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

Bright-Sided by Barbara Ehrenreich
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Jun 21, 2015

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bookshelves: psychology
Read from May 02 to 03, 2012

Barbara is the author of 16 books as of the date of this book's printing.

Not depressing - realistic

If you wanted a catalog of self-help-happiness books, then this is it. She covers the range from early 19th century up to the mortgage crisis. It seemed like she must have identified every self-help book and guru out there. It also became apparent that she has gone to a lot of motivational meetings and found them to be hollow cheerleading sessions. This book is densely packed with examples of the pervasiveness of positive thinking. A more sinister side is that in many cases those who exhibit any signs of a realistic view are punished.

This book's approach reminded me of Wishcraft: How to Get What You Really Want by Barbara Sher, a book that I first encountered with delight in 1996 as an antidote to the rah-rah positive thinking where Sher said: "Can you persevere? I can't. Self discipline - I jogged once. ... I'm an ace procrastinator." (Sher definitely has some axes to grind) "There is no diet of any kind, physical, emotional, or financial that I haven't fallen off of by Wednesday if I started it on Monday."

The chapter on megachurches had a lot in it. The most telling part is "Even God plays only a supporting role," (Page 132) Then Enrenreich goes on to describe their secular roots.

Even the author of Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment, Martin E.P. Seligman is a "'died-in-the-wool pessimist', a 'grouch,' even a 'walking nimbus cloud.'" (Page 147, source cited)

I especially liked the last chapter, the postscript. "'But isn't positive ... good?' He was right: we have come to use the words 'positive' and 'good' almost interchangeably." (Page 195) (A realistic view) "is not easy. Our moods affect our perceptions, as do the moods of others around us, and there will always be questions about the reliability of the evidence. Generally it helps to recruit the observations of others, ... the more information we can gather the better off we are. This is the project of science: to pool the rigorous observations of many people into a tentative accounting of the world, which will of course always be subject to revisions arising from fresh observations." (Page 196)

This book causes me to recall that "Truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come" (D&C 93:24)

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