Alexei Zoubov,head with saxophone
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        The Power of Negative Thinking. 1 – An Introduction of Sorts

        November 2nd, 2008 by Alexei Zoubov

        When I just moved to the States, I was amazed at the number of books, magazines and events dedicated to self-improvement of every possible kind. From esoteric mystical ways of New Age gurus and movements to very pragmatic teachings how to get rich through becoming a better human money-making machine, everything was pushing the idea of the necessity of personal growth. And buying books, tapes, and going to expensive seminars. Not a bad idea and definitely not a bad business.

        Being interested in inner human potential and some methods like meditation and self-hypnosis for years, even before coming to the States, I immediately got sucked right into this vortex. I still have a large shelf of books on many of these subjects.

        It took me some time to start understanding what had some value in all these teachings and what was just junk. “90% of everything is crap”, said Theodore Sturgeon. This is absolutely true about all these self-improvement ideas also, although in this particular case the ratio is probably closer to 96% (or more). I’d like to believe I was able to distill some very useful ideas and discard all trash.

        So called “positive thinking” always plays a very important role in every self-improvement method. Norman Vincent Peale wrote an extremely successful book, called “The Power of Positive Thinking”, but the idea itself was introduced many years (or even centuries) before him.

        Here is a quote that sums positive thinking (of this sort) quite nicely: “It is a mental attitude that expects good and favorable results. A positive mind anticipates happiness, joy, health and a successful outcome of every situation and action. Whatever the mind expects, it finds.”

        Compare that with Ambrose Bierce’s definition of future: “That period of time in which our affairs prosper, our friends are true and our happiness is assured.”

        Sounds like a parody on positive thinking to me!

        The notion of self esteem is closely related to positive thinking. Another quote: ¬†”Positive thinking definitely improves your self-esteem. When you look at the world with a positive outlook, you will definitely feel like you can accomplish anything.”

        OK, enough of quotes and definitions, or you might think that I’m presenting myself as another self-improvement guru. I am definitely not. I just want to argue that positive thinking as defined above, could have negative effect. As could blown up self-esteem.

        Well, I wanted this post to be more about music, but I guess I’ll have to devote a separate post to what I call “Negative creativity”, the method I was practically forced to use in music. I hope to have the next post ready in a few days.

        Back to positive thinking and self-esteem.

        It looks to me that we don’t need self-esteem that is either higher or lower than a correct one. Considering that both your abilities and self-esteem are dynamic, changing in time, to maintain the right balance, you not only need a constant self-evaluation, but also should pay attention to your evaluation by others (although the latter – as well as the former – could often be wrong).

        I never was extremely good at estimating my own traits and abilities. Being a by-polar (of a rather mild variety), I would go from feeling overly potent to misery and self-deprecation, and neither state produced good results. I’m much better now, and negative thinking (in my interpretation) has a lot to do with it.

        American Idol provides perfect examples of people with overblown self-esteem. Sometimes the denial of ones own lack of musicality and inability to sing becomes a tragedy and I know ¬†several instances of ruined, or almost ruined lives because of… yes, badly applied positive thinking!

        Well, I’ve promised an introduction (of sorts) to¬†The Power of Negative Thinking, but it looks like this post is getting way too long. So, I’ll wrap it up for today and ramble more about this subject in the next post.

        After getting pretty much pissed off at all this avalanche of Positive Thinking teachings, I started to tell my friends that I intend to write a book, titled “The Power of Negative Thinking”. I never got to it (figures) and, anyway, I wasn’t really serious to start with. But thinking about this helped me to formulate some principles that helped me to get through life, at least when I was able to apply them.

        And anticipating “successful outcome of every situation and action” or “good and favorable results” wasn’t helping much at all.

        To be continued…

        Posted in Ideas & Ideologies, Music, Thoughts