By Nori Muster
Surrealist.org, original publication, copyright 2007
Original Kindle publication, copyright 2010
The author retains all rights to all versions of this book.
One Researcher's Dig
The History of Positive Thinking
How It Works
The Positive Thinking Dream
About the Author
About the Cover
I want to thank the people who helped me bring this book to completion, including: Paula Hassler, Kathryn Lancaster, R.N., David Cole, and Huw E-Maillard, MA, FCA, graduate of Said Business School at Oxford University, and expert in the literature of the powers of the mind.
One Researcher's Dig
I come from a family of philosophical positive thinkers, but only started to research the subject in 2002. America was reeling from the terror attacks of 9/11. TV news pundits and politicians proclaimed that 9/11 had changed everything. Refusing to accept the grim future of eternal war everybody else seemed to buy, I spent 2002 to 2004 reading positive thinking books, looking for ways to heal our collective wounds and nurture the peace loving side of America. I stated with a thorough study of the classics:
My Method, by Emile Coué (1922)
How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie (1936)
Think and Grow Rich, by Napoleon Hill (1937)
The Power of Positive Thinking, by Norman Vincent Peale (1952)
The Strangest Secret, by Earl Nightingale (1956)
Psycho-Cybernetics, by Maxwell Maltz, M.D., F.I.C.S. (1960)
I found that Americans misunderstood positive thinking and abused the process. Prominent national figures had turned it into a tool of manipulation. They treated citizens like we were ignorant children, declaring that we had to think positive and revere our leaders. If anybody attempted to criticize the leaders' wars or financial dealings, they told us we were anti-American. To fit in, we had to conform. In the years following 9/11, the leaders kept their critics off balance and afraid to make rational arguments.
Similar manipulation goes on in cults. Cult leaders may withhold information or try to convince their followers to ignore contradictions. It also happens in dysfunctional families that harbor embarrassing secrets of incest or family violence. The brainwashing went on in subtle ways, among friends, business colleagues who were afraid to criticize, and in the media, which bought into the leaders' political agenda to promote the War on Terror. Brainwashing in this sense means ignoring the truth to suit a narcissistic agenda. The leaders and mainstream media told us to forge ahead, wage the War on Terror, support our government, spend money to keep the economy going, and all would be well.
Enforced happiness is a form of repression. Society would take on Orwellian tones if everyone had to measure up to a standard of optimism no matter how bad things got. For example, if your neighbor's house burned to the ground, you would not tell them to look on the bright side. It might make you feel better if their grief went away immediately, but repressing pain and problems in the name of optimism is not rational and does not represent true positive thinking. Life is not always happy and carefree. It is not like those old black and white TV sitcoms Leave it to Beaver and The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet.
Real positive thinking is never forced or phony. You retain your right to grieve and make decisions based on your own common sense. No boss, preacher, author, politician, or peer group should try to tell you how to think. You are the only person who knows what's positive for you. Positive thinking grows from inner integrity and courage. It takes serious work to face life's challenges with a positive attitude. For example, recovering from the hell scape left in Manhattan after 9/11 has taken (and will take) more work than we originally may have thought.
In the years since 9/11, the world of literature dabbled with positive thinking, producing one significant book that captured the American imagination for a time
The Secret, by Rhonda Byrne (2006), became a huge best seller and a movie, but after the wave of optimism died out, things got worse. Many rejected the notion that thoughts could improve reality. Recent books that criticize positive thinking include Burying the Secret: The Road to Ruin Is Paved with Books about the Law of Attraction, by Carol Rutter (2008), and Brightsided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America, by Barbara Ehrenreich (2009).
The main reason positive thinking does not work for Americans anymore is that we carry subconscious shadow material that makes our minds automatically go to fear. It is like the old wise man who attained the power to create whatever he thought about. His first thought was, "What if I think of a tiger and it eats me up?" then a tiger came and ate him. After 9/11 I noticed a similar dynamic. People's own guilt and fear disabled their capacity to do anything about what they were afraid of, like a bad dream. The tigers we dreamed after 9/11 marked the first decade of the new century. Like any vicious cycle, the harder people tried to stop it, the worse things seemed to get. We became a nation of unhappy, crying children locked in a struggle with phantoms of our own imagination.
I knew there had to be a way to reverse the negative cycle and create a peaceful dream. I found hundreds of supportive quotes going back to Classical Greece, but a thought by contemporary visionary philosophe
John Dear guided my vision for this book. He said,
He also said, "We need to exercise our imaginations, and envision a new world, no matter how crazy others think we are." It is crazy because so many are hurting. Nevertheless, America needs its optimism. If we are to believe there is no new thought that can ameliorate our global predicament, then we are lost. Considering the spiral of negativity since 9/11 and the dire consequences we face if we continue to fall, do we just throw our fine history of positive thinking in the trash and forget it?
The trend is to criticize our government, cities, institutions - and even our families - and doubt that our struggles since 9/11 contain any value. There is much to learn, and if we could just get it, then we would stop our slide into a negative future. An appropriate dose of optimism will help. My intention in this book is to illuminate the true nature of positive thinking, clear its name, and restore it as a useful tool for all Americans, and all people in the new century.
The History of Positive Thinking
Origins in Western Civilization
The first Western philosopher to write about the power of mind was Plato (427-347 BC). "The Allegory of the Cave" in The Republic postulated that prisoners held inside a cave their whole lives would mistake the shadows on the walls for reality. Plato said that if the prisoners were to come out into the sunlight, they would see that the world is much different than they imagined. Plato made up the story to illustrate his observation that unenlightened people exist in a world of their own perceptions.
Aristotle expanded on Plato's theories, then about three hundred years later, the Neo-Platonists restated Plato and Aristotle's philosophy. More than a thousand years later, the philosophy had another revival when Greek and Arabic Neo-Platonist texts were translated, widely read, and studied during the Renaissance, especially in Florence. Following the Renaissance, the rise of science led to the Enlightenment in Europe, also called the Age of Reason or Age of Rationalism.
Science and reason had trumped authoritarian Church dogma for the first time in history, opening Europe up to a new age. People started to look to science to answer their questions about life and the universe. This coincided with a new age of religious thought, or new thought, because people started to consider ideas from Eastern religions and their own pre-Christian religions. The new thought movement of eighteenth century Europe came to America in the nineteenth century, in the vessel of American author Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882). He reinterpreted and restated the Greek philosophy, including in one of his most famous essays, Experience, where he said:
America's founding fathers were also optimists, but they left it to Ralph Waldo Emerson, renowned as our country's first celebrated author and scholar, to establish the power of mind in letters as a documented fact. Plus, Emerson was not content to just write books. He said talking about the truth was not enough. Empty words alone would never make people see through their own temperament. He went on a public speaking circuit that stirred people up and inspired a new genre of American writers and poets.
Religious Roots of Positive Thinking
During my research, I had it in my mind that positive thinking was secular. The influence of science in Europe, and the revival of Greek philosophy seemed to indicate that positive thinking was not a religion. However, one day in 2002 I found the religious roots of positive thinking.
One of the formative early religious works that influenced generations to follow was The Science of Mind, by Ernest Holmes (1887-1960). Holmes had based his opus on the works of Thomas Troward, an early new thought writer inspired by Ralph Waldo Emerson. The Science of Mind was first published in 1926, then was edited and republished under the same title in 1938. The 1938 version remains as the basis for all the Religious Science Churches, originally founded by Ernest Holmes.
During my study, I realized that positive thinking came from both secular and religious roots, and that it passes through both secular and religious streams at all times. The Greek philosophers spoke of the mind's ability to create reality, as did all the world's mystic traditions. Religion calls it reflection, meditation, and prayer. Religious and secular philosophers see the same phenomenon, just through different lenses, and they apply different frames.
Emerson was decidedly a religious figure, known as the first American Transcendentalist. He started his career as a Unitarian minister, and the Unitarian Universalist Church enabled his writing and public speaking career. With Emerson's cries for a renewal of spirit, it is easy to understand how he inspired a surge in new religious thought in America. Religions that evolved from his influence in the last half of the nineteenth century include the Church of Christian Science (1866), the Theosophical Society (1875), the Association of Unity Churches (1889), and a few dozen smaller sects.
