Have You Been Bright-Sided?

May 27th, 2010

An interesting interview from Barbara Ehrenriech.

I loved her book Bright-sided that deals with the culture of positive thinking.  For those of you who do not know her work, I think this interview will be a good introduction.

Some key points that I wanted to expand on:

1. The empathy deficit

She is right on about this.  I think we live in a culture where we don’t want to hear about other people’s problems.  The thing most self-helpers tell you is that everything is your responsibility. You are 100% responsible for your life.  Sounds great, in theory.  But what are the consequences?

Everything is your fault.  And if someone is complaining, it’s their own damn fault.  Life doesn’t work that way. That’s why I think self-help is really more about selfishness.  Hasn’t anyone heard that you improve yourself by helping others?

I guess that one wasn’t a best-seller.

2. Finance companies: positive thinking causes the optimism bias.

I’m not sure how much I agree with this idea of the financial debacles being a product of the “positive thinking” movement.  However, as I’ve worked in companies where I’ve seen firsthand how people who point out problems are deemed “negative.”

In one job I had, someone told me to stop being so “negative” when I said that the project would fail under current conditions.  Everyone agreed that I was indeed negative and politely told me to shut up about my concerns.  The project failed.  They still think I’m negative.  (And I’m an optimist!).

3. Positivity is not the same as happiness

I love this part.  She doesn’t go into it in this interview.  But I think people who are honestly looking to lead a happier life get duped into thinking that you cannot be happy if you have negative thoughts.

Negative thinking does not cause unhappiness.  I’ve seen my optimism get the better of me and lead to bad results and good results.

It’s the way it works.

Those are some things I took from this short video.  I’ll probably review the whole book at a later time.  But let this be an introduction.

If video does not play, go here.

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