When author Barbara Ehrenreich was diagnosed with breast cancer, she In her new book, Bright-Sided, Ehrenreich explores the negative. Ehrenreich (Nickel and Dimed) delivers a trenchant look into the burgeoning business of positive Bright-sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America. Barbara Ehrenreich, Author. Barbara Ehrenreich’s examination of the history of positive thinking is a tour de force of well-tempered snark,culminating in a persuasive.

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In addition, positive thinking has made itself useful as an apology for the crueler aspects of the market economy.

Some cultures, like our own, value the positive affect that seems to signal internal happiness; others are more impressed by seriousness, self-sacrifice, or a quiet willingness to cooperate. Whereas in order to achieve the magic of spoon-bending, all you have to do is tell a room full of kids that they can really do this, and then go take an extended coffee break while they use their magic powers.

Evangelical mega-churches preach the good news that you only have to want something to get it, because God wants to “prosper” you. Optimism also explains why we spend so much and save so little…. Then things began to go wrong, which is not in itself unusual but was a possibility excluded by America’s official belief that things are good and getting better.

And the first step is to recover from the mass delusion that is positive thinking. About books where cancer is celebrated as life-affirming, life-giving, the best thing that could happen to you. Lastly, the author looks at the flip side of the argument: How did we become so wrapped up in our crystal healing and our political correctness and our business casual Hawaiian T-shirt Fridays? Oprah would probably disagree. I’ve kept my part of the bargain. To be clear, Ehrenreich isn’t extolling depressive, morbid crankiness and pessimism, just a dose of reality.


The only people who benefit from positive attitudes in the cancer ward, says Ehrenreich, are the nurses and family members, who are worn down by sadness and death.

Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America

Those who would argue that there’s no harm in trying to be positive regardless of what the science says, however, would do well to read the chapter “How Positive Thinking Destroyed the Economy. Americans are a “positive” people—cheerful, optimistic, and upbeat: Ironically, the citizens of the USA do not even get upset with the excesses of the wealthy, because they the poor citizens are certain one day they too will be rich, and so, in preparation for that day, no limits must ever be placed on the greed of the wealthy.

Or that I don’t like cheap shots? Reading this wonderful book reminded me — I met a man some years ago, a plumber and victim of the economic catastrophe, whose house was in foreclosure.

But more than a temperament, being positive, we are told, is the key to success and prosperity. October 13, And we hope–the author and I–that the global financial meltdown has stopped Yes. And she backs it up with facts and research, egrenreich just kvetching.

‘Bright-Sided’: When Happiness Doesn’t Help : NPR

Times essay on her experience with breast cancer. But where is Christianity in all this? Mar 23, Hadrian rated it really liked it Shelves: By and large, America’s white-collar corporate workforce drank the Kool-Aid, as the expression goes, and accepted positive thinking as a substitute for their former affluence and security. Knowing that you will never have all that you want, that even if you get what you want you will want more, the obvious solution is to stop basing your happiness on an exterior view of your life.


‘Bright-Sided’: When Happiness Doesn’t Help

In the well-worn stereotype, we are upbeat, cheerful, optimistic, and shallow, while foreigners are likely to be subtle, world-weary, and possibly decadent.

View all 20 comments. Mar 18, Jason rated it liked it Recommends it for: The truly self-confident, or those who have in some way made their peace with the world and their destiny within it, do not need to expend effort censoring or otherwise controlling their thoughts.

But suffering still happens.

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. She then moves on to a quick history of positive thinking, tracing it to the early 19th century “new thought” movement which rebelled against Calvinism and produced Mary Baker Eddy and Christian Science, followed eventually by Norman Vincent Peale, and now the motivational industry dominated by such figures as Tony Robbins, Joel Osteen, and Rhonda Byrne, cheer-led by Oprah Winfrey.

It was bad enough that Barbara Ehrenreich suffered from breast cancer:

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