The Powerlessness of Positive Thinking
March 28, 2007
by William P. Meyers

Northern coastal California and in particular my neighborhood of northern Sonoma and southern Mendocino counties are heavily infected with two related cultures: that of marijuana smoking and that of magical thinking (New Age and related). Here many people believe that the film "What the Bleep Do We Know" is an accurate representation of how reality works, including quantum physics.

Unfortunately for this crowd how reality works is how Las Vegas works: what happens in your head, stays in your head. Unless converted to action of a sort, like speaking or moving a limb, your thoughts only affect your brain.

Your best bet is to orient your thoughts to the reality external to your brain. Let your brain reflect reality; let it be a perfect mirror. Then you can take the right actions at the right times.

I did some experiments with the power of positive thinking. I found that dishes don't get washed by thinking alone. They also don't get washed if you think negatively about washing them. You have to combine positive thoughts about washing dishes with moving your body. Once the dishes are washed you can feel more positive.

The world is not always an easy place to cope with, even if you were born to the relative ease of upper-middle class childhoods in the United States of America, as so many of the positive-thought crowd were. Positive thinking resulting in action can have some very negative kickback. Getting up out of a trench to charge the enemy in war often simply results in death. Buying a lottery ticket usually results in being a bit poorer. Some times even well-thought out courses of action lead to unanticipated negative consequences.

But let's get down to the philisophical nitty-gritty. If the bleep crowd (aka bleepers) were just talking about maintaining a positive attitude and doing what you can in reality to make reality more comfortable for your mammal body or human mind, I could go along with that. But they are making a far stronger claim. They are saying reality is affected by your thoughts themselves. Stronger still, they are saying that what most people call reality is being created by the human thought process. Which is not much different than the primitive Christian belief that prayer can move around the players on reality's chess board.

They even claim that quantum physics proves they are right. As far as I can tell, these are people who can't balance their checkbooks, much less do high school algebra and calculus, much less manipulate Hilbert Spaces to predict quantum interactions. The frauds who mislead the bleepers take quantum phenomena out of context and misuse some of the language physicists use when trying to explain quantum physics (which requires a considerable degree of math to understand) to people who are math challenged.

Thought has to move out through the nervous system to muscles and then beyond a human body into the external world or it has no power at all. This does not mean that people should not be thoughtful. Sometimes it takes a lot of thought to understand the external world and create a plan that may achieve your desired ends. But the bleepers are back in pre-science times when logic (or reason or debate) was highly developed, but philosophers made minimal observations of reality. This kind of thinking leads to burning witches (for their ability to create bad things in reality with their thoughts) and building bridges that collapse the first time there is a storm.

Be brave. You can change your life and the world, but it isn't as easy as chanting, "Each and Every day, my life is getting better in every way." Learn as much as you can about the world. Think. Analyze. Take action, then evalutate the results of your action. And remember that Reality was Out There for billions of years before the last proto-human had the last mutation that created the first modern human. We did not create reality. We were created by reality.

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