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Positive thinking is a change of focus rather than an ignorance to the negativity that life sometimes brings. Martin Seligman, remarked as the father of positive psychology, proclaims positive psychology as an “explanatory style”, that is, how one explains the cause of events. Typically this style attributes negative events to causes outside of ones control and accredits positive events to the actions of individual. This style is contrasted with its opposite, the pessimistic explanatory style, which negates all of the practices of the positive explanatory style.

The purported benefits of positive thinking may be related to the dichotomy of self-reliance and communion that’s observed between the independent and religious individuals in America: it’s been examined (statistically and case-wise) that those who live religiously do not internalize failures (attribute to their own doing) and are consequently happier on average than those who are non-religious and more independently minded are more likely to find themselves fully responsible for their failures. This suggests that religiously minded people may naturally employ positive thinking, which perhaps partially explains or adds to the statistically observed happiness boost that they receive in comparison to their irreligious peers.

The positive psychology is distinct from positive thinking, primarily because it admits that in some situations, it’s more mentally advantageous to be realistic in thought than outright positive (for example, it has been found that negative thinking can sometimes lead to more accurate decisions and outcomes). This explained, it is a common goal of each to induce positive thinking in the population in order to increase general wellbeing. It’s claimed that positive thinking has many valuable health benefits, some as substantial as longer life span, lower rates of depression, and better stress management and coping skills.

Barbara Ehrenreich claims, although somewhat anecdotally from her struggle with cancer, that forced positive thinking and positive psychology can have a net negative effect on at least cancer patients who have to bury “understandable feelings of anger and fear” under sugarcoated positivism. She claims that this feeling of a need to maintain superficiality may result in intrapersonal turmoil and stress, which has been discovered to have a negative affect on live span and health. Simultaneously, she dismisses the basis of positive psychology’s positive effect on individuals.

Moreover, Ms. Ehrenreich describes that those people who experience job terminations are fed with a similar sort of forced optimism that may result it an evasion of a fundamental problem. That is, forced optimism, dressed as a magnanimous extension of good intention due to positive thinking’s reported benefits, is a clandestine way of “quelling discontent, quelling dissent...when you can’t say ‘I’m mad about -whatever.’ You just have to swallow it and smile.”

Finally, Ehrenreich boasts an aforementioned aspect of positive psychology that’s often overlooked in the implementation of positive thinking: justified skepticism and it’s aid in making good business or personal decisions. In making decisions with risk, it can be advantageous to be skeptical about a positive outcome, to raise the bar for what’s considered reasonable risk, as it can result in a marketplace that’s more stable. She chooses the financial crisis, which revolved around an unconditional positive regard for something that, at its basis, was growing very shaky (mortgage backed securities and other marketing inventions that inherently relied on people taking risks, such as insurance). She claims that this universal, habitual, and unconditional, positive outlook on a possibly catastrophic situation led to its growth and eventual collapse without any alarms being heard (those who denounced the practices were pushed out) or even raised in appropriate amounts.

While Ehrenreich’s argument stands against the majority of American society’s face-value opinion of the right actions and mindset to have in the face of trauma, American society simultaneously holds a more fundamental belief and contradictory belief that it’s important for one to express their feelings most honestly and they are given the right, and in a way, a responsibility to act and speak truthfully. So, Ehrenreich is somewhat incorrect in her supposition that American’s are undivided in their unconditional optimism.

Conversely, Ehrenreich’s observation that the forced positive outlook, backed by research which she claims is nonexistent, is used as a discontent suppressor is a fantastic insight and should be explored more scientifically. It’s undeniably easier to assist a person who beliefs that they are worth helping (in the case of cancer), and it’s easier to be around someone who is happy than it is one who is depressed. This fact can be seen in an example: my uncle took his very elderly mother to the hospital because she had been feeling ill recently, and the doctors told him that she had cancer. Before telling his mother the news, he first consulted the entirety of his family, who advised him not to tell her. He believed that they said so in an act of selfishness to enjoy more and happier years with his mother, rather than genuine concern and care for their family member. He went against the advisement of his family and told his mother. She died 6 months later, likely much sooner than she would have had she not known.

Lastly, I think that her claim that unconditional positive regard was responsible for the financial crisis is incorrect, however, as I believe the incident was more motivated by carelessness and greed as well as a large sense of separation by those employing the marketing and those being affected by it and at risk of being affected by it. 
Michael Hout and Andrew Greeley.  “Religion and Happiness”
“Faith, Hope, and Joy” Chap. 10 in David G. Myers (1992) The Pursuit of Happiness: 	Who is Happy – And Why.  New York: William Morrow & Co.
Alloy, L., Abramson, L., & Chiara, A. (2000). On the mechanisms by which optimism 	promotes positive mental and physical health. In J. Gillham (ed.) The science of 	optimism and hope: Research essays in honor of Martin E.P. Seligman (pp. 	201-212). Philadelphia: Templeton Foundation Press.