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What is “Positive Thinking”?

Today’s guest post is from Travis Mamone, a.k.a. The Boy with the Thorn in His Side. He is also the co-host of Something Beautiful podcast, which I had the privilege of being interviewed for recently. Travis is a free lance writer by night. He has a passion to express his heart and struggles. I hope you enjoy today’s post. Psst- I’m also posting over at Travis’ blog today with a letter I wrote to God.

Hey guys, I’m Travis, a.k.a. The Boy with the Thorn in His Side (yes, I like the Smiths).  In keeping with Nicole’s deconstruction of the self-esteem movement, I want to talk about the idea of “positive thinking.” 

Firstly, I need to point out that I am not talking about cognitive therapy.  Cognitive therapy, for those who don’t know, is a method of psychotherapy that teaches you to challenge the negative thoughts that plague your mind and ruin your life.  I’ve been in cognitive therapy for years, and it has helped heal a lot of psychological wounds.  So before anyone raises any objections, when I say “positive thinking,” I am not referring to a legitimate form of psychotherapy.

When I say “positive thinking,” I am referring to The Secret.

No doubt many of you remember The Secret, the big hit self-help book that suckered . . . I mean “inspired” millions of readers.  I’ve never read the book, but from what I gather, it basically says if you think positive thoughts and visualize what you want, you’ll send out good vibrations (cue the Beach Boys) across the universe (cue the Beatles) and you’ll get what you want in no time.  Or something like that.

Now this isn’t really much of a “secret,” because self-help books have been saying this stuff for years (see Norman Vincent Peale’s The Power of Positive Thinking).  However, as Dave Chappelle points out, try telling a starving African that he just needs to think about food and see how that goes!

Although there is one thing the whole “positive thinking” movement has right:  our thoughts do affect us.  In cognitive therapy, I have learned that our thoughts affect our feelings, and then our feelings influence our behavior.  For example, let’s say you think you’re stupid and you can’t anything right.  The more you think you’re stupid, the lousier you feel, and then you won’t make any effort because you know you’re going to automatically fail at whatever you do.

I think this is why the Bible says to make every thought obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5).  It’s not so that God can shower us with everything our heart desires; it’s because if we aren’t careful we’ll start believing that the devil’s lies are gospel truth. 

“God doesn’t love you.”

“You’re pathetic.”

“You’re a waste of sperm and egg.”

I don’t know about you, but I used to believe in those lies.  In fact, very recently I was ready to walk away from the faith because I thought that God hated me.  Thankfully God stepped in, so now I know the truth.

Hopefully this clears up the idea of positive thinking.  Real positive thinking isn’t some Jedi mind trick that will give you everything you want; it’s remembering that you are God’s beloved child.

Have you ever tried to just think good, happy thoughts? Have you ever struggled with feeling like God dislikes you, is out to get you, or has forgotten you? How do you battle lies in your mind?