Positive Thought is the name given to a movement which started in the 1860s but only started to flourish a century later with such luminaries as Dale Carnegie, Norman Vincent Peale, and Napoleon Hill. Its ideology is one of optimism writ large, and followers are exhorted to only think positive, hang around with other positive people, and good things will… somehow… come to you. The Secret is only an extreme manifestation of a belief system which has taken over the Christian megachurches, the economy, and modern psychology (see Bright-Sided by Barbara Ehrenreich for more information).
Very few people have made the connection between Positive Thought and fascism. Yet it seems to me that there is some connection, insofar as Positive Thought advocates often use violent imagery when they talk about negative thought and negative people (the enemy). Here are some examples of this propagandist imagery:
* Exterminate negative thoughts
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Exterminate negative thoughts. First offensive against negative thoughts is to bring them into the open where we can see them.
Imagine a strong sun radiating a powerful light. Use this mental sunshine to kill your negative, undesirable thoughts, emotions and images as and when these are detected. Take this sun as a mighty weapon which is always on the alert and which automatically chases any negative thought and kills it with a flash and then withdraws.
Negative thoughts like cockroaches are better at hiding than we are at finding them, and their eggs are so deep seated they’re practically protected from extermination.
* Negative friends are a disease
Now that you’ve categorized everyone in your life as either uplifting or draining, it’s time to pluck the leeches from your life. Think of these people as having a nasty and contagious disease.
How negative friends can infect your relationship…
Your emotions and behaviours are similarly susceptible to contagion.
* Negative friends should be fired
Be prepared for negativity and to hear your family and friends criticize your desire for a better life. Don’t let it throw you off track. Use it to propel you forward. Of course, if it gets to be too much, you could always fire your negative friends.
Has God been telling you that there are some people you need to let go of? There are some people in your life who are plain old unnecessary. My mom always calls these people liabilities because they do nothing but slow you down, hold you up, and take away from you. Get rid of the unnecessary baggage if you’re looking to stay in this race called life.
* Pessimism is a disease
Pessimism is a disease of impaired vision which, unfortunately, cannot be corrected with eyeglasses. It is a state of mind caused by a limited perspective that shows us only the bad side, the problems, the difficulties and the reasons why something can’t be done.
Negativity and pessimism is a disease your staff can catch like a bad virus. And who wants to work for someone like that anyway?
Pessimism is a disease. It disrupts all forms of positivity and eats away at hope… Like any disease, if not controlled, pessimism can take over your life. Every waking thought and every waking action. It’s easy to fall victim to it because it provides such seemingly logical explanations for circumstance, albeit however dark and gloomy the outcome is.
De-motivation and pessimism, is a disease and it spreads like a virus as we grow up. It spreads from one person to the whole society. The sooner we kill it the better.
You might think that calling this “proto-fascistic” is a flight of fancy, that there’s nothing fascistic at all about talking about how to treat thoughts or not contacting a friend. That’s true. What I am highlighting is not that positive thought advocates are fascists, but that their ideology lends itself to metaphors and ways of seeing the world which can lead to fascism. Fascism was big on images, and one of these images is that of society as an organism. The Jews were seen as a disease that had to be exterminated.
When the Führer took power in 1933, the German people’s body was severely ill. The poison of foreign worldviews ran through the veins of all the people’s organisms. Hardly anyone was immune. Then Providence sent the German people a doctor, the Führer. He knew the disease; he know that the German people suffered from a corruption of its racial strength. Using every possible medication, including if necessary the most radical, the bacterium was removed from the people’s body. Our people is becoming racially healthy once more.
Pity, brotherly love and forgiveness are useless. There are no good or bad parasites, decent or indecent parasites (lice!). The parasite always creeps up looking harmless, innocent, as if it belonged there. It is often attractive. It acts as an infection. A small cut, swelling, an abscess, poisoning, the destruction of the whole body. The infested body grows weak, sleepy, it resists no longer, produces no antibodies. The doctor notices, gives injections Perhaps it is still not too late…
The Jew is the parasite among humans.
I hope the analogy is obvious. Society is an organism, and pessimism is a disease of the social organism that should be killed. Negative friends are contagious and transmit the disease (some even say that negative friends can give you actual diseases and even cancer). Negative thoughts in your mind must be exterminated. It is only one step from calling individuals a disease which transmits propositions that must be exterminated, to justifying the actual killing of people.
There is however one major difference between Positive Thought and fascism as we’ve known it. In fascism, criticism is exterminated as a means to an end, the end of having a population compliant to the government’s extremist measures. In Positive Thought, the suppression of criticism is done for its own sake; it is an axiomatic principle that criticism must be suppressed at all costs, and literally nothing can be more important than that.
It has something else in common with failed political ideologies, and that’s the failure cycle. In religion, cults, politics, and other areas, you are set up for failure, and that failure is meant to make you work harder to succeed. When your faith lapses, you’re supposed to believe harder. When a system collapses, it’s because it wasn’t tried hard enough. When you think negatively, you’re supposed to self-censor even harder.
But the simple fact is that none of these things can work because they go completely counter to human nature. It’s impossible to control most of one’s thoughts. So the Positive Thought believer falls into a cycle of failure and ever stronger recommitment. But because of the shame of failure, ey also feels a great deal of frustration and anger. This frustration and anger can then be directed by the elite at their opponents (having trouble in your faith? it’s because of the gays/atheists/evolutionists/liberals in your life or environment). This is aggravated by the fact that Positive Thought already teaches people that they must purge “negative people” from their lives. How many steps from a metaphorical purge to a real purge?
As Ehrenreich points out, one of the salient things about the Positive Thought movement is that, while it was a reaction to the bleakness of Calvinism, it itself became bleak and restrictive:
If one of the best things you can say about positive thinking is that it articulated an alternative to Calvinism, one of the worst is that it ended up preserving some of Calvinism’s more toxic features- a harsh judgmentalism, echoing the old religion’s condemnation of sin, and an insistence on the constant interior labor of self-examination… To the positive thinker, emotions remain suspect and one’s inner life must be subjected to relentless monitoring.
It is the combination of relentless extreme individualism (the entire universe exists to serve your personal needs…) and self-repression (… but you have to exorcise all your negative thoughts and live in constant near-utopian optimism) which makes it such fertile grounds for tyranny; it sends people into a spiral of self-obsession where they are too concerned about their own power and suppressing their capacity for criticism to care about human rights or even their own freedom. After all, criticizing your own government, the very government you’re supposed to believe exists to protect you, is negative and depressing. Better spend more time thinking about you getting that raise this time, for real!