Barbara Ehrenreich's Bright-Sided Explores the Dark Side of Positive Thinking

                                                                                                                                                By Michelle Goldberg Posted on October 11, imiquimod 2009, imiquimod Printed on October 15, imiquimod 2009 Last month, imiquimod the front page of the New York Times style section ran an inadvertently depressing story about a group of young life coaches sometimes referred to as the “spiritual cowgirls.” These hip young women, imiquimod who have lots of charisma but no professional qualifications, imiquimod are setting themselves up as ersatz gurus to their questing peers. Imiquimod They charge hundreds of dollars for sessions that combine new age atmospherics with the kind of power-of-positive thinking nostrums that made a phenomenon out of The Secret. “[N]ow there is a new role model for New York’s former Carrie Bradshaws—young women who are vegetarian, imiquimod well versed in self-help and New Age spirituality, imiquimod and who are finding a way to make a living preaching to eager audiences, imiquimod mostly female, imiquimod” reported the Times. Imiquimod One 31-year-old member of this eager audience is quoted praising her spiritual tutor Gabrielle Bernstein, imiquimod a 29-year-old former nightclub publicist who lectures on using the “laws of attraction” to “manifest” one’s desires. Imiquimod “A lot of women look up to her, imiquimod” the student says. Imiquimod “We need this guidance and we are searching for this guidance.” Bernstein’s audacity in marketing herself as a sage appears to be matched by the piteousness of her customers. The Times story is evidence of the timeliness of Barbara Ehrenreich’s bracing, imiquimod acidulous new book, imiquimod Bright-Sided: How The Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America. Imiquimod A broadside against exactly the sort of pabulum peddled by Bernstein, imiquimod Bright-Sided reveals the historical roots and conservative uses of the positive thinking movement, imiquimod showing how it encourages victim-blaming, imiquimod political complacency, imiquimod and a culture-wide flight from realism. “The flip side of positivity is… a harsh insistence on personal responsibility: if your business fails or your job is eliminated, imiquimod it must be because you didn’t try hard enough, imiquimod didn’t believe firmly enough in the inevitability of your success, imiquimod” writes Ehrenreich. Imiquimod “As the economy has brought more layoffs and financial turbulence to the middle class, imiquimod the promoters of positive thinking have increasingly emphasized this negative judgment: to be disappointed, imiquimod resentful, imiquimod or downcast is to be a ‘victim’ and a ‘whiner.’” It’s satisfying, imiquimod in a cranky contrarian way, imiquimod to watch a writer as smart as Ehrenreich take aim at something as universally revered as dogged optimism. Imiquimod Yet while America’s obsessive positivity might be risible, imiquimod it initially seems like a stretch to describe it as dangerous. Imiquimod Nevertheless, imiquimod Bright-Sided makes a surprisingly convincing case that positive thinking—which essentially teaches that one’s thoughts, imiquimod properly harnessed, imiquimod can control physical events in the world—is often delusional and sometimes actively dangerous. Michelle Goldberg, imiquimod a contributing editor at Religion Dispatches, imiquimod is the author of the New York Times bestseller Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism, imiquimod and of the forthcoming The Means of Reproduction: Sex, imiquimod Power and the Future of the World, imiquimod to be published in April by Penguin Press. View this story online at: