Budimir Zdravkovic

PhD student in biochemistry/cancer biology,


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The Problem of Positive Thinking


Books like The Secret hold more credibility in our culture than books on philosophy, history or literature. Mainstream theatre shows are musicals like Mama Mia. Do we all have the princess syndrome?

And I define the princess syndrome as a intense desire to live happily ever after, ignorant of topics that provoke us to think and raise our awareness.

Most of all our culture emphasizes dreaming and provides us with success stories along the lines of "he was just a Slum Dog, out of luck, stealing shoes from tourists and bringing a slight discomfort into their lives, until he discovered he had the talent to win trivia shows."

When I watched the movie it provoked an emotional response, I felt warn and fuzzy. But it also made me ask myself how many trivia show millionaires are truly out there? Did I get suckered into paying for education when I could've been a Slum Dog?

When you ask yourself these questions you are distancing yourself from the emotional impact of the movie and you stop and say to yourself, wait a minute, what about all the other slum dogs? Well there a two competing views on this topic the author of the Secret would tell you: they didn't "dream" hard enough. Common sense might tell you: you don't win social justice on game shows.

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    May 12 2011: I believe that instead of always seeking a fairy-tale ending, instead people should adapt the mindset that "Everything that happens is the best possible thing". I think instead of expecting "Good" things to happen, people should learn to be aware of their emotions and instead, look at all things as "good". I know it is hard to say when so many awful things are happening in the world, but I think by changing our perceptions and how we view "Bad" things, it will empower people to make positive changes and be proactive in the face of all situations.

    It IS possible to be happy and still be aware of topics that provoke us to think and increase awareness.
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      May 12 2011: I like where you are going with this idea. I think we can be happy and enjoy life, and also be aware of these things that go on around us. We don't need to be ignorant to know bliss.

      We can always work towards a more decent society and our history is full of political progress, but that's only because people didn't give up on education, creativity, ideas and solidarity. If we want a better world, we can't let consumerism guide our wisdom or purpose.

      People get discouraged because they don't see results right away and that's where we have to be realistic and know that life is not a fairy tale. Change is slow and you might not see it during your lifetime, but working towards it is the only option we have if we want to see better days.
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    May 20 2011: You make excellent points.

    I believe the positive 'critical' thinker disregards negative influences better than the average joe and is able to more successfully navigate life. As well, one attracts like minds and with more positive people to hang out with, the more positive one's outlook.

    Smiles all around!
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    May 14 2011: The first time I encountered this type of thinking was in Christian churches. It became known as the 'Name it and claim it movement'. I think that in essence it taught that God was a dispensing machine and if you just believed hard enough and tithed properly every dream you had would come true. I saw some real cruelty when people were dying of cancer and they were told that they just had not 'believed' properly for healing.

    It seemed to work out to be a sort of spiritual pyramid scheme.Many many poor people got poorer as they made rich people's dreams come true hoping that someone somewhere would make theirs come true too. Now it appears to have seeped into secular society and it is a form of magical thinking.We all know that looking optimistically at life has some benefits but imposing an unrealistic expectation on a set of facts leads people to real heart ache.
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      May 14 2011: Very interesting post. The Secret utilizes the exact same "magical" thinking as most religions do. Our brain waves alone will not change the condition of our existence, the only way agency can manifest is through our physical bodies. We are constrained by the fact of our existence, like you mentioned no matter how much we attempt wish away bad things like cancer, it's not gonna go away. I talked to a friend who is working in cancer research right now and everytime I ask him how is cancer research doing he tells me the same thing: "We are screwed."
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    May 14 2011: Budimir: Is this what you're talking about?:

    The Secret: View first 20 minutes

    Using the law of attraction. How everything is vibrations. The secrets of the ancients. Where did I come across phrases like that before? Wasn't there a tedster who was into that kind of thinking? Am I ignorant of The Secret?
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      May 14 2011: Yes, that's what I mentioned in the original post. There might be a tedster on here that talks about that but I'm not sure who you are referring to.

