To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.

~ Steve Prefontaine ~

What’s Wrong With Shiny Happy People?

November 8th, 2011 ~ Est. reading time: 2 mins, 15 secs

Like wow! I am so totally happy, it's awesome.

It’s true some things are impossible. I will never make a top-notch ballet dancer. Nor will my cat be able to speak Greek. But the way some people put it, that’s being “defeatist” and “negative.”

Never mind that I don’t want to ballet dance, and my cat Scallywag hasn’t got vocal chords. Those same positive mental attitude advocates would scoff at my statements, declaring them wrong in the first place.

Which is kind of true, as I did once wear a tutu to a fancy dress (Please don’t ask. And no, I will not offer to explain why my stockings got laddered. What do you expect when ten guys throw you into a pool?). And in a certain light you can see Scallywag’s Dali whiskers… sort of.

My take on the positive mental attitude (PMA) approach is that it makes a lot of sense, providing you sprinkle it liberally with the necessary salt. You see, we do often tend toward the negative, don’t we? Our self-talk typically tears sheets off our self-image. In my case, it even took the blankets as well!  Self-talk like that makes you want to kick sand in your own face (which makes for an interesting spectacle on the beach, I can tell you).

So there is definitely something helpful in knowing that you count. Just like realizing you can do more than you think, and that positive thoughts really can help you cope.

But, there is something fishy about putting on a game face and looking positive with the people you know and love. Just to “make it happen.” Deep inside the positive mental movement are little seeds of denial. They’d grow into uncomfortable questions. But those aren’t allowed.

Which leaves me wondering: what’s the PMA way of handling funerals?

When bad things happen, I can’t help feeling that one real response is worth a truckload of deception. However well-intentioned, don’t we all crave the dignity of honesty? Even when it comes with pain and anger, instead of sugar plum coating it, I believe most of us would rather know the truth.

That shouldn’t be a green light for nastiness, of course. Some people’s version of honesty looks like assault. I’d rather have the kind of honesty that includes respect in the delivery. Not the “I hate your guts. What? I was just being honest…” version.

More, the “I feel so furious about what you’ve been doing. Just look how you’ve left your gizzards lying on the floor. Put them away.” Despite the circumstances and the continued reference to guts, the latter reveals a shared dignity.

Positivity on its own is wrong. I believe that’s why it gets such a cynical response. When it lacks the qualities of courage, compassion, and sincerity, it looks little more than phony. That tight veneer of happiness we learn to distrust prevents full emotional honesty breaking through. We can’t penetrate past happy motivation so closeness stays off limits.

When even a can do attitude deteriorates into a happy 24/7 mask, honesty has nowhere to go. Being all Teflon smooth might create a good image, but it will never allow for a life of sincerity and togetherness.  Shininess opposes it.


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