The only remnant of my somewhat cheesy personal motto “Tune in to the positive energy of the universe” is that I can create parking spaces. I’m so confident of this talent, in fact, that I announce it in advance to worried drivers. Even Chip, the perennial skeptic, has come to rely on my parking prowess.
Other than this very limited application, the field of positive psychology now leaves me cold. I once worked with a guy whose belief in the power of positive thinking was so strong he took his wife, who had breast cancer, to all sorts of alternative healers. She needed to visualize defeating the cancer, he’d say – will it to be gone. I asked him if he thought she, as she was dying, felt as though she’d failed. “I never thought of that,” he replied.
As I’ve said, I used to lead “personal mastery” workshops founded on the premise that you create your own reality, that you can change the world if you think and act positively enough. I’m not sure what led to my present skepticism, if not outright cynicism. I’ve blamed CEOs, who are able to hang on to their own power no matter how many smiling underlings think their company can change; I’ve blamed Bush.
My distaste may also have something to do with the current cult of self-reliance, promoted by rich white guys who think their entitled status is the direct result of their own bootstraps. Limbaughs, Becks, most Republicans – blissfully unaware of their own narcissism.
My disdain for all of this is inconsistent, however, with my belief in my own parking power. I think I either need to give up parking, or cynicism, or at least apply my positive thinking to something more consequential.