Monday, October 5, 2009

The Tyranny of Cheerfulness

If we could cure our cancers with positive thoughts, we would. If there's one thing I'm positive about, that's it.

I've ranted before about the Positive Thinking Terrorists. They believe I can cure my cancer if I only believe hard enough -- kind of like fairy dust, I guess. And by inference, that I caused my cancer, which I find even more offensive. There's more evidence to support my view. Positively Downbeat: sometimes happiness isn't everything.

In the article linked above, the author discusses how we reached the point where positive thinking is supposed to cure or alleviate anything, and failure can only be blamed on not thinking positively enough. She mentions a book that has just zoomed to the top of my reading list:

In her new book, Bright-Sided: How Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America, Barbara Ehrenreich calls positive thinking a "mass delusion." She argues that an unrelenting drive to train our brains to overlook problems and blame ourselves for failures has blinded us to inequality, incompetence, and stupidity.
Can I get an Amen, Sister? AMEN! I'm sure a positive attitude is helpful, especially to caregivers, family members, and medical personnel, and for their sakes alone, I try to feel optimistic. I keep hoping for the best. But if we could cure our cancers with positive thoughts, WE WOULD! Do you dim bulbs honestly believe that we want to suffer? Excruciating pain, bankrupting expenses, devastated family members...yeah, baby, bring it!

I think I'm a realist, a pragmatist: I want to know the most likely outcomes for each possible scenario, not just the happiest ones. That's how I'm dealing with cancer. If you think that's negative, or just not positive enough, keep it to yourself. Life's unfair and cancer's unfair and look out, baby, karma's a bitch. If there's one more thing I'm positive about, that's it. And that's why I will continue to hope that even the Positive Thinking Terrorists never have to test their idiotic theories first-hand. I am positive that I'm more compassionate than they are.

If I could cure my cancer with positive thoughts, asshole, I would.


tim's wife said...

You GO girl! Yeah I never bought into that whole thing much either. I actually know people who are convinced they "gave" themselves cancer because they had a bad attitude or were angry too much.
Yours truly would be pushing up daisies a long time now if this were true. Did ya ever read that book "The Secret?" For twenty bucks, they tell ya what the book is all about in the first few pages
and then repeat it a million times
till the end of the book. There may be some truth in quantum physics but this book tells you that you can make anything happen if you just believe it enough and actually act like it already happened. Those "vibrations" go out into the universe and bring what it is you want back to you. They even say you can win the lottery if you do this right. Biggest waste of 20 clams I ever spent. What a bunch of hooey. Was it you or someone else's blog that showed a card they got that said something like "?love? cures all things" on the front and inside
it said, "unless you have cancer, then you need chemo."?

John said...


Margaret said...

I agree wholeheartedly. How bloody absurd!

That said, I confess to being a positive, generally cheerful type of gal, BUT that positivity doesn't blind me to what may lie ahead. That would be extremely dangerous. We need instead to be aware. We need to be informed.

Okay, that said, I did want to point out that a scientific study published a few years ago (I posted about it on my blog, see my Myeloma and Stress page) demonstrated that myeloma cells proliferate like mad in the presence of stress hormones. So there is a scientific basis for our trying to get rid of unnecessary stress (...).

But curing cancer with positive thoughts? Hah! Now that's a laugh!

[Btw, I love Barbara Ehrenreich. Have you read "Nickled and Dimed"?]

La Cootina said...

Denise (tw) - I lay a LOT of this at Oprah's feet. She loves, loves, loves that book. As much good as she has done in this world, the whole "Live Your Best Life; You Can if You Really Want To!" schtick has contributed to a lot of Positive Thinking Terrorists.

Thanks, John & Margaret. Ya know, I've only heard this idiocy spouted by one cancer patient. He still believes it was positive thinking, not luck and chemo, that got him into remission. Most of us know better.

I'm pretty sure y'all have seen that my "crankiness" is just a coping technique, a tool I use to help me laugh at life's absurdities. I generally have a sunny outlook, too... until I encounter someone who's demanding it!

P.S. I love B.E., too. Good heart, great brain.

Brother Ted said...


Karen said...

Awesome post!! I recently read a novel called "The Book of Dahlia" (can't think of the author's name right now). It's a funny book, but also a very dark book about a young woman with a brain tumor. She finds a cancer self-help book that says you can heal yourself with a positive attitude. The book contrasts the stupid advice in the self-help book with all of the horrible cancer things she is going through. The other gals in book club couldn't understand why I enjoyed it so much. :)

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