Feedback Friday: The Positive Thinking Uproar, Part 2

Positive thinking alone just isn’t enough to change your station in life. That’s what Michael Masterson said in his recent article “Why Positive Thinking Doesn’t Work.” This topic has caused quite a ruckus among your fellow ETR readers. We printed a few of their comments last week. Here’s more:

“I just finished reading your article ‘Why Positive Thinking Doesn’t Work.’ Thank you! Finally, I am redeemed! I grew up in a family with two really negative parents. My siblings and I all have varying degrees of negative attitudes ranging from ‘not-too-terribly-negative’ right down to yours ‘the-glass-is-always-half-empty’ truly. I don’t want to be one of those people who blame where they are in life on their parents, but…

“I have spent a lifetime drowning in mediocrity (and I am in my 40s), all the while devouring positive-thinking books. I think I’ve read them all, or at least all the so-called ‘important’ ones. And the routine has always been the same: Read the book. Get excited about the possibilities. And about an hour later, return to my accustomed way of thinking

“I’m not saying that anyone should resign themselves to being negative. Putting a positive perspective on things is always preferable, but it has to be rooted in reality. The explanation you gave for how and why people think positive is right on the money. Furthermore, the only credible way we have of believing in the validity of something is to look at the scientific studies. And you are so right, there are a lot of published studies on the power of visualization. Of all the techniques I’ve come across, this one is by far the most studied AND the most promising.

“Thank you for enlightening people and legitimizing my opinion.”


Studio City, CA

“I like the ETR newsletter. Great food for thought. I’ve got a few comments about the article titled ‘Why Positive Thinking Doesn’t Work.’

“I’ve studied and participated in positive thinking techniques for several years now, and have never come away thinking that proponents only teach people to stand in front of a mirror and repeat mantras as a (or the) way of changing their lives. Moreover, I have been taught to utilize visualization as one of the ways to overcome the negative thoughts that stop me from believing I should take action. I have learned through positive thinking that education without action is entertainment. I’m going to suggest that your bias against self-improvement programs that carry a label of positive thinking has stopped you from looking at them deeply enough to find that they agree with the behavioral therapy techniques you sell.”

David Milliken

Wilksville, OH

“Thanks for the perspective in ETR regarding positive thinking.

“In my work with a women’s college soccer team, I have to help the vast majority of players overcome the way they currently think about their performance so that they can improve. They many times have a negative self-concept regarding their on-field performance, and I have put many methods to the test to help them change their thinking.

“I do believe that positive thinking ALONE will not change performance thinking (and therefore create performance improvement) but that there needs to be a basis of preparation and real accomplishment to build from.

“I am looking for some clarification, though. Isn’t visualization another form of positive thinking? You haven’t really done anything yet. You are creating a positive performance in your mind and ‘running the tape’ over and over.

“Also, isn’t using Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, and, to a certain extent, Matt Furey as examples of ‘visualizers’ doing what you said proponents of positive thinking do? Taking an already positive thinker and using them as an example?”

R. Hanson

Puyallup, WA

“ETR is a daily ritual with me, so I feel okay about writing regarding the article by Michael about positive thinking. And he’s right, to a degree. I’m not sure he’s read The Secret or watched The Secret Movie, because his assumption that positive thinking is all there is to it is flawed.

“James Arthur Ray, one of the presenters in the movie, said on a national talk show shortly after the movie came, out ‘If all you’re going to do is think that you’re rich and then sit back and wait for it to happen, you’ll starve to death.’

“What The Secret does offer is a combination of positive thinking plus visualization plus focused action. If you’re not willing to visualize and then act on what you’re visualizing, then, yes, positive thinking isn’t worth a hoot.

“By the way, Joe Vitale (another presenter in The Secret Movie and one of the best copywriters on the planet) has not ‘always been successful.’ In fact, he’s very candid about having been homeless and then living in poverty for years. And he’s a strong proponent of positive thinking coupled with visualization and quick action.

“Keep up the good work, folks. And Michael, thanks for the mental exercise.”

Rev. Bill Haynes

Petersburg, WV