Bright-Sided: How Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America

Barbara Ehrenreich

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What’s so bad about feelin’ good? Lots of things, according to Barbara Ehrenreich. Among those bad things is the idea that we can overcome nearly any adversity if we remain upbeat enough. So, if you find yourself sick with one or another of the ailments to which all flesh is heir, the problem must be traceable to your failure to shine your light brightly enough to push back the darkness. In other words, if you’re sick and you wanna get well, just get Jesus (or some more secular faith healer) on the mainline and tell him what you want. It’s mostly the secular faith healers Ehrenreich targets in her book, that legion of joy merchants who are filling the big auditoriums and hotel ballrooms, selling the message that visualization techniques and positive vibes will dispel misfortune and hasten good luck. So what, if it makes people feel good? There are lots of downsides to this particular mass delusion, Ehrenreich says, and she counts the irrational exuberance that gave us the meltdown of the financial markets. Bright-Sided is a worthy successor to Ehrenreich’s terrific 2001 book, Nickel and Dimed.