Featured Inspirational Story - April and May 2016
I am a strong believer in the power of positive thinking, which is the title of a best-selling book published in 1952 by Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, a controversial preacher and pastor who popularized the idea that if you can change your attitude, you can change your life. He urged people to consciously train themselves to be optimistic and enthusiastic, to believe in themselves, to refuse to dwell on negative thoughts, and to visualize success. He also vigorously advocated forgiveness, gratitude, and building one's own character.
Who could argue with that? Apparently, the entire psychiatric community. His theories evoked universal criticism from psychiatrists, who labeled his advice shallow, simplistic, and possibly dangerous. They believed that, ultimately, those who tried his methods would end up disillusioned and worse off than before. He was labeled a confidence man and a charlatan.
I was surprised to discover that even Dr. Martin Seligman, the father of the 'Positive Psychology' movement in 1998, nearly a half century after Dr. Peale's book, vociferously sought to distinguish 'positive thinking' from 'positive psychology.' He called positive thinking an 'unproven and dangerous' armchair activity.
Certainly these are legitimate concerns that some people might be so taken by the 'self-hypnosis' of positive thinking that they foolishly or naively ignore risks and deny demonstrable negative realities, but these concerns are no better documented than Dr. Peale's claims. In fact, Dr. Seligman and his colleagues launched scientific research proving the huge value of positive attitudes and optimism in producing happiness and mental well-being.
Perhaps Dr. Peale oversold his theories, but millions of people believe that his message gave them a new strategy that made them happier and more successful. Clearly, extreme unreflective optimism can mask risks that need to be considered by prudent people, but I suspect more people suffer because of negativism than optimism.
Even today, I find these Peal-isms appealing and useful:
Written by Michael Josephson
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