The Negative Influence of Positive Thinking

Published on OpEdNews, by william czander, Oct. 24, 2009.

Barbara Ehrenreich (2008) suggests that the greed we see in America’s corporations may be a function of the cultural phenomena of “positive thinking” and she suggests this way of thinking is firmly embedded in American culture. This type of thinking entered corporate America in the early 1990’s and is now a staple, permeating executive constellations and in most corporations all levels of management. It can be said that in the modern corporation one cannot gain entry into the executive constellation unless one can demonstrate that they are proponents of positive thinking. Simply defined positive thinking is a dangerous mixture of ideological “right wing” conservatism, religious fundamentalism, Ayn Rand’s philosophy, and the happiness psychologists. 

Positive thinking has been around for some time gaining wide popularity during the Great Depression and further popularized by a Protestant preacher Norman Vincent Peale in his 1952 book “The Power of Positive Thinking.” He preached that one is thinking positively when one has a mental attitude that expects good and favorable results. These were the steps he laid out in his book and sermons for developing personal strength and if followed would lead to a successful, healthy, and happy life.

He claims to give:

  • Confidence-building words to live by
  • Ways to overcome self-doubt
  • Strategies for achieving good health
  • A program to release the vast energies within you
  • Accepting ourselves and our individual needs
  • Embracing the spiritual forces that surround you

In corporate America it is almost impossible for a manager to avoid those who sell the virtues of a positive mental attitude …

… These specialists in “happiness” argue that we are capable of attracting those things in life (Law of Attraction), whether it is money, relationships or employment, both good and bad if we focus on them. What does this mean? It means those who are abused and battered wives or children, the unemployed, the depressed and mentally ill, the illiterate, the lonely, those crushed by poverty, the terminal illness, those fighting with addictions, those suffering from trauma, those trapped in menial and poorly paid jobs, those who are terminated, those whose homes are in foreclosure or who are filing for bankruptcy because they cannot pay their medical bills, are to blame for their negativity. It’s their fault because they are focusing too much on negativity. Hummm, I wonder what they would say about the writer of this book. The positive, happiness, right-wing, evangelical ideology justifies the cruelty of Rands unfettered capitalism and absolves CEO’s and bankers of guilt by shifting the blame to those they oppress- “If you are in a sorry state it’s your fault, not mine”.

Psychotherapists and psychoanalysts get to work with these employees after the power elite and their positive happiness gurus, coaches and consultants have done their damage. When the employee is burned out, rejected, failed, or accused of being responsible for all the failure in their lives, they then seek genuine help, if they can afford it. But beware, the happiness people are entering the field of psychotherapy with promises of how positive psychology or PP interventions can be used to alleviate depression, anxiety, ADHA, and relationship problems. (full long 2 pages text).

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