The power of Positive™ Thinking

Fbfnd asked, Do you think that just focussing on the positive in life is ok? What about the darkness?

Grist to my mill. I replied It is always worthwhile to focus on the positive in a situation, possibilities rather than what you can’t do because of what you don’t have. But that does not mean you should deny that real problems exist, so you may do something about them. And much positivity “wisdom” is problematic because of semantics, it is just that it is only part of the truth.

Um. Not entirely clear: that write-Post rather than write-read-Post thing. For clarity: you should admit problems exist, so you may do something about them.

But wait. Is that any more than The Serenity Prayer? It is beautifully expressed. Perhaps I am better to express truth allusively and poetically rather than as if in a statute- Niebuhr’s clarity is beyond me.

Barbara Ehrenreich is onto something- indeed, her cancer was not a “gift”. Here is Eve Ensler arguing the opposite, that it gives gifts of empathy and feeling one with other human beings and valuing the life we have and accepting the need to be cared for and accepting the care of others- but I would rather gain those gifts some other way.

Denial may be a gift. If there is a Threat, but I can do nothing about it, I might be better getting on with other things in life rather than stressing about that threat like a rabbit in the headlights. Serenity to accept the things I cannot change may be better, but I would settle for Denial if I can do no better.

On facebook, the argument moved on to the Law of Attraction, with long closely argued paragraphs flashing back and forth: if you look out for and notice what is good in your environment, you learn to be more aware of it, which increases your curiosity and engagement with the world. Seeing the bad reduces self-esteem and self-confidence, and produces a sense of hopelessness. “Quiet desperation is the English way” sang Pink Floyd, not an original observation.

And looking for the bright side in ones situation- even cancer- does no harm. That part of myself which I see as Bad, as Shadow, so flee- there is strength there, and it behoves me to explore my responses and possibilities. Finding the Good in it blesses me.

Going back to Ehrenreich’s example, telling people who have just been dismissed that this is a great opportunity, that all the great entrepreneurs have sat where they are sitting now, is a lie, and victim-blaming: yet we do all have to get on with it. I still don’t get what Jesus meant by “Ask and ye shall receive” and Christians have been wrestling with the meaning and power of prayer ever since- yet some of those fired employees will transcend their situation, just as some struck down with mental health issues will live more productively after learning to deal with their illness. But- not everyone.

Issues with manifesting want to be loved and happy, and to feel I am doing something worthwhile.

Let us vibrate, let us manifest. Let us tell the Universe what we want. Money, job, car, house; freedom, peace, security, power, self-worth, adventure, success. Here are two lists. Menis says that the second list, the feelings, are the reality, the first list merely symbols. Everyone but me said they wanted things- money, job, etc, and only I said I wanted to be loved and happy. I was ashamed of that, actually: I want to want things- and wanting feelings is a step forward. I want to feel what I want, and know it, so that I can seek it out. It feels to me that my lack of trust in the world causes my lack of knowledge of what things I want.

In the station, Louise just started talking to me, even though I ignored her at first. She talked about advance booking of rail tickets, getting pickpocketed in London and how she was forced to lunch on the free samples in the Selfridges food hall. A useful tip, I could value a free lunch, I only need dress nicely. Louise is Zimbabwean: I would have thought her Australian. I was delighted to meet the vibrant Violet Wisp and her beautiful 18 month old daughter, who toddled fearlessly further and further from our table, to the doors of the coffee shop and up the steps into the drizzle outside, whence she had to be fetched back. I am a little sad that the seat beside me is unoccupied on the train, but it gives time to blog. At Newcastle a woman joins me, and we chat of our churches and her grandchildren. our hands but with forefingers extended, parallel, we chant softly “fingers come together”- and they do. What strikes me is the feeling of gentle force moving them. Those whose fingers do not, have consciously resisted. Try it. Writing now, on the train, I do not feel the same suggestive force as I did in the group, but- well, it is me bringing my forefingers together. Our body follows our thoughts. Unfortunately, many of our unconscious thoughts are already fixed. “Money is a bad thing.” We go to Learn to be Rich or Law of Attraction seminars and we manifest, and underneath our subconscious is still saying the old fear stories. I decided to be Positive two years ago- the Essence course is my anniversary- and it still needs conscious reinforcement. Gratitude, noticing possibilities and beauty rather than difficulty or pain is the trick- and perhaps that is why I do not look for work, because I do not see the threats.

