I have had a good many more uplifting thoughts, creative and expansive visions while soaking in comfortable baths in well-equipped American bathrooms than I have ever had in any cathedral.


How many cares one loses when one decides not to be something but to be someone.



I sandwiched this section on eliminating negativity between two sections on adding positivity. I did this for a reason. I firmly believe that the way to more health, wealth, and happiness is to focus on health, wealth, and happiness. This may sound simplistic, but many people try to obtain health, wealth, and happiness only by trying to eliminate disease, poverty, and unhappiness.

But the lack of disease is not necessarily health, the lack of poverty is not necessarily wealth, and the lack of unhappiness is not necessarily happiness. Sometimes we successfully eliminate a negative and discover we still don't have what we want. "After all that work!" we sigh. And, discouraged, sometimes we return to the negative.

Another problem with trying to get rid of something negative is that we must pay attention to the negative we're trying to eliminate. This attention gives it more energy--our energy--and sometimes makes the negativity seem too great to overcome.

Doing nothing besides eliminating negatives to get what you really want can be the long way `round. If there were one hundred objects on a table, and I wanted you to pick up object 27, I could tell you, as you randomly selected items, "No, don't pick up object 34. No, don't pick up object 29. No, don't pick up object 63."

Eventually, you would get to object 27, and I wouldn't say anything. You might, however, after twenty or thirty "Don'ts," give up. I could hardly blame you. It would have been much easier if I had simply said, "Pick up object 27."

That's why I asked you earlier to make a list of the things you want in life (your Top-Ten List). Going directly for what you want is a much easier and more effective way of getting what you want than eliminating what you don't want.

You may, however, find "negative" parts of your life opposing your goal--these must be sacrificed in order to get what you want. If you want happiness, for example, you must sacrifice unhappiness. Some of these opposites may be easy to give up; others may have become bad habits.

When eliminating the bad habits, always keep in mind why you are eliminating them. Focus on your goal. Rather than saying, "I want to give up negative thinking," tell yourself, "I want to enjoy all the positive things in my life." Rather than, "I want to get rid of this illness," say, "I want vibrant, radiant health."

Give me chastity and continence, but not just now.


Breaking bad habits can be difficult, but it's easier if you remember that what you're adding to your life (the goal) is more valuable than what you're eliminating (the habit).

In releasing yourself from the bondage of bad habits, don't try to eliminate all of them at once. That's just inviting failure. Take them one or two at a time, starting with the ones that will be easier for you to change. When these are under control, take on a few others that may be a bit more challenging. Build on the strength of each victory.

Separate "Noticing the Negative" from "Negative Thinking"

Over the piano was printed a notice: Please do not shoot the pianist. He is doing his best.


We're not responsible for every thought that wanders through our brain, only the ones we hold there. The thought, "What an inconsiderate person," may float through our mind and probably do little harm. It's when we add to that thought ("And furthermore . . . ") that we get into trouble.

Maybe the person was being inconsiderate. That might be an accurate observation. We start the cycle of negative thinking when we add "and I don't like that" to what we observe.

It's important to keep this distinction in mind when breaking the habit of negative thinking. Merely noticing that something is a certain way, and that that way might fall on the negative side of life, is not a "negative thought."

To notice a houseplant is withering is an observation, and not a positive one. From that observation, we have options.

The first idea that the child must acquire, in order to be actively disciplined, is that of the difference between good and evil; and the task of the educator lies in seeing that the child does not confound good with immobility, and evil with activity.


One, the negative-thinking route: "Oh, the plant is dying. How many times have I told so-and-so to water the plants? Plants always die on me. I must have some plant-killing energy."

Two, the positive-action route: "I'd better water the plant. Apparently I'm not doing enough to impress upon so-and-so the importance of watering the plant; I'll write a note now. Plants don't seem to do well in that location. Maybe I should get a hardier plant."

Every time we see something and think it might be better another way, we are not necessarily having negative thoughts. We get into trouble when we get negative and demand that things and people be different than they are.

If you're not willing to invest the time, activity, and money in making something the way you want it (assuming it's even possible), then you might as well accept it. Acceptance takes less than a second, consumes almost no energy, and costs absolutely nothing.

We live in a negative-feedback world. Often, the signal that tells us something needs attention is a negative one. Noticing these signals is not negative thinking. Doing something corrective about them is positive action. Getting upset about them is negative thinking.