New thought and positive thinking also filtered into mainstream Christianity in the late nineteenth century. American psychologist, author, and philosopher William James (1842-1910) observed "the advance of liberalism" in Christianity in the last half of the 1800's, which he described as a move away from "the morbidness [of] the old hell-fire theology." James called positive thinking "the religion of healthy-mindedness," and noted that positive thinkers prefer positive thoughts to negative. He said he recognized this tendency in the Wesleyan (Methodist) and Lutheran churches of his time.
The only problem was that superficial people of the time twisted the philosophy to discriminate against the poor. Religious authors wrote that if good thought produced success, then negative, impure, or "unlawful" thought must account for all disease, unhappiness, and failure. This led to the callous but common belief that victims were responsible for their own misfortune, due to their own negative thoughts (rather than the social status quo). The judgmental wing of the new thought movement put out a prolific amount of literature to support this belief. It was the American expression of Victorian era morality.
American author Samuel Clemens (1835-1910), known as Mark Twain, was active during those years, offering his observations and opinions on just abut every subject. Anyone who was reading the English language in the late 1800's probably read articles or books by Mark Twain.
Perhaps Twain saw himself in competition with the harbingers of positive thought, because he constantly took jabs at them, writing things like, "To do good is noble. To teach others to do good is nobler and less trouble," and, "Morals - I'd rather teach them than practice them any day." As if to counteract their influence, Twain wrote extensively on religion, even rewriting parts of the Bible to suit himself, such as his version of the Garden of Eden story from Genesis (The Diaries of Adam and Eve).
Twain is one of the most oft-quoted American authors of all time, loved for his running commentary on the human condition. He once said, "Etiquette requires us to admire the human race." Through his wit, Twain offered turn of the century readers a moderated view of new thought.
People accuse Twain of being bitter. However, most of his remorse came toward the end of his life when two of his daughters and his beloved wife died. His family was dear to him. In this passage he describes his daughter Susy's (and wife Olivia's) temperament:
In The Varieties of Religious Experience, William James described the positive thinker:
In many persons, happiness is congenital and irreclaimable. "Cosmic emotion" inevitably takes in them the form of enthusiasm and freedom. I speak not only of those who are animally happy. I mean those who, when unhappiness is offered or proposed to them, positively refuse to feel it, as if it were something mean and wrong.
New Thought vs. Fundamentalist Religion
New thought teachings had a lot in common with Christianity, especially concepts like the Golden Rule and the compassionate teachings of Jesus. The prophet David said, "As one thinketh in his heart, so is he," and Christian figures like St. Francis of Assisi believed in the divinity of nature and other new thought ideas. "New thought" simply refers to new interpretations of established religious ideas.
Dr. Robert Ellwood, professor emeritus of the University of Southern California (USC), has written many books on religion, spirituality, mysticism, theosophy, meditation, and new American religion movements of the 1950's and 1960's. In a 1997 lecture at the Philosophical Research Society entitled, "New Religious Movements," he identified the following differences between new thought religion and traditional religion:
New Thought vs. End-times Religions
Apart from new thought, another religious trend at the end of the nineteenth century was the widespread belief in an apocalypse that would bring the second coming of Christ. The Millerites, followers of William Miller (1782-1849), believed the end was near. Cyrus Scofield (1843-1921), author of the Scofield Bible, was a preacher who tied end-times prophecy to the twentieth century. Historian Paul Boyer offers a complete analysis of William Miller and Cyrus Scofield in his book, When Time Shall Be No More: Prophecy Belief in Modern American Culture (1992). Boyer describes the history of apocalyptic beliefs going back two thousand years.
The Seventh Day Adventists trace their roots back to that movement. Besides the Seventh Day Adventists, other modern Apocalyptic sects that started around that time were the Jehovah's Witnesses in 1870, the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World in 1906, and the Assembly of God churches in 1914.
New thought and end-times sects are different in almost every respect. One is liberal and eclectic, while the other is fundamentalist and based on specific passages in the Bible. While new thought traditions believe in a better future, end-times churches say widespread devastation is necessary for the second coming of Christ.
Christian New Thought
The mid-twentieth century brought a revival of new thought ideas among the faithful. The Power of Positive Thinking, by Norman Vincent Peale (1898-1993), became an instant classic and best seller when it came out in 1952. The book updated Christian new thought for a modern audience, supporting the power of thought with quotes from the Bible. Rev. Peale also founded Guideposts magazine.
Ernest Holmes, author of The Science of Mind, also addressed a midcentury American audience, preaching in that era from the Wiltern Theater at the corner of Wilshire and Western in Los Angeles. Starting in 1949, he broadcast This Thing Called Life over the Mutual Broadcasting System at four o'clock every Sunday. He started his show with the opening words, "There is a power for good in the universe greater than you are and you can use it."
Another religious figure, the Most Reverend Fulton J. Sheen (1895-1979), Auxiliary Bishop of New York, was considered a leader of the positive thinking movement. His philosophy could be called Catholic new thought. Bishop Sheen hosted a radio talk show for many years, then two television shows: Your Life Is Worth Living (1952-1957), and an occasional series, The Bishop Sheen Program (1961-1968).
A historical note about Bishop Sheen: during the Cold War in 1953, he shocked his audience with a reading of the burial scene from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, substituting Soviet leaders' names for the characters Caesar, Cassius, Mark Antony, and Brutus. Sheen declared "Stalin must one day meet his judgment!" and within a week the dictator suffered a stroke and died. This is the basis of the urban legend that Bishop Sheen predicted the death of Joseph Stalin.
Freud and Jung on the Power of Thought
All Western psychology grew out of the work of Sigmund Freud (1856-1939). The Austrian doctor studied medicine in the nineteenth century with a specialization in neurology. He started out using hypnotism to treat hysterical patients, but noticed that they usually felt better just talking about their problems. From this discovery, he formulated his therapeutic method of free association and analysis, in which the patients reclined on a couch and talked.
Freud theorized that all humans had prurient sexual desires hidden just below the level of direct consciousness, and that unsatisfied desires were the basis of neurotic behavior. He detected abundant sexual images in his patients' dreams and much of his practice revolved around helping them come to terms with unacknowledged sexual desire. Although people of the Victorian Era found Freud's theories shocking, they accepted what he said. In 1900, Freud published The Interpretation of Dreams, which was widely acclaimed.
Despite the controversies surrounding Freud, he established psychology as a science. He is still regarded as one of the most influential men of his times, perhaps second only to Charles Darwin.
Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961), a Swiss analytical psychologist, became a student of Dr. Freud's in 1908 and the two men traveled to America in 1909 to lecture and accept honorary degrees. They had a big influence on each other at first, but when Jung published his Psychology of the Unconscious in 1912, their relationship ended abruptly. In the book, Jung revealed the areas where he disagreed with Freud, especially the theory that all subconscious activity revolved around repressed sexual desire. Jung hoped the relationship would survive, but after a curt exchange of letters, Freud never communicated with Jung or spoke of him again.
In the wake of Freud's rejection, Jung went through a period of soul-searching, which he described in his autobiographical Memories, Dreams and Reflections (1963). During this time, he developed the concept of the shadow as the dark side of the self that carries fears and guilt, which people unconsciously project on the world in the form of conflict with others. He also developed the concept of the animus and anima, inner male and female parts of the psyche. Rather than trying to unravel long personal histories, as Freud believed was necessary, Jung sought to integrate the shadow and other split off parts back into the psyche to attain meaningful wholeness.
Jung expanded Freud's notion of the unconscious to include what he called the collective unconscious, made up of universal elements of human experience, or archetypes. According to Jung, all of humankind shares an unconscious life through dreams and myth. He believed that symbolic stories and images are sources of power because they evoke feelings of awe, mystery, and purpose. He said that experiencing the higher (transpersonal) Self could connect people with their inner depths and help them find the answers hidden in their shadows.
