This is a pretty funny and quick TED talk about positive psychology that I liked, though I wish it addressed the possibility and harms of self-delusion more.

Questions I now have about deliberately choosing positive thoughts:

  • How harmful is the self-delusion from choosing positive thoughts? 
  • What does this self-delusion look like, e.g. what are some detailed examples?
  • How should we account for the dynamic that thinking more positively will actually make outcomes more positive, given that positive thinking makes you more productive in various ways?
  • What does it mean for your emotions or thoughts to be "more negative or positive than is granted”?
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It's not about pumping up the positive side to counteract the negative side, this just leads to an arms race. It's about investigating the aversive side to understand what its original positive intent is, its motivation stack, to see the ways that those goals are not incompatible with other goals and that the confusion that they were incompatible was due to means-ends confusions (some strategies are incompatible, but the original goals are not). I recommend Core Transformation (by Connierae Andreas) for the best process I know of for doing this. CT teaches manually stack tracing the generators of thoughts and feelings, so that you can eventually do it more automatically.

What’s a motivation stack? Could you give an example?

2romeostevensit5mo
Instrumental goal->instrumental goal->instrumental goal->terminal goal though in reality due to multifinal strategies it's more like a web so there are some up front costs to disentangling that.
1weathersystems5mo
I read it as an analogy to a programming stack trace [https://stackoverflow.com/questions/3988788/what-is-a-stack-trace-and-how-can-i-use-it-to-debug-my-application-errors#:~:text=What%20is%20a%20Stacktrace%3F,the%20stacktrace%20was%20generated%20manually).] , but with motivations. Often times you're motivated to do A in order to get B in order to get C, where one thing is desired only as a means to get something else. Presumably these chains of desire bottom out in some terminal desires, things that are desired for their own sake, not because of some other thing it gets you. So one example could be, "I want to get a job, in order to get money, in order to be able to feed myself." I'm not sure if that's what they meant. I'm often kind of skeptical of that sort of psychologizing though. It's not that it can't be done, but that our reasons for having motivations are often invisible to ourselves. My guess is that when people try to explain their own actions/motivations in this way, they're largely just making up a plausible story.
4romeostevensit5mo
Processes for doing this notably do not do it via explanation.

I think human values emerge from the multi agent dynamics associated with an ongoing inner alignment failure in the brain. In that context, it matters a lot what your different parts think of each other and of you as a whole.

We might make an analogy between positive self talk for an individual and patriotism / high social trust for a society. Such beliefs seem to pull on a lever we might call “tendency towards internal cooperation”.

There are good and bad aspects to pulling such a lever. More internal cooperation can mean less resources wasted on internal conflicts and greater focus on achieving external goals. However, internal competition can drive efficiency improvements or prevent stagnation, and sufficiently intense patriotism eventually devolves into delusional nationalism.

Psychology research often suffers from only being able to study entities that don't have much complexity. Positivity and negativity are both simple concepts. 

If you look at someone like Elon Musk, the lense of positivity and negativity muddies what's going on. When starting Tesla and SpaceX Elon gave both a 10% chance of success. You could deduce from that, that Elon is s pessimist instead of an optimist.

When it comes to your self-concept, having a self-concept that relates to reality is good. If you don't, you are likely flinch away from important data. The late Steve Andreas describes in Transform Your Self a good framework of how to actually build a positive and reality aligned self-image.

Transform Your Self is a theory with a bunch of moving parts that is more complex then the simple positive/negative and that's likely part of why there's no academic engagement with it.

Even if you would want to stay with the positive psychology interventions, "tell yourself you are awesome" is inferior to "have a gratitude journal". One of the aspects of a gratitude journal is also to relate to what actually happened in the real world.

Does it lead to action that accomplishes one's goals? Then it has worked. Does it lead to action that fails to do that? Then it is become a snare and a delusion.

Personally, I prefer to see things as they are and may be, and act to bring about how I want them to be.

I agree, though I want to be able to have a good enough understanding of the gears such that I can determine whether something like "telling yourself you are awesome everyday" will have counterfactual better outcomes than not. I guess the studies seem to suggest the answer in this case is "yes" in as much as self-delusion negative externalities are captured by the metrics that the studies in the TED talk use. [ETA: and I feel like now I have nearly answered the question for myself, so thanks for the prompt!]

A partial answer: 

  • Your emotions are more negative than granted if, for instance, it's often the case that your anxiety is strong enough that it feels like you might die and you don't in fact die.
  • Your emotions are more positive than granted if it's often the case that, for instance, you are excited about getting job offers "more than" you tend to get job offers.

These answers still have ambiguity though, in "more than" and in how many Bayes points your anxiety as a predictor of death actually gets.

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