Smile or Die: The Perils of Positive Psychology

Pos­i­tive psy­chol­o­gy is a dis­ci­pline tai­lor made for Amer­i­can cul­ture. Our cul­tur­al DNA inclines us towards opti­mism and pos­i­tive think­ing. These days we’ll even send pos­i­tive vibes your way, and what can be wrong with that? If you ask Bar­bara Ehren­re­ich, the author of the best­selling book Nick­el and Dimed, she’ll tell you what’s the prob­lem in 10 ani­mat­ed min­utes. Like the Philip Zim­bar­do video we fea­tured last week (The Secret Pow­ers of Time), this clip comes from the RSA YouTube Chan­nel, which we’ve now added to our col­lec­tion of Intel­li­gent YouTube chan­nels.

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  • Ana says:

    Amer­i­cans are indeed hard­wired for opti­mism and this won­der­ful­ly illus­trat­ed video is the best exam­ple. When she says real­ism she is say­ing “a good mix­ture of pos­i­tive and neg­a­tive that mir­rors what we have around”, that’s to say, a bal­anced pos­i­tive mind­set and so we are at the begin­ning again. She just advo­cates a more mean­ing­ful pos­i­tive atti­tude and she appar­ent­ly crit­i­cizes “pos­i­tivism” but in fact rein­forces its argu­ments. When you are hard­wired you don’t know that you are like that, you just show your wires when­ev­er you speak and she (this site too) just does so. So far, only a few dares to dis­card any pos­i­tive or neg­a­tive label on their lives and just try to be with­out adjec­tives.

  • czander says:

    Hap­pi­ness coach­es are part of the great con­spir­a­cy that began some 20 years ago when CEO’s , hedge fund man­agers and bankers dis­cov­ered if they out­sourced jobs to Chi­na and India it would increase the bot­tom line and they would all get rich. If they could not out­source they dis­cov­ered anoth­er way. They ter­mi­nat­ed half the work­force and piled the work on those who remained. They fol­lowed this by bring­ing in the hap­py coach­es to put smiles on these over­worked under­paid mis­er­able employ­ees. Remem­ber “smile or your fired”. These exec­u­tives, bankers and hedge fund man­agers who took over the once proud man­u­fac­tur­ing indus­try in Amer­i­ca and broke it up, out­sourced the work or shipped entire fac­to­ries off­shore for obscene prof­its while destroy­ing the lives of mil­lions of employ­ees don’t need hap­py coach­es. I won­der why?


  • Evan Plaice says:

    @czander Wow, and I thought I was cyn­i­cal. The link was a good read.

    I agree with most of it except the part about unions. This quote explains it best.

    “The key to a monop­oly is to get in the mid­dle of an inter­sec­tion and charge rent.” — Newt Gin­grich

    Unions are just a form of monop­oly dri­ven by employ­ee inter­ests instead of employ­er inter­ests.

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