You Are Positive Or Negative
( Originally Published 1950 )
THERE IS A broad general principle of life that we begin to achieve only when we begin to believe in the power that is in us and support our beliefs with positive thought and action. We begin to fail when we let negative attitudes prevail or drift into a negatively passive acceptance of the scraps that fall from the table of life.
Only a little study of ourselves and friends and the lives of others reveals clearly that all people fall into two classes. We are primarily positive or fundamentally negative. The positive attitude prompts us to look up and forward confidently. The negative attitude fearfully looks backward and down. Sometimes we scramble these two approaches to life, but in most cases one or the other predominates.
In a sense, of course, all activity is positive. So our two classes become what Dr. Albert Edward Wiggam, distinguished author and writer of the widely syndicated feature, "Let's Explore Your Mind," reports as positive aggressives and negative aggressives. This distinction is necessary because even negative activity is aggressive as revealed in the noted research directed by Dr. John Dollard of Harvard and Yale. This study by psychologists and sociologists reveals that all frustration causes aggressive conduct and sometimes that aggressiveness is misplaced. As an oversimplified illustration: Mr. Routine is thwarted of office promotion by Mr. Big Shot. Routine feels that this frustration is threatening his very existence, but he considers he can't do anything about it. He goes home and with transferred aggression rants at his wife because the soup is too hot or too cold. Mrs. Routine scolds little Jimmy Routine to relieve her emotional pressure, and little Jimmy, being caught behind two eight balls of frustration, kicks his dog, who goes out and bites the cat. Yes, even the animals have very human reactions to frustrations. At Cornell University there was a continuing s tudy of a pig named Achilles who was driven into an advanced state of neuroticism through a series of frustrations.
Obstacles and frustrations confront us throughout life, and it should be clear that it is the way we react that determines whether we become negative, destructively aggressive persons or well-adjusted, positive, constructively aggressive personalities introducing thought between emotion and action. Here are the two principles, and for each a case in point:
I, a stranger and afraid
In a world I never made.
A. E. Housman
A young Dillinger wants easy money and easy living, but he's uneducated, fearful, lazy, and frustrated—a stranger in a world he never made. His aggressive reaction is to become a bandit and killer and destroyer of others until he is himself destroyed. The power of the negative attitude!
I am the captain of my fate:
I am the master of my soul.
William Ernest Henley
A Harry Doehla just out of high school—poor, crippled, unskilled—teaches himself how to establish and captain a million-dollar business employing hundreds of men and women. He masters his frustrations. The power of the positive attitude!
The very word positive conveys the idea of the explicit, confident, optimistic, decisive, affirmative, approving, absolute, certain, and constructive values, as distinguished from skepticism, doubt, denial, hesitation, refusal, contradiction, withholding, neutralizing. Positive can also mean overconfident and dictatorial. This prompts clarification as between the genuine positive and three counterfeits: the egotistical, the dominating, and the hysterical positive. You can identify these false positives among your own acquaintances.
You know more than one man or woman who is an egotistical positive. The snob is invariably an egotistical positive, putting on an act of feeling secure, superior, and self-confident but, within, being ruled by feelings of fear that others will not take him at face value. He is inadequate and quaking with fear of failure that prompts the bold but phony front. The "name bouncer" who tells about lunching with a celebrity when as a matter of fact he was but one of a hundred guests present to hear the speaker of the day—he is a typical egotistical positive. The truly recognized and confident don't bother trying to make such an impression. The woman who tries to convey the idea that she is on intimate terms with Mrs. Richwich of the exclusive Richwiches of Desirable Boulevard is another example. Show me the snob who brags about wealth and important connections and abilities, and I'll show you a man or woman who is afraid, insecure, inferior and is unwittingly revealing a four-flushing personality.
"The outstanding thing about the person who overestimates himself is stupidity," according to psychologist Henry Foster Adams of Ann Arbor, Michigan. "He tries to bluff himself and others into thinking he is a strong, positive person, of high abilities, yet he is uniformly below average in common sense, intelligence, understanding of other people, and sense of humor. He is also inclined to be lacking in courage, and likely to blow up in an emergency."
Blood brother of the egotistical counterfeit is the dominating positive who is also being eaten by feelings of inferiority. But instead of blowing himself up like a toy balloon he endeavors to bolster himself by forcing others to do his will. The old-school "boss" who sought to make his subordinates cower because of his power to fire them was dominating positive. You find them still, men and women who try to force or frighten others into doing their will instead of inspiring and leading them. Such bosses and supervisors seldom go far or last long today. You find this type of person in the blustering husband and father, the bossy wife and mother, the weakling who strives to rule with a whip. You can laugh off the egotistical positive, but you can be badly hurt by the dominating positive counterfeit.
