The Pitfalls of Positive Thinking

October 28, 2014 | 13 comments


I found an interesting article on positive thinking that gives the upbeat in heart some significant issues to consider. “The Problem with Positive Thinking,” by Oettingen, printed in the New York Times, October 26, 2014.

The author points out that positive thinking does have positive effects. It’s a lot better than negative thinking. But there can be bad effects too. Significantly, that when one expects a result to occur from merely holding a positive thought they are less likely to take corrective actions to reach the desired goal. Their thinking goes into a semi-fantasy world that believes certain things are happening that are not happening. And results are not forth coming.

For the student of Christian Science there is a lesson to reap from this observation. It’s important that affirmations of truth are not modes of positive thinking. For a reformative effect, prayer needs to be backed up by genuine spiritual understanding and willingness to reform when and where needed.

For instance, the words, “I am a strong and able child of God,” is a truth, but when saying the words we need to examine whether our words grew out of understanding what it means to be a strong able child of God, or are they words with no understanding? If we’re still ignorant on what it means to be a strong able child of God, we need to be honest about that and strive for the proper understanding. This is where the reformative action happens, in the pursuit of a higher understanding. Once reached, the truthfulness of our words is confirmed by improvement. But if our words are only positive thinking, we don’t seek the improvement. We stay in a mental fantasy land of believing we’re already there without taking the necessary steps to make the demonstration.

Oettingen wrote, “Positive thinking fools our minds into perceiving that we’ve already attained our goal, slackening our readiness to pursue it.”

So, positive thinking may be a start, but the need is for understanding—spiritual understanding that sorts out the wrong from the right, and mightily sides with the right.

The article is easy to read through.

“The Problem with Positive Thinking”

13 thoughts on “The Pitfalls of Positive Thinking”

  1. Thanks Evan! The thought has been coming to me lately how important it is to use the proper technique/method when giving a Christian Science prayerful treatment. Just like in tennis you strive to learn the proper technique of hitting a forehand or backhand or serve, it’s important to do the same in Christian Science. So I really appreciate you pointing out the proper technique to use when affirming the truth and I would love to see more blogs on other examples of using proper techniques when praying or giving Christian Science treatments!

  2. I have been asking myself certain questions lately and this post has answered them! Thanks Evan for your insightful ideas .

  3. Thank you Evan for sharing this so important point about affirmations and spirituality !
    I was thinking exactly about it in the last days.
    There’s an affirmation from a famous New Age writer that is: “Love is around every corner and joy fills my entire world.” or “I’m open and receptive to all the good and abundance in the universe and thank you Life”.
    If we understand that we are spiritual, immortal, perfect beings, forever linked to God Love then these affirmations are really valid. But only to repeat them without understanding the Principle that confirms these statements as truths, is just superficial type of spirituality and won’t bring you lasting results.
    Many times these type of affirmations are based still in a material way of thinking. We need to change the base to spiritual then it’s correct, right ? 😉

  4. Excellent! I hadn’t thought about this topic, but have experienced a similar thought from another source which stated that being good at something often held businesses back from becoming great because good was good enough. Thank you for pointing out the harmful effects positive thinking and the importance of doing the actual work of metaphysical healing not only by understanding the Truth but abiding by the truth in changing our behavior in demonstrating the truth in our daily lives.

  5. I have often thought about this subject…especially when I read in Hymn 304 reminding us of the dangers of complacency and pride…

    So, when day grows dark and cold,
    Tear or triumph harms,
    Lead Thy lambkins to the fold,
    Take them in Thine arms;
    Feed the hungry, heal the heart,
    Till the morning’s beam;
    White as wool, ere they depart,
    Shepherd, wash them clean.

  6. Positive thinking is mostly matter based. It really has no spiritual understanding behind it. It’s like a 3 year old child mimicking 2+2=4, but has no concept of what it means unless the child is shown by demonstration by taking 2 of anything and another 2 and taking the child’s finger and counting what you put out. Then the child understands and use it for further calculations.

  7. Thank you, Evan, for bringing this important idea to our attention. Wouldn’t it be a great opportunity for the NY Committee on Publication to address?

  8. Yes certainly, only if we truly and sincerely understand in depth (not superficially), without any doubts and accept 100% the truth, that we are able, strong, healthy and free, because God created us in His own image and likeness, the corrective action happens. Mental fantasy does not work. Thanks so much Evan for showing us so clearly the difference between positive thinking and spiritual understanding.

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