Synopsis and Critical Analysis of “Positive Intelligence” by Shirzad Chamine

Positive Intelligence” by Shirzad Chamine provides insights into how individuals can harness the power of their mind to achieve success, happiness, and their true potential. Here’s a synopsis of the book, followed by a critical analysis, with consideration for the neurodiverse, specifically Asperger’s Syndrome.



1. Positive Intelligence (PQ):

  • Chamine introduces the concept of PQ as a measure of one’s mental fitness. Just as IQ reflects cognitive intelligence and EQ emotional intelligence, PQ gauges our ability to control our own mind and shift from negative to positive thought patterns.

2. Saboteurs:

  • Chamine identifies 10 internal “Saboteurs” that act as our own worst enemies. These are mental habits that can undermine our success. The primary Saboteur is the “Judge,” which constantly criticizes ourselves and others. The other nine Saboteurs include the Stickler, the Pleaser, the Hyper-Achiever, and more.

3. The PQ Brain:

  • The brain operates in two primary modes: the Saboteur-driven “Survivor Brain” which is rooted in fear and stress responses, and the PQ-driven “Sage Brain” which operates from a place of calm, clarity, and positive action.

4. Boosting PQ:

  • Chamine suggests that by boosting one’s PQ, one can overcome the Saboteurs and operate more frequently from the Sage Brain. This leads to better decision-making, resilience, and overall happiness.

5. PQ Reps:

  • Chamine introduces a concept called “PQ Reps”, short mental exercises aimed at shifting brain activity away from the Saboteur regions to the Sage regions. These reps help strengthen the Sage Brain over time.

6. The Sage Perspective:

  • The Sage part of the brain sees challenges as opportunities for growth and learning. Chamine outlines five primary Sage powers: Empathize, Explore, Innovate, Navigate, and Activate. These powers counteract the negative influences of the Saboteurs.

7. Practical Applications:

  • Throughout the book, Chamine offers practical exercises, assessments, and strategies for individuals to identify their own dominant Saboteurs, boost their PQ, and harness their Sage powers for a more fulfilling personal and professional life.

“Positive Intelligence” is both a deep dive into the intricacies of the human mind and a practical guide to mastering it for improved performance, happiness, and success.

Critical Analysis

When introducing the lens of neurodiversity, specifically with Asperger’s Syndrome (now commonly referred to as part of Autism Spectrum Disorder or ASD), the analysis of Chamine’s “Positive Intelligence” requires a nuanced approach:


  1. Innovative Framework: Chamine’s categorization of mental habits into “Saboteurs” offers an easy-to-grasp way for readers to identify and understand self-sabotaging behaviors, potentially aiding individuals in recognizing patterns in their thinking.
  2. Practical Application: “PQ Reps”, or exercises meant to shift the brain toward more positive patterns, offer tangible strategies that many can incorporate into daily routines.
  3. Broad Applicability: The principles have potential utility in various life aspects, from work scenarios to personal relationships.
  4. Research-Based: Drawing from neuroscience, cognitive psychology, and performance science, Chamine’s book provides a degree of empirical grounding.


  1. Simplification: The categorization of complex mental behaviors into 10 “Saboteurs” might be viewed as an oversimplification of the complexities of human psychology. While useful for a general audience, experts in the field might find it lacking in nuance. This reduction might not account for the varied cognitive experiences, especially those of neurodiverse individuals.
  2. Subjectivity of PQ: The concept of PQ, while innovative, is not as established or universally recognized as IQ or EQ. Its measurement might be more subjective, making it harder to quantify or compare across individuals.
  3. Overemphasis on Positive Thinking: While positive thinking is undeniably beneficial, an overemphasis might lead some readers to feel pressured to suppress or ignore valid negative emotions. Some critics argue that it’s essential to fully experience and process all emotions, both positive and negative . The push for constant positivity might lead some to suppress legitimate negative emotions. For those with Asperger’s, who often have a heightened sensitivity and a deep sense of justice, this suppression could be counterproductive.
  4. Potential for Misinterpretation: The neurodiverse brain, including those with Asperger’s, processes information differently. Concepts like “Saboteurs” might be interpreted too literally or rigidly, potentially causing confusion or distress.
  5. Varied Effectiveness: As with any generalized approach, what works for the neurotypical population may not resonate with or be effective for someone on the autism spectrum.
  6. Not a Panacea: As with any self-help methodology, what works for one individual might not work for another. Some readers may not resonate with Chamine’s approach or find success in implementing his strategies.

