Patricia's Reviews > Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America

Bright-Sided by Barbara Ehrenreich
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's review
Feb 10, 12

Read in February, 2012

I read this after reading Martin Seligman's Flourish because I wanted to hear from someone on the other end of the spectrum. Seligman thinks that the common treatment for depression, antidepressants with a dose of analytical therapy for why things go wrong, should be replaced with positive psychology. He concentrates on "perma" that is positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning and accomplishment.

Ehrenreich's book takes on Seligman the man more than his thesis and so is weak in that area. But her writing on the pink ribbon movement surrounding breast cancer is finely observed and poignant since she herself is a breast cancer survivor. What she exposes is an infantilizing of women's needs. Must we be positive in the face of suffering? Why can't we suffer with dignity and not be called failures? When the US was warned that the terrorists were ready to attack in early 2001, Bush's optimism blinded him to the reality that was to come.

I respect Ehrenreich, and Seligman, but see the need for both skepticism and optimism. It is too simple to pick one over the other.

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