Motivational and inspirational writer, Bryan Hutchinson is the author of several books about life with ADHD including the highly acclaimed, best selling "One Boy′s Struggle: A Memoir" and the author of the hilarious eBook that went viral "10 Things I Hate about ADHD"

Does Positive Thinking Work?

In the last few years I have read thousands of emails from readers all over the world. Many love what I have written and thank me for going out on a ‘limb’ to share my life experiences. You, the readers are my driving source for writing, sharing and you inspire me to keep on keeping on, to continue sharing – it’s a very positive, uplifting and learning experience each time I read a letter or email from someone that has been touched by my writing. And what’s just as special is our ADDer World Social Network is nearing 2000 members! Originally, I had foreseen a couple dozen members of blog readers where we could get together and communicate a bit easier. Seems I am not the only one interested in finding a positive outlook, no, not by far and that’s awesome! Together we are never alone, no, never alone and finding ways to move forward positively, constructively and manipulate our experiences to our wants, needs and desires, ever hopeful and encouraging each other. That, my friends, is what it is all about. Ecouraging each other, motivating each other and, giving each other hope in the midst of the fog. There’s enough discouragement in the world already.

With that said, from time to time I receive a frustrated email, comment or letter. Some are quite angry, in fact. These types of emails seem to have one connecting factor: Positivity. Many of the writers are simply frustrated that thinking positive doesn’t work for them and yet, there are others, who are simply angry that anything positive is being connected to ADHD in any way whatsoever. Some of the latter emails try their most to get me to change my perspective and see how doomed we are because we have ADHD and that life with it will always be chaos and ruin. Uh… no. And then there are other emails I get where I pay a little less attention to because there seems to be some kind of ulterior, hostile motive that I don’t fully understand. Tip to any would be writers in this category. Insulting emails are never successful and I am not available for debate, but you can debate with yourself all you like or someone else.

First thing I want to say about positive thinking, happiness and success, worry, anxiety, fear and negative thinking, which is lost in many of the translations about them. Each one of these things is work. For too many of us worry, fear, anxiety and negative thinking seem to come naturally, but in reality much has been learned. Like everything else in life they have been experienced and have become habitual; therefore: a normal way of living life. Whatever our ‘normal’ way of life is, anything that contradicts it is taken with a grain of salt and our minds rebel automatically, even when we don’t want it to. I believe this is very important and deserves further consideration.

One of the reasons I am so revealing and transparent is because it is essential to understand that I do not come from a life filled with privilege or with constant ease. If you recall I nearly failed every grade of school, I was punished harshly for my seeming lack of interest and drive. I was a day dreamer (still am), and I didn’t seem to place value on the things which others thought I should. I grew up into a very insecure adult and lived my life filled with constant worry and anxiety. I learned to expect the worst, to be punished for it and my expectations were hardly ever let down.

It’s a funny thing really, once we start to believe something through years of learning a certain way of living, it becomes our self-fulfilling prophecy even years after the original reasons are long out of our life. Those of you reading this with ADHD know full well what it is like not to live up to others expectations in school, in work, in relationships and in so many other areas and we come to accept that as part of our life, it’s just the way it is. ADHD becomes a scourge to us and anyone or anything that challenges this will be laid waste too and we don’t want anyone else to be fooled by it. Really, the fact of this is that misery loves company. None of us want to be alone. And, this is part of the problem with the perception of positive thinking.

Before I entered therapy in the late 90s I was a bottle of nervous, anxious energy. Due to my negative and insecure self image and my childhood filled with punishment for so many undiagnosed ADD reasons, I had developed PTSD. PTSD can be extremely debilitating. The sound of a kite flapping in the air can suddenly sound like the whipping whoosh of a leather belt getting ready to crack that familiar sound and I flinch instinctively. In the middle of the night I would wake thinking I had forgotten something again and punishment would come rushing through the door at any moment. It would take me a few minutes after waking to realize I had been dreaming. Going back to sleep, of course, would become impossible and the dawning day would be a wreck. Anyone who has lived this way probably has a thing or two to say about positive thinking and it probably isn’t all that positive. I understand the reasons and thanks to good therapy and learning so much the last several years, I know why it is so difficult to even consider positive thinking as possible. When you get here, you too will see the truth as plain as day and it will be obvious when you see anyone else putting down a positive mindset, because it reveals itself so clearly.

