Negative Thoughts and the Emotions

To hate and to fear is to be psychologically ill. It is, in fact, the consuming illness of our time.


The primary emotions generated by the Fight or Flight Response are anger (the emotional energy to fight) and fear (the emotional energy to flee).

Anger and fear--and variations on them--are most often the feelings we call negative.

Consider these lists:



Any others you'd care to add from your own repertoire could probably be considered a variation of anger or fear--or a combination of the two.

Zugg, while deciding what to do, probably experienced a good deal of both. Anger ("Win one for Zuggrina!") and fear ("What happened to Zuggrina ain't gonna happen to me!").

Anger is one of the sinews of the soul; he that wants it hath a maimed mind.


The problem with these emotions--in addition to their obvious unpleasantness--is that they tend to mar logical, rational, life-supportive decisions.

In his passionate anger for sibling revenge, Zugg might wade into the tall grass, spear in hand, and discover a whole gathering of wild beasts. Perhaps the beasts didn't even know Zugg was around. Maybe they were just breaking twigs to roast weenies, but when Zugg appeared they decided on a quick change of menu.

How often have you waded into a confrontation, only to find that, as the saying goes, you had stirred up a hornet's nest?plus insults! Too much was enough. I stormed over to the local police station and reported the offending public servant to his superior. While listening to my story, the police captain tapped away at his computer. I thought he was taking some sort of formal report. Oh, boy. The nasty policeman was really in trouble now. What the captain was doing, however, was looking up my driving record. He discovered an unpaid traffic ticket from a vacation seven years before. I was placed under arrest. The anger quickly turned to fear. My anger cost me $110 and several hours in the cooler. Now I know why they call it the cooler.

On the other hand, Zugg could have, at the first sound of a snap, run away. (Remember the movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail? Whenever King Arthur's men were in even the slightest danger, their battle cry--as they fled in all different directions--was, "Run away! Run away!") This meant that every time a rabbit snapped a twig or two gophers were going for it in the underbrush, Zugg would abandon his plowing and head for the high country. He would eventually abandon his field, vowing never to return to such a wild and savage place again.

How many fields have you abandoned in your life? The field of a challenging new career? The field of a more fulfilling place to live? The field of relationships? The field of your dreams?

Because people are afraid of fear, they give up acre after acre of their own life. Some find the snapping of twigs so uncomfortable that they abandon the territory of life altogether.

Habit with him was all the test of truth, "It must be right: I've done it from my youth.".


The Addictive Quality of Negative Thinking

For many, negative thinking is a habit which, over time, becomes an addiction. It's a disease, like alcoholism, compulsive overeating, or drug abuse.

A lot of people suffer from this disease because negative thinking is addictive to each of The Big Three--the mind, the body, and the emotions. If one doesn't get you, the others are waiting in the wings.

The mind becomes addicted to being "right." In this far-less-than-perfect world, one of the easiest ways to be right is to predict failure--especially for ourselves. The mind likes being right. When asked, "Would you rather be right or be happy?" some people--who really take the time to consider the ramifications of being "wrong"--have trouble deciding.

Habit with him was all the test of truth, "It must be right: I've done it from my youth.".


The body becomes addicted to the rush of chemicals poured into the blood stream by the Fight or Flight Response. Some people can't resist the physical stimulation of a serious session of negative thinking. They get off on the rush of adrenalin.

The emotions become addicted to the sheer intensity of it all. The Fight or Flight Response may not trigger pleasant feelings, but at least they're not boring. As the emotions become accustomed to a higher level of stimulation, they begin demanding more and more intensity. It's not unlike the slash-and-gash movies--too much is no longer enough. Remember when the shower scene from Psycho was considered the ultimate in blood and gore? Now it's Friday the 13th, Part Seven. (Seven?!)

We should be taught not to wait for inspiration to start a thing. Action always generates inspiration. Inspiration seldom generates action.


Negative thinking must be treated like any addiction--with commitment to life, patience, discipline, a will to get better, forgiveness, self-love, and the knowledge that recovery is not just possible but, following certain guidelines, inevitable.

The Power of Thoughts (Part Two)

Most people live, whether physically, intellectually or morally, in a very restricted circle of their potential being.They make use of a very small portion of their possible consciousness, and of their soul's resources in general, much like a man who, out of his whole bodily organism, should getinto a habit of using and moving only hislittle finger.Great emergencies andcrises show us how much greater our vital resources are than we had supposed.

William James

What I've discussed thus far is pretty much accepted, mainline medical fact. The most "controversial" subject I've presented is the idea that negative thinking is an addictive disease.

