How the Power of Positive Thinking Lives On

A granddaughter shares how Dr. and Mrs. Norman Vincent Peale influenced many lives–and her career.

Posted in , Oct 10, 2016

How the Power of Positive Thinking Lives On

Last week I had the opportunity to share some Peale history with the students in the psychology class I teach. The Peale History Center and Library is located in Pawling, New York. Inside is a very well archived museum and library documenting the lives of my grandparents, Dr. and Mrs. Norman Vincent Peale. Within this space are Grandma and Grandpa’s offices, just as they were when they were in use. Photos, documents, honors and awards are displayed.

My psychology class is made up of high school juniors and seniors. We are learning about the historical and more current perspectives in the field of psychology, one being Positive Psychology.

In anticipation of our visit to The Peale History Center and Library, I had my students read research studies on positive thinking/optimism and pessimism. These studies provided an important opportunity for them to see how positive thinking has been examined, researched and validated through the scientific method.

Read More: Prayer Tips from Norman Vincent Peale

George Hart, the archivist for the Peale History Center and Library, guided our tour and did a terrific job of explaining to the students how historical events, specifically the Great Depression and World War II, impacted people emotionally and psychologically and how Grandpa Peale’s ministry and mission served such people.

Grandpa Peale joined forces with psychiatrist Dr. Smiley Blanton in 1937 to found the Blanton-Peale Institute and Counseling Center, bringing psychology, psychiatry and religion together to support those struggling. 

The Blanton-Peale Institute is still going strong, offering counseling and therapist-training programs. My students not only learned a great deal about the innovative approach taken by Drs. Blanton and Peale, they were also able to see how the Blanton-Peale efforts fit into the history of psychology.

The students were surprised to learn the following day from another teacher that Dr. Peale was my grandfather. I was honored to answer their questions about him and what it was like to be his granddaughter. I shared with them that my choice of social work as a career path was directly influenced by Grandma and Grandpa Peale’s example of helping people from all walks of life see their value and potential.

I took a great photo of my psychology class and Mr. Hart in Grandpa Peale’s office, standing behind his desk. I told my students how much Dr. Peale would have appreciated the opportunity to meet them. He would have had each of them sit down and share with him about themselves. He loved stories and people.

Grandpa Peale’s historical impact is strong (I invite you to Pawling, New York, to tour the Peale History Center and Library), but his message of positive thinking is as relevant today as it was in the 1930s. There is science to prove it.

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