New Thought Editorials > New Thought, or New Emotion?


Autumn 2006

New Thought, or New Emotion?

Intellect, or emotion? Egghead, or airhead? Many people in New Thought align themselves squarely with the airhead side. They have the notion that New Thought is not about thought at all, but rather about feelings. They ignore or disparage any sort of scholarship, believing that to be in your head is to be out of touch with your heart. They would agree with psychotherapist Fritz Perls, who advocated, "Junk your mind and come to your senses".

The term New Thought became popular in the 1890s, replacing such terms as mental science. It referred to thought that was new in contrast to traditional religious teachings, especially those of traditional Christianity. Today, we more commonly use the term to refer to one’s own new way of looking at a situation, one’s own new thought. It does not refer to "any thought that is new", which is what philosophers call reductio ad absurdum, reducing something to meaninglessness.

Staying with the eggheads for just a moment longer, we note that many early New Thoughters were enamored of the thought of idealist philosopher Hegel, whose outlook included the idea that two opposites, thesis and antithesis, can be synergized into something better than either one alone. The resulting synthesis retains the best of both thesis and antithesis while dropping out the errors from both. One of the best ways of cleaning up one’s own thinking is by paying attention to one’s opponents and noting which criticisms might have some validity. Since God is present to some extent in both poles of a continuum, we at least have to let them both in out of the rain.

The bottom line is: it’s not either/or; it’s both/and. We need both our intellect and our emotions. The left-brain information gathering fuels the right-brain intuition. To limit ourselves to using only half our brain power makes us half-wits! Yes, we’re limited if we remain stuck in our heads, but we’re equally limited if we remain awash in a sea of emotion and don’t take advantage of the wonderful cerebral cortex that we have evolved through intelligent design (God’s guidance).

In New Thought: A Practical American Spirituality, I (Alan Anderson and I shared the writing 50-50) wrote about the distinction between thinking behaviors and feeling behaviors. I stated,

If we change our behavior and get what we want, painful feeling is replaced by pure pleasure, at least for a few moments. Emotions are feeling behaviors, which are chosen. The easiest and quickest way to change your emotions or your feelings is to change your thinking, i.e., choose a different behavior. That’s why it’s called New Thought, not New Emotion. The catch is that undesirable behaviors, in this case, emotions, get to be a habit. Replacing bad habits is where mastery and self-discipline come in. Having the good feelings appropriate for a desired outcome is an essential part of New Thought treatment, or prayer.

Every thought above the level of "Come in; the door’s open" (simple information) carries an emotional charge. This is often referred to as vibration, a term from the physical world that implies that there is something there to vibrate, but it works well as a metaphor when applied to the mental/spiritual realm. We need to choose thoughts with a "high" vibration that attracts positive things, things that we really desire, not rotten things that we are attracting with what motivational expert Zig Ziglar calls "stinkin’ thinkin’".

What this boils down to is that we need to control our moods, to override our old habits of negative thinking. This requires strength of character, especially when we wake up feeling blah or even fully negative and expect the day to continue that way. New Thought is about shepherding your thoughts so they don’t run wild, despite appearances. You may have every human reason for feeling negative, but New Thought asks you to make the outrageous choice to line up thoughts that make you feel positive anyway. Acting can make you feel better, but before you will change your acting, your thinking will have to change at least a little bit.

Change your thoughts, and the feelings will follow. So it’s still appropriate to call it New Thought.