“So many tangles in life are ultimately hopeless that we have no appropriate sword other than laughter,” said Gordon Allport, an American psychologist and one of the founders of the study of personality. Scientists have studied the effects of mirthful laughter, positive thinking and optimism on feelings of self-worth, mood disorders and depression since the 1970s. In The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking British author and Guardian feature writer Oliver Burkeman takes issue with “the cult of optimism,” the convention that phony smiles, jovial laughter and positive thinking is a surefire path to happiness. Positive thinking is the problem, not the solution, Burkeman teaches us. He believes people have come to trust that a “Don’t worry. Be happy” attitude toward life is the only route to contentment. People seem to be of the conviction that if you have negative thoughts and see your own limits, you cannot be happy. So to be happy we must set out on a journey that changes your mindset from negative and inhibited to enthusiastic, fervent and animated. We are told to visualize our dreams and goals, eliminate the word “impossible” from our vocabulary and put a big fabricated smile on our physiognomy. All that actually can lead to unhappiness, Burkeman says.
more from Berit Brogaard at The Berlin Review of Books here.