I am beautiful and capable, with a warm loving heart and a quick mind. I am worthy of happiness and love. I am sensitive, and I can turn my sensitivity outwards, to see other people rather than this unnecessary self-monitoring. The self-monitoring was necessary when I was a constant worry for my mother, a sign to her that she was never good enough, someone for her to fear; but that was a long time ago.

Seeking the slime II

File:Ruin at Ardmenish.jpgThe great mass of human beings are not acutely selfish. After the age of about thirty they almost abandon the sense of being individuals at all — and live chiefly for others, or are simply smothered under drudgery. But there is also the minority of gifted, willful people who are determined to live their own lives to the end, and writers belong in this class. Serious writers, I should say, are on the whole more vain and self-centered than journalists, though less interested in money.
George Orwell, Why I Write

Well, at least at the moment I am not smothered under drudgery. With Jacques Mesrine, I am not being told what to do. This doing nothing is the only way I can see to “live my own life”. I write here, I read a bit, I meditate less than I consciously intend, and I “play” Spider Solitaire. I could practise the piano, and don’t; I have picked up three or four pieces to learn in these two years, and mastered none. would be nice, perhaps, to have the heart-impulse to do something more, and then do it. Is it possible?

I resigned because I had been given an ultimatum, a “reasonable” instruction and a final written warning, I had not complied and was going to be sacked. After two years’ unemployment I think it unlikely that I will get a job of the responsibility or interest of which I think I am capable.

During the Hoffman Process I saw clearly for the first time one of my characteristics which I saw as particularly harmful: seeking out stories of why I should be frightened of the World, in order that I should hide from it. This seemed abominable, and I labelled it shit-hoovering.

File:Feolin Ferry, Isle of Jura.jpgLast night I was weeping because my dear friend lost half her capital in a fake investment scam- spent it on moonbeams and rainbows, a false hope of an impossible return. And her emotional reaction to this gets in the way, a year after we found it was a fraud. Someone should have prevented the scam, it was well-known: I tell her the lie is half-way round the world before the truth has got its boots on, and the fraud was set up in order to be difficult to prosecute, and I am not certain she can take that in. Her anger and her knowledge of what should happen gets in the way of seeing what is, and how she might avoid further loss.

You see I know this story, and I know the truth of it, and it miserifies and horrifies me and makes me want to turn my face to the wall. With other stuff. And the world really can be an awful place, and my friend’s pain is real.

Ego and impulse

How can I distinguish ego-motivation (bad) from Heart/Spirit/God motivation (good) except by thinking about it?

Different parts of the brain say different things. There are impulses and drives, and so often the drive is self-destructive: should I do another Spider Solitaire at 1.50am? Probably not, and yet several times later than that I have done. And yet that breakfast: people thought my impulse would be to pig myself on a cooked breakfast, and I needed moral self-restraint (good) to resist that impulse, whereas actually I looked at it and my impulse was to eat muesli. I watched C eat cereal by itself, without milk, and thought that is him asserting Control in the only way he can- no-one could actually like it like that- because he is still living with his parents.

If I label my year of unemployment with just three job applications my Great Sulk, that seems bad, and if I label it my Retreat for Self-Healing, it seems good. Possibly it is a bit of both.

On Facebook I read that procrastination can be a good thing, allowing onesself to mature into doing something rather than forcing onesself. I scrolled through just now and can’t find it, but I did find this from Abraham Hicks: Worthiness, in very simple terms, means I have found a way to let the Energy reach me, the Energy that is natural, reach me. Worthiness, or unworthiness, is something that is pronounced upon you by you. You are the only one that can deem yourself worthy or unworthy. You are the only one who can love yourself into a state of allowing, or hate yourself in a state of disallowing. There is not something wrong with you, nor is there something wrong with one who is not loving you. You are all just, in the moment, practicing the art of not allowing, or the art of resisting. Oops, the Hickses are talking sense again. The loving or hating onesself is generally unconscious, my feelings of unworthiness are very deep: how may I change from one to the other? Can I use my ego/mind/conscious thought and analysis to shift into self-love and respect? If not, how might I so shift?

It seems to me that I learned young that I am Worthless. This promptly went unconscious. I then realised I felt that way very deep down, by ratiocination- (Oh My God the Monkey mind Ego Bad Bad Bad) but also by a guided way into my Unconscious- it is my Hoffman name. (Mystic!! Good!!). If I kneel in my ritual space and say, portentously, “I am worthy of Respect” or try to Think Through reasons why I am worthy of respect- either simply by being human, or by characteristics- can I in that way move from that hate to self-love?

I have faith that the human being heals, and I seem wiser and more self-accepting than before (if my ego is perceiving correctly). I was all knotted up. Can I help myself unknot, by thinking about it, or by practising willing my own good?  What do you think?

