Pronoia seems to be breaking out all over! But, don’t be alarmed. Pronoia is merely the opposite of paranoia. It is the belief that the universe is plotting to make you happy and that there is nothing you can do about it! You approach life with optimism and humour and you expect no matter what people say or do, a positive result will ensue.
Results from the Better Life Index showed that the happiest respondents – even in the wealthiest countries – were not those with the most money or best education. The happiest were the ones who attributed their joy to faith and family.
‘Pronoia’ as an academic term in the field of sociology was coined in the 1980’s by Queens College Professor Fred Goldner and has found its way more recently into the work of Toronto physician and professor Mel Borins. According to Borins: ‘If we think optimistically, then positive outcomes are more likely…. attitudinal healing is possible…. we have the power to shift consciousness,’ states Dr. Borins.
But, pure human optimism has its limits, and some studies indicate it can be dangerous because it hinders peoples’ more general sense of caution. It’s their inherent wariness that protects them from risk in numerous facets of life relationships, business, etc. And, many people suffering from mental health problems find their lives feel out of control; and, humanly, they feel helpless.
This was true for a man named Robert in an article I read about how he found a path to freedom. At one point in his life he felt paralyzed by periods of intense fear and paranoia, which made it almost impossible to carry on his daily activities. To find freedom from this took more than simply an attitudinal adjustment; it took discovering and yielding to a power bigger than positivity.
He wrote spiritual inspiration from hymns and the Bible on flash cards that he looked at each time a bout threatened. He found this sentence by author and Christian healer Mary Baker Eddy particularly helpful, “Know, then, that you possess sovereign power to think and act rightly, and that nothing can dispossess you of this heritage and trespass on Love [God].” Slowly but surely he was fully healed and began a teaching job, which, for many years proved a blessing.
In Robert’s experience, once he realized which sovereign power was really governing, he no longer felt dependent on human attitudes to control whether he had a good or a bad day.
Using the human brain to conjure up nice thoughts and improve our lives has come and gone as a therapy for treating mental health problems for a couple of centuries now. More advanced studies are trying to tie the effect to some specific biological or chemical action in the brain so that we can then figure out how to control those actions in a variety of ways, including drug therapies.
Yet, experiences like Robert’s give us a glimpse into a way to find happiness that isn’t based on manipulating the human brain. It’s more powerful and more permanent.
As I am a community blogger for Metroland news sites throughout Ontario, you can read this article on a site such as the Brampton Guardian.