INTERVIEW – Interview with Yves-Alexandre Thalmann, clinical psychologist, psychology professor and trainer. He has just published “Positive thinking 2.0, the law of attraction finally explained” (Éd. Source Vive).
LE FIGARO. – Why did you find it necessary to conceptualize a new “positive thought”?
Yves-Alexandre THALMANN. – I have long witnessed the irreconcilable confrontation of two worlds: the proponents of positive psychology, on the one hand, very reluctant, because they claim to be science, to spontaneously dub magical powers positive thinking (very different from positive psychology)… And, on the other hand, the convinced people who feed on testimonials explaining how, by dint of visualizing success, one necessarily achieves it. For these, followers of positive thinking, the thoughts that one maintains in the secrecy of one’s mind end up materializing in reality. On the one hand, therefore, someone like Mathieu Ricard who affirms on his blog: “It is clear that the Universe is not at the disposal of our psyche and does not constitute a catalog from which we could order everything which is supposed to satisfy our desires and our whims.” And on the other, an author like Rhonda Byrne who, with her bestseller The secret, feeds the ideology of an all-powerful law of attraction. The concept of “positive thinking 2.0” is for me the possible link between these two visions: no question of saying “think positively and everything will be better”. On the other hand, for a long time, psychology as a science has shown that our thoughts have a decisive influence on our behavior, our relationships with others… And therefore have an active role in our access to happiness.
What do you think is the worst assumption of positive thinkers?
I do not pronounce myself in terms of “good” or “bad”, I prefer to speak of efficiency. Positive thinking promises the fulfillment of our desires. However, rejecting negative emotions (fear, anger, sadness, etc.) does not help. Convinced that the law of attraction exists, this ideology also presupposes that if we think of disasters, they will inevitably happen. Now, this cognitive process is well known: the more I say to myself “you mustn’t think of a polar bear”, the more I actually think about it. The more I repress my anger, the more it commands me. Denying negative emotions is therefore ineffective. Another factor of inefficiency: if I visualize myself as having passed my exam, or having lost weight, as the champions of positive thinking suggest again, I will mobilize less energy and, therefore, will obtain worse results than if I also take into account certain obstacles; Considering them obviously makes it easier to overcome them. This is an essential discovery of the “new version” positive thinking that I try to promote.
A kind of “plan B” practice?
Exactly. By integrating so-called negative thoughts, we reintegrate reality. Example: I meet my child at the station at 6 p.m. Rather than just repeating to myself “he’ll be there, he’ll be there” – pure positive thought – I anticipate a possible delay of the trains and suggest that he leave his mobile phone on so that we can communicate easily… I visualize the goal, certainly, but preparing myself for possible impediments.
Is it really more efficient?
Yes! This is now scientifically proven. Professor Gabriele Oettingen in particular, of New York University, has worked for nearly twenty years to conduct rigorous studies with thousands of subjects on the powers of positive thinking. She discovered the defining effects of “mental contrast”: those who visualize their purpose. And the possible obstacles as well as the means to overcome them are more successful than those that dismiss all negative thoughts. And you will notice that I do not say that they succeed “every time” but simply “more”, scientific caution obliges!
See as well www.penseepositive20.net
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