By Deepak Chopra, CNN website, December 5, 2011
Editor's note: Deepak Chopra is a mind-body expert who specializes in integrating the healing arts of the East with the best in modern Western medicine. Learn more at www.deepakchopra.com.
Medicine hasn't proven that positivity is good prevention, but let's go a step further. To me, the problem with positive thinking is the thinking part. It takes effort to be positive all the time. The mind has to defend itself from negativity, and that is exhausting as well as unrealistic. You may succeed in calming the appearance you present to the world, but there's almost always a struggle hidden just below the surface; at the very least there is a good deal of denial. Being fanatically positive is still fanaticism.
The alternative to thinking is a calm mind that is at peace with itself. I believe that such a mind delivers the benefits that positive thinking cannot, and my view is supported by studies showing a decline in high blood pressure, stress levels and other disease states among long-term meditators.
Meditation is a spiritual practice, but it's also a mind-body practice. Here the results are not final, either, in part because almost the only research subjects tend to be Buddhist monks. We need expanded studies based on Western subjects; that much is clear.
The upshot is that medicine cannot be definitive on how mood affects wellness. But if I wanted to enhance a state of wellness before symptoms of illness appeared, there is much to be gained and no risks involved in trying to reach the best state of mind possible.
A mind and a spirit "at peace"....that is far different from a mind and a spirit driven to "find happiness".
This American "pursuit of happiness" is one of the most dangerous of ideals, ensconced as it is in the U.S. Constitution as if it were a condition for which any government, provided by any party, could and must deliver.
And under the same banner is the "right to bear arms" (for a National Militia only, I believe)...and the right to "free speech" which, by definition ultimately includes "hate speech".
The underpinning energy current of capitalism is "positivity"....just ask any salesman or woman, especially the ones at the top of their sales competitions. Positivity generates a kind of culture that is not only not proven to be healthy, but actually demands a considerable degree of denial.
Having served in a consultant capacity for a medium-sized firm in the mid-nineties, then earning approximately $2 million annually, I was asked to lead the executive group in team building. The chief investor had purchased the company from its founding "mom-and-pop" owners, hired a couple of younger Production Managers and believed, rightly, that the group was not functioning as a "team."
The evidence soon became quite clear, presented by the principals themselves, that the "mom-and-pop" component of the quintet were both active alcoholics, and were both in different ways sabotaging the efforts of the company to produce the highest quality products, in the most effective and efficient time, and to deliver those products in a timely manner to some very large and deep-pocketed corporations for their deployment in large aircraft engines. The quality control, especially of the chemical portion of the production process, under the supervision of the "pop" from the "mom-and-pop" duet was, in a word tragic. Errors, including shipments returned because they did not meet specifications were rampant. Similarly, in the shipping department, supervised by the "mom" of the "mom-and-pop"duet were a disaster. The 40 odd women from several nationalities and languages often did not understand the instructions they were to follow, and shipments were either delayed or shipped incorrectly.
Before writing a report in both my findings and recommendations, I decided it might be best to inform the CEO, also the chief investor and his wife, a member of the investment group, of the sabotage that was costing the company both money and reputation. Over dinner, in the privacy of a private room in an upscale restaurant, I told my story, supported by the evidence given by both "mom-and-pop" and their adult son, who sought detachment and eventual withdrawal from his parents and the company, to my dinner guests.
The CEO and his wife, along with the "mom-and-pop" were European immigrants, having come to North America following World War II, during which they had all suffered several emotional stress. Today, we would call it "post traumatic stress syndrome." I recommended that the CEO provide a six-month period of rehabilitation for both "mom-and-pop" and following their recovery, ascertain their competency to resume their duties in the firm.
The next morning, to my shock and dismay, I was ushered into the CEO's office, given the cheque for my services, and told to leave the premises immediately. I was told that I was interested only in the "dark side" the negative side of all situations and that I was inappropriate for that firm. The CEO was an avid reader of the 7 principles of effective leadership by some guru of the Mormon faith, and found my "truth-telling" too "negative."
Of course, I beg to differ.
I also beg to differ with my psychologist friend in Boston who, following graduation with a doctorate in psychology, and a thirty-year successful practice in therapy and executive coaching, then enrolled in a post-graduate course in Happiness Psychology, from the University of Pennsylvania. His coaching and therapy practice did not need the new learning; he believed that he needed the new approach "to remain fresh" was I think how he put it.
Peace of mind and spirit cannot ever be divorced from the reality on the ground, in the room where we eat, breathe, sleep and work. And the conditions of that room, including the culture of the organization, the degree of truth-telling permitted by the organization's leaders will go a long way to determining the degree of "peace of mind" among the workers in that organization.
And all the talk of positivity will never erase the potential negative "truths" that both the individuals and the organization must face, if both seek to reach their potential effectiveness in all phases of their lives.