While Jung became an explorer on the vanguard of the new age, Freud grew more pessimistic. Historian Charles van Doren said of Freud, "He was always a nineteenth century thinker, although he lived until 1939." In 1915 during the Great War in Europe, Freud published the article, Thoughts for the Times of War and Death, shocking his readers with discussions about the cruelties of German soldiers. He said that men crave war because they have an innate psychological need to prove themselves in a life and death situation fighting an enemy. He portrayed Germans as barbarians who secretly wanted to throw off society's restraints and fight.
People in Europe, especially in Germany, wanted to believe that the world had progressed into a new era of civility, but Freud proclaimed homo homini lupus, "Man is wolf to man." His depressing diagnosis lead to a pessimistic outlook in Europe that civil society was an unattainable illusion. Throughout the twentieth century and into the twenty-first, Western culture continues to struggle with the same issues that divided Freud and Jung.
After Freud's death, Jung went further down the path of new thought, delving into the medieval writings on alchemy. He collected the entire library of books dating back to the sixteenth century, and spent ten years studying and interpreting the books. The alchemists' work was to turn base metal into gold, but they said, aurum nostrum non est aurum vulgi, "Our gold is not the common gold." The alchemists' gold was enlightenment, and Jung felt that it was a perfect metaphor for his own depth psychology, which focused on turning psychic weaknesses into strengths.
The old books were illustrated with woodblock prints of the alchemist's laboratory, and phantasmagoric images of dragons, gods, and higher spiritual realms. Jung said the symbols illustrated the psychological processes for understanding the contents of the subconscious mind. For example:
The dragon represents the shadow.
The god Mercury symbolizes the divine manifest in matter.
The symbol of the king and queen coincide with Jung's theory of uniting the inner male and female (anima and animus).
A mirror, mirrored images, and crosses represent the union of opposites.
The philosophers' stone, often depicted as a mandala, is a representation of the unconscious self.
Jung also studied numerology, synchronicity, dreams, and Eastern religions. Some people say he was a victim of magical thinking due to his bout with depression. Others say he was psychotic or that he wanted to be a guru figure. Jung is still controversial because his views were so radical and far ahead of his time. Despite these alleged flaws, Jung made remarkable contributions to the field of psychology. His relentless inquiry into the mysteries of life made him a de facto leader of the new thought movement. He investigated it and gave it a measure of legitimacy in the field of clinical psychology.
Secular Positive Thinking
At the turn of the century, positive thinking started to build a secular audience in the business world. The man who is known as the bridge from new religious thought to secular positive thinking is Orison Swett Marden (1850-1924), founder of Success magazine. Success, first published in 1891, offered a lightly religious version of new thought for an audience of mainstream businessmen.
The Roaring Twenties brought the first truly secular teacher of positive thinking to American shores: Emile Coué (1857-1926). Monsieur Coué was a pharmacist in France who studied hypnotism. He noticed that his customers' health depended more on their state of mind than the prescriptions he filled, so he turned his pharmacy into a hypnosis clinic in the evenings. He made up the affirmation, "Every day in every way I am getting better and better," and taught his students to repeat it twenty times before falling asleep. He called the mind a "sublime instrument" to decide a person's destiny.
Coué's work was so well received that he quit the pharmaceutical business in 1910 and relocated next to a famous French school of hypnotism, where he reached as many as fifteen thousand patients a year. He traveled in Europe and America in the 1920's and established the Coué Institute for the Practice of Conscious Auto-Suggestion in London and the National Coué Institute in New York. His books My Method and Self-Mastery Through Conscious Auto-suggestion, sold widely.
Some American newspapers called him a professor or psychologist; others called him a prophet. Religious leaders accused him of trying to work miracles. However, in his memoir, American Impressions, Coué reminded people that he was just a pharmacist. He wrote, "I do not want people to have a sort of fanatical belief in me." He said his purpose was "solely to show you how to cure yourselves." He said he was not dealing in the realm of religion, but merely tapping into a natural power that was dormant within the individual. He said, "I confess I fail to see any relationship between religion and autosuggestion. Is medicine a challenge to the Church?"
Emile Coué is remembered as the forefather of all inspirational authors and positive thinking writers. Although he only taught autosuggestion for healing, he said that it could have applications in business for sales people and managers, and for raising children.
Mainstream Positive Thinking
Positive thinking has its metaphysical roots in Greek philosophy, religion, the wisdom of Ralph Waldo Emerson, and the inquires of Carl Jung, but paradoxically it took root in the business world during the Great Depression. The economic crash of 1929 devastated the economy and it was years before people could break out of it. However, this was the backdrop for the publication of two positive thinking classics: How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie (1936), and Think and Grow Rich, by Napoleon Hill (1937).
Dale Carnegie (1888-1955) was a distant cousin of the famous Andrew Carnegie and taught at Carnegie Institute of New York for a time. Andrew Carnegie was also the mentor of Napoleon Hill (1883-1970), who started off as a reporter for a small town newspaper. His big break came when he got the opportunity to interview Andrew Carnegie. During the interview, Carnegie challenged Hill to do more research and write books on how to achieve success.
Dale Carnegie and Napoleon Hill's books were best sellers, and practically every American businessman had a copy of one or both books on his desk. Company presidents bought them by the dozens to distribute to their employees. Both books addressed the same issues and drew from the same philosophical sources, but Carnegie stuck with the literal. How to Win Friends offers a humanist view of how to manage people in business, which had been all but lost in the post-industrial age and depths of the Depression. Hill expressed similar ideas in Think and Grow Rich, but with the added thesis from Classical Greece that thoughts create reality.
Hill's message was: "Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve." His writings were a stark contrast to the religious literature on the power of mind up to that point. He was the first writer to remove the power of mind from a healing or religious context and use it strictly for financial enrichment. Hill reinterpreted positive thinking for mainstream readers so that anyone of any religion (or no religion) could learn to use it.
Hill was a popular public speaker and contributing editor to Success magazine. By profession he was an attorney, but more importantly, he was the inventor of positive thinking. Carnegie also had an illustrious career as a teacher, author, and public speaker, and met most of the famous people of his day. Every positive thinking book for business since the Great Depression has built on the foundations that Carnegie and Hill established.
The First Positive Thinking Audio Recording
In 1956, Columbia Records released The Strangest Secret. Earl Nightingale (1921-1989) made the recording for his sales team when he had to be out of town and miss a sales meeting. He left the reel-to-reel tape with his staff, but when he returned, everybody wanted a copy. He engaged Columbia Records to distribute it as a vinyl LP.
The strangest secret is: "We become what we think about." Nightingale said it is strange because it is not really a secret. People throughout history had spoken of it: Ralph Waldo Emerson, William James, the Bible, and Shakespeare. Although the secret is obvious, they don't teach it in school, so every person must discover it for him or herself. Nightingale compared the mind to a great machine running on auto control. The secret is to get your hands on the wheel and guide it on purpose.
The Strangest Secret sold more than a million copies and won a gold record for first recording of its kind. Nightingale founded the Nightingale-Conant Corporation of Chicago and dedicated his life to teaching people to think positive. He went on to become one of the most recognized voices in America (and twenty-three countries overseas) for his daily five-minute radio program, Our Changing World.
Space Age Positive Thinking
Positive thinking gained wider mainstream acceptance during the Space Age when Dr. Maxwell Maltz published his book, Psycho-cybernetics, in 1960. Maltz was a plastic surgeon who studied the psychology of human personality. In his medical practice, he found that unsightly scars inhibited his patients' personalities and behavior. He found that removing the scars, his patients were free to be themselves. He believed there was an inner face that worked much the same way, and that a scar on the inner face could hold a person back just as much. Psycho-cybernetics explains how to heal inner scars.
Dr. Maltz criticized behaviorism, a branch of psychology that had started with Russian scientist Ivan Petrovich Pavlov (1849-1936). Pavlov won the Nobel prize in medicine in 1904 for proving that dogs learned behavior through conditioned reflexes. Just as dogs react to rewards and punishments, behaviorists of Maltz's era tried to apply Pavlov's theories to humans. Behavior modification is used in correctional institutions like juvenile halls. Typically, inmates earn points for good behavior and lose points for bad behavior. Their release depends on completing a program and earning a certain number of points.
