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"Positive Thinking" as a silver bullet?


Today I found this (German) article in a newspaper:
http://www.sonntagszeitung.ch/suche/artikel-detailseite/?newsid=126841
«Ich konnte doch nicht so tun, als würde ich mich über meinen
Brustkrebs freuen»
written by Barbara Ehrenreich, the author of a couple of books, the
last one:
"Bright-sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has
Undermined America"
http://www.amazon.com/Bright-sided-Relentless-Promotion-Positive-Un...

I personally like her writings: She shows - maybe in a sometimes
provoking way - that a trivialising usage of "positivity" as a "tool"
to overcome any kind of problems does not contribute to make things
better. And for me her writings also is a reminder to take care to make
use of SF not in a similar "reduced" and "tool focused" way as a
"silver bullet"....

In http://www.barbaraehrenreich.com/brightsided.htm I found the
introduction to her book "
Bright-sided: How the Relentless
Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America". Here a short
excerpt of it:

Positivity is not so much our condition or our mood as it is part of our ideology—the way we explain the world and think we ought to function within it. That ideology is “positive thinking,” by which we
usually mean two things. One is the generic content of positive
thinking—that is, the positive thought itself—which can be summarized
as: Things are pretty good right now, at least if you are willing to
see silver linings, make lemonade out of lemons, etc., and things are
going to get a whole lot better. This is optimism, and it is not the
same as hope. Hope is an emotion, a yearning, the experience of which
is not entirely within our control. Optimism is a cognitive stance, a
conscious expectation, which presumably anyone can develop through
practice.

In the rational explanation that many psychologists would offer today, optimism improves health, personal efficacy, confidence, and
resilience, making it easier for us to accomplish our goals. A far less
rational theory also runs rampant in American ideology—the idea that
our thoughts can, in some mysterious way, directly affect the physical
world. Negative thoughts somehow produce negative outcomes, while
positive thoughts realize themselves in the form of health, prosperity,
and success. For both rational and mystical reasons, then, the effort
of positive thinking is said to be well worth our time and attention,
whether this means reading the relevant books, attending seminars and
speeches that offer the appropriate mental training, or just doing the
solitary work of concentration on desired outcomes—a better job, an
attractive mate, world peace.

Positive thinking has made itself useful as an apology for the crueler aspects of the market economy. If optimism is the key to material
success, and if you can achieve an optimistic outlook through the
discipline of positive thinking, then there is no excuse for failure.
The flip side of positivity is thus a harsh insistence on personal
responsibility: if your business fails or your job is eliminated, it
must because you didn’t try hard enough, didn’t believe firmly enough
in the inevitability of your success.

Positive thinking is not only a water carrier for the business world, excusing its excesses and masking its follies. The promotion of
positive thinking has become a minor industry in its own right,
producing an endless flow of books, DVDs, and other products; providing
employment for tens of thousands of “life coaches,” “executive
coaches,” and motivational speakers, as well as for the growing cadre
of professional psychologists who seek to train them. No doubt the
growing financial insecurity of the middle class contributes to the
demand for these products and services, but I hesitate to attribute the
commercial success of positive thinking to any particular economic
trend or twist of the business cycle. America has historically offered
space for all sorts of sects, cults, faith healers, and purveyors of
snake oil, and those that are profitable, like positive thinking, tend
to flourish.

I do not write this in a spirit of sourness or personal disappointment of any kind, nor do I have any romantic attachment to suffering as a
source of insight or virtue. On the contrary, I would like to see more
smiles, more laughter, more hugs, more happiness and, better yet, joy.
In my own vision of utopia, there is not only more comfort, and
security for everyone— better jobs, health care, and so forth—there are
also more parties, festivities, and opportunities for dancing in the
streets. Once our basic material needs are met—in my utopia,
anyway—life becomes a perpetual celebration in which everyone has a
talent to contribute. But we cannot levitate ourselves into that
blessed condition by wishing it. We need to brace ourselves for a
struggle against terrifying obstacles, both of our own making and
imposed by the natural world. And the first step is to recover from the
mass delusion that is positive thinking.


Cheers
Hans-Peter

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