The Cult of Positive Thinking

WARNING: This post is a huge fuck-off rant, so if you don’t dig that, don’t read this. Try this instead. I don’t do warnings, but I’ve been waffling about this post for a long time, and this seemed the only way to alleviate my fear. I believe in what I’m saying, I just have that stereotypical fear of rejection and confrontation. Onwards!


I gotta get something off my chest.  I know it’s the holidays and whatnot, but I think that means it needs to be said even more now than usual.  Bear with me.

This whole fluffy-bunny culture of “All you have to do is love yourself enough and everything will be amazing forever” is complete and utter bullshit.  Dangerous bullshit.

New Age circles and self-help writers encourage this delusional thinking by saying all you have to do is think happy thoughts and your dreams will come true.  Apparently, the secret to life, the universe, and everything is being a Pollyanna.

Positive thinking is a good short-term solution – it helps combat the Evil Auctioneer and keeps you from hiding in your room before the big presentation – but it doesn’t last.  After a day or two, you come back to earth and have to face reality.

There’s so much we have no control over, and yet the positive thinking movement wants you believe that saying “I love you” to the mirror will make all of those other factors not matter.

It’s the Cult of Positive Thinking.

“You can do and be anything if only you believe the right things about yourself!” they say.

But the “right things” are the things they say are right; you don’t get to decide because that could lead to negative thinking.  Only positive, self-love, “I am the center of the universe because I deserve to be” thoughts are allowed.

But the system doesn’t work because if you have a single negative thought – if you don’t manifest a house on the French Rivera or even if you miss your doctor’s appointment – they’ll tell you it’s because you didn’t believe.

For example:  The “law of attraction” tells you that you got raped because you wanted to be raped.  It’s your fault because you had the wrong thoughts, because you didn’t love yourself enough.

How fucked up is that?

As a result, whenever you don’t get exactly what you want, you’re insidiously punished: you do it to yourself.  You blame yourself and say you’re worthless or undisciplined or weak.

The cult brainwashes you to think that’s right; you’re an awful person because you can’t maintain a positive attitude 24/7.

Here’s a secret.

You’re still going to fail no matter how much you love yourself.  Hours of concentration and an “I love myself” mantra is not going to get you a Ferrari if you don’t leave the fucking house.

And you’re still going to get shit done, even if you don’t have rose-coloured glasses.  You’re still going to buy groceries, have hot sex, invent the replicator, or write the Great American Novel.

You don’t need to be a manic pixie dreamgirl to do great work.  Or even average work.

You just have to know yourself.

When you know who and what you are, flaws and darkness and everything, you gain something much more valuable and useful than the ever-elusive self-love.

You get self-respect.  You get self-confidence.

The knowledge that you are, in fact, capable of amazing things, even if you’re walking around in the red mist all day and cry yourself to sleep at night sometimes.

You become practical and grounded.  You know your boundaries.  You get comfortable in the skin, heart, brain, and soul you’ve got instead of hating yourself for not being something else.

You don’t need to transcend reality – just work inside it.

Knowing yourself is the realist’s way of approaching life.  Stop thinking that the law of attraction and fluffy-bunny thinking is the only way to get what you want out of life.  No one, not even the gurus, has a sunny outlook 100% of the time – it’s not humanly possible.

When you know yourself, those days you wake up and look for the first thing you can murder aren’t just okay, they’re par for the course.  Like the cat barfing on the rug; you sigh and clean it up and love the cat anyway.  You know that this No Good Very Bad Day is part of who you are, and you don’t have to cram it back into its hole to avoid losing your grip on “love and light.”

You don’t need positive thinking because you have good old fashioned regular thinking on your side.

You can love yourself all you want, but if you don’t have a solid foundation of reality under your feet, your whole gossamer castle will come crashing down when you’re passed over for a promotion or eat half a cake over the sink – you’ll have nothing left to stand on without Self-understanding to ground you.

The moral of the story: No amount of self-love is going to make your dreams come true.  You do that yourself.  You just have to know who you are.