Maltz also railed against scientists who compared the human brain to a computer, because he believed it would lead to treating people like machines. Instead, Maltz called the mind a built-in computer that people could learn to operate, using Psycho-cybernetics as the manual.
"Psycho" refers to psychology and "cybernetics" comes from the Greek kubernetes, which means steersman, or governor, which was in common use to describe computers since 1940. Maltz used psychology and science to explain how the mind creates reality. Maltz's concerns as a compassionate M.D. gave his scientific instruction manual a humanist touch.
Five years after Psycho-cybernetics came out, metaphysical author Vernon Lynwood Howard (1918-1992) published Psycho-pictography: The New Way to Use the Miracle Power of Your Mind. The book demonstrates how to use short scenes to create a positive attitude. It combines Greek metaphysics, Chinese Taoist philosophy, Jungian psychology, and positive thinking. Psycho-pictography is one of the most profound positive thinking books ever written.
Albert Ellis: Humanist Behaviorism
The late Albert Ellis, Ph.D. was the final word on behavior therapy and mainstream acceptance of positive thinking in the world of psychology. Dr. Ellis (1913-2007), inventor of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), was a psychologist from Columbia University. His REBT combined the best parts of behaviorism with humanist psychology to form rational thinking. In Dr. Ellis' REBT, patients learn to identify their irrational thoughts and replace them with effective new thoughts. The premise of rational thinking is that anxiety comes from what you think about a situation, rather than the situation itself.
Dr. Ellis, respected in every graduate psychology text book, had a huge influence on the changing field of clinical psychotherapy in the mid-twentieth century. Thus, he deserves to be counted as one of the great proponents of secular positive thinking. Al Ellis was the only atheist in the group, and he was fiercely atheistic, underscoring his decidedly scientific viewpoint. He said there was nothing metaphysical about it: your thoughts create your reality.
Medicine and Sports
Positive thinking made inroads into mainstream medicine in the 1970's when Norman Cousins (1915-1990) published his landmark book, Anatomy of an Illness As Perceived by the Patient (1979). Cousins, a journalist, author, professor, and world peace advocate, suffered from a degenerative disease, but cured himself by watching comedy movies. Cousins' sound arguments convinced doctors that the patient's attitude could help cure disease.
Dr. Bernie S. Siegel followed several years later with his book, Love, Medicine and Miracles: Lessons Learned about Self-Healing from a Surgeon's Experience with Exceptional Patients (1986). Siegel offered further proof of the mind-body connection. He continues to write and lecture on this subject. There are now hundreds of authors who explain the mind-body connection, such as Louise Hay, Deepak Chopra, M.D., Andrew Weil, M.D., Arnold Mindell, Ph.D., and Candace B. Pert, Ph.D.
The predominant medical system still does not give the mind-body connection much credibility. Most people trust pharmaceuticals and surgery over self-inquiry, and for some that is the only medical paradigm that will work. For others, holistic treatment makes more sense because they want to heal the root of the disease, not just the symptoms. It may be a long time before the old medical model gives way to mind-body healing. Also, as the amount of toxic chemicals and pollution grows, our thoughts about disease becomes less relevant. We need a grassroots movement to overcome toxic chemical pollution, as well as a stronger belief in the power of mind to influence the body. Mind-body medicine is still in its infancy.
In sports, however, most people accept that the power of mind has an effect. One of the first best selling books in this genre was The Inner Game of Tennis, by W. Timothy Gallwey (1972). There are dozens, if not hundreds of books about positive thinking in sports. As Yogi Berra put it: "Baseball is ninety percent mental. The other half is physical."
While mind-body healing has yet to gain mainstream acceptance, positive thinking and the mind-mind connection are already mainstream.
* Milton Erickson, M.D. (1902-1980), a mid-century leader of modern psychology, combined metaphor, rational thinking, and hypnotherapy.
* Positive thinking is in complete harmony with the Humanist Psychology Movement, founded by Carl Rogers (1902-1987); Abraham Maslow (1908-1970); Alfred Adler (1870-1937); Rollo May (1909-1994), Milton Erickson, M.D., and others. Positive thinking authors, including Earl Nightingale and Maxwell Maltz, quote the Humanists in their own books.
* Jungian therapy, described above, is now part of mainstream clinical psychology.
* Gestalt therapy, introduced to America through the writings of Fritz Perls and others, involves reframing, or finding new ways to think about the stories you tell yourself.
* Cognitive-behavioral psychology (such as REBT described above), is a process of changing thought habits.
* Transactional Analysis, popularized in the book, I'm OK - you're OK, by Thomas A. Harris (1969), analyzes how people think about relationships.
* Recovery from abuse (child abuse, drug abuse, etc.), depends on changing attitudes. The recovery movement, including Alcoholics Anonymous, grew out of the new thought movement. Recovery publisher Hazelden Books offers affirmation and
positive thinking recovery books based on the Twelve Steps.
* Practically all self-help psychology books (and audio recordings) draw upon the power of positive thinking.
The positive thinking founders were the pioneers, because prior to them, everyone thought that the mind's power to create depended on religiosity, prayer, or esoteric metaphysical principles. Even though somebody may dislike the phrase "positive thinking" because it has become a cliché, it is all a matter of semantics. Positive thinking is descriptive of a phenomenon that Coué, Carnegie, Hill, Nightingale, Maltz, and Ellis described through their best selling books, which are still available to us in the new century.
How It Works
The Power of Conscious Thoughts
The key to positive thinking is that when you hold something in your conscious awareness, it is like planting seeds, because the subconscious mind will grow whatever you think about. For example, suppose you want to move. You can imagine what you want, rather than what you have. Then ideas will come to you about what you need to do, and the connections you will need to make to achieve your goal.
Whatever steps you decide to take, when you want to create change in your life, you use autosuggestion. The thoughts you think in your mind shine a light on the path, then you follow that path until your dream comes true. Everybody does it, so it is just a matter of learning to do it better.
Thousands of thoughts go through your mind every day, like a raging river of thought. However, if you do not pay attention to what you think, you may waste this valuable resource dwelling on useless negative things like worry and gossip. If you want to use the power of your mind for maximum benefit, just improve the quality of your thoughts. To improve your thoughts, you first have to be aware of what they are. If you learn to change your mind through positive autosuggestion, you will start manifesting a better reality. Emile Coué said that suggestion uses you like a blind instrument until you become aware of it. Then it becomes autosuggestion. The thoughts and stories you think about are the basis of autosuggestion.
Dr. Maxwell Maltz explains that our thoughts take place in the conscious mind, the frontal cortex, which contains about ten billion neurons. Each neuron has feelers called synapses, or connections between neurons. When you think, electrical current moves through the neurons in patterns. Emile Coué called the brain a "never-flagging recorder" and twenty-five years later, science confirmed that the mind is a recorder. When you learn something, your brain records a new pattern. You can memorize unlimited neural patterns because the patterns overlap. They are stored in the nervous system just as information is stored on a disk. To reactivate old patterns, you replay them, just like selecting a song on your computer.
When you feel like you are remembering an experience, what you are doing is replaying a memorized neural pattern. Whenever you replay a pattern it links up to new experiences and becomes more prominent. The more you replay a pattern, the more associations it forms. When you let a pattern fade, it loses its power over you. Dr. Maltz cited this as a scientific reason to dwell on positive experiences and let negative experiences fade away.
Memories change a little bit every time you replay them, because they take on shades of your present moods, new experiences, and changed attitudes. You can also reprogram neurons purposely through conscious autosuggestion. Since neural patterns overlap one another, you can change multiple patterns at once just by reprogramming a single neuron. If you learn to see one thing in a new way, your attitude about all connected issues will change as well.
Role of the Subconscious Mind
Conscious thoughts are only one side of the autosuggestion equation. The rest goes on at the level of the subconscious mind. Think of the subconscious as a filing cabinet or hard drive that stores millions of pictures, stories, emotions, memories, and bits of information. Located in the brain, heart, spine, and stomach (and every cell of the body), the subconscious keeps records of everything you have experienced your entire life.
