Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Positively Misguided

Steve Salerno, investigative journalist for eSkeptic, writes a remarkable essay revealing what science has to say about the Self-Esteem and Positive Thinking movements. Spurred by the runaway success of Rhonda Byrne's The Secret (now with six million books and DVDs in print), Salerno's essay reveals the myths and mistakes of the "new" movements, which are based on the much older empty concept "The Law of Attraction."


There's no mistaking the allure of an outlook in which you'll make every block, get every job you apply for, close every sales call, and win the heart of every man or woman who catches your eye. This became clear to me many years post-college when I began research for a book about the human-potential movement. I quickly realized how invested Americans were in their optimism -- and how irate they'd become at being challenged, or even just questioned, on it; I was encountering what essayist Barbara Ehrenreich, writing later in Harper's, would bracket as "pathological" hope. It's a world-view that's seductive and uplifting and ennobling -- all of that -- and yet, evidence and common sense suggest it has nothing to do with setting (and implementing) realistic goals, establishing (and observing) priorities and, perhaps most important, recognizing valid limitations and obstacles....

The notion that the riddle of success is more easily solved by attitude than aptitude may be one of the more subtly destructive forces in American society. Not only is it a reproach to rational thought, but in a society already veering ominously towards narcissism, this "hyping of hope" also erodes reverence for hard work, patience, scholarship, self-discipline, self-sacrifice, due diligence and the other time-honored components of success....

More here.

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