Positive mental attitude

Positive thinking is a concept that is used in personality or motivation seminars and in appropriate self-help literature. Other synonyms are " new thinking ", " right thinking ", " thought power " or " mental positivism ". Positive thinking is not to be confused with Positive Psychology.


The method " Positive Thinking " is basically aimed at ensuring that the user (with the help of affirmations or visualizations, for example ) in his mind achieved through constant positive influence of his conscious thought a permanently constructive and optimistic attitude and consequently higher satisfaction and achieved quality of life.

In some works that deal with the topic, faith takes a central position. However, it is not here primarily to a religiously motivated and aligned transcendental faith, but to the belief that things that keeps a person to be "true ", have the tendency to achieve in his life. Nevertheless, the border with the esotericism is often blurred.

Depending on weltanschaulichem preconception is positive thinking shows as a method to reduce false or non-existent, but only by thought -created reality and its negative effects ( Christian Science) or - in monistic / spiritual sense ( New Thought / Unity ) - the " spiritual laws " positive / apply correctly. While positive thinking as a method for healing ( and healing ) comes first in groups and Special Communities, positive thinking is offered as a Self-help book on the market. It promises to maximize profits, health and happiness. Numerous aids to the intellectual support optimism (positive aphorism in the calendar; short text via telephone; Sublimationsträger claiming subliminal ).

Historical formations

Positive thinking emerged in the second half of the 19th century from the spiritual impulses especially from Ralph Waldo Emerson and his " Transcendentalists " ( as a precursor ), which were then continued by Phineas Parkhurst Quimby, Ralph Waldo Trine, Prentice Mulford, among other things in America. In Europe, the " mesmerism " and the Coué method were operated. For Japan, Masaharu Taniguchi is worth mentioning. In Germany, especially Karl Otto Schmidt ( New Thought ) made ​​alongside Oscar Schell Bach (Institute for " mental positivism " since 1921 ), whose " Seelephonie plates " can be viewed as a precursor of subliminals, a name. Today, the trend towards less and less theoretical justifications while expanding positive case histories and practical instructions can be detected (Joseph Murphy and his student Erhard F. Friday, Dale Carnegie, Norman Vincent Peale ).


Although criticized the concept of positive thinking and partly regarded as ineffective, the newer brain research provides evidence that habitual thought patterns affect our brain activity in the medium and long term. Also suggestion and autosuggestion are for example in the treatment of pain in the short term be used therapeutically.


A world's first comprehensive critique of positive thinking on the basis of scientific psychology was made by the German psychotherapists Günter Sheikh. His book " Positive thinking makes you sick. From vertigo with dangerous promises of success " since the first edition of 1997 is regarded as the standard work.

Psychologists and psychiatrists expressly warn that the methods can damage labile and depressive patients. Especially for non-critical people, they can also lead to a loss of reality. The loss of reality can be caused by the avoidance of critical issues and the associated partial denial of existing weaknesses. Also be neglected, the different abilities of people, their different personality structure and the interaction between individual psyche and social environment.

The problem is positive thinking especially when misfortune and suffering as the people apply themselves to blame.

An experiment by Joanne Wood with colleagues from the University of Waterloo showed that participants with low self-confidence alone pronounced by reciting generally positive connotations sets their mood, their optimism and their willingness to participate in activities that measurably deteriorated. People with good self-confidence would indeed easily benefit from the auto-suggestion, but the effect was hardly pronounced.

Oswald Neuberger, professor of psychology at the University of Augsburg, sees the method of positive thinking a circular trap: "If you do not succeed, then you're just blame yourself, because you obviously did not try it right. The coach remains infallible. "In addition, the problem of failure 'll individualized, personalized failures, but the economic and social system acquitted of guilt.

Colin Goldner, director of the Forum Critical Psychology eV, diagnosed " of thought and perception deficits " increasingly in individuals who walked the " trivialized Hypnosuggestionen " and " pseudodialektischen promise of salvation " tingelnder " third-class gurus" on the glue, and criticized the " psycho- and social- feasibility delusion " the motivational speaker.

The main criticisms of the " compulsively attached positive thinking" are after Sheikh:

  • Positive thinking is not based on psychological science.
  • It is an esoteric Guides structure.

Due to immature objectives and a lack of skills that willfully patch, compulsive Positive thinking can not only be useless, but also significant damage to the psyche of the (fanatical ) cause " positive thinker ". At the same time shows itself by Sheikh also know that many people who want to consciously think positive, have never had such a strong negative thought. It is a paradox of the " opposite effect " of foreclosure, loss of reality and splitting of consciousness into the "positive thinking self " and the " overpowering the rest of the soul."

The " Positive Thinking " contraindicated the particular achievement of the emerging psychiatry end of the 19th century. Here, inter alia, the specific psychological and evolutionary significance of the negative feelings and thoughts was recognized, inter alia, by Freud. The Sense and express negative feelings and thoughts is used to the present day as an aid, relief and problem-solving strategy in mental stress and diseases of the most diverse schools of psychotherapy.

The compulsive patch Positive thinking is postulated as a kind of religion due to the present writings and utterances of supporters. The faith claim is that the positive thinking is a seeming path of self- redemption on earth. This self-help method of forced optimism has nothing to do with a perfectly legitimate healthy optimism.

Critical to see is after Sheikh also that the " positive thinking" immanent human image of uninhibited - limitless and amoral permanent intention of self and foreign manipulation. The man is a puppet of immature wishful thinking and ego trips. He loses all values ​​and interpersonal necessary claims in mutual dealings.