      The Secret appears to have quite a following in this very thread (as soon as I mentioned it I got two Secret readers commenting), so it doesn't surprise me.
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    May 13 2011: I completely agree! I find that a lot of "unhappy" people seem to get discouraged when their "positive thinking" doesn't change their lives around overnight. I've found myself attempting to encourage others who pretty much refuse to believe that they can choose to be happy. Instead they feel as though they have been dealt a bad hand in life (which is when I ask--by whom?) as opposed to realizing that they are constantly dealing themselves a bad hand

    ** I also agree that people value consumerism more than almost ANYTHING else, which is very disturbing! People don't realize that the most valuable things are not tangible & more than likely, won't have a price tag!
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      May 13 2011: Well even if you have been dealt a bad hand in life, it doesn't do you any good to bury ylourself deeper, your only option is to struggle.

      Consumerism is a perpetual cycle of spending and although this doesn't have to be the case, but the more you focus on spending the more you end up working. When you are working and obligated to constantly pay bills and loans tomake ends meet you don't have time to think or discuss these issues. You don't have time to work towards anything bigger or more profound than paying your bills.
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    May 12 2011: Hi Budimir i havent read the secret before and i heard about the law of attraction a lot . i think it emphesis on the power of mind --if you believe it then you will achieve it.it is true but just a part of the truth. there are something that our minds cant control too.
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      May 12 2011: Why is there this ongoing need in our culture, I am referring to our global culture, to control? Is it that bad to admit to yourself things like I might never be a millionaire or there are things that I want but I will never get?

      I think these kinds of things may not always feel good but they are there to keep us alive and allow our character to move on to something else (possibly something better). Have you read Sartre's No Exit, it deals exactly with this topic. It's a prison where each person in the room loves another person, but none of them are compatible with each other. So they chase eachother in an ongoing cycle of suffering, when we submit to philosophies like the Secret or I don't if I should go there "the American Dream" this is what we are essentially doing.
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        May 13 2011: its fine to admit that there are things that you want that you will never get but accepting that almost guarantees that you wont. i would say it is more healthy to say "I'm going run a multimillion dollar company that this carbon positive and is changing the political landscape" than to say "that's so unlikely" or " i don't have what it takes" because even if you never reach your goal blind faith will take you a lot further pessimism.
        i am not bias to one religion or another and this passage should be able to be enjoyed by everyone, depending on how one defines god.
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        May 13 2011: "No! No one who was great in the world will be forgotten, but everyone was great in his own way, and everyone in proportion to the greatness of that which he loved. He who loved himself became great by virtue of himself, and he who loved other men became great by his devotedness, but he who loved God became the greatest of all. Everyone shall be remembered, but everyone became great in proportion to his expectancy. One became great by expecting the possible, another by expecting the eternal; but he who expected the impossible became the greatest of all. Everyone shall be remembered, but everyone was great wholly in proportion to the magnitude of that with which he struggled. For he who struggled with the world became great by conquering the world, and he who struggled with himself became great by conquering himself, but he who struggled with God became the greatest of all. Thus did they struggle in the world, man against man, one against thousands, but he who struggled with God was the greatest of all. Thus did they struggle on earth: there was one who conquered everything by his power, and there was one who conquered God by his powerlessness. There was one who relied upon himself and gained everything; there was one who in the security of his own strength sacrificed everything; but the one who believed God was the greatest of all. There was one who was great by virtue of his power, and one who was great by virtue of his hope, and one who was great by virtue of his love, but Abraham was the greatest of all, great by that power whose strength is powerlessness, great by that wisdom which is foolishness, great by that hope whose form is madness, great by the love that is hatred to oneself."
        — Søren Kierkegaard
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          May 13 2011: There is some wisdom in what Kierkegaard is saying. I would like to mostly emphasize on the struggle. What would we do without it? Can you imagine a life of "perfection," of complete complacency? Can something like that be actualized and can we remain sane once it's actualized.
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          May 14 2011: Let's not forget what Kierkegaard had to say about how good it was to suffer. (not my favourite idea because I think it justifies doing nothing to help the suffering).
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          May 14 2011: Well Kierkegaard was a believer in God, so I expect that he would say something like that. Believers will validate anything in this world as being good. But he did touch on a very important existentialist idea. Suffering makes life worh living. It may sound fairly pessimistic, but think of how "evil" life would be if it was too perfect life. Dostoyevsky might say you will start whipping yourself so you can feel pain again, so you can feel "alive."
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        May 13 2011: Budimir the need for control you mentioned above is one of the reason i thinkwhy the secret turned out to be such a success in sale. do you think why we need that control?

