On the Power of Positive Thinking
In 1936, Max Freedom Long adopted the Hawaiian word "Huna," meaning "secret," as the identifying moniker for his own theosophical beliefs and practices. The word is a direct reference to an ancient religious belief once practiced among the priests, or "kahunas," of what are now the Hawaiian peoples. Long believed that he had rediscovered something akin to the earliest of human spiritual practices, once common to a multitude of long-forgotten cultures spread across the face of the Earth.
Long's metaphysical theories and belief structures are of his own design. However, the core beliefs of Huna, an ancient religious teaching that focuses on the power of positive thinking, go back as far as 35,000 years. Modern-day adherents of this ancient Hawaiian belief system hold that Huna was once practiced across the breadth of a now-submerged continent, of which the present-day Hawaiian islands were once the highest mountain peaks.
The core tenets of the faith place great emphasis on the power of positive thinking, and of reality reflecting what those who observe it choose to believe about how it works. The focus of Huna's teachings revolves around a mindful awareness of the current moment in time, and of shaping one's perspective to reflect a positive, supportive sense of self-awareness, love and respect for oneself, and love for one's fellows. Long believed that the oldest faiths known to humanity were supportive of inclusiveness and a healthy state of mind.
Positive Thinking in Popular Culture
Long's Huna, along with other New Age faiths, is far from alone in its emphasis on the power of positive thinking: the idea that a mindful sense of self-awareness, coupled with a positive outlook on reality, can literally affect the way events transpire in our lives. Some support for this broadly defined, yet profoundly simple ideology comes to us from much more modern sources. Popular novelist Cormac McCarthy, author of such works as The Road and No Country for Old Men, is an active scientific copy-editor; he spends a lot of his time associating with some of the most innovative academic minds in quantum physics. Cormac is a deep believer in the power of our outlook on life in shaping the reality we live in. While many of his works are widely regarded as dark and grim pieces of fiction, the characters in his novels are frequently cited as affecting their fates through their own expectations: those who expect trouble, betrayal, or failure usually find it, while the steadfastly confident -- whether heroic, villainous, or morally ambiguous -- tend to be much more successful.
This view on reality is popularized in other fictional media, such as the popular Navy crime procedural NCIS (along with its two spinoffs, which are set in Los Angeles and New Orleans respectively). In NCIS, forensic scientist Abby is famous for her unflappingly optimistic outlook, but Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs is no less a confident and positive figure, who frequently manages to find the best in people despite their own confusion. Gibbs is a strong focal point in the show, a powerfully influential individual, who refrains from passing wholesale judgment based on preconceived notions. His experience with this outlook transforms him into a moral anchor: we frequently see Gibbs helping other characters in the show to find and maintain the same healthy, positive outlook he sustains.
These are, of course, works of fiction. What's less important than that, however, is their overwhelming popularity: these ideas resonate with modern audiences, and it isn't simply the positivity and the happy characters that do it for us. NCIS has plenty of this, but the works of Cormac McCarthy, one of the most well-known and popular authors of our modern era, are noticeably lacking in that regard. The only point of common ground is the simple, yet profound notion of our expectations allowing us some measure of control over our own destiny.
There is a simple explanation for this: the future is a potentially frightening and scary place. Our own eventual, individual ends would seem to be inevitable, and the idea of affecting reality to influence our own destinies while we're still here can be powerfully comforting.
Positive Thinking in Science and Medicine
With that being said, this notion is not without a defense in quantifiable scientific evidence, and modern psychology strongly supports a therapeutic reliance on positive thinking: it's used to treat everything from behavioral disorders to addictive personality, with an almost mystifying rate of success. Life and coping skills based on positive thinking are broadly applicable to a wide range of challenges, and individuals who use them to successfully overcome obstacles to their own personal success rarely suffer relapses.
Self-Awareness for Confident Living
Positive thinking doesn't guarantee a lack of problems in life. It doesn't assure smooth sailing, or that a person who maintains a positive outlook will never encounter challenges that they'll have some trouble overcoming. What it does provide, ultimately, is a way to get to know yourself, to understand your own capabilities, and to maintain a healthy perspective on the best and the worst that life has to offer. Through mindfulness and positivity, you can come to understand your limits -- to know what you can manage on your own, and when to look to others for help.
Above all else, it is a road to happiness through increased confidence, understanding, and satisfaction. It provides us with reassurance that, as long as we approach every challenge with a positive mindset, even the worst of life's scars is not beyond our ability to heal, and the universe will always unfold as it should.