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Bright-sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America Hardcover – October 13, 2009
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Top Customer Reviews
In the past, Ehrenreich has sometimes gone out to encounter her stories; in this case, the subject for her book came to her, when she was diagnosed with breast cancer and found herself uncomfortably sharing her new world with people so eager to put a positive spin on a horrible phenomena that even women facing a terminal diagnosis were bullied into labeling themselves breast cancer "survivors", since 'victim' was simply too negative a word to be used. Dissenting from this perspective is a kind of treason, she writes, and apt to provoke the professionally-sunny tempered to suggest that she somehow earned the cancer by not being upbeat enough. More important than her personal observations and experiences, however, are the broader conclusions she draws from this experience. "The effect of all this positive thinking is to transform breast cancer into a rite of passage," she writes, "not an injustice or a tragedy to rail against but a normal marker in the life cycle, like menopause or grandmotherhood."
That's the important message of this book -- that by being relentlessly upbeat (to the point of becoming self-delusional) we miss out on what is authentic.Read more ›
She covers how Emerson and the Transcendentalists attempted to break free from the toxic effects of Calvinism on early American life, but how that attempt got sidetracked into New Thought (Phineas Quimby, Mary Baker Eddy, etc), with its increasingly laser-like focus on "prosperity" and get-rich-quick schemes. The scholarship that went into this intellectual/cultural history is impressive. Closer to present time, she unpacks how many evangelical mega-churches have leveraged this new, and very un-Christian, gospel in the style of huckster marketeers and predatory CEOs. But my favorite is the number she does on Martin Seligman and his "Positive Psychology" boondoggle. This isn't just a good book, it's an important one and much needed. I hope it will shape attitudes and change minds.
I say this as someone who was a practitioner, in the 80's and very early 90's, of just this kind of thinking. I read Shakti Gawain and Starhawk. I clutched my crystals and thought to 'attract to myself' all the things that I thought I deserved or wanted. What made the difference, however, was not wishing the Universe to deliver but going out and *doing* something about my life. Ultimately, that deep encounter with reality made me a more compassionate person. What's more, although my introduction to QM was through New Age books, the more I read, the more intrigued I became and then when I actually started to read some *actual* material written by people who *actually* spent their adult lifetimes studying QM I found a theory that was, in reality, far more elegant and beautiful than the people who invoke it to give their fantasies a patina of scientific legitimacy.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is a stunningly important book on the damage wrought by the new thought movement on our country and culture. Read it.Published 6 days ago by mostserene1
This book is quite a lot of gibberish.... I laughed out loud when I got to the section in which she described Joel Osteens' writing style -- she might as well have been describing... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Rev JSM
Great book! One of the best commentaries on the fraud being perpetrated on us by marketing industry.Published 2 months ago by Richard Newquist
Impressive examination of the Positive Thinking culture. She explains the difference between positive delusions and real happiness, and helps one understand the advantages of... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Nadia
Note: I initially purchased this Kindle book, then (sadly) spent money on the Audible version, hence the specific wording I used in the review. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Suma
This book is hilarious. Ehrenreich truly possesses the gift of wit and a flare for dark humor, and she uses it brilliantly here. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Jennifer Robinson
As much as I enjoyed 'Nickled and Dimed', This particular book is a lot deeper in critical thought. Rather than a semi biographical story, Barbara shares some of her own family... Read morePublished 6 months ago by David