Barbara Ehrenreich, Positive Thinking, & Smiley Faces Like Tony Robbins & Joel Osteen

  • When author Barbara Ehrenreich was diagnosed with breast cancer, she was bombarded with wildly optimistic, inspirational phrases. But a cheerful outlook, she argues, does not cure cancer.

  • In her new book, Bright-Sided, Ehrenreich explores the negative effects of positive thinking, and the "reckless optimism" that dominates America's national mindset.

    "We need to brace ourselves for a struggle against terrifying obstacles," Ehrenreich writes, "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." More

  • All the Oprah-ready gurus you would expect to populate this polemic [about positive thinking] show up to share some advice—here’s Joel Osteen warning us never to "verbalize a negative emotion," there’s Tony Robbins exhorting us to "Get motivated!" In turning the United States into a 24-hour pep rally, charges Ehrenreich, these professional cheerleaders have all but drowned out downers like "realism" and "rationality." Their followers are trained to dismiss bad news rather than assimilate or reflect upon its importance. Motivators counsel an upbeat ignorance—the kind of illusory worldview that might, say, convince a president that his soldiers will be greeted as liberators in a foreign state, or a mayor that his city’s crumbling levees can withstand the force of a hurricane.. . . .Life coach/professional-motivator-types are soft targets. They don’t seem particularly bright, they use verbs in dumb ways (as in "God will prosper you"), and they cultivate a general air of overcaffeinated quackery. One wonders how anyone takes them seriously. But no one takes them more seriously than Ehrenreich, who believes them capable of driving Americans toward a bizarre array of conflicting behaviors. In blaming so much evil on positive thinking, she casts optimism as both an opiate—numbing us into a kind of stoned complacency, as with the wronged employers—and a stimulant, pumping us up for an ill-advised investment or attack on a foreign nation. More
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