Life hurts, positive psychology kills me | Opinion


I am not saying that pain should be exhibited, but perhaps it should be recorded. And, of course, you have to learn to deal with it. And to deal with him among all. What I mean is that loneliness only drives the hook of pain deeper and that our time is fertile ground for such loneliness. Not in vain do we live in the era of self-help and self-care and even self-healing. Positive psychology, that school of the 2000s, always euphoric and optimistic and so closely related to self-help, spreads with the invisible force of the strongest ideologies. In the culture of positive thinking, everything is an opportunity for the good, everything tends to the good if one is healthy, and everything depends on our desire for pleasure, whether it is a promotion or a pandemic. Happiness is increasingly viewed as a responsibility of the individual, as an act of rational decision. The ideal medium for daffodils and daffodils. Goodbye sorrow.

Repeat ten times a day, every day: “Today is going to be a happy day”, “Today I am going to do well”, “Today I will not be sad”, “With hard work I can achieve what I set out to do”. Repeat it after a job layoff, in the midst of a pandemic, in the hurricane of a love breakup. Whatever happens, tell others. “I am a very strong person.” Buy your son a school diary where he reads: “Put desire, illusion and plans”. Educating with this type of mantras is equivalent to a programming of the individual that derives in servitude. It is assumed that these kinds of phrases serve to empower people, but in reality they identify the individual with his function, which he does not question and does not rebel against when it threatens him. Pain is also denied, for pain is a form of rebellion, of dysfunction, of discontinuity. Goodbye character. To that character that is forged in adversity, in an adversity that is waiting for us with mantras and without mantras. The Greeks knew it and the Hebrews knew it: we already know their testimonies, written in blood, from Homer to Ecclesiastes, passing through the divine Sappho: “Everything will have to be suffered”. Our pain, like our failure, belongs to us and shapes us. And he deserves respect, recognition and space. But it is not fashionable.

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A cascade of slogans, dogmas and proclamations hammers our brains with the invisible and permanent smoothness of an algorithm. “Everything in life has a meaning”, “Work has a purpose”, “Success is the sum of small efforts”… Here the one who does not succeed is because he does not want to or, rather, because he does not obey. “Meet your goals”, “Love what you do”, “Take advantage of opportunities”, “Live in the present”. For some reason, the tenets of positive thinking are always declined in the imperative, like the Ten Commandments. Thus, everything depends on personal commitment, which can and overcomes everything. Everything depends on an obedience that secretly sneaks through the maxims and mandates. An obedience where, to top it off, we are alone. Neither solidarity nor community. Happiness or conquest depend on you. The others are useless for that. They don’t serve you. Goodbye to empathy and solidarity. Goodbye to the community. And being more and more alone, what we are left with is sadness. From positive psychology to sadness there is not a single step, rather one is the mask of the other. Maybe Instagram filters are just that, masks of our sadness.

And when the pain comes, positive mantras are not a shield, on the contrary. Denying it does not make it have less space. Because the pain never stops lurking in a life where there is loss, accidents and death. The pain does not rest: Ukraine is about to go to war, our lovers leave us, our work is not recognized (even though it had a purpose), life happens because we get old or because we are too young. Life hurts on all four sides and even beauty has to be endured, as Anne Carson wrote. So what does positive psychology say when they are given badly? The same thing again: that you repeat it ten more times. “Live fully the crises.” “Make yourself strong in suffering.” “Take advantage of the drawbacks.” “Be grateful for this pandemic because it will enhance your resilience.” Every day this ideology is more insistent and more harmful. Because in the end, in the culture of happiness, even the slightest touch turns into damage. After all, denying the existence of pain makes your thresholds lower and life more hurtful. There is the new generation of glass, the most fragile and damaged of all, that of the children of these ideas.

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And one wonders, is there nothing capable of stopping positive thinking? What can inefficient self-help say to Julia Otero when she explains that she trembled with fear the day she was informed of her tumor in her hospital bed? What can she say to all the people whose lives change in an instant, in the sense that life changes when you read The year of magical thinking by Joan Didion? Well, what he says, however cruel and inhuman it may seem, is that you repeat it again. “You are going to overcome it”, “You are going to win the battle”, “You are a warrior”, “You are very brave”, “You are doing very well”. No matter what happens, no matter how hard the blow is, pain is forbidden. And without room for pain there is also no room for consolation.

“It is not given to us to choose whether to be happy or unhappy. But it is necessary to choose not to be diabolically unhappy”, wrote Natalia Ginzburg. And she did it from an ethic that recognizes arbitrariness, that requires others and that also leaves room for individual choice against the diabolical. How far is Ginzburg from self-help and how far is this idea of ​​happiness from which she denies the possibility of suffering together and subjects us to a resigned and optimistic life. Happiness is not easy, but the martyrdom of self-help is about to make it impossible.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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