From ancient byways to modern highways, glimpses of faith are everywhere...

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Norman Vincent Peale: Is positive thinking enough?

Peale (Library of Congress Photo)
Norman Vincent Peale’s The Power of Positive Thinking
has had some less-than-positive reviews (which some less-
than-always-positive folks might even call “negative”).

Some might think that Peale’s take on “positive thinking” is sort of a cross between cognitive psychology and auto-hypnosis.  The late Dr. Albert Ellis (well-known cognitive
therapist) spoke about that comparison during an interview
later published by The Intuition Network.  Ellis called Peale’s approach “a good one in a limited way” because “it helps you perform better.”  However, Ellis then cautioned that underlying Peale’s approach is the premise that if I don’t perform better “there’s something rotten about me…”  He also deemed Coue’s “Every day, in every way, I’m getting better and better” auto-hypnotic approach to be “often Pollyannaish thinking.” Ellis explained that Coue “went out of business because people fell on their face and didn’t get better every day.”

Peale, too, very publicly fell on his face.  His assessment of John F. Kennedy’s presidential potential was not only less than positive, but also less than constitutional.  In September 1960, Newsweek reported that Peale, as an alleged spokesperson for the views of 150 of his Protestant colleagues, said that electing a Catholic
president “might even end free speech in America.”  The well-known Protestant theologian Reinhold Neibuhr responded by stating that Peale’s stance showed “blind prejudice.”  Rather than immediately practice some positive ethical resuscitation, Peale instead “went into hiding and threatened to resign from his church.”

This is not to say that Peale’s life and works did not include a heavy dose of the positive.  It is, however, to say that neither people nor life are as simplistic as Peale had claimed.  Christianity, which Peale often referred to as his inspiration, seems to embrace many more shades of gray than the black-and-white thinking that Peale so vigorously espoused.


Copyright May 31, 2011 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved 

No comments:

Post a Comment