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The dangers of positive thinking

By on June 20, 2014

Does positive thinking work? Should you get your clients to ‘think positive thoughts’ or use mantras? The answer is more complex than you might imagine. Research suggests that for those with a negative view of life, using positive thinking and mantras can actually make them feel worse.

This appears to be because forcing these people to ‘think positive’ sets up a type of cognitive dissonance, where there unconscious immediately begins contradicting and negating the positive thoughts. You will find a more detailed discussion in the article below, including links to the original research.

A more effective approach for this type of client might be to use ‘bottom up’ techniques such as NLP Belief Change to reset the client’s mental map before suggesting positive mantras.

The positive mantra has long been a staple of self-help books. According to many self-help books, the idea is simple and intuitive: repeating I am lovable, or I am confident, will move a person towards these states. According to psychological research, though, these statements dont work for everyone and, for some, may even backfire (Wood et al., 2009).

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