The latter is what I'm suggesting you keep to a minimum.


If the essential core of the person is denied or suppressed, he gets sick sometimes in obvious ways, sometimes in subtle ways, sometimes immediately, sometimes later.


Does all this negative thinking produce depression; or are we depressed, and the depression causes negative thinking? Which became depressed first: the chicken or the egg?

Here I'm discussing medical depression, biological depression, not the sort of depression we feel when we say, "The popcorn at the snack bar has too much cholesterol. I'm depressed."

Many negative thinkers can't help it. They have a physical illness known as depression. It's an imbalance in the chemical functioning of the brain. A depressed brain cannot hold a positive focus for any meaningful length of time. Negative thoughts, on the other hand, flourish.

I know whereof I speak: I was depressed from at least the age of three, but I didn't discover it until I was forty-three. (That must be some sort of record for non-self-awareness. Or denial. Probably both.) All those wonderful techniques and ideas I taught others in books, tapes, seminars, and PR appearances didn't work for me. Yes, they helped a little, but considering the time I had put in, I should have been happier than Mary Poppins. (Come to think of it, maybe Mary Poppins was a little depressed herself.) People would bump up against my anger or pain and exclaim, "I thought you wrote a book about not having negative thoughts!"

Shortly after I started treatment for depression (in 1993), the depression lifted like the proverbial veil. I felt good just being alive. I felt worthy for the first time in my adult life. Further, all the self-help stuff actually started helping. Not that life is now suddenly perfect. When I think and do negative things, I feel negative. When I think and do good things, however, I finally feel good.

Heavy thoughts bring on physical maladies.


There are three primary kinds of depression: major depression, chronic depression, and manic depression.

Major depression has a beginning, a middle, and an end--like the flu. Unlike the flu, however, major depressions often last for months.

Chronic depression (also called dysthymia) is a long-term, low-grade depression that can go on for years. (Yes, you can have both chronic depression and major depression at the same time. This stunning state of affairs is known as double depression.)

Manic depression is the unpredictable mood swing between irrational, anxiety-ridden highs (mania) and cavernous, often-immobilizing lows (depression).

There are many misconceptions about depression--mostly negative. Unfortunately, because depressed people think negatively about depression and its treatment, they don't get help, which allows the depression to worsen, which leads to more negative thinking, which produces a vicious cycle of suffering.

Allow me to clear up some of the most popular myths.

  1. Depression is a mental illness. Depression certainly affects the mind and emotions, but depression is a physical illness--like diabetes, high blood pressure, or low thyroid. Specifically, depression is the body's failure to maintain the proper level of neurotransmitters in the brain. Neurotransmitters are the fluid through which the brain communicates with its many cells. When the level of neurotransmitters is too low, communication falters, brain functioning becomes inharmonious, and depression results. It is thought the manic (hyper) phase of manic depression occurs when the level of neurotransmitters is too high.

  2. Depression cannot be easily treated. That was true just a few years ago, but medical breakthroughs since 1987 make depression among the most easily and successfully treated of all major illnesses. The two major forms of treatment are antidepressant medication and short-term therapy (usually just fifteen to twenty sessions).

    Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.


  3. Antidepressants are "happy pills" that change your personality. Think of depression as a headache. If you've had a headache for months, years, or as long as you could remember, taking an aspirin and alleviating the headache will certainly make you feel better. It is, however, the same you feeling better. Antidepressants only remove depression. If you take an aspirin and don't have a headache, you won't feel much of anything. If you take an antidepressant and you don't have depression, you won't feel much of anything, either. Unlike, say, tranquilizers or pep pills, antidepressants have no mood-altering effect. When people say they're happier taking antidepressants, they are referring to the relief one naturally feels when the pain of depression lifts.

  4. Antidepressants are dangerous. In fact, antidepressant medications are among the safest of all prescription drugs. Prozac, the most popular antidepressant, has had unparalleled negative press (more people know the side-effects of Prozac than know the symptoms of depression). This is because the Church of Scientology, for whatever reason, decided to attack Prozac with a great pile of falsehoods. More than ten million people regularly take Prozac worldwide; five million in the United States. Naturally, a handful of these people have displayed some aberrant behavior. A handful of any group of five million people will, at one time or another, display aberrant behavior. (Statistically, I'm sure it can be shown that a high percentage of mass murderers drank milk when they were growing up.) All medications have potential side effects, of course, and antidepressants are no exception. A relatively small percentage of people taking the new generation of antidepressants, however, experience any side-effects at all.