With that possible exception, if your local physician were to read the first chapters of this book, he or she would probably nod knowingly and agree that they are fairly accurate. (Thirty years ago, of course, most of the medical establishment wouldn't admit that thoughts had any causal effect on organic illness. If you mentioned such a notion, physicians would have thought you were nuts. We all live and learn.) Now I'm going to explore some thinking about thoughts they don't teach at Harvard Medical School.

You can take the next few pages with as many grains of salt as you please. The accepted medical theory--that thoughts contribute to symptomatic illness, and that improving one's thoughts can help improve one's health--is all I need to illustrate the premise of this book.

The rest is, well, interesting, fun, provocative, stupid, enlightening--use your own adjectives to describe it. Even if it's just the rantings of a Detroit boy transplanted to California by way of New York, it doesn't negate the fact that, in anyone's book--medical or metaphysical--if a life-threatening illness threatens, you can't afford the luxury of a negative thought.

The Creative Power of Thoughts

Thoughts are powerful. All the spectacular and terrible creations of humanity began as a thought--an idea. From the idea came the plan; from the plan came the action; from the action came the object. Whatever you're sitting or reclining on began as a thought. The room you're in--and almost everything in it--began as a thought.

All the wars and fighting the world has known began with thoughts. (Usually, "You have it, I want it," "You're doing this, I want you to do that," or "I just don't like you.")

There is nothing I love as much as a good fight.

JANUARY 22, 1911

All the good, fine, noble, and creative acts of humanity were conceived as a spark in a single human consciousness. The Eiffel Tower, the Mona Lisa, the Magna Carta, the Declaration of Independence, movies, books, and television began in the mind. (Granted, some of it should have stayed there. As someone once said, "In every journalist is a novel, and that is precisely where it should remain.")

Even the creation of a human being begins as a thought. As the old saying goes, "I knew you before you were a twinkle in your father's eye."

Victor Hugo described it this way: "An invasion of armies can be resisted, but not an idea whose time has come." Often misquoted as "There is nothing so powerful as an idea whose time has come," it has been used so often, it's become a clich. (There is nothing less powerful than a clich whose time has passed.)

Everything created by humans--both good and bad--began as a thought. (The categorization of "good" and "bad," of course, is just another thought.) The only difference between a thought and a physical reality is time, passion (love or hate), and physical activity.

The amount of time, passion, and physical activity varies from project to project. Sometimes it's seconds; sometimes it's years; sometimes the thought must be passed from generation to generation. Some of the great cathedrals took a century and four generations of stone cutters to complete. On the other hand, there was the Hundred Years' War.

Leonardo da Vinci invented the helicopter four hundred years before one ever flew. Two hundred years ago, Thomas Jefferson envisioned a nation free from religious persecution, of people "with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." We're still working on that one.Please see my book, Ain't Nobody's Business If You Do.

Enlighten the people generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day.


To illustrate the power of thought: Imagine the corner of this page turned over. Let it be an idea in your mind. Now reach up and fold it over. There. A thought was passed from my mind to your mind, and you turned that thought into a physical reality. (If you're not the first person to read this book you might have wondered, "Why is the corner of this page turned over?" Now you know.)

Some people are particularly good at turning ideas into realities. Edison was one. Imagine: the phonograph, movies, an improved telephone, and the electric light all from one man. Henry Ford wanted to make a cheap, reliable automobile and invented the assembly line to do it.

Without thoughts, things that involve any sort of human action simply don't happen. Where we are is the result of a lifetime of thinking--both positive and negative.

If you're pleased with some parts of your life, then your thinking in those areas has been what you would call generally "positive." If you're not pleased with other parts of your life, then your thoughts about those areas have probably not been as positive as they could have been. The good news is that thoughts can be changed, and with that change come changes in your life.

Great men are they who see that spiritual is stronger than any material force, that thoughts rule the world.


If you persist in your thoughts of wealth, for example, you focus on wealth--an overall state of being that is open, accepting, abundant, and flowing--and this focus on wealth tends to produce physical manifestations of wealth: houses, cars, cash, and your own special edition of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.

"But," some protest, "I think about money all the time and I still don't have any." What they mean is that they worry about money all the time. Worry is a form of fear, in this case a fear of poverty. Holding an ongoing series of thoughts about poverty creates a focus on poverty, which creates a lack of everything but bills--which causes more worry, which creates more poverty.

Our thoughts create our reality--not instantly, necessarily, as in "Poof! There it is"--but eventually. Where we put our focus--our inner and outer vision--is the direction we tend to go. That's our desire, our intention. The way we get there--well, there are many methods.

