South Street Life / Positive Thinking

South Street Life - Positive Thinking

South Street Philadelphia.

The New Age concept that if you stay positive, somehow you will "attract" positive things in your life, is becoming a widespread cultural phenomenon. Some call it the Law of Attraction. It's promoted by books like "The Secret" and people like Oprah Winfrey and Dr. Phil, among many others.

I've written about this before, but these "happiness salesmen" are enriching themselves at the expense of those who take them seriously. What they are really selling is delusion, and delusion is dangerous for both the individual and society.

There is no empirical evidence of causation between "positive thinking" and "success". But there is plenty of evidence for what happens when positive mental attitude does not lead to success: Depression, insomnia, delusion and psychosis are among the symptoms. Needless to say, I'm not suggesting that despair or negative thinking is a better formula for success, but realism is a good starting point. Success is not inevitable. We might succeed sometimes and fail at other times. And those who are persistent fare better. But ignorance is bound to lead to failure.

What is often overlooked is that "success" is mostly a product of society as a whole in which we live in. It is also related to forces beyond our reach. No amount of "positive thinking" is going to help if there are no or very limited opportunities in society. Personal effort and attitude - although necessary - goes only so much. Putting too much faith and responsibility in oneself is inherently a depoliticizing process. For example, there is no way to positive think your way out of predatory student loans. If jobs are shipped to countries where people will work for a few dollars a day, no amount of positive thinking will get you a job.

When "positive thinking" does not work, the victim tends to blame oneself. These gimmicks sold by "happiness salesmen" are a way of blaming the victim...
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