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Positive Illusions: Creative Self-Deception and the Healthy Mind.

POSITIVE ILLUSIONS: Creative Self-Deception and The Healthy mind.

Is facing the truth about ourselves always the best way to achieve mental health? Or does one achieve physical and mental well-being by learning to cordon off negative information and depressing thoughts about oneself?

Creating positive illusions has become a device with which to do battle against disease and adversity. It is no longer considered an -- "off-the-wall" idea that intrigues people who are willing to try anything.

Visualization is now practiced in the fight against cancer; it is more than inspirational in dealing with psychological problems. Professor Taylor leads us into her world of experience with people who have used an inflated sense of self-worth to succeed at work. She insists that experience has taught her that "whistling a happy tune" can be a buffer against stress and depression.

Ms. Taylor is convinced that adversity brings out the best in people if they endeavor to overcome it. She speaks of individuals who were confronted with otherwise devastating events. "Many of the people we interviewed," she reports, "seemed actually to have achieved a higher level of functioning than they experienced prior to the victimizing event." They were forced to rethink their priorities and values, and many indicated their lives were lived a moment at a time, in order to extract as much enjoyment and meaning from life.

She speaks of these efforts at employing optimism as adaptive fictions illusions, the manipulation of thoughts to strengthen them by imagining ultimate victory.

None of us is really in touch with absolute reality. We couldn't possibly know what forces beyond our knowledged will move into our sphere and affect our lives. We are therefore often burdened and depressed by gloomy anticipation of an outcome that has no actual basis. It is just as easy to construe future events in a manner that promises success and happiness rather than one that portends failure. Self-deception can be healthful and bolstering if it doesn't involve gambling one's resources beyond salvage.

On one level, benign self-deception constructs beneficient interpretations of threatening events, she says. Self-esteem is raised, and positive motivation is enhanced. The ability of the mind to construe benefit from tragedy and to prevent a person from becoming overwhelmed by stress and pain of life is a remarkable achievement.

The book is inspirational, and, if understood on the wave length which Taylor is operating upon, the ideas can provide impetus to deal with some of life's most discouraging problems. But it is important to realize that she does not advocate self-deception as a passport into a "Fool's Paradise." Her advice is simply to use alternatives: cheerful thoughts instead of apprehensive ones. To regard adversity as a challenge, instead of succumbing to threatening clouds upon the horizon, and to remember that they often dissipate into sunshine.

Positive Illusions can best be described as a work that will condition the reader to regard a half-filled bottle as half-full rather than half-empty.
COPYRIGHT 1990 Vegetus Publications
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Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Nutrition Health Review
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jan 1, 1990
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