Up until several weeks ago, I considered myself to be rather positive. Most folk that know me would agree. One friend stopped short of calling me a Pollyanna, but insisted that I had an answer for everything. Another likened me to a chirpy Cameron Diaz, always smiling.
So when the results of my positive-thinking campaign, relevant to my second novel, The Blindsided Prophet, suggested that I had one foot in the negative camp, I was horrified. My research also suggested that I find it much easier to produce negative thoughts than positive ones, and also to shirk responsibility for my circumstances.
Examples: waitress is prejudiced; person is self-centred; neighbour is unpleasant; head is aching; day is miserable etc. I am not saying that there aren't prejudiced waitresses, and so on, but there are often fewer of them than I think. And I'm not the only one. Surely, a day is never miserable? Perhaps the weather, the circumstances ... but the day just is.
Where do we get such negative ideas anyhow? As children, we pick up thoughts -- be they good, bad or indifferent -- from family, friends, television, and the most influential, interesting ones stay deep within our subconscious mind, many of them negative. Hypochondria and illness, for instance, have both been linked to negative thinking, as has stress.
As adults, we should just oust the negative thinking, right? That's the idea, but it's not so easy for a number of reasons. The main one is that most negative thoughts are planted before we have the capacity to discern between good and bad. To get rid of them is a bit like weeding. Until they are really uprooted, they are annoying.
According to author Harry Carpenter in The Genie Within: Your Subconscious Mind, the subconscious mind, responsible for ninety-two per cent of our thinking and doing, runs our lives until we are about three years old. Then, the conscious mind, responsible for the remainder of our brain function, emerges, but does not fully develop until we are about twenty.
What does this mean? Endless problems with willpower. Frankly, the bigger and more powerful subconscious doesn't discern between real and imagined. It just operates from deep, yet dominant thoughts, even if they are negative.
The conscious mind, with its eight per cent of logical will, cannot overrule the power broker, even when the biggie is clearly wrong.
When the two are in sync, this is willpower. You are single-minded. You win. When they clash, you are double-minded. You lose. That's when negative thoughts you didn't even know you had call the shots.
Worrying, isn't it? Yet another form of negative thinking, along with doubt, fear and the rest.
There is good news, however. Negative thinking can be overwritten, but this is no small task. Carpenter says your subconscious can become your genie within, instead of your master, but this takes some doing; more on that in another blog.
In the meantime, if you ask me, the subconscious, with all of its baggage, behaves more like a monster within. Unfair? On the contrary! Anyone who has ever jumped to a conclusion, obsessed over something that has nothing to do with anything, stayed down in the dumps just because, or done something utterly regrettable knows what I am talking about.
Cute and cuddly like the Cookie Monster, the monster within can be highly deceptive; like Herman Munster, it can be friendly but thick; and like his wife, Lily, it can be rather charming; similar to Frankenstein, it can be destructive; and at other times, like the Incredible Hulk, it can be scary and make you wonder who it is, and why it became like that.
In extreme situations, the monster can be out of control. We see this in terrorism, hate crimes, and so on. But I am not dealing with extreme situations, just everyday ones, where the monster can and should be put in check ... and, preferably, replaced with the genie.
Several years ago, on a trip to the US, I gave my nephew a remote-controlled toy that he launched as and when he felt like it. My sister insisted that I had created a monster.
The boy seemed to think about this toy all the time, to the chagrin of the rest of us.
"Perhaps I incited a monster," I said, "but I did not create him."
In hindsight, maybe I did help with the creation. As an adult in his life, I had made an impression on him long before I bought the toy. Remember how thoughts come about in the first place? No debate there.
Now entering adulthood, my nephew has come to the time when he will begin taking full responsibility for his own thoughts. Or will he?
I certainly hope so because, according to authors such as Carpenter, Louise Hay and James Allen, we are what we think. On Hay's Facebook page, she celebrates healing herself of cancer through positive thinking.
In As a Man Thinketh, James Allen wrote:
"Every man is where he is by law of his being; the thoughts which he has built into his character have brought him there."
If Hay and Allen are right, then surely suggesting that children begin getting a hold of this monster upon entering adulthood is a day late; a dollar short?
We would be well-served to teach the importance of thinking early on, as a good, yet basic communications practice. To do so, however, would take a major cultural shift. So until then, it's a good idea to suggest a bit of reprogramming at any age.
This might be our best chance for mastering positive thinking and thus taking responsibility for our very own circumstances. But how? How do we get rid of this illusive monster within and replace it with a genuine genie?
To be explored shortly. Watch this space.