I twinge each time I hear someone “putting it out to the universe,” hoping to make the bad go away and the good come their way. People with life-threatening diseases are told to “fight” the disease by way of a positive attitude lest they attract further complications. As one website explains–
“Much in the same way that we can attract lasting relationships, money, and success in goal achievement, it is also possible to attract vibrant health to ourselves. Affirmations work for just about everything that we desire; if our affirmations are negative they will obligingly lead to us to negative outcomes and vice versa. Perhaps you have come across people who are always sickly, constantly taking this or that medication for this and that ailment. While some cases may be genuine, others are not because individuals have been known to feign sickness just to receive pity and sympathy in return. … [A]ffirmations only require that you have unwavering belief and faith that staying healthy is a reality that can be experienced” (www.themindmedic.com).
In short, if you think happy thoughts you’ll feel good about your predicament. Being sick (unhappy, poor, lonely, depressed, you-name-it) may well be your own fault. America, and by extension much of the Western world, is infested with the be-happy bug. We’re assured that the “law of attraction,” the visualization of what we want — perfect health, say, or a new job/hat/partner — will bring the good times to us. Asking for what we want (need, desire, deserve) will “manifest” mana from the heaven of entitlement.
In Smile or die: how positive thinking fooled America and the world, author and former cellular immunologist Barbara Ehrenreich writes how her experience with breast cancer made her feel trapped in the upbeat “pink ribbon culture” where cancer “victims” become “survivors” and the dead go unmentioned in favour of celebrating those who recover. As part of the world-wide commercialization of wishful thinking, our parliament building (depicted above) was recently bathed in pink as part of fragrance manufacturer Estée Lauder’s campaign to “Connect. Communicate. Conquer.”
What, I wonder, are alternatives to positive thinking’s emphasis on wishful thinking? More specifically, what sustains you through illness and tragedy? Looking back, what helps/helped you cope with loss and grief?