Wednesday, February 4, 2015

more thoughts on positivity



A week ago I wrote a post on how I personally keep myself positive. The more I thought about the notion of positivity and the more I have come to realize how much of a buzzword it is across the blogosphere right now (I guess it's part of the zeitgeist), I felt that there was a little more that needed to be said.

One thing I feel the need to clarify is the fact that although I do believe (from personal experience) that being positive is a healthier mindset to have in general, I do not believe in positivity in the sense of the law of attraction. I do believe that this type of thinking is true to an extent - for example, I find that when you always believe less of yourself, you tend to not be as successful, because you cannot visualize yourself succeeding. You absolutely can set up mental blocks for yourself that inhibit your ability to succeed. There is definitely some truth to the idea that having a positive mindset will lead to positive outcomes. That being said, if you do wish to go along with this worldview, you would need to agree with it's secondary implication: that if bad things are happening to you, it is because you are not thinking the right types of positive thoughts. In other words, you are not positive enough.

I do have a bone to pick with the law of attraction when you extrapolate its basic premise out to its logically conclusion: that good things will come to you if you think positive thoughts and bad things will come to you if you have negative thoughts. This view of positivity came out most clearly in the book The Secret and I will be honest will you: I believe that this worldview is incredibly privileged and places blame on individuals who are themselves victims of circumstances outside of their ability to "think the bad away". The universe is not that simple and placing the fault on someone's mindset is ridiculous, to be quite frank. If we are to actually follow through with what The Secret and books like it are contending, we would (logically) have to state that those in poverty are there not because of wide-spread and well-documented systemic prejudice...but because of their thoughts?  

I believe that focusing so much on the law of attraction-esque mindset is unfair to those who are going through difficult circumstances that are wholly outside of their control - let alone outside of their modes of thinking. It is not fair to simply tell someone to "be more positive" when they are struggling with depression, with abuse, with tragic loss, etc. Rather than telling these individuals that they need to be positive about their circumstances, we should be saying to them: yes, that really sucks and I will help you, as much as I can, to make things suck less.

There is a balance that has to be maintained between positivity and admitting when things are terrible, and outside of your control. A really pertinent example of this is the disproportionate number of people of color who are killed at the hands of police. The same thing could be said of children who are victims of violence that are completely and utterly unprovoked (such as the terribly Sandy Hook shooting). Are these deaths due to individuals' inability to be positive? At what age are individuals responsible for the bad things that happen to them because they did not "think good thoughts"?

And this is where my criticism lies with the law of attraction: it does not hold up to genuine critique once you move it outside of its own perimeters. Just to be clear here, I do believe that being positive is the better route to take, I truly do. However, I have been seeing so many posts on Positivity lately (and specifically the type of positivity that is laid out in the law of attraction) that I felt that I needed to be more clear on what my personal definition of positivity is. I believe that there are many, many aspects of your life that can be improved by staying positive - but I would never agree that positivity is the only thing that governs what happens to us.



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