October 14, 2012

A Positivity Manifesto.

Positivity isn’t charming. Bad Boys embrace what New Agey wankers call “the shadow.” You know, the fullness of human nature.

Don’t try and be happy all the time—that’s stressful. Instead, practice being awake to whatever is: then we get something better than happiness.  We get unconditional confidence and relaxation, and, yes, a sort of fundamental joy.

F!ck Positivity.

Let this little rant be a clarion call to all those who still have their feet on the ground and brains in their head: let us stand no more for that Cult of Positivity: let us shake our Body-Snatched Brethren by their shoulders, encourage them to relax, grin, and—ironically—lighten up.

Everyone I know who’s reallly into positivity is kind of uptight: and when they see anything that’s not positive they hate on it, which is kinda…funny. We blog about bad news here on elephant—like, say, this—should we ignore such? No. Awareness is the beginning of waking up. The bad, sad, tragic news of 9/11, for example, inspired countless positive life-changes in America.

On the other hand, there’s nothing cooler about being negative than being positive. There’s nothing cool about not caring, or bitching, or complaining. It’s when we can care for both light and dark, and let go of both, that we can begin to truly celebrate our daily life.

Positivity as a cancer on the Western psyche.

We all want happiness. But the way we mount that goal isn’t through thinking happy thoughts or manifesting or suppressing or even attracting. It’s through relaxing with things as they are, and celebrating whatever we’re experiencing—unconditionally.


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Where did fear—that unsaid unacknowledged “shadow” of positivity—gain its foothold in the American psyche?

Through positivity.

Positivity is no longer just a New Agey spiritualist‘s naive obsession. It’s no longer a teenage dream. It’s gone mainstream through yoga classes and greeting cards and half-baked faux-Rumi quotes on Facebook.

Hipsters—that last bastion of CCL, only recently so bohemianly sarcastic, witty, dry n’droll, now post happy thoughts to Pinterest.

So what’s the problem with positivity?

1. It doesn’t work. Fear is conquered through friendship, not aggression; through breathing in and out, not pushing away and closing down, mumbling desperate Hallmark slogans at ourselves. Fearlessness is attained by going through fear, not avoiding it. As Winston Churchill said, if you find yourself in hell, keep going.

2. It’s uptight: it’s a smiley face version of the longtime British notion of “stiff upper lip.” You know: thoughts of sadness, anger, confusion? Suppress them. But: the way to happiness and joy is through

1) openness,

2) a willingness to give voice and conversation to all thoughts (including respectful criticism, problems, fears, concerns, confusion) and

3) a sense of humor.

Positivity lacks in all three. Case in point: a longtime dear friend who’s recently joined the Cult of Positivity yelllllling at me (literally, I laughed at the hypocrisy) about how I

needed to be more positive at a recent dinner.

3. It’s shallow. There’s no need for positivity: we at our most fundamental are basically good beings. Our human nature is awake, or “Buddha.” We don’t have to paint or band-aid ourselves with happiness—we are fundamentally happy. Any confusion or darkness is, as Woody Allen or Byron could tell you, the source not only of creativity but laughter. Here’s a (Buddhist) analogy: our confusion, sadness, even depression is like the clouds in the sky. The sky is your fundamental nature. Stop being shallow: actually work with your mind, and you’ll see reality glow with direct perception.

And when we’re present, everything’s more fun, real, alive, easy. It’s when we aren’t present, we aren’t in gear, that the ordinary magic that is this precious daily life fades.


Happiness is a sympathetic, understandable goal: Fear through Fearlessness, by Pema Chodron.

For a manifesto that doesn’t make me gag, click here.

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