Just like negative thinking, positive thinking is learned and becomes habitual, a way of life. The one filled with negative thinking is usually quite angry at the positive thinker, because, it’s confusing and seems like a delusional way of living, because their experiences dictate that positive thinking is a fallacy. When a friend of mine first handed me the book “The Power of Positive Thinking” by Norman Vincent Peale I really thought it was a crock at first. I didn’t read it right away; it took me a while to get around to it. Positive thinking? Snake oil! I didn’t think that overtly, but that’s the message I received from my subconscious. It’s a good thing I didn’t know too many people that were caught in the grip of negative experiences at the time and I pretty much stayed to myself, because if I had anyone to relate to and share my negativity with, I don’t think I would have recovered. I say recovered in this instance because that’s really what I had to do from the grips of negative thinking.

Negative thinking is like an infection developed from learned experiences. It must be healed and then comes recovery, in recovery we learn that there is another way of doing things, of experiencing things and that is the power of positive thinking. Positive thinking is just like negative thinking, but instead of expecting the worst case scenario I learned to expect something constructive. Oh, that was a stretch, especially with undiagnosed ADD still playing havoc. Each time I took 3 steps forward, I would take another 6 steps backwards. And there’s the difficulty in becoming a positive thinker or, at least seeing things in a positive light. It’s so easy to fall right back into negative thinking because the negative can prove itself so quickly. Positive thinking is work and it takes time to develop, just like negative thinking took time to develop. It becomes easy to give up on positive thinking, that it is delusional and it is easy to find those in agreement. Negative thinking has been with us for so long that we do not realize that we had to ‘learn’ most of it through our experiences and in the same way we must learn the positive.

And here comes a major reason for my books and my blog: Positive thinking takes work, it doesn’t become natural in a day or two, or even in a week or several. It develops over time with experiences to back it up, but also (and this is an area where therapy helped tremendously) it needs nurturing from others. We all need validation and encouragement in some form or another. In the area of negative thinking it is easy to get chastised, punished and, validated. In negative thinking it is easy to find encouragement and motivation from others in various forms to remain a negative thinker. But, it is not always so easy to find positive reinforcement when you are trying to recover. There are also the expectations of others still to contend with – you know, those that believe you are going to fall off the wagon or that you are cursed, or living with a curse, therefore any other way of thinking is delusional.

If you have been a smoker and you are friends with other smokers and you try to quit smoking on your own, there’s bound to be one or two friends, or all of them, that are going to try to dissuade you that it isn’t necessary to stop, or it is impossible etc. Why is that? It can be a social community thing where others don’t want to be left out or lose someone that gives them validation for doing what they are doing, or thinking the way they think. This isn’t a bad thing per se, but it’s important to realize this issue is a reality and identify it as such when you experience it. These people don’t want the best for you, they want what they think is best for them, even if they don’t realize it. That’s why some good parents take very good care of which friends their kids associate with because they know the strong influence peers have.

In all, I want to say I understand what it is like to hear about and read about positive thinking, but have yet to truly experience living in the realm of a positive thinking lifestyle. It can seem quite alien and to a degree, it can even seem like a delusional concept. But, what I would be more concerned about is if someone has tried to leave a negative thinking mindset behind and set sails to new, more fulfilling perspectives, but hasn’t been successful – it might also be time to look at the type of people we hang out with and what their goals are. As I said, no one wants to be alone and sometimes in order to take the next step and break away from mediocrity, sometimes we have to leave behind those that expect mediocrity from us.

What I try to do is share my experiences to give some inspiration, hope and motivation. Sometimes we get quite the opposite in everyday life. If you have people around you that complain a lot, list their negative experiences daily, or say things like “this will never get better”, “life sucks” and “just accept your lot in life” – you know, when you hear those things enough, it’s really difficult to find a positive perspective, much less believe that such a thing as positivity is possible. Be aware of those who want you to stay stuck like they are, because if you can do it, heck maybe even they can and that might not be something they are ready to cope with. The next best thing is to keep you from doing it too. I’ve tried to quit smoking around a friend that smoked more than I did, it didn’t work. Trying to think positive around someone that thinks negative, this contradicts your efforts, they will make every effort to circumvent your efforts. It’s up to each of us to see this for what it is and make our own decision.

Next time you hear someone telling you it’s not worth it, or that you can’t, or any kind of negative diatribe try to look at it from another viewpoint and ask yourself, why are they telling you this or want you to buy into it? Same goes for everything, but for a moment just really, truly think about it. You may also notice that one perspective has very angry, sarcastic and condescending tones while the other as uplifting, encouraging and caring tones. Which do you prefer? They are both reality, it just so happens that one is constructive, while the other is something else. Go figure.

Whatcha think?