 global financial meltdown).
Should we still blame 'positive thinking'?

Last point: thinking positive gives us at least 50% chance, for if we continue to fight, we may succeed. If we don't, our chance is 0%. So, are we giving up even before fighting?

Again, copying Triesa:

So it is all for good to start thinking positive!

jeremyg

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Re: Is positive thinking negative?
« Reply #11 on: February 19, 2012, 11:21:36 AM »
I agree with DS Star. Thinking negatively opens up our negative karma, and thus thinking positively opens up our good karma. For example if we think or have the notion that tomorrow is going to be a good day, we are not going to run into any problems, everything will be smooth, then it is more likely to be that way. However this is reliant on us actually having the good Karma for that day to go smoothly.

But yes, thinking positively or negatively can open up our karma in positive or negative ways. So watch out what your thoughts are!

Midakpa

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Re: Is positive thinking negative?
« Reply #12 on: February 20, 2012, 01:53:58 AM »
In everything that we do, with our body, speech and mind, karma is at work. When we fall ill, it is the negative karma which opens and whether we recover or not depends on what class of illness it is. Some illnesses go away by themselves without medicine, some are curable with medicine, others require special spiritual techniques taught in Buddhism such as the Medicine Buddha practice. Some illnesses have a karmically determined irreversible nature and no amount of medicine or spiritual techniques will help. So it is difficult actually to determine which category of illness one is suffering from until we've tried everything and witnessed the results.

For Buddhists, since karma is not static, positive thinking with dharma practice may be able to lessen the suffering. For non-Buddhists, positive thinking, along with their own religious beliefs brings hope and renewed energy to overcome suffering, be it illnesses or business problems. For the non-religious, it still helps, for there is a certain belief in themselves.

Having said that, the laws of cause and effect cannot be denied. So how do we practice positive thinking in the case of people who fall into the 4th category of illness which is karmically inevitable? Or the businessmen who lose everything?

If one is a Buddhist practitioner, and is able to see things as they are, it is possible to die without fear or suffering. If this is not ultimate positive thinking, what is?

vajratruth

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Re: Is positive thinking negative?
« Reply #13 on: February 21, 2012, 05:48:08 AM »
Firstly, it is always better to stay positive than negative in any situation. A positive mind creates the consciousness for positive things to happen. It keeps our mind open to possibilities and opportunities. A negative mind is defeated anyway.

However, it is incorrect to assume that positive thinking alone must necessarily yield the desired result. For example, if I am sick with advanced cancer but I maintain a positive mental attitude, it is wrong for me to expect that perhaps the cancer won't kill me. I think this is where the question as captioned came from - the expectation that by merely being positive, we expect good outcomes.

We need also to remember the presence and effect of karma i.e. if I do not have the karma to have a particular outcome or result, then very little of my positive thinking is going to yield that result. Having said that, positive thinking (when it begins with a positive motivation) does develop into positive actions that may create the cause for my positive karma to ripen. Similarly negative thoughts may just as well trigger the ripening of negative karma.

Aurore

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Re: Is positive thinking negative?
« Reply #14 on: February 23, 2012, 04:30:36 PM »
I used to think positive all the time in case such as performing well at school, etc WITHOUT much effort. I felt that there is some universal power that will conspire to help me by the power of being positive. (ok, i was reading too much of stuff like Alchemist back then). Soon, I realize it doesn't work ALL the time.

There are people who depend their lives on just thinking positive and hope that everything will be alright. See ... the key here is "HOPE". Just thinking positive alone is not enough. So this kind of thinking can be negative. I think we are just lucky till our good karma runs out. Hence, thinking positive itself is not enough. It must be put into action.

Anyways, positive thinking shouldn't be seen as negative. No action is better than negative thinking which can lead to negative action.

What we think, we say. What we say, we do. What we do becomes us. We define our destiny.

What we think, we become.