Friday, May 3, 2013

Positive thinking

Positive Thinking

My former Psychosynthesis tutor Margo Russell often reminded us that Psychosynthesis is a humanistic and positive psychology, with focus on the healthy and strong in man. She emphasized the importance of developing “bifocal vision”: the ability to see the “outer shell” of a person and to see “behind” as well, the ability to see the inner, the human, the potential, even when the “outer shell” has negative and destructive traits.

This can be regarded as a form of positive thinking, wanting to see the good in everyone.

But, she also all the time warned us against becoming naïve, against ending up on a downhill slope of positive thinking where, as she expressed it, ”positive thinking becomes positive stinking”.

This can be interpreted as a warning against adhering so singlemindedly to positive thinking that the negative becomes “forbidden”, and thereby gets suppressed from the conscious mind. People ending up here risk getting into trouble due to their naïveté, and in the roles of therapist, medical doctor, or other roles where they are to help others, they can even cause damage.

Language is image-making

With this said, I still want to promote a certain kind of positive thinking, and that is when one wants to influence oneself or others, when one wants to motivate oneself or others, in an efficient way.

In order to explain why positive expressions are more efficient than using negative expressions, I will start with philosophizing about the function of language, illustrating this with the following picture:
(Click on the figure for larger image.)

The function of language is to produce an inner image (Symbol 4) inside the head of the person listening. This image is the result of an interpretation of what you have said (Symbol 3). The words that you pronounce are symbols (Symbol 2) for your inner image of what you are describing (Symbol 1), which in turn is a result of how you perceive reality.

The whole communication chain is thus

Reality -> S1 -> S2 -> S3 -> S4

And one can say that language distances itself from reality four times over, which might explain why communication is so difficult, and why misunderstandings are so common…

Inner images influence

So, if you want to influence somebody in doing something, or if you want to motivate someone for something, you should according to this model try to create a positive image in the head of the person, an image that makes the person feels attracted to and feels inclined to act on.

It is here that positive thinking, and a positive language, comes in. If you formulate a sentence containing negations, like not, never, hardly, etc, inevitably  an inner image of what you do not want to happen will be created. This image will not feel good, and a subconscious resistance may develop, like “selective deafness” (common among teenagers), suppression or some other type.

Reflect on the sentence “The dog does not chase the cat.” The inner image that came up in your head was most probably a dog chasing a cat, and then you had to thinkand that is not so…”. The brain is not capable to create an image of the word not.

Use positive terms only

So, if you want to become skilled in influencing and motivating, train yourself to use positive terms only. Say what you want to happen, or how you want something to be done, or how you want your child to behave.

When you do this, positive and motivating images will be created in the head of the one listening.

We have the bad habit of using the word NOT.

Most of us have though the bad habit (= an automatic, learnt, and subconscious behavior) of using negations. If you are the parent of young children, it may be an enlightening “measurement” to count the number of NOTs you use during an hour together with the child…

Even if you mentally know that you are a victim of this negative habit, the only efficient way of changing it, so that you instead automatically use positive expressions, is to train in a persistent and conscious way.

Test this! You will discover how surprisingly hard it is, but I hope that you also discover how much better you can become in influencing and motivating!

If you want to work even more with efficient communication, test PsychosynthesisForums e-course BasicCommunication, and become a skilled communicator!

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