Wednesday, October 14

Is Positive Thinking Positive?

After being pissed off yesterday at some one's random act of kindness, I started to think that maybe I was the problem. Yes, I was annoyed, but shouldn't I just stop and look at the positive side of things?

Then I turned on Democracy Now! as I drove to pick up Alex from Karate. Barbara Ehrenreich, author of “Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America” was being interviewed. She spoke as a breast cancer survivor about the odd culture of perverted optimism that she found when she was first diagnosed. In her book she writes, “In the most extreme characterization, breast cancer is not a problem at all, not even an annoyance—it is a ‘gift,’ deserving of the most heartfelt gratitude.” That assessment is so freakishly true I had to hear more.

Ehrenreich went on to explain how the positive thinking cult first became pervasive in the 1980s when lots of people were getting laid off, and it never really left us. She talks about the interviews we have all seen recently with people who have lost their jobs saying they are "staying positive" and Ehrenreich asks the obvious, but taboo question, "WHY?" why when your world is crashing in around you must you insist on being positive?

Of course that doesn't mean that when faced with a crisis you have to fall into agony and despair as our constant mood for life, but why doesn't culture allow us to acknowledge that despair exists? Why aren't we allowed to grieve when we find our lives shattered? How can anyone expect to grow as a human we have denied the marrow of our existence?

If you want to hear the whole interview, and not just my musings, you can find it here.


Robin said...

that reminds me of when I was 'down sized' at Conoco in '94 and had to go to the program set up for us. I went to one circle time and I was so angry, really pissed. And the facilitator said I was the healthiest one there. I allowed my anger and everyone else had on a 'happy' face and a 'wow this is an opportunity' face.

Katy said...

Its really sad to me that this kind of basic part of the human experiance should seem so radical and counter culture.

I was flipping channels last night and saw Ehrenreich on the Daily Show. I think she was clearly more comfertable talking to Amy Goodman than Jon Stewart which I found interesting.

JWebb said...

Wow! This IS a great place to be a cow! ((-: