How “positive thinking” nazis jettison responsibility

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We live in an unempathic, selfish, narcissistic society. It’s social Darwinism at its finest, an Ayn Rand wet dream–a society that values selfishness over altruism, greed over empathy, money and material goods over timeless human virtues, fake smiles and phony platitudes over honest emotion.

Nowhere is this sickness more prevalent than it is in America today. One of the most irritating symptoms of how shallow a nation we’ve become is the plethora of corny “positive thinking” platitudes, cliches, and memes.

Don’t get me wrong. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with some healthy positive thinking, and attempting to see the glass as half full rather than half empty–as long as the positivity is tempered by realism. If you spend your entire life thinking how awful your life is and don’t even try to look for the silver linings, chances are you’re not going to see much improvement in your life. Daily affirmations are a good idea, as long as we don’t delude ourselves into thinking problems don’t exist and therefore don’t need to be addressed.

But as human beings, we all need a shoulder to cry on sometimes, someone we can tell our troubles to without fear of being judged or our concerns dismissed or criticized. There are times when we all need a little empathy and someone who understands what we are going through. Being told in our darkest moments that we need to “smile and the world smiles with you,” “lighten up,” or “this is a learning experience” is the last thing we need or want to hear. Corny “positive thinking” platitudes can sound like an invalidation or dismissal of what’s close to our hearts and in some cases even make us feel shame in addition to the pain we’re already experiencing.

Both my parents and my stepmother are on the phony positive thinking brigade. A long time ago, I used to actually try to talk to my parents about my fears and heartbreaks, but never felt supported by them. All I wanted was a hug and some encouraging, genuine words, maybe something like “I understand why you’d be so upset” or “You have every right to be angry.” Sometimes even an attentive silence would have done, since really listening to someone doesn’t always require words and sometimes just being heard without judgment is all that’s needed.

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Instead I’d get simplistic “think positive” cliches and slogans, if not straight up invalidation and criticism of my feelings. My narcissistic mother was notorious for emailing me these corny platitudes that were as phony and devoid of true emotion as a smiley face bumper sticker on a hearse. Receiving her brand of “encouragement” made my blood boil. I spent a long time trying to figure out why it bothered me so much when she (or my stepmother or father) did this, and I finally figured out why. It was a dismissal, not only of my feelings, but a method of jettisoning any responsibility or having to take any time away from themselves to provide genuine help or comfort. It was, in effect, the same thing as tossing a lollipop to a crying child instead of trying to find out why the child is so upset. “Alright kid, here’s a lollipop, now leave me alone and stop crying.” By sending me pictures of kittens with happy slogans under them or a rainbow with an “inspirational” sentiment, they were avoiding taking any responsibility or showing any empathy, while still being able to say, “Well, what’s your problem? I acknowledged your pain–I sent you that “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” video.”

Positive thinking nazis are pervasive, they’re fake as hell, they’re complacent, and they’re everywhere. Every day we’re bombarded with Internet memes (Facebook is notorious for them), slogans, bumper stickers, and politicians (usually Republican) telling us to “just be happy and everything else will take care of itself.” It’s enough to drive me insane. How do you “just be happy?” I’m sorry, but I’m not a machine with a “happy” button. I can’t switch my emotions on and off because you’re uncomfortable with my negative moods.

There’s also a huge disconnect from reality. Poverty, homelessness, mental illness, and addiction actually do exist and they’re everywhere, in every town, every city, every neighborhood. Positive thinking nazis choose to not see these realities and even blame those suffering from poverty, homelessness, addiction, and mental illness for “their own condition” by not being “positive” enough. If only it were that simple. But it’s not simple at all because for those who can’t even procure basic food, medical care, and shelter, or who have a chemical imbalance in their brain that causes severe depression or addiction, thinking happy thoughts is just about impossible.

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There needs to be a balance between the deluded positive thinking tyranny and providing authentic support. The first does not replace the second and in fact can exacerbate the situation by making the person needing help feel guilty and ashamed for feeling the way they do.

We need to stop being a nation concerned only with ourselves and stop dismissing the very real concerns of our friends, family and neighbors. Saying “smile!” to an upset person doesn’t cut it. We are all in this together, and authentic care and support are in very short supply and are needed now more than ever. We will never heal as a nation if we continue to equate slapping happy face stickers on everything with actually going out of our way to do good for others.

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21 thoughts on “How “positive thinking” nazis jettison responsibility

  1. That’s a good post. I don’t disagree with any of it. I’m on a campaign against positive thinking and also prosperity ministers 😉

    Not long ago the NY Times did an article about lithium and how we might need to start putting it in the water, like we do fluoride. The reason being, people are supposedly not happy enough. That really creeped me out, because who is to say we all have to happy, al of the time? Who is to say that people shouldn’t be miserable in response to some miserable things? We are living in a culture where everybody is supposed to be happy, wealthy, and beautiful 24/7 and if we aren’t it must be some kind of failure on our part. That’s just silly.

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    • Slight problem, or rather 2: 1) Not everyone responds to Lithium – either responds at all, or responds in a socially-appropriate (i.e. worshipping one’s betters) fashion. 2) lithium needs ***regular*** testing for levels so as to maintain a (supposedly) therapeutic level – without crossing the line into lithium toxicity.