Through a Neurodiverse Lens

Analysis for Individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome:

  1. Strength in Pattern Recognition: One trait often associated with Asperger’s is the ability to recognize patterns. This could potentially aid in identifying and understanding the “Saboteurs” as described by Chamine.
  2. Potential for Overanalysis: Individuals with Asperger’s might overanalyze their behaviors in an attempt to identify and counteract their “Saboteurs”, leading to anxiety or overthinking.
  3. Literal Interpretation: Concepts and exercises might be interpreted very literally by someone with Asperger’s, making it crucial to provide clear and concrete instructions.
  4. Emotional Processing: Emotions can be experienced differently by those with Asperger’s. The push to transition from negative to positive might not always align with their natural emotional processing and could feel forced or inauthentic.

Relationship with other Frameworks

Similar frameworks and connections with Freud’s theories of Ego, Id, and Super-Ego.

Similar Approaches and Frameworks:

  1. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT is a type of psychotherapy that focuses on changing negative thought patterns to produce more positive behaviors and outcomes. Like Chamine’s Saboteurs, CBT identifies cognitive distortions that affect our behavior.
  2. Mindfulness and Meditation: Mindfulness practices, like meditation, aim to create awareness of one’s thoughts and feelings without judgment. This awareness aligns with Chamine’s idea of recognizing Saboteurs and counteracting them with positive intelligence.
  3. Growth vs. Fixed Mindset (Carol Dweck): Dweck’s work on mindsets shares similarities with Chamine’s ideas. A fixed mindset, which believes abilities are static, may align with some Saboteur behaviors, while a growth mindset, which believes in development through effort, mirrors the Sage perspective.

Freud’s Psychoanalytic Theory: Ego, Id, and Super Ego:

  1. Id: Represents our most primal desires and urges. It seeks immediate gratification and operates based on the pleasure principle.
  2. Ego: Acts as the mediator between the Id and the Super Ego. It’s grounded in reality and works to satisfy the Id’s desires in a socially acceptable manner, adhering to the reality principle.
  3. Super Ego: Represents our moral conscience and strives for perfection. It holds our moral standards and ideals and criticizes actions that don’t align with these values.

Relationship Between Saboteurs and Freud’s Super Ego:
Chamine’s Saboteurs can be seen as manifestations of the Super Ego, particularly the Judge Saboteur. The Super Ego, with its moralistic and perfectionist tendencies, often criticizes and punishes the Ego for not living up to its ideals. This aligns closely with the role of the Judge Saboteur, which is a constant inner critic.

Similarly, other Saboteurs, like the Controller or the Stickler, can be linked to the Super Ego’s striving for order, control, and perfection. The Super Ego’s push for adherence to societal norms and perfection could manifest as these Saboteurs in Chamine’s framework.


Chamine’s Positive Intelligence offers a more modern and actionable perspective on managing negative thought patterns, however its roots can be traced back to foundational psychological theories like Freud’s. The Saboteurs, in particular, seem to be an evolution of the idea of the Super Ego and its critical, perfectionist tendencies.

While “Positive Intelligence” offers a framework for understanding and improving mental patterns, in a more modern (and consumable manner), its general approach may need adjustments when applied to the neurodiverse population, including those with Asperger’s Syndrome. The unique cognitive processing and emotional experiences of these individuals should be considered, and the book’s principles should be adapted to their specific needs.