Positive thinking in 2008

I rarely get tagged with “blog memes”, and rarely feel like doing them anyway. But the redoubtable Jim has tagged me with something that resonates strongly with my current state of mind, so I’ll play along.

The idea is to list seven things that you’re in favour of—with no tricksy use of inversion to slip negative wishes in. Just straight-forward, “I’m all for this” stuff.

Regular readers will know I’ve an ambivalent-at-best attitude to “positive thinking”. As Jim Leonard and Phil Laut say in their excellent book Rebirthing, “We are not advocates of ‘positive thinking’; we are advocates of appropriate thinking. ‘Positive thinking’ is not appropriate all the time and being too rigidly attached to it can be limiting or even dangerous.” Of course, this is just a re-framing; “appropriate thinking” means taking a step back to see the bigger picture, and applying “positive” or “negative” tactics according to an overall positive strategy.

I still think this calculated approach to life needs balancing against a compassionate awareness that we’re all human and are allowed to get lost, to fuck up. But in the end, being positive is all you can do. If you come up with instances where being positive isn’t appropriate, you’re thinking of “positive” in the wrong sense. This might sound vague, circular, or illogical; but it’s the only real approach to living life that years of chaotically sifting through the options has left me with.

When I was staying with a friend in the States a while ago I hit a real bummer of a depression. I ended up pouring out my incoherent negativity to my host, who had himself wrestled with depression. His response was a pointed, simple challenge that has stayed firmly with me: “What are you going to do?” It was firmly rhetorical, as in, “What can you do other than pull yourself together and get on with life as best you can?” Indeed.

So anyway, my current hit list:

  • Breathwork. By which I mean any of the family of techniques among which you’ll find Rebirthing and Holotropic Breathwork. Like any powerful techniques, there are some bizarre ideas connected to them. But the core process is without doubt the most unambiguously effective process of personal change I’ve encountered.
  • Dancing. Anyone capable of dancing should dance as much as possible. It’s one of life’s unqualified good things.
  • Magic. Not every flavour and technique, of course—it’s a minefield. But dive in and tread carefully, and things will change in ways you can’t imagine. This shit works.
  • The telephone. Hanging out in the flesh is the best of course, but our world is scattered. The phone still seems to have a more positive social impact for me than the net or any other technology.
  • James Hillman. One of the most important thinkers of the late 20th century in my book. Humane, complex and fearless psychological insights.
  • Candle-lit baths.
  • Slowing down and just taking in the moment.

Tagging other bloggers is obligatory here… I wonder if Kirsty, Cat, Jolane and Brooke are feeling “up”?

No comments here for now, but if you want to you can chip in on Facebook or Twitter.