Customer Review

44 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Book About The Other Half, January 14, 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: The Positive Power Of Negative Thinking (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. Personally, I score near the middle of the optimism--pessimism test in the book, so reading it has helped me to understand people I know who are at opposite ends, better than I did before. The main point I got out of it is that the decision to be made is not "Is the glass half full or half empty?" but "Which half of people do you or the person you are dealing with belong to -- the optimistic or the pessimistic?" because different things seem to work best for different people. That is a new perspective that I find informative and useful, so I am positive toward this book about negativity.
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