Warning: The following post is a rant. The opinion expressed by the author is rather impassioned and… how shall we say… colorful.
Barbara Ehrenreich has ripped the scab off the never-ending debate between optimists and pessimists with her book, “Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America.”
Ehrenreich takes a decidedly anti-positive thinking approach in her writing and couches it in righteous indignation stemming from her breast cancer diagnosis several years ago. Well intentioned, though moderately clueless, doctors told Ehrenreich to, “think positive,” and apparently not much else.
Upset by the lack of substance behind the doctor’s words, Ehrenreich setup a forum to vent and found that many others shared her frustration with the same type of fluffy prescriptions in the face of dire health consequences.
That experience prompted her to eventually write “Bright-Sided” and begin her personal quest to right the wrongs of our country by bringing positive thinking to justice.
And to think, all this time I was under the impression that greedy politicians, immoral corporate fat-cats, and special interest groups were behind our country’s demise.
Turns out…that bitch, Pollyanna, has signed our death warrant!
Never you mind the shaky lending practices and entitlement programs that turn the disadvantaged in to welfare slaves. The next time you see someone smiling, for no good reason, knock their ass out!
Even though I think that Ehrenreich’s book and account of the “positive thinking movement” is tainted, misleading, and incredibly one-sided (maybe she could rename it) I don’t have a problem with the fact that it’s out there. Her right to be upset with such an ambiguous urging from her doctor is pure. I’d be ticked off too!
But the problem isn’t with the admonition to, “be positive.” The problem is that they gave her no real reason, no guidance, and therefore, negated her pain and fear. By basically saying, “Well, we found something that can kill you, but heh, turn that frown upside-down,” they dehumanized what must have been going on inside of her.
Hearing her story makes me want to smack the doctor and anyone that would defend them. Her decision to wage war against everyone who chooses hope over despair…makes me want to treat her the same.
I’ve written before about the problem with blanket statements regarding the words, positive, negative, optimist, pessimist, and so on. But there is so much more to explain.
Ehrenreich believes that there is a greater chance that thinking positively will do harm than good. “Happiness is great, joy is great, but positive thinking reduces the spontaneity of human interactions,” Ms. Ehrenreich said. “If everyone has that fixed social smile all the time, how do you know when anyone really likes you?”
First of all, “if everyone has that fixed social smile all the time,” get the hell out! You’re in an episode of the X-files and they are either all aliens or under government hypnosis. Regardless, they will eventually kill you for research.
Second, come on! “Happiness is great, joy is great…” Right, just end it there. Happiness and joy are great! But no, there is apparently a dark under-belly to our inalienable right.
“…but positive thinking reduces the spontaneity of human interactions.” ARE-YOU-FAH-REAKING-KIDDING ME?
Positive thinking… reduces the spontaneity… of human interactions…. Sorry, I just had to see it again to make sure I wasn’t missing anything.
Positive thinking doesn’t reduce spontaneity, being phony does. Oh, wait…now I get it.
Positive = phony
Negative = real
Happiness and joy = delusional and false
Misery and melancholy = realistic and true
Whew! Glad that’s cleared up. Let’s see how many other blanket statements from a narrow point of view we can drum up to reduce the need to think for ourselves and define the world.
White people = bigoted and wealthy
Black people = lazy and listen to rap
Jewish = cheapskates and inferior race
Muslims = full of hate and violence
Canadians = big socialist wussies that wear beaver skin hats
Shall we go on? Don’t we know that casting generalizations to define the human experience is dangerous and inaccurate?
Aren’t emotions and matters of the mind the exclusive property of the individual?
Is a phony optimist annoying and potentially destructive? Yes.
Is the advice to, “don’t worry, be happy,” virtually useless by itself? Yes.
Is the fact that, genuinely unhappy, depressed, and downtrodden people will sometimes fake being positive, happy, and up beat, a reason to send the whole idea of positive thinking to the gallows? No, but it brings up an interesting thought.
Have you ever seen a genuinely happy, positive, and upbeat person fake being unhappy, depressed, and downtrodden? Why not? If they did, would it piss anybody off?
If Ehrenreich is right, and thinking positive is the opposite of reality, and reality is sooo much better, why isn’t there a negative thinking industry? It could do battle with the evil, money-hungry self-improvement industry. Barbara Ehrenreich could be the anti-Tony Robbins and do infomercials about how, “You can have less personal power and more misery in your life if you’ll only let go of that nagging hope! I can show you how.”
Next post… The problem with defining positivity as “unrealistic”
Be your best,