Pop-culture meets positive thinking

May 7, 2011

Artists draw inspiration from various sources. I find a lot of my creative inspiration comes from psychology research. I enjoy unpacking the meaning behind seemingly simple situations.

I recently have been reading through some psych files for the development of my work A Collection of Various Selves and came across a psychologist’s analysis of the ‘positive thinking movement’. This brought me to an investigation of the relationship between pop-culture and positive thinking summed up by the words of Eric G. Wilson:

‘I for one am afraid that American culture’s overemphasis on happiness at the expense of sadness might be dangerous, a want of forgetting an essential part of a full life. I further am concerned that to desire only happiness in a world undoubtedly tragic is to become unauthentic, to settle for unrealistic abstractions that ignore concrete situations. I am finally fearful of our societies effort to expunge melancholia. Without the agitations of the soul, would all of our magnificently yearning towers topple? Would our heart torn symphonies cease? My fears grow out of my suspicion that the predominant form of American happiness breed’s blandness. This kind of happiness appears to disregard the value of sadness. This brand of supposed you, moreover, seems to foster an ignorance of life’s enduring and vital polarity between agony and ecstasy, dejection and joy. Trying to forget sadness and it’s integral place in the rhythm of the cosmos, this sort of happiness insinuates that the blues are an labyrinth state that should be cursed as a weakness of will, or removed with the help of a little pink pill. Our culture seems to confuse these two and thus treats melancholia as an labyrinth state, a vile threat to our pervasive notions of happiness… happiness as immediate gratification… happiness as a superficial comfort…happiness as static contentment.‘

- Eric G. Wilson, 2008. ‘Against Happiness: In Praise of Melancholy’

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