Monday, July 28, 2008

The Perils of Positive Thinking

It flows inexorably underneath the American personality. Look on the bright side. On the sunny side of the street. Let a smile be your umbrella. That positive, can-do attitude has accomplished much. Why, then, do we have so much depression?

There is much value in having a positive attitude, but the whole story is a little more complex.

Today on Thinking with Somebody Else's Head, The Perils of Positive Thinking.

First, a confession. I'm an optimist. A glass is half full kind of guy. I've always liked to try to see the good in others and in life. When I was doing a lot of seminar and workshop leading a number of years ago with my good friend, Dennis Hilton's company out in Vancouver, I used to use a favorite story:

Two shoe salesman were visiting a village where few people wore shoes. One wires back to his head office, "It's no use selling here. I'm coming home. No one wears shoes." The second salesman wires back to his head office, "Incredible opportunities here. Send more product. No one wears shoes."

All right, kind of corny. But I loved the attitude of the second guy. Still do.

But since coming to study and work with Norberto Keppe's International Society of Analytical Trilogy here in São Paulo, Brazil, I've come to look at this aspect of positive thinking in a new light. Perhaps more accurately, a more sophisticated light.

Nowadays, with all the emphasis on cognitive therapy and behavior modification and even the power of affirmations, there can be a tendency to think that having better lives is simply a matter of progressive re-programming of our attitudes and behaviors. And the current popularity of The Secret and What the Bleep Do We Know propogate this notion further - I can accomplish whatever I want. Giving the idea that through our thoughts or ideas we can change the world.

Austrian/Brazilian psychoanalyst, Norberto Keppe, is quick to remind us of a philosophical point of view though: that our being, who we are, follows action, not thinking. In other words, we are what we do, not what we think. It's our doing that governs our being.

What complicates all this, of course, is that we often do ... unconsciously. I do things I didn't want to do. That's the problem, isn't it? Keppe has managed to map out the human psychic life. Over 50 years of clinical experience on 3 continents, over 40 books on the subject, exhaustive study of all the foundational pillars of philosophical, theological, psychological thought. It's expansive work, I can assure you. I've been studying it extensively for 7 years and I can truly say I feel I've penetrated only a few centimeters below the surface of this. But we will be exposing more of Keppe's work at our World Conference of Analytical Trilogy from Sept. 24 - 27, 2008 in San Diego. More information on that momentous event is available at Including our unveiling of the Keppe motor - a free-energy motor that Keppe has developed from his work in The New Physics. More information on that motor is available at our sister site,

But let's penetrate the human psyche a little more today. Keppe's book, The Origin of Illness, really lays out his psychological perspective. Write me if you'd like to know more about that book,

Selma Genzani is a psychoanalyst at Keppe's Institute in São Paulo. She joins me today to throw som elight on the shadows cast by the sunny side up philosophy of positive thinking.

Click here to listen to this episode.

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Kelly said...

Oh, God!

Now I realized so much things in my attitudes!!!

I ignored my problems for such a long time.

Thank's for this podcast!

Richard Lloyd Jones said...

Thanks for the comment, Kelly. This is a common reaction to Norberto Keppe's psychological view. It's a very intriguing thing to realize that there is much more going on inside us than we are normally aware of, isn't it?

Hope this inspires you to continue exploring his work.

Anonymous said...

Good post on positive thinking.

karim - Positive thinking