It processes and stores data like a computer, but unlike a computer, it has intelligence and creativity. It functions according to its own ways, like an other in your own psyche. You cannot tell it what to do, but only cloud or clear your relationship to it. However, it is really you. It is your intuitive self. The subconscious mind:
is the source of dreams, intuitions, instincts, and emotions;
remembers things you've forgotten;
knows things you consciously deny;
does not see distance as a barrier;
does not divide time into past, present, and future.
The subconscious mind constantly tries to help you by showing you the truth. It wants to point out areas where you might be hurting yourself or situations where you are blind to imminent danger. It will attempt to communicate its concerns through dreams and gut feelings. Its messages might be painful, like if you have a dreadful insight or nightmare, but the subconscious has its reasons for speaking to you as it does. It may be edgy at times, but it is a trustworthy friend. In a mentally healthy person, it will only give you as much as you can handle.
The subconscious does its best to speak to you, but you can open up greater communication if you learn its language. The more you can get to know it and understand it, the better your positive thinking will work. As your conscious and subconscious minds work in harmony, you develop a sense of inner integrity and genuine self-confidence.
The subconscious mind understands words, but it uses the primeval languages of symbol, story, and emotion. It speaks in metaphors, telling stories that parallel what it wants to say. Suppose you have a dream about a roadblock. Most likely, the dream story and the way you feel about the roadblock reflect specific situations in your waking life.
The subconscious is well versed in using symbols and it has an uncanny ability to pick just the right metaphors. You can start to learn its language if you study a symbol dictionary, because there are universal meanings that are consistent from dreams to movies to classical mythology. However, every person uses a different dialect of the symbol language. For example, if you lived next door to a roadblock for fourteen years, then the symbol would have additional meaning for you. If you just crashed through a roadblock in a car accident, the symbol would obviously have added meaning.
When you successfully translate a symbol to its verbal equivalent, you will feel the connection. If the definition does not make sense to you, then you may have to keep searching for what it could mean. Intellectually, you may know that a dream about a roadblock represents a block in your waking life, but the subject may be so shrouded in fear that it could take a long time before you make the connection.
In addition to dreams, the subconscious may try to tell you metaphorical stories thorough symptoms. Some disease is genetic or environmental, and there are many causes of disease, but if the subconscious is sending you a message through a disease symptom, usually there is a word play or another symbolic interpretation. People say things like, "Just the thought of that situation gives me a headache," or "He's a real pain in the neck." If you get a headache or pain in the neck for no apparent reason, it could point to something your subconscious is holding onto.
The subconscious is literal and ruthlessly honest, but the conscious mind may try to temper harsh truths to comply with social expectations. We learn as children that certain topics are off limits, but the subconscious does not buy into that conditioning. When there is a discrepancy, the subconscious might make you say things that break social convention. This phenomenon is commonly called a Freudian slip, named after the first Westerner to discover the subconscious. Humorous Freudian slips may appear in headline like this one: "Navy changes skirt policy, making apparel optional." Subconscious errors of speech are not always subliminal sexual references. The subconscious makes all sorts of things slip out accidentally. Like you might say, "Aunt Fanny eats like a hog," but you meant to say, "Has a cute dog." Somehow the symbol of her dog and her eating like a hog got confused in your brain and the statement just came out. Usually these slips are ironic because they reference a grain of truth.
The subconscious mind may make you unconsciously do things that may have symbolic meaning. For example, if you always seem to pick out shoes that are too small, you might be trying to tell yourself something. When you get home and try to wear them, you might feel like the shoes are restricting. Maybe it is a metaphor for a situation in your life, as well.
The subconscious makes us act out dramas all the time, but the reason we do it may go right over our heads. If you repeatedly undermine yourself, it could be due to your inner shadow. The shadow, as Carl Jung defined it, is an accumulation of repressed memories, feelings, and desires. Although you can try to drive certain things from your conscious memory, they never quite go away. They stay in the subconscious as psychic clutter to get in your way and confound you. It takes more energy to keep material hidden in the shadows than it does to process the material and make it okay in your conscious life.
Once you realize that you create situations through a subconscious process, you will understand why they say that the mind creates reality. You choose where you live, the work you do, and the people you have in your life. You may not choose all these things intentionally, but you subconsciously invite them in due to the weight of the material in your shadow. It's like pushing the bump down in a carpet. You push it out of your conscious mind, but it comes up again someplace you don't expect.
If the subconscious wants you to notice something, it will try every means it has: dreams, pains in the gut, slips of the tongue, and repeated mistakes. What other tools does it have? The subconscious cannot get cherubs to descend from heaven holding a scroll that says, for example, "You forgot to mail your mortgage payment! Slow down and pay attention to your life."
Many situations you find yourself in are of your own making, consciously or unconsciously. Therefore, you can prevent a good percentage of chaos and drama in your life if you improve your communication with your own subconscious. The first step is to become fluent in its language of symbol and metaphor, then you must be curious to notice when it is trying to tell you something. In other words, you need to learn to listen to your own gut feelings, needs, and desires.
The next skill is to learn how to think in the language of feelings. You can speak in words, but words alone mean nothing to the subconscious. Only the frontal cortex, the conscious mind, relies on language. The rest of the mind barely even uses words. Your subconscious will only pay attention to words that match your feelings.
If you say, "I don't want to be poor anymore," but you feel poor, it will only hear the words "want" and "poor," and react as though being poor is your desire. Instead of feeling negative and using a double negative affirmation ("don't want . . . poor"), feel what you want and think with straightforward words. If you say, "I create prosperity in my life," and you feel successful, your subconscious will understand and start to help you.
Double negative affirmations include words like fail, lose, forget, hate, quit, stop, save, fix, no, not, and so on, as well as words with negative prefixes or suffixes, such as anti- dis-, un-, non-, or -n't.
Here are some examples:
Double negative: "I quit making bad decisions."
Positive affirmation: "I make good decisions."
Double negative: "I don't forget to pay my bills."
Positive affirmation: "I pay all my bills on time."
Double negative: "I prevent unwanted interruptions."
Positive affirmation: "I concentrate on my work."
It is impossible to fool your subconscious because it is you. It knows everything about you and records every thought, feeling, and story you think. You are just like two people who understand each other telepathically. It will know if you feel poor, and it will ignore any contradictory words. You need to be aware of your feelings because the subconscious mind holds you responsible for them.
Some double negatives are easy to fix, for example: "I don't have a bad memory." To un-kink it, say: "I have a good memory." However, some double negatives are also negative statements. They exist because nobody has ever turned them around before. Take for example, "This doesn't work." This statement leads to a dead end. We have to fix the situation itself if we want to turn the sentence around. What will it take to make it work? Negative statements often pose riddles you must answer before you can change them.
Many environmental groups seem to adore double negatives, and it shows that they are focused on what they do not want. Constantly using the words "global warming" affirms that we lack any clear picture of how to solve the problem. The words "sustainable environment" include the solution. Human rights groups suffer the same malady, as do peace organizations when they say "stop war." "Peace" is the positive way to state the same thing.
The main characteristic of the subconscious mind is that it will work to replicate whatever you think about. This happens automatically because of the way neural patterns spread when you replay them. It does not matter whether you consider certain thoughts good or bad. It only matters which ones you replay the most. A positive person naturally finds positive thoughts more attractive, while a negative, immature person may dwell on painful images because it feels normal, and because of the unprocessed accumulation of shadow material.
Napoleon Hill compared the subconscious mind to a garden where you can plant any variety of positive or negative thoughts. Whatever you plant will grow. He also called the subconscious a magic door where you place your requests, and your requests are the conscious thoughts you keep in your mind. Once you understand that the subconscious treats your thoughts as a stream of requests, you will see the importance of positive thinking.
Abilities of the Subconscious Mind
Autosuggestion is the art of getting the subconscious mind to work for you. The most obvious way you already use it is to retrieve stored information. You think of a question, then your subconscious searches for the answer. Suppose you are looking for your keys, then you remember they are in a coat pocket. You posed a question and received an answer. Everyone does this, but you can use this power even more effectively if you keep the right questions in your mind. For example, suppose you asked yourself every morning, "What can I do today to make this a better world?" The subconscious would troll all its resources to look for answers.
