Community Add OnsFourteen Fundamentals

Fundamental Seven: Develop Positive, Optimistic Thinking


As crucial as optimism is to happiness, optimism itself, is just one form of positive thinking. Optimism, as we have seen, is primarily interpretative. It takes actual events in the past, the present, or the imagined future and views them in the best light possible.

Positive thinking, however, is larger in scope. It involves the entire spectrum of one’s mental life. It involves not only how one views events — it involves what events you actually view.

Every Freshman psychology student is familiar with term “selective perception.” It is one of the rudiments of basic psychology. Essentially, it is the established fact that human beings tend to see things pretty much as they want or expect them to be, rather than what’s really there.

Each of us tend to see reality in terms of our needs, our values, our fears, our ambitions, and our background. Thus, no two individuals see the circumstances of life quite the same way.

In a real sense, particularly given the essential “neutrality of events” we described earlier, each of us are forced to distort our “world” in terms of our own individual needs and desires — as well as our hopes and fears. And, it appears that we human beings do a terrific job of it! As Berelson and Stiener found years ago, in their classic review of social science research, Human men and women are masters at distorting their reality! Speaking of the typical man (or woman), they wrote:

“…he adjusts his social perception to fit not only objective reality but also what suits his wishes and needs; he tends to remember what fits his needs and expectations, or what he thinks others will want to hear; he not only works for what he wants but wants what he has to work for, his need for psychological protection is so great that he has become expert in the defense mechanisms; in the mass media he tends to see and hear not simply what is there but what he prefers to be told, and he will misinterpret rather than face up to an opposing set of facts or point of view; he avoids conflicts of issues and ideals by changing the people around him rather than his mind; and he thinks his organization ranks higher than it actually does and that his own group agrees with him more fully than it does.” (Berelson & Steiner, 1964, p. 664).

We humans are the masters of self-deception.Simply put, we’re constantly distorting or perceptions of reality to make it fit more in line with what we need and expect it to be. And one of the major psychological processes we bring to bear in this effort is “selective perception” — or what we’re looking to find.

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[…] 10  Fundamental Seven: Develop Positive,  Optimistic Thinking […]


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