Thursday, March 17, 2011
The perils of positive thinking.
“The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.” – William Arthur Ward
A few years ago, when my husband and I bought our modest little house, we met Danya. Beautiful and charismatic, Danya was our mortgage lender. She carried us through the complicated process with ease, bubbling with excitement. I envied her “don’t worry about a thing” attitude.
Danya ran an investment organization, and shortly after our closing, she invited me to her home for a cup of coffee. I felt a little intimidated as I drove up to her “McMansion” with a BMW in the driveway, but Danya made me feel at home.
Danya was living a true American Dream – and she wanted to share it with me. A proponent of investing using “OPM” – “Other People’s Money” – she confided in me that she’d earned $3 million dollars in less than two years by purchasing apartment buildings, fixing them up and selling them. “This is amazing,” she said, bursting with enthusiasm. “It’s like a dream, but it’s true.”
Danya attributed her amazing success to “The Law of Attraction.” Because “like attracts like,” they say, one’s thoughts and emotions actually impact reality. It’s positive thinking, but not in the usual sense. Anyone knows that if you’re always pessimistic, you’ll be miserable. Or if you go into a job interview expecting to blow it, you will.
But the Law is different. It’s cosmic. One’s thoughts are actually “requests” to the universe, and everything that happens to us – good or bad – is a result of those thoughts. With thoughts of wealth and success, Danya had become a millionaire. She invited me to stay and watch the film, “The Secret,” in her home theatre.
Here was the good news: Danya wanted to collaborate with me! She would even lend me the capital, knowing that I didn’t have a spectacular income. Between the OPM and the Law, she said, "There is literally no risk, Alizah. If you allow positive spiritual energy to come into you, you can do this too. And you’re just the kind of person who would be great at this!"
There are many believers in the Law, and I truly don’t mean to offend. But I couldn’t help but wonder, what about people in Africa who are starving? Or small children who are abused by their parents? Did they think negative thoughts, which resulted in their misfortune? The idea of making extra money certainly appealed to me. But a little voice inside my head said, “Finish your coffee and tell her you don’t have time to stay.” So I did.
I kept her offer in the back of my mind, though. I checked for her online every few months and saw Danya’s success grow exponentially. She was named a “Success Story” in a financial magazine, and her testimony about the Law of Attraction showed up on a number of websites. I started wondering if I should take her up on her offer after all...
Then the housing bubble popped. The economy tanked. And my own field of publishing began to collapse. I became sick, very sick. I attempted suicide. And in recovery, Danya and her Law were the furthest thing from my mind.
Today, while writing an article about mortgages, I was reminded of her. I dug around a little and was stunned by what I found. Danya’s out of business. She’s declared bankruptcy. And her properties – including her personal residence, where I had coffee that day – are in foreclosure.
So what happened? Did Danya stop thinking positive thoughts? Or was she simply another casualty of America’s financial meltdown?
I have to work at being optimistic. It doesn’t come naturally. I’m well aware that seeing the glass as half-empty makes me feel discouraged and sabotages my mental health. Because I make optimism a conscious priority, most of the people who know me see me as a cheerful, upbeat person – and would be shocked to know about my battle with suicidal depression.
But I feel like I dodged a bullet here. My innate skepticism – my rejection of “think yourself rich” – may have saved me from financial ruin. You see, there is a difference between looking on the bright side, and being blinded by the light.