Dispelling the “Positive Thinking” Myth

The chatter fell silent, replaced by an eerie hush. The only sound that could be heard in the room was the clink of metal against glass, as makeshift pendulums swung from left to right in the confines of a wine glass. Course participants held onto the pendulums and practised “thought directions” which are interpreted by the body and quickly converted into actions, causing “uncontrolled” swinging of the pendulum.   
This pendulum exercise is designed to show people that the mind and the body are part of the same system, i.e. Thoughts can cause actions and actions can cause thoughts. This bi-directional system between brain and body is the foundational principle of the “Power of Positive Thinking” teachings.

The “Power of Positive Thinking” teaching centres on affirmations and mantras that help the speaker to change his or her way of thinking to a more positive mindset. We are taught that the affirmations, once repeated enough, will change the way we think, which in turn will change the way we act, resulting in the success we desire – more or less.
For most people, the whole “Power-of-Positive-Affirmations” is a bit of a hit-and-miss-adventure in terms of; they forget to do the affirmations, they continue to talk negative at crucial moments, they give up on the affirmations and worst of all: they often have poor or incorrectly constructed affirmations. Asking people “What kind of success do you want in your life?” produce a common answer – people answer with a long list of what they do not want!  “Oh I don’t want a broken marriage or rebellious children, and I don’t want to struggle with cash flow.”
On closer inspection you will notice how that the results they tell you they don’t want – are happening in their lives as they tell you. Have we complicated “Positive Thinking” so much that we can’t get it to work? Do we even understand the concept of positive thinking? These questions take me back to the exercise at the start of this article - mind and body are part of the same system.
Let’s start our understanding on the same page by explaining the difference in “Positive Thinking” for a Linguist (someone who studies language) and you. Below are two statements, please read them now:
I do not like you
I hate you
Now that you have read the two statements, please select the positive statement ...

Did you select – I do not like you – as the positive statement?  Most people read the two statements and immediately decide that – I hate you – is charged with strong negative emotions. Whereas – I do not like you – is less charged, maybe a little friendlier emotionally. If we were creating positive emotions, selecting – I do not like you – would be correct, but for changing mind sets and creating successful behaviour – it is in fact – incorrect.
As a Linguist, the positive statement is – I hate you. The linguist does not assess the emotion of the statement but rather looks for the action within the sentence. I hate you – is a one direction, clear action, thus a positive sentence. Whereas – I do not like you – is made up of two different actions:
I do like you (the brain has to formulate the positive action first, by creating a picture of what it would have to do in order to “I do like you”)
Not (Once the brain has created the positive picture of “I do like you” the brain then has to reverse the activity, thus creating a second action within the sentence. This two-direction sentence is a “negative sentence” to which the brain responds poorly).
Imagine for a moment you are on the way out the door to the grocery shop and your spouse offers a list: Please bring the local newspaper and don’t forget to buy bread!

Your brain will remind you of the positive actions – which is in this example: bring the local newspaper and forget to buy bread! As annoyed as your spouse may be with your lack of response to his/her apparent request – your brain responded effectively to the real request. The brain got the message as – bring the local paper and forget the bread (not). By the time your brain figured out how to forget to buy bread, it could no longer apply the “not” part, because simply – the bread was already forgotten.
Our brain is designed to instantly respond to positive statements, and will use the entire system of mind and body to conform our outer world to our inner world.
Dispelling the myth of “Positive Thinking” is not an attempt to convince you that it is useless, but rather that it is powerful beyond comprehension. Taking “positive” out of the Strategy is not to stop you using affirmations, but rather to label the power of thoughts correctly and encourage you to take responsibility for how you construct your thoughts and words.
The “Power of Thinking” powerfully and efficiently uses our mind and body to make our tangible, physical world accurately represent and reflect our internal world. This article is not designed to say – “Positive Thinking will help you achieve the results you want “ – but rather – You are already a product of your thoughts! Isn’t it time to take ownership of this amazing “dream-weaver” machine called – The Power of Thinking?


  1. I worked with a coach once who would always tell his players what "not" to do right before they went on the field. He would say things like, "Do not drop this ball!" or "Do not miss your block!". We worked hard to help him re-phrase these statements to help his players perform more successfully. When he started saying things in the positive, his players performed better. Thank you for sharing your article.