Or, going back to Being Human, if I can see bits of myself in the shero Alex even if she is not the most well-drawn human being, is it better to spend time watching that rather than reading Proust and seeing myself in the pitiable Marcel?

Walking don’t know how to walk. I don’t know how to stand.

I am taking conscious incompetence to its extreme. Anything may be improved. Also, it makes walking meditative to be aware of it: as I can concentrate on my breathing while kneeling in my ritual space, so I can be aware of the movements of feet, ankles, calves, thighs, arms torso and neck in walking. That relaxed open awareness. But chiefly, I am aware of how and who I am, and how I express myself, even in walking. I have learned two and a half times before, and I want to finish off the third time.

The first time I was a baby. What an achievement that is, over months to go from lying helpless, not knowing how the desires fit the bodily movements so that we have to wave our legs many times before we realise that movement is that; and soon toddling. I used this as encouragement- “You have done difficult things before: you learned how to walk and talk!” until an untransitioned trans woman quavered at me, “My mother told me I was very late walking”.

The second time was in my teens. I thought of how I wanted to walk, and showed my mother. She did not want me walking like that because it looked “homosexual”. And I thought of my walking, and removed anything expressive from it. Walking in rain I noticed how water flicked from my toe across my path, so I worked on pointing my foot forwards throughout the movement.

Then I was out with Carol, about 1999, and she commented how prognathous my walking was. Jaw sticking forward. Neanderthal. So male. Well, it had to be. And now, I can walk hurriedly, not noticing people around me.

I am so tense and anxious. I have managed to expunge stress from my life, for the moment, as much as anyone can by her own efforts, and I am tense.

H’s dog Jess walked around with her tail clamped firmly down, and I thonght, that covers the anus and vagina. Like that, it is more difficult for other dogs to smell her. That is tense, and low-status, for a high status dog does not care who smells where it is.

It seems to me these things are linked. I stand with my buttocks clenched and my back tense, and though I do not expect anyone to smell me, I stand and walk with a cringe, in a low-status pose. I do not want to be noticed. I am fearful. Still. If I relax as I walk, and walk as if the World is mine, and I am not afraid, people might notice that: another way in which the law of attraction concept of “vibrating” might work. Though I want a feminine walk, not a male swagger.

Desires II

This is the Hicks quote which bridges the gap between what I believe, and what I imagine the Law of Attraction to say. It is not just woo-woo, but a “spiritual-mystic” turning of ordinary understandings on their head, based in human psychology with a materialist-practical effect.

It is natural that by knowing what you do not want, you are able to clarify what you do want; and there is nothing wrong with identifying a problem before beginning to look for a solution. But many people, over time, become problem oriented rather than solution oriented, and in their examination and explanation of the problem, they continue the perpetuation of the problem. That which is like unto itself, is drawn—so tell the story you want to live and you will eventually live it.

Um. I wanted to make a man of myself, and I did not. I am not sure this is a refutation of Hicks, I think I did not really want to be a man, but something else. I do not really know what I want. A year ago I said I wanted to descend into, really feel, and work through my anger.

I held a discussion within myself when deciding to transition, with my male self, female self, inner rationalist and inner toddler. The toddler said “I want to wear skirts and I want to walk down the street and buy stuff.” I want to express myself female, for that is who I am, and I do. I want money, I am strongly materialist in that sense.

Other formulations I have do not work. “I want to be told what to do,” except when I am often I resent it and go my own way. Perhaps

I want to find a place where I fit

and that is a human thing, we are a social species.

I want to feel I am doing something useful, valuable and worthwhile

and I have managed that, in the past.

I want to be safe.

I want to protect myself, because I hurt.

And that conflicts with

I want to be doing things, moving forward, achieving.

The depth of my hurt amazes me. I cannot quite believe it. So my desires conflict, rather than working together.

I want to heal

but I am not sure how, and I can’t quite trust that I am doing it naturally. Am I just ruminating and fading away?


I do not speak to my father for weeks, because I want something from him that he cannot give, and I cannot relinquish that desire. There. A nice formulation. I have several answers to that, I must accept reality, I forgive for my own benefit not for others’; and I do not. So I sit with the difficulty in unknowing- inner critic laughs, but I do- and I realise I have this voice in myself which stops it. That voice, which sounds very like the one I declared war on, says-

It's not right it's not fair he she they should have cared, thought, seen, acted-

Note the pretty script, for it is hard for me to respect this voice, which resents the world, lots of individuals and groups, and myself. For I should have seen things coming, acted otherwise, avoided particular consequences-

I need to listen to that voice. I need to hear and respect that in me. Not with the thought of taming it- certainly not at first, hold that thought at bay- I want to hear it, and worship with it. Or, I want to know what I am forgiving.

