Saturday, February 13, 2010

Self Help, Well Being and Capitalism – The most intimate bedfellows.

Positive psychology is the so-called science on contentment, so can you really wish your way to health and happiness?

How to win friends and Influence People, the motivational guide written in 1936 by Dale Carnegie is back in the best-seller charts. In these difficult times, difficult times for rather wealthier people in developing countries, many of us are turning to books and programmes on positive psychology. The self-improving times are a-booming and the gurus are jumping on the bandwagon.

Even here in Mazatlán we are given the opportunity to embrace our inner soul through cooking and art and even find inspiration by focusing on color chakras while we create (these seven main chakras or vortices in Hinduism are the powerhouses that store energy and through these the energy from the cosmos is pulled in more strongly.)

After the economic crash there has been a rash of books and expensive weekend retreats on self-help and how to survive in the corporate world, how to be happy when you are either figuring out what it is to be successful or how to remain positive when your corporate job has disappeared and your huge redundancy payment is not enough to pay for your third house or extra Porsche Cayenne.

The key message in all this is that “happiness is what helps you lead an authentic life, it’s what can help you live “in the now” rather than deferring to the future that never comes” ie. looking on the bright side and counting your blessings.

There is even a new term called ‘bright-siding’ where the think positive mantra and upbeat attitude is so relentlessly promoted that even some doctors subscribe it to cancer patients where they end up thinking that the cancer was actually good for them and has improved their lives. Governments have joined in promoting the invasion of Iraq as being good for us. It is this reckless optimism that has ultimately contributed to the wild, free-spending corporatism that led us into what we have now.

That positive thinking dogma started in the US and has now spread everywhere and into everything even art, cooking and writing. It has become pure marketing – buy this package and it will move you forward with the goal of a trouble-free life.

“It is snake oil, it is an American idea that anyone can be anyone, it is magical thinking, it is psychology for toddlers.” says one leading psychologist and another puts it more bluntly “I would rather slam my cock in the door than read these books.” he goes on “This is the story that selfish capitalism wants you to believe. That it is our fault as individuals that this fantastically big fuck-up in society has occurred, which Reagan and Thatcher caused and which did not happen in continental Europe. We have twice the level of mental illness as mainland Europe and yet this garbage encourages people to blame themselves and take responsibility.”

But there is an appetite that exists for some sort of help in dealing with the difficult business of life. However in many peoples’ eyes it is self-help that has got us in the mess we’re in and will keep us there. And the concept of chakras works for the believers of Hinduism because their lives are steeped in it, it is part of their lives and for it to really work in our western lives we would have to give up a lot and I don’t think we would be willing to do that. Anyway our collective situation will never be as dire as those that actually gain fully from the lifetime immersion in it. It is our aspirin and their anaesthetic.

However, here at the MazReal offices we use reverse psychology, we chain our staff to their desks and keep them in a state of Dickensian workhouse squalor so that anything is better when it is time to knock off.

1 comment:

  1. Happiness coaches are part of the great conspiracy that began 15 years ago when CEO’s , hedge fund managers and bankers discovered if they outsourced jobs to China and India it would increase the bottom line and they would all get rich. If they could not outsource they discovered another way. They terminated half the workforce and piled the work on those who remained. They followed this by bringing in the happy coaches to put smiles on these overworked underpaid miserable employees. Remember “smile or your fired”. Executives, bankers and hedge fund managers don’t need happy coaches. I wonder why?


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