        i totally agree with you that these things are neccessary even though they dont always make us feel good .and really how we percieve these things can make a difference to our lives too.

        i havent read No Exit but i can understand what you are trying to say.i think we kinda need to balance the secret philosophy a little bit .to me it is true but how far i can go with it is another thing to consider.
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          May 13 2011: Because we have been conditioned to own things, both humans and non human objects. When we desperately want something or want someone to love us we attempt to control our environment and the individuals around us. I would say that it is "secretly" (no pun intended) the reason why we strive for wealth or power. Think of people who own nice cars and tvs and so on. All of that stuff is redundant, none of it is more functional than regular cars and tvs, but it is there because it projects status.

          A drive for wealth and power in my opinion is an indirect way of saying of "l want you to love me." If the philosophy of the Secret is working for you then it's ok, I just want you to keep in mind that there are others like yourself, who strive for a better life and each thing that you do affects their lives and vice versa.
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        May 16 2011: so what you are saying is that the need for love is what drives people to control. Interesting. it didnt occur to me that way before but worth pondering. To me , the insecurity and fears are there to stir people to control facing the vastness and foggness of life.

        i am fine with the Secret philosophy but as i said it dosent rule my mind.and.... yes i am learning to be more aware of others like myself, who strive for a better life and each thing that i do affects their lives and vice versa;)
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        May 17 2011: do any of you want control?
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          May 18 2011: a simple answer Yes .cuz thats one of human needs. but again how far people goes with it is another thing.I think Budimir is talking about people who strives for wealth and power.
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    May 11 2011: People usually tend to misinterpret The Secret, and they're not entirely to blame. I admit that the movie is made in a highly commercial way for which intelligent people, including myself at first, might find it silly and complete nonsense. But for me when I saw 15 years old, The Secret was the introduction to a whole new world which I wasn't aware of before, things like positive thinking and believing in oneself. To be honest I'm not sure that back then I knew what the term "positive thinking" actually meant or if such thing even existed.

    Now the Secret does not tell people to sit at their couch all day imagining themselves winning a million dollar in a trivia show or for a fancy car to magically arrive at their doorstep. This is what I mean by misinterpreting its message. In fact its main message is that despite how bad your circumstances are, if you believe in yourself and follow your heart's passion you WILL eventually make it. Of course it also talks about "mind frequencies" and "attracting" things to yourself, but this is not to assume that things will make their way to you and all you should do is to linger about and wait for them to come. To be honest, after watching and reading The Secret and then reading lots of material about the same subject all over again, I've had some overwhelming experiences which, no matter how "small" or insignificant they were, very firmly assured me that whatever they're trying to say is completely true. There are, however, some dark areas that the human mind will probably never be able to grasp, so that's why The Secret and any other material regarding the same subject may always stay controversial among people.
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      May 12 2011: I am open to give the Secret a reading. I might do it it I find the time. But the Secret is not the main gist although I believe it touches on what I am trying to say. The idea I'm suggesting is that maybe it is "healthier" to admit that some things are really not in out power to control.
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    May 11 2011: I suspect that you have never read the Secret and neither have I. Your question is a good one. However, if there is no dream to which aspire, wouldn't that be pure hopelessness and doesn't that inspire well nothing. I probably define the Princess Syndrome except that I would like to be more aware - but at times its great to simply dream and work hard to reach that goal.
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      May 11 2011: You are right I absolutely haven't read the The Secret I get most of my information from youtube


      Now to address your question I would like to refer you to the video above, what do you think about Barbara Ehrenreich's conlusion near the end of the video?

      Finally it's alright if you dream, we all do to some extent I'm sure.