Being positive about positive thinking

Or, what positive thinking is not.

It is not, denial of reality. As things stand, I can’t afford to pay my rent all year. Ignoring that, or denying it, is not positive thinking, however I “vibrate”. I need to do something about the issue. Positive thinking involves noticing things I might do.

It is not imagining that things are as they are not, that at Christmas I am having a wonderful time with people who only give me joy and no heartache, for that creates resentment against things as they are.

This dreadful straw man argument (do read it- the last thing I can do after attacking it for setting up a straw man is summarise it) says some useful things, but also sets up false oppositions. Norman Vincent Peale, who wrote The Power of Positive Thinking sixty years ago, is quoted: During holidays, Peale once suggested, you should make “a deliberate effort to speak hopefully about everything”. That does not mean, lie. I would like to have a good enough relationship with S. Peale is not suggesting I should say that I must or will have that good enough relationship, setting myself up for disappointment, but saying that it is possible, rather than concentrating on all the things which might go wrong.

To overcome a fear of embarrassment, [New York psychotherapist Albert] Ellis told me, he advised his clients to travel on the New York subway, speaking the names of stations out loud as they passed. I’m an easily embarrassed person, so I took his advice, on the Central Line of the London Underground. It was agonizing. But my overblown fears were cut down to size: I wasn’t verbally harangued or physically attacked. A few people looked at me strangely.

That is seeing things positively rather than negatively. Negative thinking would be, “I cannot do that, because I would be totally embarrassed”. Positive thinking is, “People do not care that much about me, and even if they do disapprove it does not  hurt me”. Positive thinking enables. Negative thinking concentrates on possibly illusory bad consequences. Positive thinking says, well, even if people do “look at me strangely”, I will cope with that if it happens. I have done makeup on the tube: I found it empowering. “What will people think?” is a bad reason for not doing something, unnecessarily restrictive. People rarely think what I imagine they will, in reality, and if they do it does not matter. Do I feel moved to do it? Do I really think it wrong or shameful?

The WSJ attack on setting goals (I told you, read the article) is classic negative thinking. Setting goals has bad results in some situations so is a bad thing to do. (I am paraphrasing, read the article to see whether I am accurate.) Positive thinking says, bad results can come from goal setting. Be aware of that, and seek to avoid them.

I love the idea of effectuation. Rather than choosing a goal and then making a plan to achieve it, they took stock of the means and materials at their disposal, then imagined the possible ends. Effectuation also includes… the “affordable loss principle.” Instead of focusing on the possibility of spectacular rewards from a venture, ask how great the loss would be if it failed. If the potential loss seems tolerable, take the next step. That is positive thinking, considering all the good in a situation. Equally, I may criticise the thrust of the article, and still gain from it.

Defensive measures

I was crying in the dojo. This is less than ideal.

There is so much to think about. Look straight forward. Torso vertical. Hips on/off. Position of feet, knees, thighs. That is before doing the block or strike itself: flow into it, the power and the effort comes at the last moment. In the first kata I should place my foot then turn, the torso stays straight above the hips and the turn comes from the legs, where the power is. In one of the turns, I was blocking with the wrong arm, Andy told me. That rather surprised me, and so I concentrated on that rather than the position of my legs and the way of turning. “That’s it. Excellent.” Says Andy. And the very next move I was punching one way rather than turning and punching, and cursing myself for getting it so simply wrong. “‘Don’t praise me, don’t praise me’, she says,” Andy echoed.

I first noticed this, taking driving lessons in 1983. Whenever the instructor told me I had done something well, the next thing I did badly. It still puzzles me a bit why I would react like that. Possibly a defensive measure, do not stand out by doing things remarkably well. Possibly self-punishing, I do not deserve praise. Whatever. I started crying because I had responded in that terrible, self-destructive way. How could I be so stupid, now? I managed to hold it in check. Breathe. It is alright. Responding in that way is OK, it is no great disaster, I reassure myself. It is OK. I do not need to respond in that way, but when I do no harm is done. I will learn not to respond in that way in time, and I do not have to get it perfectly right every time.

We do the second and third kata, and, in between, I still need to stand, reassuring myself, eyes closed, hands channeling healing Qi to my solar plexus chakra. I am glad that Andy spent time talking to others about how they are doing the kata and how it may be improved. I did not have to walk out.

