There are many inspirations for this blog, and I’ll be writing about each one of them in turn, from Oprah to what I call “reality memoirs,” from my own passion about my work to my frustration with my job, from seemingly trivial dry-eye to a near-catastrophic brain hemorrhage that befell me in November 2010. The fundamental issue is, however, the rise of “positive psychology” in every facet of American life today and the way that I think it is misleading and potentially damaging people, not to mention our culture at large.
In this blog, I will be trying to sort out why it is that I find “positive psychology” so problematic. It’s not that the panacea is anything new, and it’s not that there haven’t been Pollyannas for a very long time. And it’s not that I don’t want “happiness” myself. I just don’t find that the pursuit of happiness for its own sake is a meaningful or ethical way to find it. It seems to me that our culture has reached such a height of obsession with image that we have added inordinately to our confusion about what constitutes the good life.
Originally, I set my goal as crying at least once every day for a year. Not to force myself to cry in some way equally as fake as all the veneered Hollywood smiles, but to make an opportunity to connect with the pain and suffering at all levels of the world, to re-sensitize myself. I want to mark out moments of crying because it is the affective reaction that I believe we quell most, not because laughing or frowning or smiling are not equally important. Crying is too often what we deny ourselves even when we have plenty of reason to weep. “Be strong,” we are told. “Don’t cry. It’s okay.” But it’s also okay to cry. Sometimes it’s even absolutely bizarre not to.
Emotions, I believe, are a bit like muscles. They all need to be exercised, and none to the point of rigidity. Otherwise, you will end up looking like a beef monster or a Botox babe. And that would be truly tragic.
Update from October 20, 2011: Evolution of a Blog