The Power of Delusion

Before I called myself a writer, I called books my best companions, my favorite pastime, and my original mode of transportation into other lives and worlds, both real and imagined. From time to time I’ll post reviews of books that I’ve deemed worthy of stopping at a scenic overlook for.

Do we unconsciously deceive ourselves regularly? If so, is it a limiting or strengthening act? American writer William Arthur Ward is often quoted as saying, “If you can imagine it, you can achieve it. If you can dream it, you can become it.” If we say we’re capable of achieving something before we truly have a plan as to how, is it delusion, motivation, self-protection or all three? Do our own expectations and/or the expectations others have about us mature into self-fulfilling realities? Do we unconsciously control the outcome of events with our thoughts? Is the outcome of optimism tangible?

Joseph T. Hallinan, in his engaging new book Kidding Ourselves- The Hidden Power of Self Deception*, explores how the human mind processes information and helps readers understand the many factors that affect our perception. Without being über technical or boorishly sterile he cites a plethora of interesting studies from all areas of life relating a moderate amount of self-delusion to productivity, optimism, a sense of well-being, good health and success. Along with learning that the word “mesmerized” actually originated with a German named Franz Anton Mesmer, in 1778, Hallinan’s interesting stories and examples gave me fresh perspectives on human behaviors both positive and negative.

I came away with an even greater appreciation of the undeniable power of the placebo effect, faking it until you make it, and the power of positive thinking. It’s definitely a bookshelf “keeper” that I’m sure I’ll return to. Each section elicited introspection and reflection, with lots of “Aha moments” along the way.  Like the Little Engine That Could or the slow and steady tortoise in the fable The Tortoise and the Hare, Hallinan’s motto is “what matters is what we believe”, and I believe that!

Peace and Love

* I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review.

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