Pronoia? What’s that?
I heard the term for the first time in a yoga class. It was introduced as an antonym to paranoia. Here is Wikipedia’s definition:
Pronoia is a neologism coined to describe a state of mind that is the opposite of paranoia. Whereas a person suffering from paranoia feels that persons or entities are conspiring against them, a person experiencing pronoia feels that the world around them conspires to do them good.
Pro and Con of Pronoia
This sounds good until it later references a paper by Dr. Fred H. Goldner in which he describes pronoia as a “delusion that others think well of [you] … politeness and the exchange of pleasantries are taken as expressions of deep attachment and the promise of future support.”
Ignoring the delusion part, I rather like the concept of pronoia, the feeling that the universe is on your side rather than against you.
As I tried to find more about it online, most of the information linked it to shamanism, astrology, and mystical experiences. Even a 1994 New York Times article provided a skeptical look at the concept. The psychological delusion aspect seemed to become more prominent.
I just liked the positive vibe of an antidote to paranoia! It seemed like a good follow-up to my well-being blog on gratitude last week.
I think I get it now. If we believe that others are conspiring behind our backs to help us, we give up control of our own role in life. But is that absolutely necessary? Isn’t the concept really close to a positive mental attitude, as described on Wikipedia?
[A] positive mental attitude is that philosophy which asserts that having an optimistic disposition in every situation in one’s life attracts positive changes and increases achievement. Adherents employ a state of mind that continues to seek, find and execute ways to win, or find a desirable outcome, regardless of the circumstances.
It’s all About Your Attitude, Thoughts and Emotions
Your thoughts produce powerful emotions. Especially bad ones. This was portrayed vividly in the opening paragraphs of Positive Mental Attitude: 10 Mindsets for Happiness on the Live Bold & Bloom website of life coach Barrie Davenport.
You have somewhere around 45,000 negative thoughts a day.
Not just you — everyone does.
That’s about 80% of all of your thoughts. The vast majority of our thoughts are unpleasant, stressful, or self-sabotaging. Our brains are like a network news channel, only reporting the bad stuff with a sprinkling of good news to keep us from throwing ourselves off a cliff.
Wow. That’s a sobering premise. If your thoughts are creating miserable emotions, it’s time to take control. Here are the 10 suggestions Barrie provided in her article.
- Create awareness – notice when you succumb to negative thinking
- Break the spell – interrupt the mental looping of the thought
- Fill in the blank – redirect your thoughts
- Practice daily gratitude – be intentional in appreciating everything positive
- Stop reacting – consciously overrule knee-jerk reactions
- Find positive people – spend time with happy, uplifting people
- Have more fun – plan for relaxation and downtime
- Turn off the news – pay attention to inspiring news to balance the negative stuff
- Simplify your life – get rid of unneeded stuff, including those on your to-do list
- Spend time with family and friends – initiate meaningful family events
The Law of Attraction
Getting back to pronoia, it’s also a distant cousin to The Law of Attraction. This is a concept I first learned about by listening to a recording by Brian Tracy, perhaps 20+ years ago. And I still remember it. His website explains The Law of Attraction as follows: “You always attract into your life the people, ideas, and resources in harmony with your dominant thoughts.” He builds on this definition in his 2-minute video on the topic. He ends this solid quote:
You are not what you think you are, but what you THINK, you ARE.”Brian Tracy
While the universe may not be conspiring to work in your favor, you can stack the decks by controlling how you think. Reign in your negative thoughts and replace them with positive ones. You can’t control everything that happens to you, but you can control what you think about it. Accept the reality of what is with a smile.