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The Positive Power Of Negative Thinking Paperback – September 3, 2002


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 248 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; Reprint edition (September 3, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465051391
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465051397
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.5 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #533,446 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Through individual case studies, Norem (psychology, Wellesley Coll.) here demonstrates her case for "defensive pessimism" as an effective tool for managing one's anxiety. For example, by imagining all of the worst-case scenarios, a speaker prepares better for a speech. Norem has developed a questionnaire to help readers determine whether they use defensive pessimism or strategic optimism (believing things will work out for the best) in daily life. She goes further to explain that much of the positive self-concept information preached since the 1980s is unrealistic and illusory. While admitting that defensive pessimism annoys other people, Norem argues that the strategy helps those who are anxious to curb their emotions and get moving toward their goals. Norem has published in Self, Men's Health, the Washington Post, and the New York Times, but her style here more resembles that of an academic journal article. Further, her arguments are not convincing. Of marginal value for academic libraries. Lisa Wise, Broome Cty. P.L., Binghamton, NY
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

What would Norman Vincent Peale say? If Wellesley psychologist and professor Norem had her druthers, Mr. Positive Thinking, after reading her arguments and 18-year research results, would probably agree that negativism has its place. As a method to cope with anxiety, the construct of negative pessimism--setting low expectations, then reviewing and planning for all possible outcomes--certainly wins out over drugs and alcohol, as it does over two less visible anxiety-handling strategies: avoidance and selfhandicapping (unconsciously providing oneself with performance excuses, such as disorganization and procrastination, that will be less incriminating if situations go awry). In the author's helpful guide, disguised case histories help readers see the very real possibilities inherent in strategic optimism and its opposite--and ways to avoid clashes between these two personalities. Enlightening, if not energizing, to those anxiety-prone among us. Barbara Jacobs
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

If you're a pessimist you can become a defensive pessimist.
Betsy Landau
I cannot begin to tell you how much this exciting new book has change my life.
Kelvin Lynch
I even did a motivational meeting using this book as the backdrop.
A. Phillips

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

75 of 78 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 30, 2002
Format: Hardcover
The psychologist who wrote this book developed and validated a new measure of individual differences in personality: The Defensive Pessimism Questionnaire. The key is the different strategies that individuals use to manage or harness anxiety, moods, and motivations (adaptively or not). The theme is "No one size fits all people." Are you a defensive pessimist, a hopeless pessimist, a self-handicapper, a strategic optimist, or an unrealistic optimist? How do these different types of people get along at work, in love, as family and friends, or at play? Drawing on original psychological research conducted 1985-2001, Professor Norem helps us answer these questions about personality and individual differences.
I really liked the way the concluding chapter talks about prospects for change and growth, with a focus on tolerant understanding of self and others, and on optimal psychological health for different individuals. For people like me who value diversity and growth, The Positive Power of Negative Thinking is an impressively helpful contribution. I suppose this book is a bit controversial in the way it challenges the "everyone should be an optimist" chant of the American 'positive psychology movement' but that is what makes the book so creative and original. I find the author's realistic approach to recognizing and valuing individual differences to be insightful and even liberating.
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42 of 42 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 14, 2003
Format: Paperback
What could be more All American than "the power of positive thinking" or "positive mental attitude"? Norman Vincent Peale, Dale Carnegie and Napoleon Hill sold millions of books in the twentieth century, and inspirational self-help books about happiness are a big trend today. So it may surprise many people that Dr. Martin Seligman, author of Authentic Happiness, is just quoted in Time magazine saying that about half of us have the genetic predisposition that gives the pleasant state of simply feeling happy, and the other half of us do not. That other half has the tendency to experience anxiety, worry, and negativity more often, and perhaps more easily, than pleasantly happy feelings. A similar point is made by Dr. Lykken in his book about happiness. This research makes sense to me, in that it seems a sensible scientific generalization that also fits with my own life experiences with a variety of people. So my reading of Dr. Norem's book "The Positive Power of Negative Thinking" is that it is a book for the 'other half' -- those who often tend toward the negative -- as well as a book that explains pessimists and optimists to each other.
The idea of 'defensive pessimism' according to the author, is that it is "a strategy that can help anxious people harness their anxiety so that it works for rather than against them." That seems like a good thing to me -- adaptive and constructive -- since research shows that positive thinking exercises don't help everyone, and sometimes make things worse. Some people need a different strategy to be at their best. Being a defensive pessimist seems a lot better than being a depressed, hopeless pessimist, and it may be more natural for some people than unsuccessfully trying to be a "Don't Worry, Be Happy" optimist.
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43 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Bukkene Bruse VINE VOICE on March 2, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
While billed as a "contrarian" view, Norem's book is really a more nuanced look at what constitutes pessimism, optimism and the difference between them and hope. Consequently, she identifies highly functional people who are none the less pessimistic. These individuals deal with their preexisting anxiety by using the strategy of "defensive pessimism." Norem discusses in detail the advantages and disadvantages of this strategy, but shows how those people predisposed to handling their anxiety via defensive pessimism can be harmed by being optimistic. Norem spends a good deal of time making the important distinction between the defensive pessimist and other forms of pessimism that are truly debilitating.
"The Positive Power of Negative Thinking" is not a 12-step program. Instead, it is a highly accessible discussion of personality types and strategies for dealing with the anxiety that modern society brings.
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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 28, 2002
Format: Paperback
I enjoyed reading this book, with its fascinating personality test for individual differences in optimism -- pessimism and its interesting case histories. PPNT is also the most helpful psychology book I have read in a long time -- new insight into myself, people I know, and how we do (or don't) get along. The author's idea of "constructive pessimism" as an adaptive cognitive strategy for feeling better and living better is a great contribution to the psychology of everyday life. Not everyone has an optimistic temperament, and many of us struggle with worry, anxiety, and/or depression. Dr. Norem's book has helpful insights into thoughts, feelings, and real life.
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 2, 2003
Format: Paperback
Dr. Julie Norem's book is a welcome addition to any bookshelf about thinking. However, which book is most helpful at a particular time, varies because of the person's emotional state and philosphy of life. Optimists will enjoy Learned Optimism by Martin Seligman, Ph.D. Dr. Seligman explains the advantages and disadvantages of optimism, and contrasts them with pessimism. Optimal Thinking by Rosalene Glickman, Ph.D. is a first-rate book for realists who want to make the most of any situation. Optimal Thinking is necessary for peak performance. Those interested in creativity will find Dr. Edward de Bono's books beneficial, particularly Lateral Thinking and Serious Creativity. Thinking is fundamental, complex and important. This book supplements the current library of thinking books, specifically because it provides a constructive perspective for pessimists.
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