I am a fan of Barbara Ehrenreich.  I am also, very, very occasionally very mildly interested in self-help books.  One has really helped me self-help myself.  Like really helped. It’s called “Procrastination: Why You Do It, What to Do About It Now.”  Pay no attention to the fact that me writing this very thing means I am procrastinating.  The book really helps.

But way more often than being interested in self-help books and the trends in pop-psychology/spirituality, I am extremely annoyed by them.  I think the one that made me crazier than the others was “The Secret.” I flipped through it in a book store after hearing a lot about it and I was sooo annoyed. It’s barely even a book!

Turns out BE has written a book on the problems of our obsession with positive thinking.  The book, “Bright-Sided,” “traces the strange career of our sunny outlook from its origins as a marginal nineteenth-century healing technique to its enshrinement as a dominant, almost mandatory, cultural attitude.” It’s out in October, and I am excited to read it.

It might focus on how positive thinking created this whole financial mess we’ve found ourselves it, but I’m not that interested in that part.  (Especially if it reveals that the check I wrote out to myself – I mean the check the universe wrote me – for 1 million dollars has anything to do with it.)  Really, I want a take down of all the problems that are so obviously inherent in this whole “anyone can change their life!” phenomenon.  I mean, I believe in positive thinking, and I even believe in energy and oh, well, whatever.  But still.

One of the advanced praise blurbs comes from author Thomas Frank, who succinctly articulates my biggest problem with this movement:

“We’re always being told that looking on the bright side is good for us, but now we see that it’s a great way to brush off poverty, disease, and unemployment, to rationalize an order where all the rewards go to those on top. The people who are sick or jobless—why, they just aren’t thinking positively. They have no one to blame but themselves. Barbara Ehrenreich has put the menace of positive thinking under the microscope. Anyone who’s ever been told to brighten up needs to read this book.”

Thank you.

In a much-too-brief interview with New York, Ehrenreich was asked if a recession can serve as an antidote to positive thinking.  She responded,

“During the Great Depression, a mind-over-matter book called Think and Grow Rich, by Napoleon Hill, was a best seller, which was odd since it seemed obvious that there were other factors than one’s own desires at work in shaping the world. Today, prosperity preachers like Joel Osteen are just going on as always. These guys preach that God wants you to have everything, and if you don’t, it’s because you are thinking small—it’s not even that you’re not praying hard enough. A few weeks ago, I Googled “Osteen” and “foreclosure”; it didn’t yield anything.”

It’s time!

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