Saturday, January 09, 2010

Positive thinking, it's not just for breakfast anymore

So I was reading this excellent book review a couple of days ago and it got me to thinking. The review was of a book by Barbara Ehrenreich, Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America. I haven't read it, but the title tells you the subject and stance. The author addresses the mass-mania positive thinking has in our society.
As witnessed, there has been a lot of positive thinking going on on this blog as of late. Most of it stems from the fact that I am generally a pretty happy person, but I also believe that positive things happen to positive people and that sometimes you just have to slap that smile back on your face and keep moving in order to get out of places of pain, ("smile, though your heart is aching, smile, even though it's breaking"). This all comes from the belief that everything happens for a reason and no pain lasts forever - at some point some new pain will come to take its place ;-)
With all that said, I know that sometimes it's just all blah blah blah. The idea that we should be happy all the time is an impossibility. We are all going to have bad stuff happen: heartbreak, loss, failure, disappointment, it's what we do with the bad stuff that matters. When you can take a soul-sucking failure and turn it into a life lesson and move on, that's a good thing - when you refuse to acknowledge your failure and quote something you heard on Oprah, well, that's stupid.

Ehrenreich talks about being shunned when she was being treated for cancer. Apparently failure is not an option, and she was criticized for expressing her feelings because she should have been spending all her time fighting off the cancer with positive energy. In our world of teddy bears and pink ribbons what is a woman to do when she feels mad and sad about her cancer? Is there no room for individual thought? There's a lot to be said on this subject. Let's face it, the ribbons have gotten out of control - they are on lapels, pickup trucks, hanging from houses, and even show up in emails made out of \ and |. They have come to symbolize the insipidness of people to follow blindly in large groups, it's like Mary Kay, only terrible because breast cancer awareness and all the fund raising should be a subject we respect. All too often now, the pink ribbons represent a roll-your-eyes symbol of fat ladies walking in large groups with inspirational music playing in the background. Not to say that this doesn't have its place, but being able to have one's own thoughts about one's illness is important.

So how do we find sincere positive thinking? Well, for starters, it has to be actual thinking, something that comes from the individual. Jumping on the bandwagon to raise money is all fine and good, but to gain anything on a personal level you have to think for yourself. Most of all, you have to be honest with yourself and not dismiss your less-than-positive feelings, they are an important part of the process as long as you learn to let them go.

And when all else fails, ice cream and your girlfriends solve nearly everything....

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