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Old 24-06-2011, 12:38 PM   #1
Barrett Dorko
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Default The Happy Wanderer I

Just before I fell asleep last night I read this from Barbara Ehrenreich:

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In its insistence that we concentrate on happy outcomes rather than on lurking hazards, positive thinking contradicts one of our most fundamental instincts, one that we share not only with other primates and mammals but with reptiles, insects and fish.
A while ago the director of a large facility who had come to trust my manner of practice told me that her greatest challenge was working with the “phenomenally incompetent, lazy, ignorant and thoughtless staff” she’d been saddled with. My own efforts to change things had been rebuffed so angrily and immediately that she knew why I remained disengaged from the task.

Two hours later at a staff meeting I heard her say, “I think we have an awesome team.”

Ehrenreich writes about the pervasive optimism that has led to a blind faith in the future and requires no real work in the present. Among other things, it accounts for the financial crisis my own country has faced.

There’s something else it contributes to. Can you guess what?
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Old 24-06-2011, 12:51 PM   #2
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It also accounts for lazy ignorance.
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Old 24-06-2011, 12:53 PM   #3
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Apathy.
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Old 24-06-2011, 04:17 PM   #4
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Let me see. A development of, then subsequent social neuroplasticization around, ever-accelerated absolute rapacity of natural resources, which developed into social systems, followed by blind, instinctive yet honed and cultivated belief that said rapacity was "normal" and therefore morally and militarily defensible.
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Old 24-06-2011, 04:47 PM   #5
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Kool-aid
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Old 24-06-2011, 05:02 PM   #6
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Quote:
A development of, then subsequent social neuroplasticization around, ever-accelerated absolute rapacity of natural resources, which developed into social systems, followed by blind, instinctive yet honed and cultivated belief that said rapacity was "normal" and therefore morally and militarily defensible.
I am sure this is a great response, Diane, but can you dumb it down a bit to my level
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Old 24-06-2011, 05:57 PM   #7
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Could this be why students in the U.S. rank 1st in self-confidence, but only 25th in math and science?

The school I teach at has this course the students have to take during their first five weeks where they are pumped up with the "power of positive thinking". Unfortunately it leads them to believe is that all they have to do to be a good student is think they are a good student. The idea of working hard is totally lost on them.
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Old 24-06-2011, 06:03 PM   #8
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Tony, I love your answer. You have GOT to read that book.
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Old 24-06-2011, 09:21 PM   #9
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Barrett, I've been meaning to pick up her book after I saw her on The Daily Show quite some time ago. After seeing her interview i recall thinking, "It's more useful to see the world how it is rather than the way we want it to be."
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Old 26-06-2011, 07:35 AM   #10
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Leroy Sievers kept a blog called My Cancer which, as you can probably guess, documented his experiences with cancer. in one entry titled Put On a Happy Face? (notice the question mark) he captures some of what's being emphasized here. Further, there is a NYT article Leroy links to in that blog entry. It's written by Jan Hoffman and is titled When Thumbs Up Is No Comfort and contains some thoughts about metaphor.

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Uneasy well-wishers, steeped in near-superstitious belief about positive mental attitude, can exacerbate anxiety.
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Old 26-06-2011, 07:10 PM   #11
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Hi Barrett,

I really like the balance that Barbara presented in her book as an antidote to all the alternative hype that is around.

I especially enjoyed her earlier chapters discussing the misleading ideas of improving the immune system to fight cancer when (if I understand correctly) most cancer cells are derivatives of the cells that the immune system is fighting to "protect".

I did find that towards the end of the book Barbara was shooting at every author or speaker that promoted any sort of positive mindset. Such as her cursory dismissal of Stephen Covey etc. (Of which I really enjoyed 7 Habits of Highly Effective People)

No doubt about the fact that a Norman Vincent Peale type philosophy is no good as a "Broad Spectrum Optimism".

But I think that there is a call for "Contextual Optimism". The reality of some situations can be thoroughly defeating and adopting realism in that context may not be terribly helpful. There are times when an almost abnormal positivism is necessary and vice versa.

And there seems to be a biological effect to us taking on a particular physical presence. Antonio Damasio speaks a little about this in Self Comes to Mind at the end of the chapter on The Body in Mind where he mentions taking a particular gait and remembering his Colleague Dr. B.
Quote:
"I could transform the represented motion into a corresponding visual image, and I could recover from memory the identity of a person or persons that would fit the description."
Could it stand to reason that taking on an certain posture we could change our perspective and climb out of a dead end that we have been wallowing in? Again, taken as a contextually of course. That too imagine a person who is more capable than ourselves and adopting their posture and mindset?
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Old 26-06-2011, 07:20 PM   #12
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Excellent commentary. Somebody else actually read this book!

I think at the end you're referring to "embodied cognition." There's some excellent material out about this now. I'll wait for someone else to link to it.

Thanks.
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