Bright-sided

How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America
Narrated by: Kate Reading
Length: 7 hrs and 27 mins
4 out of 5 stars (384 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

A sharp-witted knockdown of America's love affair with positive thinking and an urgent call for a new commitment to realism.

Americans are a "positive" people - cheerful, optimistic, and upbeat: this is our reputation as well as our self-image. But more than a temperament, being positive, we are told, is the key to success and prosperity.

In this utterly original take on the American frame of mind, Barbara Ehrenreich traces the strange career of our sunny outlook from its origins as a marginal 19th-century healing technique to its enshrinement as a dominant, almost mandatory, cultural attitude. Evangelical mega-churches preach the good news that you only have to want something to get it, because God wants to "prosper" you. The medical profession prescribes positive thinking for its presumed health benefits. Academia has made room for new departments of "positive psychology" and the "science of happiness." Nowhere, though, has bright-siding taken firmer root than within the business community, where, as Ehrenreich shows, the refusal even to consider negative outcomes - like mortgage defaults - contributed directly to the current economic crisis.

With the mythbusting powers for which she is acclaimed, Ehrenreich exposes the downside of America's penchant for positive thinking: On a personal level, it leads to self-blame and a morbid preoccupation with stamping out "negative" thoughts. On a national level, it's brought us an era of irrational optimism resulting in disaster. This is Ehrenreich at her provocative best - poking holes in conventional wisdom and faux science, and ending with a call for existential clarity and courage.

©2009 Barbara Ehrenreich (P)2009 Macmillan Audio

Critic Reviews

"In this hilarious and devastating critique, Barbara Ehrenreich applies some much needed negativity to the zillion-dollar business of positive thinking. This is truly a text for the times." (Katha Pollitt)
"Unless you keep on saying that you believe in fairies, Tinker Bell will check out, and what's more, her sad demise will be your fault! Barbara Ehrenreich scores again for the independent-minded in resisting this drool and all those who wallow in it." (Christopher Hitchens)

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Finally an Answer to "The Secret"

At last! Someone SANE! Someone who can see the downside to being Up and Thinking Positive all the time.

I had heard Barbara's take on the "cancer survivor" issue on Book TV on CSPAN a few years ago. In the book, she goes into more detail. I agree and won't buy anything "pink" as a result.
The Secret and all the other Think Positive, Use the Universe and Magnetism to Attract, and the Name It Claim It people out there are really messing up the minds of a generation or two. It is insidious and has crept into almost every aspect of American life. It is frightening.
If you are tired of the Blame The Victim mentality of this nation, here is a book that at least explains the source of that way of thinking. Because, you see, if anything bad happens to you, it is because YOU attracted it to yourself by considering it, by not thinking positively enough, or by allowing it to happen to yourself -- according to the prevailing thought. Lost your job? Lost your home to foreclosure? Got sick? Yep, Positive Thinking will tell you it is all your own fault. Barbara Ehrenreich tells you that is all bunk! And I believe her.

12 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Balanced

I was skeptical when I heard about this book since I know first hand what stress can do to the body. However, this book isn't an argument for pessimism so much as it's a call to action in the fight against the pervasive passivity that's been seeping into our culture. The "positive attitude" rhetoric that I'm constantly confronted with at school and work has been driving me nuts for years, and now hearing someone point out all its flaws provided me with a feeling of relief and (go figure) hope.

16 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Bright-Sided Gives Realists Hope

This is a solid book. This looks at the idea that the culture of "positive thinking" has turned into groupthink and why it was key to why we had the giant economic crash we did in recent years.. and is in many ways a psychological pacifier for the masses.

Not that one should be negative all the time - this isn't about depression, or always criticizing - but when dealing with facts is falsely called "pessimism" there's a real problem; when questioning assumptions is "negative thinking," that means an organization is living in delusion and it's time is numbered. And that's what happened at Lehman Brothers and other companies where they could of avoided the problems that befell their companies and our country.

7 people found this helpful

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  • D
  • 02-05-12

For the Positivity Deficit

If you’ve ever read an economic forecast in the newspaper and thought it sounded suspiciously like a TV weatherman, "This is up while this is down but, all in all, the outlook is fair to good", then this book is for you.

It’s an excellent study in hegemony for anyone haunted (and alienated) by the feeling that the world they live in is a little less candy-coated than the world they’re told they live in (via media). Furthermore, Ehnrenreich’s amused but cynical take on the subject, and the humor she finds in it, is well served by Reading’s perky narration. One of my favorite finds on Audible so far.

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

This book changed my life

Every now and then a book will actually change how I see the world, and this book is one of those. Wonderfully written and beautifully read, it points out a way of thinking that's so ubiquitous it's hard to see. And the author doesn't hammer you with arguments--she mainly just gives the facts and lets you draw the conclusions yourself.

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

A Great Book Deserving of a Much Better Reader

Thanks goodness Barbara Erinreich is still publishing. This book is such a relief for those of us oppressed by unrelenting demands to be optimistic even when the worst outcomes are inevitable. This book is so important for people to read. The reader is really terrible, I think and that was a big disappointment.

11 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

A Comeback for Realism

Dr. Ehernreich writes a fascinating account the puritanical roots of positive thinking. Her taking apart of Positive Psychology is superb. She presents an excellent case for us to get out of magical thinking and pay closer attention to what our five senses are showing us about the world.

9 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

A breath of fresh air

I have always had the vague suspicion that all the hype about positive thinking was not as harmless as advertised, but attributed that to my natural tendency toward skepticism. It was nice to finally hear from the 'dark side'. The ideas discussed were thought provoking.

2 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
  • M
  • 10-16-09

Finally!

At last someone's taken on the positive-thinking crowd with some much-needed realism and humor. Ehrenreich doesn't totally discount the power of being positive but neither does she buy into the hype and nonsense of continual positive thinking and creating your own reality. With nice touches of juxtaposition she brings life to what would otherwise be a dull statistic-filled tome.

14 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Different kinds of positive thinking

Glad when Barbara finally got to talking solution at the end: balanced realism. The sneering voice of the writing (and reading) seemed really bitter until then.

I think maybe she and some positive thinkers miss the importance of a stepping stone between attitude and results. ACTION. It isn't enough to plan. To paraphrase Thoreau you must also proceed in the direction of your dreams.

Choosing to wallow seems a certain downward spiral into unproductivity resulting in feeling worthless and so forth.

But good points about skeptical pessimism keeping toddlers alive.

I am grateful to the writer for helping me see a connection between some excessive greed, and megachurches and positive thinking. But I think most spiritual and psychological users of positive thinking, vs purely business users, see that everyone has the power, we are interconnected and not better than others. Some emphasize service and love more than others.

It does help me understand the baffling perspective some seem to have of blaming the poor rather than empathizing. I am glad I stuck with this challenging book.

I have been a negative harbinger in the face of economic and health "woes" and i have been the pollyanna. Preaching embracing change. I found the latter more effective to productivity and group happiness.

Asking what would Barbara have us do instead? Maybe organize and act rather than accept as uncontrollable. That is food for thought.

I loved her prior sociological books eg nickled and dimed.

1 person found this helpful