I interviewed Barbara Ehrenreich last week for the Big Issue Scotland magazine. Really impressive writer, journalist, activist. At the age of 68 she has produced a sharp, well researched and well written book analysing positive thinking and its downside: Smile or Die.
The book traces the history of positive thinking and builds an argument as to how it has come to permeate all levels of American society: from corporate culture to the White House.
Ehrenreich is an old fashioned...well if she was British she would be a socialist. In America she probably would still call herself that but I doubt she'd have agreed with Tony Benn on everything. Her view is that the positive thinking, if you believe you can succeed mantra, is another tool for the wealthy and powerful to keep the little guy in his place.
If you want to read the article go to: www.bigissuescotland.com
Incidentally, i thought it would be interesting to hear Carol Craig's take on the subject. She runs Scotland's Centre for Confidence, a government funded organisation promoting a positive attitude north of the border (yes really). Carol had some interesting observations and agreed with Ehrenreich more than I thought she would. However, she fell short of saying she no longer had any confidence in her Centre for Confidence. Indeed, she felt positive psychology could still teach a negative nation like Scotland a lot.
I know. She would say that. But I have a good friend who is a psychiatrist who agrees with her. And I do think there is something in the fact that so many Scots are incredibly down on themselves, their children, their prospects. (There's a widespread theory that this wasn't always the case, but that all the positive people moved to America.)
So I wouldn't dismiss Craig's point of view entirely. You can check her blog out at www.centreforconfidence.co.uk/carolsblog.php - she has two entries on Smile or Die (or Bright-Sided as it is known in US)