Intention vs. Method

If I were in New York and wanted to go to Toledo (God knoweth why--a writer has to stretch reality sometimes to come up with examples), what are some of the ways I could get there?

Follow your desire as long as you live; do not lessen the time of following desire, for the wasting of time is an abomination to the spirit.

2350 B.C.

Plane? Car? Train? Bus? Bike? Walk? Hitch-hike? Pogo stick? Crawl? Roll? Skip? Hop? Somersault? You, no doubt, have some other ways I haven't mentioned. (Somersault. What a strange-looking word.)

In this example, Toledo would be the intention. The many ways of traveling there are the methods. Each intention we have can be fulfilled by any number of methods. The idea is to hold your intention clearly in mind, and then be open to whatever methods appear--even unexpected ones.

For example, in traveling from New York to Toledo, what general direction should you take? West, right? That would be the generally accepted method--directionally speaking. Some might even argue that it is the only direction that would get you to Toledo. But what if you went east, and kept going east? Could you eventually find yourself in Toledo? Sure.

As Niels Bohr said, "The opposite of a correct statement is a false statement. But the opposite of a profound truth may well be another profound truth." Some people say the way to get more money is to hoard it. Others say the way to get more money is to give it away. Some say health is gained through more rest. Others say it's obtained by more activity. Be open to all methods, even seemingly contradictory ones.

Back to Toledo. Which direction is the faster route from New York to Toledo, east or west? It can only be west, right? Not necessarily. If I went west doing somersaults and you went east on the Concorde, who do you suppose would get to Toledo faster? (Hint: I am not listed in Guinness' Book of World Records as Mr. Somersault.)

It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something.


Again, keep open to various methods and behaviors, and remember: life often offers surprising solutions.

For the last time, back to Toledo. All silly examples aside, if I really wanted to get from New York to Toledo, which is the right way to go? A westerly course, of course. As you can tell, I'm being trickier than usual in this section. I'm challenging some popular assumptions people have about methods and how to choose them. Is west really a "right" direction and east a "wrong" one? Of course not.

As methods go, "right" and "wrong" are just opinions. The only valid criterion of a method is whether or not it is workable. In the New York-Toledo journey, both east and west are workable methods and, therefore, acceptable. North and south are not workable; therefore, not acceptable. North and south are not wrong; they just won't work for a journey from New York to Toledo.

Methods can sometimes indicate intentions. If you were driving west from New York, for example, we could reasonably assume that your immediate intention was not to visit New England. The operative words are sometimes and indicate, because it's not until you land in Toledo and say, "Yes! Eureka! This is it!" that we'll know your intention was truly Toledo.

Let's say someone has an intention to hide. He (let's make him a he) discovered at an early age that to be spontaneous, outgoing, sensitive, and expressive got him into trouble with some of the authority figures. ("Be quiet! Can't you see we're watching television?" "Settle down." "Be a good little boy and sit still.") He decided to hide the expressive parts of himself.

If he intended to hide his sensitivity and enthusiasm, what methods might he use? Being withdrawn, not going out, being shy, not participating. He might even start creating some physical methods: stammering, putting on weight, or even developing an illness--such as asthma or a heart problem: perfectly reasonable reasons not to participate. He might generate a need for glasses--which can be great to hide behind. In later years, he may let his hair cover part of his face or grow a beard.

Bring me my bow of burning gold, Bring me my arrows of desire, Bring me my spear O clouds, unfold! Bring me my chariot of fire!.


And what if life at certain times became too intolerable? What if he decided, time and again, "I can't take it anymore. I don't want to live." If he formed an intention to die, what are some of the methods he might use to fulfill that intention?

Gunshot, car accident, poison, tuberculosis, leukemia, cancer, drowning, carbon monoxide, knife wound, slit wrist, heart attack, stroke, diphtheria, decapitation, a too-meaningful relationship with Blue Beard, bubonic plague, earthquake, flood, volcano, anorexia, falling, syphilis, wild beasts, cholera, guillotine, hanging, shark, piranha, electric chair, polio, gas chamber, hepatitis, lethal injection, flu, meningitis, or the relative newcomer, AIDS.

A life-threatening illness is just one of many methods to fulfill an intention to die. It might be that somewhere inside, the person with a life-threatening illness has or did have an intention to die.


It's worth a look. Intentions are often unconscious. Once discovered, however, intentions can be changed.


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Copyright © 1988-1996 Peter McWilliams & Prelude Press, Inc.

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