emotional generosity

by marjorieingall on December 18, 2009

Here’s my piece in the December issue of Self. One thing that got cut: A reference to the VIA (Values in Action) Questionnaire, associated with the University of Pennsylvania’s Positive Psychology Center. You can register and take the quiz here — I found it really interesting, and discovered that among the 24 delightful qualities the questionnaire measures, the one I had least of ¬†was “forgiveness and mercy.” Which is a big part of emotional generosity. But I know I’m a judgmental fuck, so this is not news.

I do think the field of positive psychology is getting a momentary bad rap, thanks to Barbara Ehrenreich and folks who confuse happy-happy-joy-joy bullshit passive-aggressive blame-the-victim New Ageism with research on positive emotions. I recently had someone tell me I got migraines because I’d trained the neural pathways in my head to MAKE ME have migraines. So believe me, I loathe that kind of clueless perky “I read The Secret and I’m manifesting right now!” thinking…but I think it’s reductive to tar an entire field of study with the dipshit brush.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

x December 19, 2009 at 2:11 pm

nice article, and not in the vein of the Secret or the scary positive thinking blogs at all.

agree with you on the 2nd paragraph 100% too. plus did you read the ehrenreich book? i hated it… i thought it was dishonest and oversimplifies positive thinking. (example: she says she got through cancer by uh giving herself over to her doctor’s treatments, or something like that. (don’t have it in front of me so can’t quote.) which 1. is contrary to her alternative to positive thinking in the case of health care in the last chapter (she advises healthy skepticism which seems like captain obvious advice and is not contrary to being positive — you can be hopeful & determined to get better without being a doormat to health care providers) 2. seems as anti-intellectual and anti-thinking as the positivism she abhors. also, she sets up straw man for how positive thinking works in medicine — she sets up & knocks down some theory of the immune response curing cancer. and 1. i have never heard of that theory. 2. even if it were true (which i don’t necessarily believe) then we would expect positive thinking to be beneficial in some infectious diseases and 3. it ignores other benefits of ‘positive thinking’ (like better response to drugs like pain killers). i am full of hate for the rest of the book, too.

in conclusion, i hated this book and am annoyed that the SFPL bought 60+ copies of this book.

gayle December 21, 2009 at 6:08 pm

you know that i think e.g. is the key to happiness (even if lately i don’t practice what i preach and what a crank i’ve been). please tell me that this was a shortened for online version of the piece and they didn’t cut the article this drastically? then again, with what’s happening with magazines.

i’m a little scared to take that survey, even though i’m intrigued.


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