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Review of "The Power of Negative Thinking"

By Gerald Amada
Madison Books, 1999
Review by Kendell C. Thornton, Ph.D. on Jul 31st 2001
The Power of Negative ThinkingGerald Amada draws from years of clinical experience to provide the reader with case studies that illustrate how various negative emotions may be at the same time difficult to experience and the catalyst for personal understanding and growth. Amada begins by exploring the nature and origins of negative emotions. He believes that strong personal relationships naturally engender the most intense emotions. Amada explores the origins of jealousy, hatred, resentment and contempt, as well as relational issues of power imbalances, intergenerational and marital rivalry, sibling rivalry, and the basic issues of gossip and revenge.

In Chapter 2, Amada discusses the effect of negative emotions upon human behavior. He suggests that forgetfulness, shyness, feigned and actual fatigue, as well as the more serious issue of eating disorders, are all unconscious manifestations of negative emotions that have been repressed and denied. Amada continues his analysis by suggesting in Chapter 3 that people are inclined to avoid, dread, deny, and disavow negative emotions and thoughts because these angry feelings usually cause a person to feel physically uncomfortable. People often don't want to acknowledge their feelings, and actively suppress and deny their negative emotions, because "angry thoughts and emotions often feel psychologically and physically painful and, if the pain becomes truly unbearable, one is inclined to use any means possible to exorcise such feelings" (Amada). Amada suggests that people often suppress their angry thoughts and emotions because they fear damaging or losing the object of the wrath. Guilt toward the hated individual, magical thinking, fear of losing control, and religious proscriptions are all explored as reasons why people often deny and suppress their negative emotions.

Chapter 4 explores the constructive uses of negative thoughts and emotions. Amada suggests that people often channel their anger into positive social action. He provides an example of a woman who lost her husband only to find her finances in ruin because of the exorbitant cost of the hospital care and the "catch 22" of bureaucratic state and federal programs. "The more she learned about these anomalous and inequitable programs, the angrier she became. The angrier she became, the more vigorous and determined she was to redress the injustices and inconsistencies in the programs" (Amada). Amada continues by suggesting that people can channel their negative emotions into pursuing their dreams, political activism, and vocational fulfillment.

Amada reserves entire chapters to explore the relationship between negative emotions and humor, creativity, and politics. These three chapters provide some of the most humorous and insightful commentary of the book. Amada begins his analysis of humor by exploring Freud and Frankl. Within this historical/psychological analysis he offers up jokes and provides insight into why they are funny and how they are reflections of the emotional pain of the human condition. Chapter 6 explores negative emotions and creativity. Amada investigates the potential of the negative emotions to inspire imagination and creativity. For example, Amada suggests that Charles Dickens used to creative advantage his rage over the oppressive social conditions of his childhood. Authors such as W. Somerset Maugham and Franz Kafka derive enormous creative energy from the adverse circumstances of their lives. Amada provides very thoughtful analysis of the works of Mozart, Chopin, Rembrandt and Van Gogh, among others. This chapter is inspiring and at the same time insightful from a historical perspective.

Overall, this is a very well written and interesting book. It is written to be palatable for non-professionals, including humorous anecdotes and common human experiences, but it also manages to provide psychologists who are not familiar with the area an excellent review of the issues.

© 2001 Kendell C. Thornton

Kendell C. Thornton, Ph.D. is currently an Assistant Professor in Psychology at Dowling College, Long Island, NY. He earned his B.S. in Psychology from the University of Idaho, M.S. in Social Psychology from the University of Montana, and Ph.D. in Social Psychology from the University of Kansas. His current research interests include interpersonal relationships, with a focus on emotions, motivations, and self-concept.