I am sitting with it now.
All my outdated defensive patterns,
however sub-optimal or even self-destructive they are,
I took on to protect myself.
I am glad that I could protect myself,
and however I did it, that is OK.
And if I find myself repeating them now,
that is also OK.
I need not do them now,
but sometimes I do them reflexively.
This is not a disaster.
I will do them less, learn other ways of being.
Everything is all right.

O God, I have been so damaged.
Thank God, I have time now to heal.

It is a beautiful sunny day, and before I went to karate practice I had time to kneel in my ritual space. The feeling that came to me there was Gratitude. Now, though it is October, I am sunbathing.


I find spiritual matters easier to accept if there is a rational explanation, and so am intrigued by the Reticular Activating System, a part of the brain of all vertebrates. It regulates transition between sleep and wakefulness, and between relaxed wakefulness and periods of high attention. Since such high attention is something I delight in and think of as “Spiritual”, I am practising it. It also regulates attention so we may take notice of what is important, and ignore what is not. So if I set an intention, I start to notice things relevant to that intention. That is the theory, anyway. I am pleased that there is a theory. So the Law of Attraction makes greater sense to me. Not having a complete knowledge of brain physiology- has anyone?- I am happier to accept “Spiritual” explanations, the observation may be on to something.


I walked from the station to the shopping centre, in the rain, down the drab Midland Road. It is wet and horrible, and the nights are drawing in.


I am warm and dry with coat and umbrella. I enjoy the physical exercise, and the sights. I have in this moment no challenge I find difficult. All is good. I make a conscious choice, and an effort, and the world appears differently to me. I am more present in the present moment, and this is beneficial.

The discipline of seeking to see all the good I may find in any situation, and all the options I have, is behovely. It increases my motivation and my pleasure. Seeing my World as hostile and inimical is self-fulfilling. It helps me to think on how I have feared so much, and how OK I am, now. More than a year after having chosen to be positive rather than negative I am still working through the implications, and making it true for me. My shadow characteristics which I have judged and feared are good. My world is good and beautiful. This is good for me.

Esther and Jerry Hicks go further, the way I “vibrate” attracts the beneficial or inimical to me.

In my seeking the positive, rationally, have I mined all the truth and value out of the “Law of attraction”? If not, what should I do next?


I had not done Biodanza before the twenty minute taster at L’s birthday party. Her friend S teaches it. She had a colleague calling up the music. I thought, well, I have done 5Rhythms, this should be OK. S talks us into an in-the-moment place, heart open. I flick into that immediately, which is a useful skill, then find myself thinking, get on with it, as she carries on talking us there. Intriguing. How would you get people in this state, in your group? How would you know they were there?

Actually, in other groups, leaders have used dancing as a way of getting us to relax into that state of Presence. Perhaps S could just trust the dance, if she had longer to demonstrate. Or perhaps she needs us there first, so that when we do the dancing we get its full effect.

There is a great deal more instruction than in 5R. There is some couple work, we move in concentric circles making eye contact. Again, with L’s friends, this is easy enough. We are into that eye-contact thing.


I held the weight in my hand, arm extended sideways. “Are you lifting it with your Qi?” asked H. Mmm. Actually, I can see it could be called that, but I would explain what I was doing in a materialist way: often lifting a weight I tense up, and I was seeking to relax all the muscles apart from the ones actually needed to hold the weight up. It is a lesson I took from my handful of yoga lessons: relax into the pose. The tension does me no good. If I screw my face up as I try to twist the lid off a jar, how might that help?

I had not known the “spiritual” explanation could be given for the technique (though, possibly, those who would “lift a weight with their Qi” are doing something different). I do not know what value it has. It sounds like obfuscation.

Thinking as I write: if I told you that it was possible to lift the weight with Qi, and that you should simply relax and do it, would that enable you to lift the weight unconsciously? We are so good at self-consciousness. We overthink everything. Perhaps I could limit my consciousness to telling my body and my unconscious mind to do its thing. That might feel like Spirit or Qi doing the work.


Law of attraction seems so fitted to a materialist explanation, stripping away all the taboos and fears holding us back from decisive action, that a spiritual explanation seems otiose. Could I “manifest” something other than by my own actions?

I still want breast growth. I can manifest that easily, paying a surgeon to stuff them with silicone. Then again, after eleven years on the Sweeties, I would have thought any growth I was capable of would have happened by now. So, just as a game, I will seek to manifest it Spiritually. I will use my Qi. I will pray for it. See what happens.

Picture credit.