‘Vacuous Positive thinking’ is the opium of the masses.

The way it is popularly sold and devoured by the masses is that if you fantasize hard enough and long enough for a million bucks – then presto!, you will attract a million bucks. If you don’t, then you did not think hard enough or you let a doubt creep in your mind. Or you were not already grateful enough for the million bucks which you would otherwise have had.

People fantasize maximally when they masturbate but rarely do those fantasies come true.

Does the lottery go to the one keenest for it?

I am sensitive and respectful of those leading dreary lives and using this version of positive thinking to cope by being in sunny denial of reality. I hope I do not take away their unconscious way of being. I might not have anything better to give in return.

This piece is for the ones on the verge of awareness with the hope that they “get it”. The defence mechanisms of those who need this crutch, I hope, will distort and deny what follows.

Visualizing the goal is only the beginning. Not the only step.

Whatever else success might entail, one can reasonably assume these following factors are definitely needed. Assuming you are passionate about it, success involves being competent at what you are doing. It involves hard work, bloody hard work and perseverance. And taking notice of and reasonable care for possible negative outcomes. And, at times, luck.

But the above counsel is not seductive. Not at all. It won’t sell.

Most like to assume that they are competent at what they do. (Like a survey of car drivers showed most rating themselves as above average drivers. This survey was taken following accidents in a hospital.)

Who wants to be told that one has to work hard and persevere? (If you have to, then what’s so great about being successful?)

Prepare for contingencies? Oh no, that is negative thinking which will attract bad outcomes! (The ‘positive thinker’ is not even supposed to entertain the possibility of something going wrong.)

Bad luck? You are only responsible for that, you attracted it, you let doubts creep into your mind. (Having doubts is human. Bad luck, once in a while, is a part of life.)

What is one supposed to do when things do not go well? ‘Think positive’ even more, ‘gratefully’. Or even better, that thing which you wanted to happen did not materialize so as to lead to better things than what you had decided for yourself. There is no space given to acknowledge and express legitimate frustration.

Being intoxicated in the anticipation of a fabulous future could be an easier way to exist for the susceptible. It is easier to hope that the universe will conspire to fulfill ones desire than to gauge reality and do something about it.

I do believe that focusing excessively on negative outcomes can sensitize one to the first whiff of it and auto-glide towards it, thus creating a self fulfilling prophecy. But totally denying the possibility of negative outcomes is not balanced thinking.

Someone with a sunny outlook is more likeable than someone without. But if the bright outlook is a defence, it will be sensed and not bought by the more real and more grounded.

There is a well known quote of two men behind bars looking out. One saw the mud and the other saw the stars. The applause here is supposed to be for the man seeing the stars. The point is that the mud also exists. Reality has to be acknowledged as much in totality as possible. And understanding reality is a never ending endeavor.

A possible concern is that someone who has reason to be angry with, say one’s mother, but tries to ‘think positive’ that their relationship will become fantastic and behave as if it already is, might smother justifiable feelings like resentment, irritation at the mother. When emotions are suppressed and are not allowed to be expressed, they can emerge as physical symptoms like eczema, hyperacidity or hypertension.

When the chips are down and once that is acknowledged rationally and the uncomfortable feelings expressed emotionally, one can think positively that one has the strength to carry on, has the sense to learn from the mistakes and turn the tables. And then get down to working on it.

Positive thinking heartens courage against the fears of the mind. ‘Vacuous Positive thinking’ denies fear and feels pious about it. Positive thinking enables taking thought out risks with a degree of comfort. ‘Vacuous Positive thinking’ fosters remaining in comfort zone.

Selling fantasies about success without alerting to taking account of competence, without emphasizing strongly on working one’s heart out, without taking sensible precaution for potential fallbacks and without a tribute to the vagaries of luck is not kosher.

I believe in positive thinking but not for the cheap version popularly peddled around. That can be unhealthy and dangerous.

Or simply maybe, it is the other way around. People look for such simple mantras and voraciously consume them. It gives hope to them, however hollow. That has its own value.

Such a coping mechanism to deal with life can work like a soothening balm during troubled times, but if practiced as a philosophy of daily living, it will not lead anywhere positive.