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In Defence of Positive Thinking

by Vera Peiffer(more info)

listed in personal growth, originally published in issue 68 - September 2001

It is now over ten years ago that I first wrote Positive Thinking.[1] It is still a best-selling book, and people from all over the world write to me, saying that it helps them cope with problems and difficult life situations more constructively. On the other hand, there are others who tell me that positive thinking could not possibly work with all the problems we are facing today and that it is just a way of escaping reality.

It is true that a lot has changed in the world we all live in since the late 1980s. Technology has made giant strides forward, to an extent that few of us could have foreseen. Technology has become simpler and more affordable, and it has totally and entirely changed the way we live and work. These changes are enriching, but they are also speeding up the pace of life, and there are lots of factors today that can make you feel you are drowning in demands made on you. These demands can come partly from your immediate environment such as employers, family and friends, but they also come from within yourself. Quite naturally, we want to prosper and we want to lead a fulfilling life, so we will make every effort to succeed, and there is nothing wrong with that. It is, however, important that we make sure we do not spin into overdrive.

I am very conscious through my work with clients that, in a strange way, the pressures on them are made worse by their growing awareness that stress is detrimental to their health. They are not only stressed by their multiple tasks of earning a living, looking after the children and/or keeping a household running, but they also feel they need to eat more healthily, stop smoking and cram an exercise class or a session with a relaxation tape into their already overbrimming schedule. And if they can't manage it, they feel guilty, which makes them feel even more stressed…

But this is not where the problems stop. The pace of change we experience today also brings with it a sense of dislocation. Whereas in the past we could feel a certain amount of security and stability when it came to our work, our marriage, our environment and our future, now everything seems to be up in the air. These days, the newspapers are full of reports of company mergers where thousands of people lose their jobs or have to retrain every year. Employers expect flexibility, and if there are no jobs where you live, you will have to move. The whole job scenario has changed, and more people than before are now working on a self-employed basis.

This is because employers today prefer to subcontract work or farm it out to freelancers who can be called in as and when the need arises.

This may be an advantage for people who like working for themselves, but many do not and are struggling with having to make a living without a regular monthly income. We no longer feel we 'belong' to a particular place of work, and we certainly can no longer be sure that we will do the same work we are doing today in five years' time.

And then there is the environment. The food we eat and the water we drink are no longer safe. All the additives which preserve food for a longer shelf life and the fertilizers and pesticides which ensure a bigger and better crop now turn out to be bad news. Hormones, metals and chemicals which cannot be filtered out of our tap water have detrimental effects on our health, the extent of which we are only beginning to understand now. Whole species of animals and plants are on the verge of extinction. The predicted and previously frequently ridiculed notion of global warming affecting our climate has now begun to spin into action in the form of storms and floods.

There are already movements all over the UK and worldwide who strive to tackle these issues, but more needs to be done if we want to make further progress. It can be hard to move collective apathy, and it is therefore important that as many individuals as possible get actively involved in the process of positive environmental changes.

It would be easy to think that it is all too late and that there is nothing we can do, but let me assure you: there are solutions. Every big change starts with a small change. In order to affect our environment positively, we need to start with sorting out our personal life. As we work on overcoming our own problems, we become more relaxed within ourselves. This means that we are working more efficiently and more effectively. We have better ideas, more zest for life and become more interested in our environment because, rather than using up all our energies to combat our inner turmoil, we have energy capacity to look at what is going on around us. As we sort ourselves out, we will also relate better and more peacefully to others. As we communicate more effectively and more calmly, we get more of what we want, which makes us happier because we are content. As we are content, others around us start relaxing and feel more comfortable, which in turn helps them feel better about themselves, so they can become more contented and work more efficiently. And so it goes on.

This process has an amazing ripple effect: if one person gets themselves sorted out and becomes more positive, they will positively influence at least three people around them. If those three influence another three people each, the effect soon mushrooms into stunning numbers of people who relate well, work more efficiently and create a peaceful and productive atmosphere around them. This has a real impact, not just within our immediate environment but way beyond it.

By improving your own attitude, you will find it easier to communicate with others. It is essential that we begin to rebuild communities again to overcome the loneliness that has become such a problem with the fragmentation of our society. It is essential that we have like-minded people in our lives, because if we want to make this world a better place and preserve this precious earth of ours for those who come after us, each of us needs to contribute and become actively involved.


1. Peiffer Vera. Positive Thinking. Element Books. 1994.


  1. Stepehen said..

    Work hard for what you want because it won't come to you without a fight. You have to be strong and courageous and know that you can do anything you put your mind to. If somebody puts you down or criticizes you, just keep on believing in yourself and turn it into something positive.

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About Vera Peiffer

Vera Peiffer, BA (Psych), FAACT, MABCH, MHS (Acc), Ptcouns, has been in private practice as an analytical hypnotherapist and health kinesiologist for fifteen years. She is an international speaker and the author of a number of self-help books on positive thinking, fears, stress control and hypnotherapy. Vera can be contacted on tel: 020-7467 8497.

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