  5. Antidepressants are unnatural and unhealthy. Not so. Antidepressants simply balance the level of neurotransmitters already in the brain. The positive effect of antidepressants comes from allowing naturally produced neurotransmitters to return to natural levels. That's all. Further, the misery of enduring depression is far more unhealthy--on all levels--than any known antidepressant side-effect.

    The problems of alcoholism and drug addiction have strong links to depression. The search for highs may often begin as a flight from lows.


  6. Healing depression means years of psychotherapy. The two forms of therapy shown to work best in healing depression (Cognitive Therapy and Interpersonal Therapy) are both short-term, closed-ended therapies--usually lasting just fifteen to twenty sessions. Both are more "retraining" and educational than they are lying on a couch and rhapsodizing on a therapist's traditional opening line: "Tell me about your childhood." The reason some people perceive, think about, and do depressing things is that no one ever taught them a better way. These therapies are about learning a better way.

  7. If I have depression, I'm unusual. Hardly. More than fifteen million Americans currently suffer from depression. The sad fact is that ten million of them don't know it. These ten million go about blaming this and overreacting to that, but the true cause of their suffering, poor relationships, failure, and ill health is a biochemical imbalance in the brain (depression). The chances are one-in-five that you will have a depression at some time or another in your life.

A few additional thoughts on depression:

How to Tell if You Have Depression

According to the National Institutes of Health, if you have four or more of these symptoms for two weeks or longer, you may have depression. A diagnosis from a psychiatrist or other physician who specializes in depression is in order.

It's been troubling me. Now, why is it that most of us can talk openly about the illnesses of our bodies, but when it comes to our brain and illnesses of the mind we clam up and because we clam up, people with emotional disorders feel ashamed, stigmatized and don't seek the help that can make the difference.


Symptoms of Depression Can Include:

Physical and social functioning are impaired by depression to a greater degree than by hypertension, diabetes, angina, arthritis, gastrointestinal diseases, lung problems, or back ailments.

November, 1993

In the Workplace, Symptoms of Depression Often May Be Recognized by:

To find out more, please read a book I wrote with Harold H. Bloomfield, M.D., How to Heal Depression. Available at your local bookstore, library, or by calling 1-800-LIFE-101.

Freedom from Addiction

He who has begun has half done. Dare to be wise; begin!.

65-68 B.C.

Mysteriously and in ways that are totally remote from natural experience, the gray drizzle of horror induced by depression takes on the quality of physical pain.


Negative thinking is a bad habit. For many people it's an addiction. An addiction means some behavior is on automatic--it has control over you; you do not have control over it.

If you think you're not addicted to negative thinking, challenge yourself--put the book down, go about your life, and don't think a negative thought for the next hour. Starting now. Not one negative thought. Go.


How did you do? Now don't kid yourself by saying, "Oh, I only noticed the negative. You said that was okay." Is that all you did? Did you start to get upset about any of the negativity you noticed? If you did, you were doing more than noticing. You were adding to the noticing. What you were adding was negative thinking.

If you were unable to meet that challenge, you might want to take a good, honest look at how much control negative thinking has over your life.

Breaking addictions is not an easy process. If it were, they wouldn't be addictions. For the nonsmoker to give up cigarettes is easy; for the pack-a-day smoker, it's not. One is addicted; the other isn't.

If at first you don't succeed you're running about average.


For some, giving up negative thinking may be a snap. They're not addicted--they've been thinking negatively just because they thought they should, that there was some good to be gotten from it. On learning they can get alongmarvelously without negative thoughts, these people just walk away from them. All they needed was permission.

For others, moving from automatic negative thinking to manual positive focusing is going to be a challenge--maybe the greatest challenge of their lives. And perhaps the challenge of life itself.

It's going to take time, perseverance, patience, forgiveness, determination, discipline, fortitude, enthusiasm, support, endurance and, above all, love. Love for yourself, love for the process, love for what you're creating in place of the addiction and, yes, even love for the addiction itself.

The past few years have seen a steady increase in the number of people playing music in the streets. The past few years have also seen a steady increase in the number of malignant diseases. Are these two facts related?.



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