“Don’t stand in the middle of a superhighway and create your own reality.” — Barbara Sher



  1. Thank God that there’s still a bit of sense on the internet. It’s no revelation that bitterness rarely does you many favours, but judging by the conceited crap I’ve seen peddled by the positive thinking merchants, it’s just another demand for conformity and an impediment to justice.

  2. This post is great and really needed now. I personally find it disgusting to think people in Africa are starving becuse they have “lacking thoughts” but the other day I heard Marianne Williamson say something I found really simple and yet true. All injustice comes from a deviation of love, not always from the people who are suffering but from others or even a whole system that is based on getting the most profit possible even if you have to make someone starve to death. And this doesn’t mean we are all going to be loving creatures all the time, and that the world will be awsome and flawless, no. But just realizing this, just being aware I think makes a difference, even in your own life, it’s just about awareness and acceptance really

  3. Thank you for putting into words what I’ve suspected to be true for a LNG time.

  4. I love what Kurtis said about positive attitude. I’ve been accused of being a fluffy bunny, but I know what I’ve been through and I still choose to remain positive. I can embrace a shitty day and work my way through it just as well as I can attract a new $12,000 client. I prefer you call me a Bad-Ass Fluffy Bunny, thank you very much.

  5. Yes, and the dark side of positive thinking is that the “positive thinkers” out there are actually negative. It’s a very negative, in fact cruel thing to say to someone, “You brought that on yourself with your own negative thoughts.”

    It’s also a selfish idea. It negates the importance of other people around you. You can have all the self confidence, talent and skill imaginable but if you’re black, for example, and dealing with racism there isn’t anything you can do about that. Some people will try to stop you from succeeding due to racism, sexism, classism, even ageism. Some people are just cruel and like to stop other people from succeeding out of jealousy or their own insecurity. Those are things we can’t just make go away by thinking “happy thoughts.”

    Basically, positive thinking just makes people stupid. It prevents people from recognizing real problems and from finding ways to solve them. Instead they just try to pretend problems don’t exist by thinking positive.

  6. Everyone whom I’ve met in this cult is also extremely materialistic and shallow. They don’t wanna be positive and happy to try to make the world better, they want a promotion or an Audi. It’s a bullshit, narcissistic philosophy.

    • Very true, Al. Have you heard of Leo Buscaglia? He was one of the first motivational/positive thinking speakers back in the 90s. But he was teaching people to love each other and be kind to one another, to try to find the good in other people. Some of his lectures are posted on youtube, btw, if anyone wants to hear him.

      But somehow this positive thinking has morphed into selfishness and greed, how to manifest a car, big money, etc. However, Leo’s speeches were all about how to get along better with other people and how to make the world a better place. It was true positive thinking, not sugar-coated or materialistic.

      It seems that everything in our society just gets co-opted by these big corporate, big money greed mongerers.

  7. It feels like we’re living in a time of emotional totalitarianism.Only positive thoughts/comments will be tolerated – resistance to this will incur the wrath of the Thought Police. The positivity culture seems to have sucked the character out of people.What a dull and utterly conformist lot people have become with their sappy, yet strident, invitations to “just think positive”. To me this is like some sort of cultish code for telling you ” just don’t think at all”.

    • Yes, very true. And it makes it hard to solve problems. Anytime I’m dealing with a problem and attempt to discuss it (in order to get some advice, assistance or ideas as to how to solve it), I just get this, “it’s not really a problem” response. It’s very frustrating. I think positive thinking has just become a way for some people to “not think at all” and not take any responsibility for anything. In other words, let’s just pretend the problem doesn’t exist so that we don’t have to do the work of solving it.

  8. Great post. The Positive Thinking Cult seems to be all about positivity. But I find that it’s some kind of a paradox. I have experience working with such people. Everything I don’t have is because I didn’t believe or wish hard enough. And if I tried to point out bad things, for correction purposes, or even point out some of their mistakes, I would be making a negative statement. Which is a no no. And they’d look at me different, like I’m inferior or something. Well, not everything in this world is positive. Some are negative. So we shouldn’t speak about those? Ignoring problems and negative aspects of life can make us progress? So it’s a selfish type of positivity. Self-dreaming. Self-righteous. Others who do not dream with them or have different thoughts are inferior.



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