Positively Dangerous: The Positivity Principle

problemThe Secret came out when I was 22, just a young and impressionable girl in the throws of a very fickle career in the modeling business. As one might imagine, modeling, like acting or any other pursuit that relies a great deal on luck and circumstance, requires that you look heavenward and pray it will all work out. And though I found the creepily lauded Secret more befitting a New Age housewife in a landlocked state, I did find pseudo salvation in some other book, the name of which currently escapes me, but a tome in which I purchased for countless friends and family members, extolling its miracle virtues. Think happy thoughts and the world is yours! My mom never touched hers; it went straight into the thrift store bin.

For a disturbing number of months, I subscribed to the tenants of this book I can’t remember the name of, so much so that I found it difficult to watch sports games, which all of a sudden seemed gratuitously negative. At the end, after all, there had to be a loser. The book rallied around the idea that if you let any amount of negativity seep into your life, it would adversely affect your existence, creep in like a dark, invasive mold. And so I didn’t want to grapple with the reality of losers; I wanted winners. I wanted rainbows and unicorns and pots of gold. (I literally, at one point, closed my eyes and tried to visually conjure up the latter whilst on an elliptical machine. And as it turned out, 2008 was quite lucrative, though I sense it had little to do with my wishful daydreams and more to do with a grossly inflated economy on the precipice of doom.)

This relentless and positively stupid stretch of blind positivity lasted until 2009, when the recession ripped the rug out from under everyone’s feet, and the fashion industry severed in twain just like every other business. Dreaming in dollar signs seemed no match for big bank fraud, subprime mortgage collapse, or, you know, reality. When life is like a dip in a glass of champagne, it’s easy to ride those bubbles to the top, convinced your happy-go-lucky attitude singlehandedly changed the course of fate. And while I’m all about looking on the brighter side of things, making people believe they can dream their way out of debt, illness, and hard work seems like reckless false advertising. And sort of lazy.

In a recent piece in the New Yorker, Adam Alter remarked of the (dangerous) underlying ideas behind The Secret, as well as the author’s recently released book, Hero: “They offer an appealing, non-technical solution to life’s biggest problems while demanding nothing more of their adherents than faith.” Positivity is certainly important, but one cannot survive on daydreams alone. It’s like living on a diet of whipped cream and plastic maraschino cherries.

You’ve got to work a lot harder if you want to get to the meat.

+ Leave a Reply