You can also use the subconscious to make decisions. Suppose you have three choices on what to do over the weekend. When you make lists, or review the pros and cons of each choice, this sends your thoughts and feelings about the various options to your subconscious. It then weighs these against your memories, preferences, desires, and goals. Once you have thought over the alternatives, just go about your usual activities trusting that you will make a good decision. It may take a few hours, but the subconscious will come back with an answer. Suddenly you will know exactly what you want to do. It will feel perfect, just like remembering where you left your keys.
Autosuggestion can also help you solve problems and think of ideas. Suppose you need to move. You can plant ideas for your new situation by picturing what you want: a big yard, an affordable payment, a happy family, a beautiful view, or whatever represents the situation you want to manifest. Once you have the cooperation of the subconscious, you will start to receive ideas on how to proceed.
When you pose a question to the subconscious it may take anywhere from one moment to a week, a year, or even longer to receive an answer. It depends on the complexity of the problem, how creatively you work on it, and how open you are to receiving an answer.
If you are filled with inner conflict, you may turn down good ideas from the subconscious. For example, if you are in a stressful situation but do not want to acknowledge your part in creating it, you may feel offended by good advice. If you have low self-esteem, the subconscious may offer a perfectly good plan of action, but you may reject it because you do not feel worthy or qualified.
The answer may also get blocked. The subconscious may try to tell you something, but your creative imagination is closed down and does not receive the message. You can open communication by freeing your mind from tension and worry. If you get involved in a relaxing, repetitive activity, such as taking a walk, gardening, jogging, or playing a game, it will give your subconscious mind the freedom to work on the answer.
Another way to open your imagination is to get plenty of rest and recreation. Workaholics miss valuable input from the subconscious because they try to solve every problem through stressful mental effort and unrelenting labor. As you open yourself to inner guidance, you will learn to trust your subconscious. Napoleon Hill compared the brain to a radio set with broadcast and receiving capabilities. Autosuggestion broadcasts your request to the subconscious. When it receives and processes the message, it will send back a stream of ideas. The receiving set is your creative imagination. If you free your imagination, it creates a valuable connection. When you get an answer from the subconscious mind, write it down. Capturing a good idea on paper is the first step toward making it happen.
It may take time to learn how to use the powers of the subconscious mind, so be patient with yourself. Also, be sure you are in contact with the subconscious and not something else. The subconscious does not speak to you in sentences. If you hear voices in your head, most likely you are channeling your inner critic or some other aspect of your subconscious life. The inner critic is a part of you that means well but is usually too harsh. For example, the inner critic may say, "You have to find a better job. You must apply for that opening in Department B."
If this was an idea from your subconscious, it would not speak in sentences. You would just be overwhelmed with a desire to apply for the opening in Department B. Hearing voices in your head is not a good sign, since it usually indicates a mental imbalance. Some people claim to receive valuable information from spirit guides or other internal voices, but the information may be unreliable.
Simple Ways to Meditate
You can practice autosuggestion on your feet in everyday life if you rewrite your negatives and double negatives, and fill your mind with affirmations. However, the results are even greater if you set aside time to practice autosuggestion as a form of meditation.
The most basic type of meditation is to empty your mind. Thoughts will come, but just let them break like waves on the shore and wash away. Clearing your thoughts is impossible at first, but practice will teach you to how to do it.
Autosuggestion is different from Zen meditation, which requires giving up all physical distractions like swallowing, scratching, coughing, loud breathing, and so on. Zen practitioners sit in total silence, causing minimal disturbance for others in the room. There are many details like how to sit (legs crossed, back straight), how to hold your tongue (touching the roof of your mouth), and so on. Autosuggestion is less formal, so just sit on a comfortable chair or couch. Emile Coué directed his patients to meditate in bed; Napoleon Hill gave similar instructions. It is your choice, so do whatever is best for you.
Like formal meditation, breath is an essential component of autosuggestion because breath sweeps your mind, clearing, calming, and refreshing it. Inhale and exhale fully. Count your in-breaths and out-breaths, taking the same time for each so that breathing becomes a steady rhythm. Hold your breath in for a few counts, then once you exhale, hold it out for a few counts. This automatically relaxes you.
Thoughts may carry you far away, but when you notice what's happening, clear your mind and go back to your breath. Soon you will realize that everything that appears in the mind is just thought, so it is okay to put a nagging problem aside for a while. As you become stronger, you will develop the power to clear unwanted moods, as well. The goal is to make friends with the mind, and get it to work in your favor.
Use Meditation to Create a Peaceful Place Inside
When you are sitting in a relaxed state and a tranquil mood, you can create whole new worlds inside. To begin with, create an inner meditation place. You can choose anything: a beach house, a Victorian mansion, a simple cave, or a castle. Visualize a place you have seen before or make something up. Decide exactly how the entry and front door will look, then decide how the whole outside will look.
Next, visualize a pleasing interior with comfortable furniture. Picture what you are sitting on and how it feels to be there. Face forward and visualize a window in front of you with a desirable view. If you have wanted a waterfront view, or a view of a specific landmark, give it to yourself now.
If you do not visualize in perfect Technicolor, imagine how you would feel sitting in a comfortable room with a great view. The feeling is more relevant than the picture. Once you find a feeling you like, memorize it and return to it whenever you meditate. You might also refer to this memory when you are waiting on line, traveling on a train or bus, or any situation where you want to relax. Perfect times to meditate are when you are drifting off to sleep or waking up.
When you meditate in your inner retreat, you still have to let go of any thoughts that may arise. A fleeting worry about a problem from your daily life may break up your pleasant feelings of comfort and block your meditation. If you find yourself struggling with negative thoughts, it is best if you can resolve them as part of your meditation. However, if they will not go away, open your eyes and get a drink of water, stretch, look out your real windows, or do something else to calm down. Then go back to your inner meditation room.
Each time you practice this, write down what you experience because it will change slightly every time. If you meditate on feeling comfortable and happy, you will build cognitive structures in your mind that will provide strength. Your imaginary meditation room literally becomes a warm and comforting place in your gray matter.
Build a Psychic Coral Reef
Every day, much useless information passes through your consciousness: advertisements, news, gossip, and worry. It may not hurt anything, but you might be tempted to accept something false as reality. For example, what if someone told you that the professional field you were trying to enter had become too competitive? You may choose to accept hearsay information from well meaning sources and become discouraged.
However, if you develop healthy boundaries, you will naturally apply rational thinking to all incoming information. The psychic coral reef is a meditation I made up for this book while visiting Hawaii in 2002.
While you are centered in your peaceful inner retreat, imagine that you have a view of the ocean. This can be the same place as before, or a different place. Look out at the ocean and appreciate its beauty. Now imagine there is a coral reef just under the surface that protects the shoreline from violent waves. If you have ever gone scuba diving or snorkeling, try to remember what the coral looked like. If you have only seen pictures of living coral reefs, imagine that there is a similar ecosystem just under the water in your view
Or just try to imagine what it would be like to have this protective natural barrier under the surface.
Think about the colors, the marine life, and the way the currents interact with the beautiful spongy surfaces. Imagine that you have a similar system in your own psyche that provides a safe boundary between you and the outside world.
Your Positive Feelings Treasure
Everyone has a sunken treasure of positive feelings stored in their subconscious mind and Napoleon Hill taught his readers to open a door to those good emotions. He said that if it closes, open it again. If you learn how to do this, you can get out of bad moods instantly. Just remember a good mood and switch it on in your mind. Memorize these moods:
Success - You have thousands of memories of what it feels like to succeed. Recall your good experiences and memorize the feeling. If you feel successful, your subconscious will hunt for more situations to replicate feelings of success.
Self-confidence - Recall times when you felt self-assurance and transfer that feeling to your present desires. Imagine that what you want is already accomplished. Imagine yourself enjoying the good results of your work.
Worth - Mix your desires with a firm belief that you are worthy. Seek out memories of times when you felt worthy and memorize the feeling.
Clarity - Recall times when you felt complete resolution. Bring the feeling into the present and meditate on it, because it will cue your subconscious mind to create clarity in your current situation.
