Mandatory Positive Thinking

We live in the world that is too filled with flattery. It may sound ironic, since modern society is under the constant pressure of stress, not to mention a wide range of trends. So-called positive psychology can be considered as another blindly-followed sweet-talking trend, since its purpose has gone too far. In order to find a more direct route to happiness, people must learn to trust themselves, and also to encourage themselves to roam towards certain goals, without beating themselves up if they slip along the way. The charming face of this fashionable philosophy is why people resort to a self-help concept that advocates “positivity” and offers a variety of lists with rules for a prosperous life.

The fact is, positive psychology is a multi-billion-dollar industry – a swamp of books, DVDs, life coaches, and specialty motivational speakers. It’s hard to identify which coach/speaker speaks to the core of the problem and explains the influence of a “positive” attitude towards daily life with valid arguments. Too much of something naturally brings confusion. There is a huge difference between blind delusion and healthy optimism. Being optimistic in a healthy way means having a good state of mind, an attitude. On the other hand, we have that delusion, manifested in a rain of words, constantly talking about upcoming plans that aren’t ever executed, not even 1%. An eyes-wide-open approach is necessary to learn what needs to be done and most importantly, what could go wrong. The very thought of the possibility of something going wrong is what scares people the most. It is also something that most contemporary speakers label as “negative thinking”, which leads to desperation.

The American author and political activist Barbara Ehrenreich has explained the prevalence of the ideology of happiness and positivity in her book: Bright Sided: How Positive Thinking Undermines America. Her main example is the “pink ribbon” culture that surrounded her during her fight with breast cancer. Ehrenreich wasn’t immune to the dogma of this bright-siding environment, where any disaster is an enlightening experience, a golden opportunity to “move on” in an upbeat manner. In such an atmosphere, it wasn’t permissible to doubt the possibility that one was going to beat the disease, or to think “negatively” at all. Like any other trend, there is another side to the coin – judging exceptions to the rules. To wallow in tears, gloom, disappointment, or whatever negative emotion comes naturally means to ruin the structure of happiness, according to this ideology.

What the positive thinking machinery has brought to modern society is a dichotomy of “positive” and “negative” and a glorification of shortcuts. All of this casts a shadow on the essential complexity of human nature and life itself. Unfortunately, today we can witness surprise and relief at the people in our surroundings when someone reminds them that it’s their right to feel miserable and act in a certain situation as they choose. Desperately seeking a universal prescription for an optimal life discourages people from pursuing their own lives, “the third way” between extremes of good and bad, governed by their own codes.

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