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Positive Thinking, Wellness and Social Control

Updated on February 26, 2013

One of my favorite past-times is watching a program on Youtube called “RSAnimate”. If you’re someone who enjoys intellectual discussions of social, political and historical phenomenon’s there is plenty to enjoy with these videos. I am in no way affiliated with them, in fact, I discovered these fun videos through a professor at my university. The most recent video we watched in class was entitled: “Smile or Die” and it focused on the fad of positivity and its use in a variety of specters as a form of social control.

I’m going to do what I can to summarize the thesis of this particular episode briefly. Basically it asserted that the belief that having a ‘positive attitude’ will procure ‘positive realities’ for you in life is a delusional concept which has been used throughout history, including Soviet Russia and Nazi history as a means of social control. Societies will advocate this type of belief system because it quells social unrest. As the video says, what could be a more effective form of social control, than telling people who are going through difficulties in life that these challenges are all in their head and that things will improve if they change their attitude. Suddenly, poverty stricken individuals are not unhappy with the government etc. for their condition instead they turn the blame inwards as, according to the methodology, their plight is the result of their negative attitudes. Therefore, what we’re left with are individuals who maintain a level of delusional optimism about their futures; that if they only concentrate hard enough on thinking positively, good things will come to them. This optimism is thusly presented as an almost ‘magnetic’ force which, if used vigilantly enough, will procure all sorts of beneficial wonders to the person with the ‘right attitude’.

If you’ve made it this far in reading my commentary, thank you, and hopefully you’ll be interested in hearing my reaction to the above-mentioned perspective on optimism as undoubtedly, I am interested in hearing yours.

The title of this blog mentions ‘wellness’ and it is within this context that I am going to demonstrate my reaction to the above-mentioned phenomenon. I (let me be clear that this is just my understanding for the purpose of this entry) am considering ‘wellness’ in relation to the recently popularized alternative medicine industry that includes unconventional diets, fitness regimes and the like which are advertised as being able to “cleanse” the body either spiritually, physically, or emotionally.

Evidently this genre of ‘wellness’ makes reference to a plethora of activities so for the sake of time and space I am only going to discuss yoga and the recent pandemic of gluten-intolerance which is seemingly plaguing so many people these days. I have selected these two because I have had personal experience with both of these fads and can therefore speak more accurately. What I am presenting is that both yoga and gluten-free diets (outside of medical need) have been advertised as means of procuring positive effects simply through changing ones mentality, or ones attitude towards difficulties if you will.

Yoga presents an entirely new mindset with which one is to consider movement that has little to no effect on one’s physicality and which does not serve as a particularly effective weight-loss regime. Nevertheless, people who are struggling in these and other areas flock to yoga not because it will improve the issues they are having difficulty with, but because it will change the mindset with which they approach these difficulties. Yoga practitioners often emphasize the releasing of ‘bad energy’ and the opening up of one’s self to its replacement with good energy.

Similarly, non-medically prescribed gluten-free diets have been adopted by a large populous of people who have jumped on board with the advertisement of these diets as ‘cleansing’ and ‘rejuvenating’ not because these diets are having any significant effect on their physicality, nor because the diet is an effective means of weight-loss but because the diet has been advertised as something that will change one’s attitude about the problem one might have say relating to food, and foods impact on one’s being. The diet therefore has become the corporate goldmine that it has for developers because it's more than a fad diet, it's a fad diet grounded in blind optimism. The concepts advertisers have attached to the gluten-free fad enables the dieter to attach themselves to the fad because of the good feelings they experience through the idea of 'detoxifying' (whatever that means) and replacing these toxins with 'positive' in this case, gluten-free, sources of energy.

Perhaps the link I am trying to make is obscure but having considered the initial phenomenon with regards to positive thinking, the ‘wellness’ industry (and it is an industry and a highly capitalized one at that) was the first thing that came to mind. I hope some of you were able to understand the association I am trying to make.

I welcome any questions, comments or concerns as I am hoping to strengthen my own understanding of these issues and so often that is done through hearing criticisms and perspectives from others.

For anyone interested in watching this particular episode from RSAnimate here is the link: Smile or Die


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    • Ruby H Rose profile image

      Maree Michael Martin 4 years ago from Northwest Washington on an Island

      You have brought up some very interesting points on this one. I like how you shared your opinion of the issue without making anyone choose one or the other. Great food for thought.