Is the promotion of positive thinking hurting the country? Best-selling author Barbara Ehrenreich thinks so, and she spells it out in her new book "Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America."
After she was diagnosed with breast cancer eight years ago, Ehrenreich turned to the Web for resources and support. Searching for a way to express anger about the disease and treatment, she was faced with message boards filled with advice to "just think positive."
Ehrenreich argues that America is obsessed with being happy -- or at least pretending to be happy. In an interview with ABC News, she laid out her case for why this kind of mindset can do more harm than good.
ABC News: Can you explain the title to anyone who might not know anything about the book?
Ehrenreich: It's a little hard to explain this book when I was working on it because it sounds so contrarian -- against positive thinking. But I'm looking at the ideology of positive thinking as if affects Americans in so many ways. For me, it all began with the experience eight years ago of being treated for breast cancer, and I naturally reached out for all the help and support and information I could get on the Web and through books and other things. And what I found instead was the constant advice to be positive -- to be upbeat and cheerful about the disease to the point of even embracing it and saying, "Hey, this is the best thing that ever happened to me. I'm going to come out of this being more spiritual and sensitive or something." That's not how I was feeling though. I did not feel like this was a good experience. And it was painful not to be able to say that -- not to be able to express grief, fear or anything. But then it took me a couple of years, I realized this was pretty endemic in American culture. You are not to be a complainer, you are not to be a "victim," you are supposed to look at the bright side of whatever is happening. And one of the big things this applies to is people being laid off from their jobs. They'll be sent to the outplacement firm where they'll hear motivational speakers tell them that this is really a great thing that's happened to them, a wonderful opportunity for a career transition. Or the people that are left behind after the layoff, they get the speakers and books and DVD's and everything to get the, to work harder to make up for all the people that were laid off.
ABC News: Is it just that too much positive thinking somehow led America down the wrong path? Is it just inaccurate for people to allow so much positivity?