Positive psychology, positive thinking, health and the economy

41NwyD4aVbL._SL500_AA240_1.jpgHere’s a link to a US radio show ‘To the point’, featuring Barbara Ehrenreich, author of  ‘Bright-sided: How the relentless promotion of positive thinking has undermined America‘ and Robert Biswas-Diener, a psychology instructor at Portland State University; they discuss the connections between Positive Psychology, happiness and positive thinking and health and the economy (you need to wind forward to 30 minutes to hear this part of the programme, although I recommend you listen to all of it if you have time).

I’m astonished that Ehrenreich links the current economic crisis to positive thinking; what about the role played by good old fashioned greed? Or lack of effective financial regulation? Or technology, which has enabled high-frequency trading (aka casino banking). Surely these are far more likely culprits. By blaming positive thinking we’re unlikely to take the action necessary to avoid the same thing happening again in the future.

There’s been a lot of negative press in positive psychology circles about Ehrenreich’s criticisms of positive psychology, but what I hadn’t appreciated until now was her suggestion that the provision of a welfare state in Scandinavian countries (and presumably also the UK) might be due to pessimistic thinking. And there was I thinking it was because we cared about our fellow beings.

And whilst I agree with her that the US should think long and hard about being 22nd on the list of happy countries, what she doesn’t then question is how this can be the case if America IS the land of positive thinking that she claims it is.

Thanks to Robert Biswas Diener for the link.

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