Friendship - Remember times when you were surrounded by friends, and feel gratitude for the friends you have. When you dwell on feelings of love, you bring more of the same into your life.
Beauty - Appreciation of beauty in nature or in an artist's work is a positive feeling. Invoking the feeling of artistic appreciation will inspire your subconscious mind to look for beauty and be more creative.
Abundance - Heighten your awareness of abundance all around you and realize that the universe is an abundant place. Notice how the trees have millions of leaves that they drop every fall, because there are millions more on the way. Ocean waves keep coming in, hour after hour. The stars are a perfect display of perpetual abundance.
Desire - This is a powerful emotion; the only one on Hill's list that included a warning. He said to be honest about your motives to make sure they are beneficial for everyone involved, then go ahead and dwell upon your pure desires for success, love, and abundance. The feeling of desire will propel you forward toward accomplishing your goals.
The object of your meditation practice is to learn to keep positive feelings in the forefront of your mind. Meditating on good feelings helps you:
inspire your subconscious to work on your desires;
clear away negative thought patterns and attitudes;
improve your self-image;
create corresponding patterns in your outer life;
increase your level of happiness.
Choose one emotion to contemplate while sitting quietly for a few minutes. Afterward, note down any impressions.
Find Images of Value
Along with positive feelings, you can practice filling your mind with inspiring visual images. Images invoke emotions and communicate positive messages to your subconscious mind through symbols.
Artists may actually think in pictures. It is similar with musicians, and music is another way to tap inspiration. Most successful creative artists can easily name their major influences. Depending on your sensibilities, you may already have a clear connection to your favorite images, or you may take them for granted, or even completely ignore them.
If you are more auditory than visual, think of music or listen to music when you meditate. If you are more feeling based, concentrate on feelings. If you are more visual, fill your environment and your mind with images you like. Keep your sources of inspiration at hand (or in mind) to contemplate whenever you have spare time. You will never feel bored once you start thinking like this. You could be sitting in a waiting room or in an airport, but feel content because you finally have the time to look at (or think about) your favorite mental images.
Scenes - Another Type of Image
Like images, scenes speak to the subconscious, which is programmed to process story fragments because life is acted out in short, unrelated scenes. Here are some examples of scenes you might go through in an afternoon:
walking down a hallway;
watching a boat land at a dock;
boarding a train;
climbing a flight of stairs;
answering a telephone.
None of these add up to a story line, but scenes are the building blocks of daily experience. Just as your subconscious attributes deeper meaning to individual symbols, so it attributes meaning to short scenes. In fact, the dream language is made up of scenes. Often, a fragment is the most you can remember of a dream. Here are some examples of dream fragments:
"I was on a boat with a venerable old captain."
"A friend and I visited an antique store."
"I was back in school but couldn't find my schedule."
"A bus took me to my old house."
"I found a deep pool of water and went swimming."
Each fragment is like a message in a coded language. Instead of using words to explain a concept, the primitive parts of the mind, deep in the subconscious, speak through metaphor. Dream fragments may seem inscrutable, but a scene can express complex ideas in a concise format.
You can speak directly to your subconscious if you open your mind to the beauty of an inspiring scene. Imagine the positive symbolic messages you send to your subconscious if you capture the elevated feelings possible from witnessing any of the following:
ocean waves breaking on a beach;
watching a boat dock;
wind gently tossing tree branches;
a positive thing that happened to you;
waking up in a place that you love.
To streamline the autosuggestion process, meditate on a good story. Contemplating stories is an excellent form of autosuggestion because stories are full of symbols that speak to the subconscious mind. Unlike simple images and scenes, stories have a beginning, middle, and end. The ending puts everything that came before into perspective and explains why the whole thing happened.
Your subconscious mind probably already thinks in terms of stories from these sources:
classics of American literature;
folk stories, legends, and ballads;
stories from your religion;
Greek (and other) mythology;
Grimm Brothers (and other) fairy tales
the plays of William Shakespeare;
modern poetry, songs, novels, plays, and movies;
episodes from history;
stories of your family, friends, and ancestors.
The more you are in contact with your favorite stories, the more comfortable you will feel with the process of life. Dr. Elizabeth Vandiver, professor at Whitman College, said of the classics of Western literature:
If you can easily name your top favorite movies, TV shows, actors, comedians, and books, you are probably in good stead with your subconscious mind. It is also a good sign if you can name your favorite places, mentors, historic figures, philosophers, and scientists. People who do not relate to the world around them, or compartmentalize their experience, are like cultural refugees. They may not know where they belong because they are unfamiliar with where they come from.
In times past, school children learned to recite entire epic poems by heart. They could name their culture's famous poets and authors, and recite stories they had listened to from childhood. If you feel disconnected from your stories, you only need to pay attention and notice what they are. Knowing your favorite stories and keeping them close is another way to stimulate your subconscious mind to help you create a reality that you love.
How to Plant a Request in the Subconscious Mind
As I explained earlier, the subconscious will grow whatever you hold in your conscious mind. The process works better if you allow yourself time to indulge in your favorite books and movies, and slow down enough to sit on a sandy bluff and watch the sun set over the ocean.
You can also plant specific suggestions in your mind. Sitting in a peaceful and relaxed state, think about something you want to accomplish. Contemplate the history of the situation and how you want it to go from here.
Wrap your thoughts in positive emotions so that your subconscious mind will understand what you want. Picture how you eventually want to feel when you look back on a situation. For example, you might imagine the gratitude you will feel once your goals are realized.
When you take the time to meditate on your goals, your subconscious mind will go to work like a powerful computer, searching for ideas. Be sure to write down any impressions or ideas you get. If you ignore ideas that bubble up into your conscious mind, they will sink back down and you will forget them.
Positive Mental Attitude
Autosuggestion works best for people who have a positive mental attitude, because temperament will determine thoughts. Planting a few positive thoughts in meditation will help, but entrenched false
attitude may choke out the positive thoughts and overwhelm your subconscious mind with negativity. This is one reason why positive thinking may not work for some people.
Mental attitudes may be tough to change because they are based on underlying beliefs. Once in place, beliefs perpetuate themselves because, like the colored beads of consciousness that Ralph Waldo Emerson talked about, they only let you see evidence that supports what you already believe.
When you set out to develop positive thinking, you must be willing to question your all your beliefs. It may take work, including psychotherapy, and making decisions you have procrastinated, but you are the one who decides what thoughts to keep. You have the ability to change anything about your inner life.
The negative mental attitudes are: fear, worry, perfectionism, projection, jealousy, acting out of anger, resentment, chronic victimhood, emptiness, loneliness, and superstition. There are already many books about how to develop a positive mental attitude. Some of my favorite authors are Ernest Holmes, Maxwell Maltz, Vernon Howard, Peace Pilgrim, and Florence Scovel Shinn.
Once you master your attitude, your autosuggestion becomes extremely powerful. Real positive thinking starts with a healthy outlook on life.
The positive path to enlightenment is through your own mind. No guru, god, or drug can take you there. You can learn from teachers, but you must take the journey on your own. You do not have to go anywhere or join anything; you do not have to change your religion, your marriage, or your job. It is not something you do outside yourself, because it is inside you, in the very way that your mind thinks. Because it is so close, it is impossible to see. The answer is in your blind spot and is thus usually invisible to you.
The point of dreaming peace is that when you embark on the path to enlightenment, it is a journey to locate and repair your own false beliefs. It is just that simple. But how to see your false beliefs, that is a paradox. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "People only see what they are prepared to see." The best evidence of your false beliefs is when you feel unhappy with the world and you think it needs to change. It may or may not need to change, but your attitude is what hurts you. If you can take the first step - a leap of faith that your unhappiness is due to your own false beliefs - then you are ready to begin.
The Positive Thinking Dream
The Dreaming Peace Plan
America seems torn between fear on one hand, and boundless inborn optimism on the other. After the War on Terror started, and seemed to be the next eternal war after the Cold War ended, I wrote the following peace plan for the post-9/11 world:
Alternative Energy We disarm the terrorists when we move away from Middle Eastern oil, and all oil, coal, and nuclear energy. We develop peaceful sources of energy from renewable resources. The petro products that we do use, we use wisely.
