"Real" positive thinking
Once upon a time, people performed ritual
sacrifices in an attempt to avert natural
disasters. Nowadays, the most popular ritual
for avoiding disasters is to accumulate money.
Our ancestors didn't know when to stop spilling
blood, as their gods never announced: "That's
enough". Modern people can't stop accumulating
money for a similar reason.
A conviction (or suspicion) that the world
is essentially hostile probably underlies
this behaviour. In which case, no amount of
sacrifice or money will remove the underlying
sense of insecurity. No burglar-alarm can make
you feel safe, if you believe the neighbourhood
is dangerous enough to require it.
Feeling safe requires an alteration of your
belief-system to remove the archaic "programming"
concerning the hostile/dangerous "nature"
of things. The gimmick is to do this without
offending your sense of "reality"
(which might be difficult if you live in a war
zone). In other words, you experimentally "stretch"
your beliefs further towards "optimism"
than you might normally allow.
Pessimists need not find this distasteful.
It doesn't mean subscribing to rose-tinted stupidity.
Cognitive dissonance can be avoided by viewing
it as "nothing more" than a temporary
If letting go of pessimistic fears made us
more susceptible to harm, we'd be in peril every
time we went to sleep. There's no cause for
physiological unease: optimism never undermines
the biological fight-or-flight response when
the latter is needed.
Two obvious things help with the gamble: i)
reasonably convincing evidence that the universe
is not essentially hostile towards you eg you still exist; ii) reasonably convincing
evidence that no metaphysical entity wishes
to punish you for your moral failings eg you
still exist despite your laziness, selfishness,
unkind thoughts, perverted lusts, etc.
There's a third, less obvious, thing. Feeling
under attack from specific "enemies"
(whether real or, say, phantoms created by the
media) requires a different tactic: "forgiveness".
No need to puke it's just basic psychology:
if you're hostile towards someone/something,
your brain anticipates a hostile reaction
hence the fear of attack. "Forgiveness"
removes this anticipation. No holier-than-thou
sanctimony involved it's for your benefit,
Everyday external struggle (eg menial drudgery
and scraping for money) gets confused with psychological
struggle ie the type internalised via masochistic
social programming. The latter appears no more
useful than blood-sacrifice in making the universe
any safer, but it becomes a habit in our pessimistic
culture. The belief behind the habit is that
you are infinitely undeserving that reward,
ie happiness, will always be contingent upon
the endurance of some unpleasant activity. As
if you have to please some Authority (divine
or otherwise) in order to demonstrate your "worthiness"
on a regular basis (probably 9-5, Monday to
The problem with this way of thinking is that
it never ends by itself. The implicit Authority
never comes along to say: "That's enough
struggle". And nobody of greater "authority"
comes along to supersede the implicit Authority.
But we have some impressive-looking certificates
to establish our "authority".
The implicit Authority was always a sham, a