Paper hanger Hitler was a prime example of the dominating positive. He forced a whole people to follow him or be exiled or slain by his police. Compare Hitler with Mahatma Gandhi, who had a legion of followers without a single threat or show of violence.
The third counterfeit is the hysterical positive. Little Johnny in a tantrum, refusing to eat, actually making himself ill because of jealousy over the newly arrived little sister, is a hysterical positive. The man or woman who dominates by adopting an illness is in this same classification. Some of these actually make themselves invalids for life.
Medical records abound with cases of emotions that cause pain and physical symptoms so realistic as to confuse medical diagnosticians. Two such cases were described for the American Psychiatric Association not long ago by Dr. Theodore P. Wolfe of New York City.
There was a girl who authorized an appendectomy.. But the appendix when removed was found to be perfectly normal. Psychiatrists revealed that the pain and symptoms, precisely those of appendicitis, arose from the girl's deep fear of being alone, walking in subways and the dark.
An unmarried woman appeared near death on three occasions during her first week in the hospital. She exhibited symptoms of extreme high blood pressure. It was found that she was physically sound; the disease symptoms arose from an unconscious resentment of the fact that she had been forced to take care of her aging parents for several years at the sacrifice of her own plans.
There are mothers who adopt illness in order to dominate their children, men who adopt illness to avoid returning to offices where they feel frustrated or are faced with complete failure. Actual lifelong paralysis and. blindness have occurred in hysterical positives.
The negative personality is characterized by resistance to or retreat from suggestion or stimulus. The negative person is against—rejecting, disapproving, distrustful, faithless. He refuses to respond affirmatively. Often he even does the exact opposite of what is required. The very word negative is derived from the Latin negatio, meaning deny. Close kin to the true negative is the potato personality, the human vegetable, the passive one who takes the buffeting of life with scarcely any positive or negative reaction, simply suffering from and dumbly submitting to outside influences.
Children frequently refuse to follow instructions for no other reason than that they have been told to do a certain thing. They take this negative way of protesting against adult domination. It is perhaps the only way for a child to prove to himself that he is somewhat independent.
What is excusable in a child, however, can be extremely damaging in adults who take the same childish attitude. There are adults who simply will not take advice or instruction, not because it is faulty, but because of an infantile effort to prove they are not inferior.
Here are some helps for banishing negativistic habits:
1. Identify the habits by personal analysis supported by intelligent reading or by competent outside help from experts.
2. Identify the yearnings and difficulties that helped to create the habits.
3. By study or consultation find out how to make complete adjustment to the wants that gave birth to the negative habits of thought.
4. Learn how to think positively, and by daily practice adopt the positive attitude. The positive attitude makes negativistic habits disappear.
The truly positive person is a sane optimist and thinks and lives an affirmative, constructive life. He says, "I can. I'll try. Beginning now!" All the good things of life can be directly traced in art, science, religion, politics—what you will—to positive thought and action.
The negative person is never happy and lives his own fearful way. He says, "I can't. I won't even try. I'll not only resist; I'll tear down. I'm flatly opposed. I'm afraid in a world I never made." His shadow, the passive potato personality, says, "I'll suffer along with whatever is left after the positives and negatives are through.".
Can you imagine a negative Christ?
Can you imagine a negative Edison?
Can you imagine a negative Mayo?
Can you imagine a negative explorer?
Can you imagine a negative sports star?
There are, of course, no absolute blacks and no perfect whites in the realm of psychology. There are, unfortunately for all of us, many gray patches. The negative soul may be positive enough to get out of bed in the morning, get a breakfast, and do enough of the day's chores to eke out a bare living, but his very approach to life blocks him in attaining its richer rewards.
Most of us started out positively. We bawled lustily enough to achieve food and warmth and comfort. Most children start out as positives; then they encounter obstacles. Some learn to attack their problems positively, and others become negative. Many become a careless mixture of the positive and negative approaches and so stumble through life in a constant tug of war until one attitude or the other becomes dominant. The successful men and women of the world have discovered the power of the positive attitude and use it daily as a way of life. The disgruntled and unsuccessful negative personalities can acquire the positive way of living through a reasonable amount of reeducation such as is explored in these chapters.
Power Of Positive Living:
Ask For It
You Are Positive Or Negative
Positive Way To Meet Problems
Make Up Your Mind
Success Adores The Positive Attitude
Turn Handicaps Into Assets
We All Crave Social Acceptance
Need For Satisfactory Love Life
Your Yearning For Self-esteem
Banish Awe And Fear Of Others
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