Out the Underground Economy We redeem our lost wealth from the black market economy. For example, if we legalize, tax, and regulate all drugs, it will mean one half trillion dollars less that we will lose every year to criminals and terrorists.
Achieve Transparency in Government and Business We open up our government and corporations to the light. Transparency and good communication keep people and organizations honest.
America Finds its Place in the World America acts responsibly to foster world peace. We stop making enemies through wars of aggression for natural resources, covert operations, torture, assassination, drones, secret weapons, etc. We, as Americans, now learn from the past and choose peace.
Conclusion The people of the world can build a web of love that replaces webs of fear. We have the ability to go forward in a good direction.
I believe that the peace plan, combined with positive thinking, could make a difference. Imagine a world where the vast majority of people (including the leaders) are honest with themselves and respectful toward people and other living things. In pockets around the world, this is already a reality.
The easy way out is to lie to ourselves and believe that through wishful thinking things will turn out okay. However, history will not be so kind. Either our generation will do something to solve the collective problems or history will give us our share in the blame when things get worse in the future. If we turn our backs now, the world will become more polluted, with more poverty and refugees, more hunger and disease. The world is good now, compared to how it might be after ten more years of neglect. The dire predicted consequences create a sense of urgency.
Peace Pilgrim, a McCarthy-era peace activist, said: "Collective problems must be solved by all of us, collectively, and no one finds inner peace who avoids doing his or her share." Try to break down your old, negative belief that you can do nothing to help, so you can embrace a new, more realistic belief that you can have a positive impact on collective problems. Positive social change is possible. If you open your mind to taking part in it, then your subconscious will start to send you ideas and inspiration.
Many things in this world have fizzled out or gone awry because the right person for the job was stuck in self-pity or another dead end. The more people trapped in fear and self-doubt, the worse the world is for it. Emile Coué said that if everyone used positive autosuggestion and raised their children with positive ideas, prisons would become obsolete.
In the love paradigm, people will feel more confident about confronting problems. They will not whine and cower, convinced that they are doomed to failure. They will accept help when it is offered, instead of feeling persecuted. Rather than getting polarized over petty issues as we do now, we will learn how to cooperate. In other words, we will grow up.
Creating a better world requires the skills of maturity and communication, which take place at the level of thought, and are thus part of positive thinking. The Internet is fueling a paradigm shift toward a future like the one I imagine, because information and communication are now instantaneous.
Reality is just a collective agreement, although some philosophers argue there is a concrete reality. The main challenge with dreaming peace is to get more people to accept that a peaceful future is possible. Once we have the collective will for a better future, we will find the way.
1. The John Dear quotations come from Dare to Imagine, by John Dear, S.J.
2. I briefly summarize the history of autosuggestion by focusing on these authors: Emile Coué, Dale Carnegie, Napoleon Hill, Earl Nightingale, and Maxwell Maltz. Other notable authors are listed on the positive thinking timeline, see:
3. Please note that positive thinking may be more difficult to learn if you have emotional problems due to unresolved grief, guilt, or victimization issues. In the long run it also does not work for people who use it for dishonest purposes. If you fall into either of these categories, I recommend that you consult a qualified professional therapist.
4. Experience, by Ralph Waldo Emerson, was published in an 1844 collection called, Essays: Second Series. It also appeared in other Emerson collections.
5. The Varieties of Religious Experience, by William James, 1902, Lectures IV and V, "The Religion of Healthy-Mindedness."
6. Relevant quotes are widely attributed to Mark Twain.
7. To learn more about the discussion about Mark Twain and his daughter Susy, see Papa: An Intimate Biography of Mark Twain, by Charles Neider (Doubleday, 1985). A review including the quotation by Mark Twain about his daughter is published here: http://etext.virginia.edu/railton/onstage/susyrev.html
8. The comparable quote from The Varieties of Religious Experience is from Lectures IV and V.
9. Success magazine was revived and is now in print as Success Unlimited. In 1999, Ken Sheldon and the editors of Success published a book on the founder, Real Success: Based on the Writings of Success Magazine Founder Orison Swett Marden (Executive Excellence Publishing, 1999).
10. Relevant quotes by Emile Coué come from My Method, pp. 19, 92, 93, and 96.
11. Kessinger Publishing Company reprinted Emile Coué's books in 1997. See: http://kessinger-publishing.com
12. In the early twentieth century, Dale Carnegie taught at Andrew Carnegie's Institute in New York. He later established his own school of communications and human relations, which he called the Dale Carnegie Institute of New York.
13. Napoleon Hill's first book, which he wrote for Andrew Carnegie, was called, The Law of Success, and was published in eight volumes in 1947. In 2008, it was reprinted as an unabridged 422 page paperback. It is also available as an audio book.
14. Napoleon Hill's quotes come from Think and Grow Rich, p. 32.
15. Dale Carnegie's legacy continues under Dale Carnegie & Associates, Inc., which includes a publishing house and the Dale Carnegie Courses, see: http://dalecarnegie.com
16. Earl Nightingale died in 1989, but his wife Diana reissued the original 1956 recording of The Strangest Secret in 1996. To find The Strangest Secret and other audio recordings by Earl Nightingale, go to the Nightingale-Conant Corporation of Chicago at http://earlnightingale.com or the positive thinking timeline at norimuster.com.
17. Earl Nightingale was said to record more than seven thousand radio spots and two hundred and fifty audio programs, and was inducted into the Association of National Broadcasters, Radio Hall of Fame in 1985.
18. The Maxwell Maltz Foundation published a revised version of Psycho-cybernetics in 1993 called Psycho-Cybernetics 2000 that received only mixed reviews. Many people still prefer the original (ISBN 0671700758). Maltz also wrote Zero Resistance Selling. Audible.com now offers vintage recordings of Maxwell Maltz speaking about why he wrote Psycho-cybernetics.
19. The most well known behaviorists following Pavlov were John B. Watson (1878 to 1958), Edward Thorndike (1874-1949), and B.F. Skinner (1904-1990).
20. American mathematician Norbert Wiener introduced the word cybernetics in 1940. He founded the study of cybernetics and the theory of communication processes.
21. My Method, p. 9.
22. In certain pathological mental states, the conscious and subconscious minds may appear to work against each other. That is one definition of emotional disturbance.
23. The Navy skirts headline appeared in the San Diego Union-Tribune, Oct. 18, 2004.
24. Charles van Doren, The History of Knowledge: Past, Present, and Future. Ballantine Books (1991), p. 282.
25. Thoughts for the Times of War and Death, Sigmund Freud, 1915, as cited in van Doren.
26. Jung published his findings about alchemy in The Psychology of the Transference (1946), The Idea of Redemption in Alchemy (1936), Psychology of Alchemy (1953), and Mysterium Coniunctionis: An Inquiry into the Separation and Synthesis of Psychic Opposites in Alchemy (1953).
27. The term new age came into popular use in the 1920s, not the 1970s as some people think. Some scholars say Alice A. Bailey of the Theosophical Society coined the term, while others say it was Carl Jung. Jung was the first to use Age of Aquarius to describe the new thought movement.
28. Joseph Campbell mentioned the Blue Marble photo as a significant archetypal healing image for all humankind, see The Hero's Adventure, an interview with Bill Moyers in the series, Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth, Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), 1988.
29. The statement about learning the classics of Western civilization comes from an interview with Dr. Vandiver, for The Teaching Company (https://teach12.com), where her literature classes are available on CD.
30. While I recommend particular books and audio recordings, including publications about the Twelve Steps, I cannot necessarily endorse any groups or organizations that promote these teachings. Organizations change, and while particular groups may be good for some individuals at some times, I cannot guarantee a good experience from joining any specific group.
About the Author
Nori Muster has been a professional journalist, writing for publication since 1980. She earned her masters degree from Western Oregon University in 1991. Go to norimuster.com and dreamingpeace.net for more writing by Nori.
About the Cover
The Flammarion engraving first appeared in an 1888 Medieval cosmology book by Camille Flammarion. It continues to inspire humanity to look beyond the veil of conventional reality.