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  2. That’s interesting about the lithium in the water…maybe not a bad idea. lol

    I agree there is too much forced happiness and so much of it is so fake. It
    s especially prevalent on holidays like Christmas where you’re supposed to act happy and jolly all season even though many people find Christmas the most stressful time of the year.
    What’s wrong with being a human being capable of experiencing all the emotions? It’s what makes us interesting and gives us depth. If all we had was “happy” emotions, what a boring, and even scary world that would be!

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  3. Some added possibilities (?)

    1. Since narcissistic individuals heavily indulge in “instinct-driven folk magic”, they may well believe that ‘establishing and maintaining a positive confession’ can alter reality such that it conforms to their ‘earnest desires’. (I.e ‘fake it until you make it)
    To succeed – or to appear to succeed – in such circumstances only confirms them in their deluded sense of superiority.

    2. Since ‘all things are magical’ – yes, I mean exactly that in speaking of the Normal mind’s unconscious ways – then the fetishistic practice of viewing *only* matters of superficial existence has real utility. At least, this is what is believed.
    The truth is darker: concerning oneself with appearance to that degree causes all of existence to become an abstracted collection of objects – which are nothing more than the masterful adept’s ***tools***. (Hence the term *fetish* or ‘witch-tool’)

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    • I know! A pep talk just seems so shallow, like a set of prepackaged sayings instead of them really listening to you and opening their heart.

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  4. This resonates with a lot of what I think and feel. I often feel like people are telling me to be grateful about my situation when all I really need is a hug or someone to cry with for a while. Society has an allergy to negative emotion. If you show your anger or pain, it’s seen as a direct threat most times. I feel this pretty acutely- my journal is full of me saying “I don’t want to be that perma-smile girl all the time!” This post is really good at highlighting the issue. X

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  5. The ***nasty*** portion of positive thinking, or the underlying aspect of Narcissism that’s commonly present:

    When some stinky wretch tells you to dwell on the positive, he or she is (usually) NOT trying to help you.

    Instead, he or she is a predator scenting (in your weakness) an easy Meal – and is (subtly – or perhaps not subtly) putting you down so as to raise himself up. The subtext is “I’m better than you because I control my own reality well enough that everything that happens in MY milieu does so because I will it to be so.”. More, by ***commanding*** you to lie for their pleasure – as in ” I only wish to hear worship from the mouths of lesser beings – which I name you to be” they are establishing DOMINANCE over you and putting you in THEIR place.

    Of course, they see this ***evil*** behavior as ‘good, correct, and proper’ – which means they are likely to enjoy seeing you suffer on account of their evil.

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    • I agree with this 100%.
      I will mention that positvity in general is fine (in fact it’s na great thing–if it’s sincere and not fake), but shaming others for not being as perky as you is not fine at all. It’s pompous self righteousness disguised as “helping.”

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  6. ^ “Brightsided,” can’t recall the author’s name – only that she had to deal with a *lot* of rubbish after needing surgery for cancer – and ‘positivism’ was much of the rubbish.

    Positivism was -or perhaps still is – a BIG problem in some churches. I recall encountering a lot of this (thinly-veiled witchcraft) thirty years ago. “If you know the ssssecrettt – maintain a positive confession in spite of everything that happens – you can cause reality to change in accordance with your willll…” (oh, and you can manipulate God, too…)

    Ssssecrettt – how a snake-impersonating spirit would say the word ‘secret’. Same for ‘will’ with added ‘l’s.

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    • You’re not alone with this belief. Churches are especially guilty of this–telling you you’r sinful or defective to God if you’re depressed or not always smiling. They believe if you’re happy, that means God favors you with blessings like wealth (and will punish you by not blessing you if you are “morally defective,” This is a complete lie because we can all think of miserable and rich celebrities who don’t even believe in a God. It’s also a part of the prosperity gospel, which I think is just as disgusting and ugly as Rand’s objectivism.

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  7. Uh, what *I* recall of Capps, Copeland, Hagin et all was chiefly that if you maintained the correct confession (i.e. a positivistic one, much as if one were doing hermeticism) one could essentially ‘game’ God (and, by extension, game people…)

    The prosperity ‘gospel* is more or less identical to the subject matter og Byrnes’ “The Secret” and the movie “What the $%4@ do we know,” – and ‘the law of attraction’ is straight out of ***Hermeticism***!

    There is a very good reason, or rather number of reasons why ***magic(k)*** is a bad idea (more so still if one is a Christian) – and the whole ‘full and complete control from conception to decomposition’ is one of the worst ones.

    This (infernal) statement sums up most of *positivism*; and, if one takes the idea of absolute control over one’s destiny to its final conclusion –

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  8. then it becomes obvious that one is “the God.”

    Now..? Trick question? Who said “I ***will*** become as the most high” – and by implication, thought to ‘usurp (what passes for a throne) in heaven?

    Answer that, and you’ll know who’s playing the very long ***con*** behind this and all other endeavors and strategems involving NPD / ASPD

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  9. I found this because I was deliberately looking for stuff about positive thinking tyranny and I’m glad to see you use that word too.

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  10. Wow, I really loved this. I always wondered why I always got pissed off at those that told me to “stay positive!”….”smile!”… It really is a form of invalidation on your feelings…

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