How to Remain Positive In a World Gone Mad

Dear Dr. Hurd: We are always encouraged to “be positive,” because it is bad to be negative. However, there are many things in life that are inherently negative, such as what has happened to America over the past 8 years under Obama. If we objectively and realistically review the downward spiral of America, how can we possibly think positively, unless, of course, we are Islamic, illegal alien or socialist.

Dr. Hurd’s reply: Actually, positive thinking doesn’t work on command. You can’t tell yourself to “be positive” for no reason. If you do, then your subconscious will rightly rebel with a robust chorus of “But, but but…” whereby you point out all the negatives to yourself.

In order to stay more positive than negative, even in the midst of negative assaults all around us, here are some crucial points to consider:

The positive matters more than the negative. If you talk to depressed people, as I regularly do, you’ll find that one thing stands out: They give the negative more power than the positive. Depressed or sad people are fully aware of positive facts. It’s just that they don’t give those facts nearly the importance they give negative ones. If you want to become more positive, the goal is not to squelch, ignore or deny the negative. The goal is to lift the positive above the negative, and remind yourself that these facts matter more, no matter how bad it gets. Talk to happy, content and serene people. Without exception, you’ll find that they treat the negative as less important than the positive. They exploit the positive — in honest,  benevolent ways — whenever they can. It’s a myth that being positive means denying the negative. Being positive means treating the positive as more powerful and important than the negative.

Irrationality and evil are weak. It’s not that irrationality and evil can’t do great damage. They do all sorts of damage every day, and in extreme cases have killed millions. But think about what makes irrationality and evil powerful. Is it their inherent strength? Really? Think about the word “irrational.” Irrational means being out of touch with reality. It means being mistaken or wrong. It means claiming that 1 plus 1 equals 3, when in reality it has always been 2. How could the irrational ever defeat the rational and the good without assistance or excuse-making from the good? There’s nothing inherently strong about people and movements that are irrational or wrong. They only get as far as they do because rational and good people are afraid to speak up, or otherwise stand up (fighting if necessary) for what’s right and good.

Reality matters more than perception. Millions of people can be mistaken or wrong. But so long as they’re accountable for their errors, they will eventually make corrections. Or, if they cannot or will not make corrections, then they’ll continue to pay the price for their errors. When you have a free marketplace, you find that people don’t make mistakes for long. If a restaurant consistently poisons people, it will go out of business, whether you have a health department or not. If a company sells automobiles that break down after 5,000 miles, that company will go out of business. Even in optional areas, like clothing, entertainment or hair styles, fads and trends continuously change. In politics, it’s harder to change. This is because in politics and government people acquire force and pull over others. It’s a lot harder to change minds once force enters the picture. Under politics, survival becomes less about competence and more about perception and pull. But sooner or later heads will roll, as they did in the American and French Revolutions, or people will demand change through more civil measures, as happens in American elections all the time (including this last one). Even if millions of people stay wrong forever (unlikely), they will have to pay the price for their honest ignorance or willful self-delusions. Why? Because reality holds us accountable in ways that no person ever would. The truth screams its way into most people’s heads, eventually, or at least into enough people’s minds to make things overall more tolerable than they would have been.

Depression means learned helplessness. Evil and irrational people flourish when they encounter persons who suffer from learned helplessness. It’s far easier to rule the depressed than the confident, the strong and the optimistic. Evil and irrational people know this, which is why they seek to foster a sense of helplessness whenever they can. “You can’t take care of yourself. Life is a vale of tears. Somebody has to come rescue you. Your mind cannot know reality; what do any of us know? How can you be expected to live by your own intelligence and actions? You need ME!” Whether the context is social and political or personal and familial, the same themes apply. So long as there’s even a minority of people willing to (1) think and (2) speak out, in whatever the situation or context demands, there’s always hope. The fight is often the hope itself. If you want to avoid a dictatorship (in your personal life or your government), then do everything in your power to remain hopeful, confident and positive. Irrational control freaks can’t get you, so long as you believe in yourself more than you believe in them.

It’s reasonable to get discouraged at times, and disappointed or sad when you lose the fight for what’s right, true, correct or rational. But there’s never a reason to become depressed. If you’re truly right and rational, then you have something on your side that your opponents never can or will: the force of reality.

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